This will always be one of my favorite times of the year. There’s the change in the weather, but our lives generally transition in the Fall as well. People go back to school, parents deal with their children going back to school, pumpkin flavored everything abounds, gardens are harvested, and there’s time to take a deep breath after the craziness of Summer and before the ever-growing “Holiday Season.” (Is it just me or do “The Holidays” stretch from Samhain to New Year’s Eve?) I wrote last year on the history of the Fall Equinox and how much I love Autumn, so I won’t repeat it, but it’s worth reading or even re-reading.
Back in Michigan my life revolved around the Turn of the College Calendar at Michigan State University, as such Mabon was always a time for forging new friendships and strengthening old or returning ones. Many of our Mabon Rituals revolved around the idea of getting to know folks better along with celebrating the harvest. In Michigan you tend to feel Fall in a hurry, highs in the low 60’s (F) are common, and nights often dip into the upper 30’s. It was the harvest festival of the year for a lot of us, there could be snow on the ground at Samhain.
This ritual is a reflection of life in the Upper Midwest. It mentions cold, frost, and chilly nights. When I shared it in Northern California last Fall it felt wildly out of season, and I think we all laughed a few times, especially me, because I don’t think it ever truly gets cold here. This is also kind of a goofy ritual, and is about developing bonds between people, not making a deep theological statement (unless forging bonds is your deep theological statement). Word of caution, try not to do this on a carpeted floor because you’ll inevitably squish one of the grapes it requires you to throw.
*I tend to do this ritual with a crew of seven: a High Priestess, a High Priest, a Circle Caster, and four people to call quarters and give out the blessings of the four elements. You can obviously double down some parts if your group is small.
*Lines not assigned can be said by anyone, High Priestess, High Priest, etc.
*Stage directions are generally in italics.
*I didn’t include the Charge of the Goddess or God in this post, but I did include links to the versions I use in ritual.
*Materials Needed: Standard altar stuff, pumpkin treats, apple cider, an apple, grapes, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, bread, beverage for cakes and ale.
Statement of Intent: “Tonight we celebrate the Earth’s harvest, but we also hope to make a personal harvest of growing a loving, caring, supportive, community.”
East/Air: “I call to the spirits of the East, spirits of Air. Be with us in our circle tonight as we celebrate the magick of the Fall season. Reveal to us your gifts and your bounty this Autumn night. Blessed Be.”
South/Fire: “I call to the spirits of the South, spirits of Fire. Be with us in our circle tonight as we celebrate the magick of the Fall season. Reveal to us your gifts and your bounty this Autumn night. Blessed Be.”
West/Water: “I call to the spirits of the West, spirits of Water. Be with us in our circle tonight as we celebrate the magick of the Fall season. Reveal to us your gifts and your bounty this Autumn night. Blessed Be.”
North/Earth: “I call to the spirits of the North, spirits of Earth. Be with us in our circle tonight as we celebrate the magick of the Fall season. Reveal to us your gifts and your bounty this Autumn night. Blessed Be.”
Circle Casting “The circle is sacred space, let no energy that will disturb our intent enter this place. The energy we use to create this place is that which comes from the goodness in our own hearts. ‘Hand to hand I cast this circle’.”
The circle caster reaches for the hand on her left (clockwise) and everyone in the circle repeats the line until all are holding hands. When all are holding hands the circle caster says: “The circle is cast. So mote it be!”
(That circle casting was completely stolen from Phyllis Curott’s book Book of Shadows.)
Call to the Goddess : “We call to the great Goddess, Lady of the Harvest, Mother Earth, She who provides us with nature’s abundance. Your beauty is all around us. We see your reflection in the night sky, you smile at us as the moon, the oceans are your veil, your hands create art in all that we see, your love surrounds us, in all that is the wheel of life. Join us in our ritual, fill our hearts with your love, our minds with the spirit of wonderment, and our souls with the assurance of your presence. Welcome great Lady, we thank you for this harvest celebration. Blessed Be!”
Call to the God: “We call to the great God, Lord of the Harvest, the Cosmic Seed, He who is the spirit of the wild. Your energy surrounds us. We see you grinning at us in the bushes, we feel your lust for life radiating from the Earth, you make your presence known as the silent hunter and the powerful sun, your faces guide the Wheel of the Year on its journey. Join us in our ritual, fill our hearts with your lust, our minds with images of your revelry, and our souls with your friendly spirit. Welcome great Lord, we thank you for this harvest celebration. Blessed Be!”
“All the spirits of nature give to us this wonderful season, each in their own way. They all offer us gifts to build our community and strengthen our bonds with the Lord and Lady.”
“My breeze turns the Wheel, and now my breeze has started to turn cold. Still, my touch is a gentle this time of year. I bring you the joy of brisk autumn mornings, I bring you the clean smell of leaves in the Fall, I carry the scent of chimney smoke, and the aroma of a fresh baked pumpkin pie. These things I give to you each fall, these small comforts you often take for granted. I rule the air, the skies, the winds, and the hollow things that grow on vines. Many of my gifts can’t be touched with human hands, only with human hearts, but these treats I offer to you tonight. Take a pumpkin treat and share it with someone here you don’t know, introduce yourself, and let your words be carried upon the wind.”
“While I start to leave you this time of year, my occasional gentle touch will remind you of what I have to offer in the months to come. Until then, I leave you with this, the apple. Not only is it red in my honor, it is the magickal fruit, blessed with the symbol of the pentagram. (Cut open an apple.) Tonight though, I give you not just an apple, but apples in their greatest autumn form, as cider. Share a drink with someone you don’t know as well as you should, and do it in my honor.”
