The Autumn Equinox also known as Harvest Home, Alban Elfed and Mabon is the second harvest celebration of the year and typically falls between 21st and 23rd September.
At this time of year night and day are briefly of equal length before we begin our descent into cooler temperatures and longer nights. This was a very important time for our ancestors as it marked the end of the growing season when they would find themselves gathering the last of the wild berries and preparing their stores for the long Winter ahead.
There are many ancient sites in Britain that were built to mark the equinoxes, one being Hag’s Cairn at Loughcrew not far from Newgrange in Ireland. Filled with ancient carvings the passage tomb is filled with light, if the weather conditions are right, illuminating its beauty within.
Mabon was originally the name of an ancient Welsh sun God or hero whose story begins with him being stolen from his mother Modron at only 3 nights old. During his absence Modron’s sadness transforms the world into Winter, just as Demeter’s did when Persephone was taken to the underworld in Greek mythology (almost every ancient culture has their own version of this story). Modron is rescued years later during the Spring by King Arthur’s knights and the character Culhwch.
So what does Mabon have to do with the Autumn Equinox? Well, absolutely nothing. There is no evidence that our ancestors used this God’s name in any way, shape or form during this time of year. The term Mabon was originally used by the American Wiccan author Aiden Kelly who in his book called ‘Crafting the Art of Magic’ (revised title,’Inventing Witchcraft’) decided to rename some of the Sabbats. And since the 1970s the name has become popular throughout the Pagan community. Because I want my practice to be as authentically rooted as possible, I just simply use ‘Autumn Equinox’. Mabon when translated literally means, ‘son of the mother’.
Although the name ‘Mabon’ is quite modern, Autumn celebrations are genuinely ancient, as some of the ancient sites of Britian prove. The Venerable Bede, who was an Anglo Saxon monk , mentions in his writings in the early 700’s that September was a holy month in the Anglo Saxon Calendar when harvest time was celebrated and by the late 1500’s country folk were still celebrating Harvest Home. There was feasting, celebrations and games. This was a well deserved rest from everyday life.
Some Pagan traditions remember the death of the sun God at this time and his journey into the Otherworld. Others confusingly recognize his death at Lughnasadh instead. However, everyone’s path is different, so don’t worry if your beliefs are not the same as other Pagans.
While the Goddess mourns the loss of her consort she grows tired as she prepares her transformation from mother to crone. She offers us her last fruits of the season so that we may be nourished throughout the dark months of inner reflection.
The Autumn Equinox is a time of great joy and great sorrow. After every death comes new life and we are all a part of this ever changing cycle. As the trees lose the weight of their dead leaves before their Winter slumber, so too can we lose our burdens, allowing us the freedom to go within and begin the inner work that permits us to plant the seeds of new growth.