The Autumn Equinox is not my favorite sabbat, but it could be. At the very least I think it’s under-appreciated. Some of that under-appreciation could be because of the popularity of Samhain (Let’s get September over with and get to late October!), or it might be related to the lack of other holidays happening concurrently around September 20. (The most popular Pagan sabbats generally overlap with prominent holidays in the over-culture, such as Christmas, Halloween, and Easter.)
For whatever reason “Mabon” just doesn’t seem to capture the greater Pagan imagination like Samhain, Beltane, Ostara, and Yule.* It’s not completely forgotten or anything, but it doesn’t get the attention it deserves, and that’s a shame because I think the Autumn Equinox has the potential to be one of your favorite sabbats.
Balance is Under Rated
Most of us probably live our lives out of balance. We either focus too much on work, or not enough on it, and some of us prioritize doing things for ourselves instead of doing things for others. No matter how great your life is, it’s possible that there’s something just a little bit out of whack, and there’s no better time to work on such things than the Fall Equinox.
Everyone loves welcoming the return of the light at Yule (or Imbolc), and most of the Witches I know love the long nights that accompany Samhain, but no one ever seems excited by equal night and day. I’ve always thought my magick works best with healthy doses of both the moon and the sun, which is exactly what I get on the Equinox.
There’s a Change in the Air at the Autumn Equinox
For many of us, the sabbats are linked to agricultural cycles that are alien to where we live. September and October in Northern California are often two of the hottest months of the year, and the leaves don’t really start falling until early November (though there are some leaves on cherry tree that are starting to turn). Outside it generally smells like Summer, and not the Autumn I loved so much in the Midwest.
But there’s still a change in the air this time of year that’s tangible. Some of that might just be because the sun is setting a little earlier, but I think there’s more to it than that. We just had our first sprinkles of rain this season, and the nights have been growing cooler, even if the days have not. I can feel things shifting around me, even if that shift doesn’t embrace all the classic things we associate with a Northeastern or Midwestern Fall.
Rhythms Return to Normal
In the life of a Witch coven, Summer is generally the most off-kilter season. Much of that is because it’s the time of year when many of us go on vacations, and for those folks, with kids, isn’t “back to school” the most wonderful time of the year? Sometimes our coven lies fallow for over a month in the Summer, just too many conflicting schedules to deal with it, but come post-Labor Day . . . .
Autumn and early Winter are always extremely busy times of year for most of the Witches I know, and yet there’s time in there for coven rituals and other magickal work. Things simply seem to operate better once August goes on its way.
It’s Actually Harvest Time
One of the best things about Mabon is that it’s actually harvest time. By Samhain the harvest has generally passed most of us by, and it’s always far too early for harvest celebrations in August. In the various places I’ve lived grain is actually gathered up in September!
And it’s about more than grain too. Many of my favorite fruits and vegetables are taken in during the month of September. By the end of August the year’s first harvest of apples is available at my local farmer’s market (we started with Royal Gala and Gravenstein apples), and just last weekend I pruned the heads from the sunflowers in my back yard, all completely full of seeds. There are grapes on the vines right now too, and pumpkins are about ready to be harvested . . . . .
Celebrate Fall Things
I hear from many Witches and Pagans that Autumn is their favorite season and by extension, that Samhain is their favorite sabbat. Fall is my favorite season too, so I get that, but Samhain celebrations often focus exclusively on the dead, and not quite enough on the actual Autumn. I want a Fall ritual that focuses on falling leaves, fresh cider, and the grape harvest. Luckily, I get all of that every year at Mabon.
If your Samhain celebrate are generally consumed by the thinning of the veil, think about spending some time observing Mabon as the harvest celebration it should be! Partake of the pumpkin flavored things, and don’t be ashamed of doing so. Turn wearing a hat, a pair of gloves, or a heavier jacket into a ritual honoring the Turn of the Wheel. Embrace the changes going on around you, from what we eat to how we have to dress.
September is the Doorway Start of the Holiday Season
In the United States the period from (American) Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is considered the start of the “Holiday Season,” but what if I told you that the Holiday Season really began in September? I’m not suggesting anyone set up a Yule Tree, only that from about now until New Year’s Day, most of the country has a little time for magick day to day.
All of the Halloween shit is up at my local Target, and the seasonal Halloween stores have opened their doors too. From now until the end of December magickal beings and creatures will be on most everyone’s mind. First it’ll be ghosts and Witches, and then it’ll be Yuletide horned gods and elves. Several Christmas customs became a part of Halloween (“trick or treat” is really just wassailing with candy), and certain Yuletide customs feel equally at home near the Winter Solstice. Might as well get excited about all of it.
*One of the “perks” of running Patheos Pagan is that I know how many people are reading the site at certain times of the year. We have big jumps in readership at Samhain, Yule, Beltane, and Ostara. Midsummer, Lammas, and Mabon don’t move the needle at all in terms of traffic.