Many Pagans are solitary practitioners, either by choice or by necessity. But a lot of Pagan activities for Mabon are designed for large groups. In 2014 and 2015 I wrote a series of rituals for those working alone on the Wheel of the Year. Every year they’re near the top of the list of most popular posts – here’s the Mabon ritual.
But what if you’re part of a group that holds its rituals on the Saturday nearest the holiday and you don’t want to do a second ritual? Or maybe you’re just feel the need to do something other than a ritual this time. Here are eight things you can do to celebrate the Autumn Equinox.
1. Read Culhwch and Olwen
On Tuesday I wrote about the controversy around using the name Mabon for the Autumn Equinox – I’m not going to repeat that argument here. But the name has been in use for over 40 years and you owe it to yourself to understand its history.
Mabon appears only once, in the Welsh Mabinogi, in the story Culhwch and Olwen. He was taken from his mother when he was only three nights old, and rescuing him is part of the list of seemingly impossible tasks Culhwch must complete in order to win the hand of Olwen from her father.
The story can be found in book versions, such as The Mabinogi translated by Patrick K. Ford from 1977. There’s also a public domain version of Lady Charlotte Guest’s 1877 translation on-line at Sacred-Texts.com.
2. Celebrate the end of Summer
I know, I know – Samhain is Summer’s End, not Mabon. But the Autumn Equinox is the end of astronomical Summer and the beginning of Fall. And while those in Northern climates may be mourning the end of Summer, here in Texas it’s something to celebrate.
Mind you, it’s still hot here. The average high temperature in Dallas on September 23 (the equinox can occur on the 22nd, 23rd, or 24th) is 86°F (30°C) and the record high is 100° F (38°C). Still, the 100° days are almost always gone by the equinox. And that is something to celebrate.
3.Cook a feast from local crops
On the modern Pagan Wheel of the Year, Mabon is the second of three harvest festivals. In practice, the time of the harvest varies widely based on the crops and the climate – something we’ve forgotten in a society where cold storage and refrigerated trucks mean no one knows what “out of season” means anymore.
Still, good fresh local vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, and dairy can be found in most areas in September. So pay a visit to your local farmer’s market – or to your local farmer – pick up something that’s never seen the inside of a refrigerator, and cook your own harvest feast.
4. Eat a pomegranate
The story of Persephone and Hades is usually told in the Spring, when Persephone returns to Olympus and her mother Demeter makes the land fertile again. The Autumn Equinox is the other side of that story – this is the time when Persephone returns to the underworld, which Zeus decided she must do because she had eaten six pomegranate seeds.
So get a pomegranate, cut it open, and nibble on the seeds. Think about Persephone as She is now, not as a victim but as the Queen of the Underworld.
And before you’re done, take six seeds and offer them to whichever deity calls to you.
5. Cut an apple in half
In the cooler climates Mabon is often associated with the apple harvest. So pick your favorite variety of apple and cut it in half along its equator, as shown in the picture.
Look at the center and see the natural pentagram formed by the seeds. In many modern Pagan traditions, this represents the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, and the fifth element of Spirit. In Arthurian lore, the apple comes to us from Avalon, the Isle of Apples where Arthur went to sleep until Britain needs him again. The apple is a reminder of the healing powers of the Earth and the restorative powers of the Otherworld.
Gaze at the pentagram and contemplate the connections between the apple, the Earth, and the Otherworld.
Then eat the apple, remembering to offer part of it to your Gods, ancestors, and local spirits.
6. Meditate on the wine harvest
Grapes are another crop harvested at different times based on variety, climate, and local conditions. But as the graphic shows, mid to late September is a very common time to pick grapes for wine in France.
After picking, the grapes must be crushed, fermented, clarified, bottled, and aged. It will be at least a few months before the wine is ready to drink. Fortunately, wine from previous years is readily available.
So pour a glass of your favorite red or white and contemplate all the steps on the journey that transformed raw grapes to this exquisite drink you’re now enjoying. Think about how old some of the grapevines are as much as 125 years old (though most are much younger).
I find that while any alcohol will disturb my meditation, sipping a glass of wine can be a helpful aid in more active contemplation.
7. Mark the sunrise and sunset
We grow up hearing “the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.” Only it doesn’t – it rises and sets at different points on the horizon at different times of the year. At the equinoxes, though, the common saying is true. The sun really does rise due east and sets due west.
So go out at sunrise and note where the sun comes up. You don’t have to get up ridiculously early like you do at the Summer Solstice. But because of time zones and daylight saving time, the sun won’t rise for most of us at 6:00 AM. In Dallas it rises at 7:15 AM.
My back yard is closely aligned with the cardinal directions, but because the horizon is blocked by houses, I can’t see the sun till a few minutes after sunrise, when it’s already moved a few degrees farther south.
Many of the ancient monuments were aligned to the solstice or equinoxes. See what you can align to them where you live.
8. Meditate on balance and moderation
The word “equinox” literally means “equal night” – it’s the time when day and night are equal. Or close to it, anyway. Nature is never as precise as we like to think it is. That makes the equinoxes a good time to meditate on balance.
I still see some Pagans who see balance as some magical stasis point that if ever achieved would mean we’d never have to change again. The only things that never change are dead things… and even they decay.
Rather than trying to exempt ourselves from the growing pains of life, let’s take a few minutes to meditate on moderation and especially on wholeness. How can we make sure that all our needs are met, instead of concentrating on only one or two areas and ignoring the rest? How can we make sure all members of our community are doing well, and not only a few? Where do we have surpluses we can share? Where can others help us?
However you celebrate, may your Mabon be bright and joyous!