(I’m sure most of you know that if you cut an apple just right it reveals a five pointed star. This is done by cutting through the middle of the apple. I know this will surprise most of you who read RtH regularly, but I don’t think we ever used hard cider at this point in the ritual, we usually used warm apple cider. Apple cider is best warmed up in a large pot with a few cinnamon sticks and cloves thrown into it. Cinnamon is another fire food too. You probably will have to use paper cups for this unless you have fifteen coffee mugs lying around. Alternatively you can simply cut up a few pieces of apple and share those, but I prefer the warm cider.)
“The South has conspired to steal one of my greatest gifts, cider, but I offer more this time of year than just that. I give you the frost on a cool morning, the cold rains that drive you inside to cuddle with a loved one, coffee on a Sunday morning, and mulled wine on a Saturday night. Snow, frost, or rain I am always with you in the Fall. My snows revitalize the soil, and are a constant reminder that I care for all of you. While I prepare to turn from liquid into ice, I leave with you this last gift of summer, one of my greatest gifts. I give you the grapes, innocent grapes, which can be turned into not so innocent wine. Share these with someone you would like to get to know better, and most of all have fun with them.”
(Yup, this is when we usually play grape toss into people’s mouths and it is so much fun, really. People get too serious a lot of the time, playing with grapes is a good way not to be serious. You could also drink wine here if you wanted to, but it’s the one time when wine is not more fun.)
“At this time of year, many of you fear me, even loath me. My stronger presence means the onset of winter, the time of death and the great cold. However, I do offer my own set of gifts to you. I give you the clean smelling chill of an autumn day, my frost kills the bugs that plague you in warmer times, I do many good-no great-things for you, and often times they are all unappreciated. Tonight I give you my promise that life will continue during this colder part of the year. Though you don’t always see it, the Earth stirs below the lessening rays of the sun and new tomorrows always lie just around the bend. These seeds I give you come from the dead, but they themselves contain life. Everything beginning must have an ending and all endings lead to new beginnings. Take and eat of these seeds I share with you and reflect upon the coming changes in your own life.”
(When I originally wrote this I wrote it with pomegranate seeds in mind, but that’s completely unseasonable and doesn’t really work for a September ritual. I almost rewrote this bit with “hot chocolate” as the gift from the North, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew it had to be seeds. Seeds come from the Earth after all. Though I don’t specific what type of seed to use here, I’d use either pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or perhaps a combination of both. If you use sunflower seeds don’t get the shelled ones either, that’s just lazy.)
The Great Rite/Cakes and Ale
High Priestess: “The days have grown shorter, the nights cooler, but Autumn is a promise of new beginnings, new experiences, new friends, and new harvests.”
(High Priest picks up his athame, the High Priestess the Cup. He raises the athame to just above the rim of the chalice.)
High Priest: “Life is more than a gift, it is a promise. All that dies shall be reborn.”
High Priestess: “We now celebrate the most ancient of magicks, the magick of joining.”
High Priest: “The athame is to the Lord.”
High Priestess: “As the cup is the Lady.”
Both: “United in life and abundance. Blessed Be!”
(Athame is plunged into the chalice.)
High Priest: “In the names of the Lord and Lady we bless this bread.”
(Touches athame to either the bread or the plate it is being served upon.)
High Priestess: “In the names of the Lord and Lady we bless this drink.”
(Touches athame to the top of the cup.)
(There are two ways to celebrate Cakes and Ale, you can either make it a fast thing, or it can be something to linger over. If the mood is right you can tell stories or share a song at this point in the ritual. If there is to be feasting or drinking after the ritual, perhaps you just want to do it quickly.)
The God: “We thank the Lord of the Harvest for being present in our ritual. Stay in our hearts and our minds throughout the coming mouths. Remind us of your presence in the dark days of ahead. Blessed Be!”
The Goddess : “We thank the Lady of Great Bounty for being present in our ritual, thank you for all the gifts we have shared tonight. As you go from Mother to Crone, continue to comfort and nurture us in the shorter days ahead. Be with us in our hearts and our thoughts, Blessed Be!”
North: “Spirits of the North, Spirits of Earth, thank you for your presence in our ritual tonight. We give thanks for your many gifts at this time of year. Blessed Be.”
West: “Spirits of the West, Spirits of Water, thank you for your presence in our ritual tonight. We give thanks for your many gifts at this time of year. Blessed Be.”
South: “Spirits of the South, Spirits of Fire, thank you for your presence in our ritual tonight. We give thanks for your many gifts at this time of year. Blessed Be.”
East: “Spirits of the East, Spirits of Air, thank you for your presence in our ritual tonight. We give thanks for your many gifts at this time of year. Blessed Be.”
Releasing the Circle: “Hand to hand we created this sacred space, and now hand to hand we will let it go. As the circle closes, let the energy of new friends, laughter, and smiles remain with us as we depart from this place. (All hold hands once more and the circle caster begins to release the circle by unclasping the hand to her right. Hands drop widdershins, counterclockwise, around the circle.) This circle is now open, but the bonds formed in it, never broken. So more it be!”
Closing: “Merry meet, merry part, merry meet again, and may the gods preserve The Craft!”
(About the pictures: Most of this is stock stuff from the internet, but you might have noticed the cool ritual pictures . . . . yup those are my wife and I and several of our friends. I wanted some ritual photos to use on RtH but you can’t just steal those from the internet, you’ve got to know the people in the pictures and have their permission. So we hired a photographer, headed to a studio and took a boat-load of photos, you’ll see more of them in months to come. Angus, who writes here at Ask Angus, wrote about the whole picture experience on his other blog Angusland, (yeah, apparently he has a whole land!) it’s worth a read, and there are a lot more pictures there. All of them are work safe, but some of ’em are still pretty damn sexy.)