CELEBRATE THE HARVEST
The leaves begin to turn from green to brilliant reds and yellows, animals start to migrate, and the harvest is underway by the time of the autumn equinox. Celebrate Mabon with rituals, mythology, craft projects, and magic!Mabon is a time to give thanks for the bounty of the earth, and falls on the date of the autumnal equinox, which varies from year to year. Typically, it is between September 20 – 22 in the Northern Hemisphere, and March 20 – 22 in the Southern Hemisphere. In 2010, the autumn equinox falls on September 22 in the Northern Hemisphere. Below the equator, Mabon 2010 is on March 20.
It is the time of the autumn equinox, and the harvest is winding down. The fields are nearly empty, because the crops have been plucked and stored for the coming winter. Mabon is the mid-harvest festival, and it is when we take a few moments to honor the changing seasons, and celebrate the second harvest. For many Pagan and Wiccan traditions it is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops or other blessings.
Interested in learning about some of the traditions behind the celebrations of September? Find out why Mabon is important, learn the legend of Persephone and Demeter, and explore the magic of apples and more!
Rituals and Ceremonies
Mabon is the time of the autumn equinox, and the harvest is winding down. The fields are nearly bare, because the crops have been stored for the coming winter. Mabon is a time when we take a few moments to honor the changing seasons, and celebrate the second harvest. On or around September 21, for many Pagan and Wiccan traditions it is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops or other blessings. It is also a time of balance and reflection, following the theme of equal hours light and dark. Here are some ways you and your family can celebrate this day of bounty and abundance.
Mabon is a time of balance, when there are equal hours of darkness and light, and that can affect people in different ways. For some, it’s a season to honor the darker aspects of the goddess, calling upon that which is devoid of light. For others, it’s a time of thankfulness, of gratitude for the abundance we have at the season of harvest. Because this is, for many people, a time of high energy, there is sometimes a feeling of restlessness in the air, a sense that something is just a bit “off”. If you’re feeling a bit spiritually lopsided, with this simple meditation you can restore a little balance into your life. You can also try a ritual to bring balance and harmony to your home.
2. Hold a Food Drive
Many Pagans and Wiccans count Mabon as a time of thanks and blessings — and because of that, it seems like a good time to give to those less fortunate than ourselves. If you find yourself blessed with abundance at Mabon, why not give to those who aren’t? Invite friends over for a feast, but ask each of them to bring a canned food, dry goods, or other non-perishable items? Donate the collected bounty to a local food bank or homeless shelter.
Apples are the perfect symbol of the Mabon season. Long connected to wisdom and magic, there are so many wonderful things you can do with an apple. Find an orchard near you, and spend a day with your family. As you pick the apples, give thanks to Pomona, goddess of fruit trees. Be sure to only pick what you’re going to use — if you can, gather plenty to take home and preserve for the coming winter months. Take your apples home and use them in rituals, for divination, and for delicious recipes that your family can enjoy all season long.
4. Count Your Blessings
Mabon is a time of giving thanks, but sometimes we take our fortune for granted. Sit down and make a gratitude list. Write down things that you are thankful for. An attitude of gratefulness helps bring more abundance our way — what are things you’re glad you have in your life? Maybe it’s the small things, like “I’m glad I have my cat Peaches” or “I’m glad my car is running.” Maybe it’s something bigger, like “I’m thankful I have a warm home and food to eat” or “I’m thankful people love me even when I’m cranky.” Keep your list some place you can see it, and add to it when the mood strikes you.
Without darkness, there is no light. Without night, there can be no day. Despite a basic human need to overlook the dark, there are many positive aspects to embracing the dark side, if it’s just for a short time. After all, it was Demeter’s love for her daughter Persephone that led her to wander the world, mourning for six months at a time, bringing us the death of the soil each fall. In some paths, Mabon is the time of year that celebrates the Crone aspect of a triune goddess. Celebrate a ritual that honors that aspect of the Goddess which we may not always find comforting or appealing, but which we must always be willing to acknowledge. Call upon the gods and goddesses of the dark night, and ask for their blessings this time of year.
6. Get Back to Nature
Fall is here, and that means the weather is bearable once more. The nights are becoming crisp and cool, and there’s a chill in the air. Take your family on a nature walk, and enjoy the changing sights and sounds of the outdoors. Listen for geese honking in the sky above you, check the trees for changing in the colors of the leaves, and watch the ground for dropped items like acorns, nuts, and seed pods. If you live in an area that doesn’t have any restrictions on removing natural items from park property, take a small bag with you and fill it up with the things you discover along the way. Bring your goodies home for your family’s altar. If you are prohibited from removing natural items, fill your bag with trash and clean up the outdoors!
7. Tell Timeless Stories
In many cultures, fall was a time of celebration and gathering. It was the season in which friends and relatives would come from far and near to get together before the cold winter kept them apart for months at a time. Part of this custom was storytelling. Learn the harvest tales of your ancestors or of the people indigenous to the area in which you live. A common theme in these stories is the cycle of death and rebirth, as seen in the planting season. Learn about the stories of Osiris, Mithras, Dionysius, Odin and other deities who have died and then restored to life.
It’s not uncommon for Pagans and Wiccans to make remarks regarding the “energy” of an experience or event. If you’re having friends or family over to celebrate Mabon with you, you can raise group energy by working together. A great way to do this is with a drum or music circle. Invite everyone to bring drums, rattles, bells, or other instruments. Those who don’t have an instrument can clap their hands. Begin in a slow, regular rhythm, gradually increasing the tempo until it reaches a rapid pace. End the drumming at a pre-arranged signal, and you’ll be able to feel that energy wash over the group in waves. Another way of raising group energy is chanting, or with dance. With enough people, you can hold a Spiral Dance.
