Contemporary Paganism is deeply rooted in a European past. For all of us who have some European heritage, those ancestors were pagan before the introduction of Christianity. Although modern Pagans draw on many non-European sources including the ancient beliefs and practices from Egyptian, Roman and Greek, Asian, Native American and African cultures, the native religions of pre-Christian Europe are our own heritage.
In this series, I will use the Wheel of the Year used by many modern Pagans to explore seasonal practices that you can incorporate into your life. I am using the generic descriptions of the seasons as if they apply to everyone. I know that they don’t. If you don’t live in North America or Europe, or if you live in certain areas of the United States, some of these descriptions of the seasons won’t make sense to you. Feel free to adjust my suggestions based on your own environment.
Fall Equinox or Mabon
Fall Equinox (around September 21) is the second day of the year when the day and the night are perfectly balanced (the other day is Spring Equinox in March). For pagans, it is one of the Sabbats or Quarter Days tied to the cycles of our earth and sun. At this time, we can think about getting our lives in balance after the flurry of summer activities and before the flurry of the winter holidays.
This is also the time of the last harvest. It is a time for reflecting on the blessing of the year and cultivating gratitude for that we have received. For our European ancestors, their harvest was completed around this time and all that was going to be there to sustain them through the winter months had been brought in from the field. We have it easier with our world-wide access to food and the overabundance of our grocery system. However, we need to look at what sustains us in the coming months and what gets in our way and needs to be removed. Now is the time to prune the deadwood from our lives, to prepare for the days to come.
The colors of this season are the browns and oranges of the leaves as they make their spectacular departure. Its symbols of this time include those leaves, gourds and pumpkins.
Build a Mabon Altar
This is a time for gratitude for all we have received this year. Think of what symbols you might use. Fall leaves, pinecones, interesting sticks and rocks? Pomegranates, corn, and gourds? Gardening tools, cleaned and oiled and ready to be set aside until spring? What represents your hearth and home, your protection against the coming cold? Candles to represent the balance of light and dark of this time? Other symbols of balance in your life. What else represents this season for you? Use this space for your meditations, prayers, and as a focus for your ritual.
As a time of balance before the encroaching darkness, our rituals might become more internal and introspective. If you’re a kitchen witch, you might cook up fall goodies for your family friends. Zucchini bread or pies of the last fruit of the season, apples are good right now. Put together a cornucopia of all the marvellous things of this season. The American Thanksgiving is a very late harvest festival, and many of its symbols are appropriate now.
Just as spring was a time to clear out and make ready, now is the time to finish those projects you’ve been neglecting. Or admit you’ll never finish and declutter them to make way for something you want more. Mediate on balance, giving yourself permission to slow down and take stock of where you’ve been and where you’re going. This is a time of planning for the future as we move into a time of hibernation and introspection.
How will you celebrate this time of year? Let us know in the comments. If you’ve put together a special seasonal altar, consider uploading a photo to share.