9. Celebrate Hearth & Home
As autumn rolls in, we know we’ll be spending more time indoors in just a few months. Take some time to do a fall version of spring cleaning. Physically clean your home from top to bottom, and then do a ritual smudging. Use sage or sweetgrass, or asperge with consecrated water as you go through your home and bless each room. Decorate your home with symbols of the harvest season, and set up a family Mabon altar. Put sickles, scythes and bales of hay around the yard. Collect colorful autumn leaves, gourds and fallen twigs and place them in decorative baskets in your house. If you have any repairs that need to be done, do them now so you don’t have to worry about them over the winter. Throw out or give away anything that’s no longer of use.
Grapes are everywhere, so it’s no surprise that the Mabon season is a popular time to celebrate winemaking, and deities connected to the growth of the vine. Whether you see him as Bacchus, Dionysus, the Green Man, or some other vegetative god, the god of the vine is a key archetype in harvest celebrations. Take a tour of a local winery and see what it is they do this time of year. Better yet, try your hand at making your own wine! If you’re not into wine, that’s okay — you can still enjoy the bounty of grapes, and use their leaves and vines for recipes and craft projects. However you celebrate these deities of vine and vegetation, you may want to leave a small offering of thanks as you reap the benefits of the grape harvest.
In many Pagan and Wiccan traditions, the stag takes on a level of almost mythical signficance. Find out why this king of the forest — and his crown of antlers — appears so often in Pagan and Wiccan ritual symbolism.
Mabon is the season in which the harvest is being gathered. It’s also the time in which the hunt often begins — deer and other animals are killed during the autumn in many parts of the world. In some Pagan and Wiccan traditions, the deer is highly symbolic, and takes on many aspects of the God during the harvest season.
For many Wiccans, the antlers of the stag are associated directly with the fertility of the God. The Horned God, in his many incarnations, often appears wearing a headdress of antlers. In some depictions, the horns grow directly from his head. Early Paleolithic cave art shows men wearing antlers on their heads, so it would appear that the horn or antler has long been a symbol of worship in some form or another. In Egyptian legend, many gods appear to wear a pair of horns on their head.
In some Pagan paths, there is a correlation between the shape of a pair of horns and the crescent moon. The image of a stag with a full moon between his antlers represents both the male (the antlers) and the female (the moon) aspects of the Divine.
Mabon is the time, in many areas, when hunting season begins. While many Pagans are opposed to hunting, others feel that they can hunt for food as our ancestors did. For many Pagans, equally as important as the idea of caring about animals is the concept of responsible wildlife management.
Few things represent the image of the harvest season as well as the scarecrow. Learn about the history of this long-used harvest helper. Anyone who watches horror movies regularly knows just how creepy scarecrows can be. On the flip side, sometime they’re fun, and decorated in a country-cute style, or silly like the lovable “If I only had a brain” type in The Wizard of Oz. Although they haven’t always looked the way they do now, scarecrows have been around a long time and have been used in a number of different cultures.In the fields of ancient Greece, wooden statues were placed in the fields, carved to represent Priapus. Although he was the son of Aphrodite, Priapus was also hideously ugly, and his most prominent feature was his constant (and huge) erection. Birds tended to avoid fields where Priapus resided, so as Greek influence spread into Roman territory, Roman farmers soon adopted the practice.
Pre-feudal Japan used different kinds of scarecrows in their rice fields, but the most popular one was the kakashi. Old dirty rags and noisemakers like bells and sticks were mounted on a pole in the field and then lit on fire. The flames (and presumably, the smell) kept birds and other animals away from the rice fields. The word kakashi meant “something stinky.” Eventually, Japanese farmers began making scarecrows that looked like people in raincoats and hats. Sometimes they were equipped with weaponry to make them look even more frightening.
(Note: There is one school of thought that states that rotten meat was hung on these as well; however, with crows and other such carrion eaters, it seems more logical that they would come TO the scarecrows, rather than staying away. This is mentioned in numerous secondary sources, but there do not appear to be any primary sources that verify the claim of the rotten meat being hung on the kakashi.)
During the Middle Ages in Britain and Europe, small children worked as crow-scarers. Their job was to run around in the fields, clapping blocks of wood together, to frighten away birds that might eat the grain. As the medieval period wound down and populations decreased due to plague, farmers discovered there was a shortage of spare children to scamper around shooing birds away. Instead, they stuffed old clothes with straw, placed a turnip or gourd up on top, and mounted the figure in the fields. They soon found that these lifelike guardians did a pretty good job of keeping crows away.
Scarecrows are also found in Native American cultures. In some parts of what is now Virginia and the Carolinas, before the white man arrived, adult men sat on raised platforms and shouted at birds or ground animals that came near the props. Some native tribes discovered that soaking corn seeds in a poisonous herb mixture deterred birds as well, although one has to wonder how the corn would taste to people. In the Southwest, some Native American children had contests to see who could make the most frightening scarecrow, and the Zuni tribe used lines of cedar poles strung with cords and animal skins to keep the birds away.
Scarecrows also came to North America as waves of emigrants left Europe. German settlers in Pennsylvania brought with them the bootzamon, or bogeyman, which stood guard over the fields. Sometimes a female counterpart was added to the opposite end of the field or orchard.
During the heyday of America’s agricultural period, scarecrows became popular, but following World War II, farmers realized they could accomplish a lot more by spraying their crops with pesticides like DDT. This went on until the 1960s, when it was discovered that pesticides are actually bad for you. Nowadays, although you don’t see a lot of scarecrows guarding fields, they’re extremely popular as a fall decoration. In more rural countries, scarecrows are still in use.
Excerpts taken from about.com.