By linking together the astrological significance, mythology, and historical observances surrounding the festivals of Modern Paganism’s Wheel of the Year; one is able to discover deeper insights and intriguing connections linking the esoteric concepts that comprise the unique flavor of each sacred day of observance. Mabon, despite the modern origins of its nomenclature has significant connections with the ancient myths of Pagan cultures across Europe. The Autumn Equinox is obviously not an exclusively modern occurrence and despite whether or not it was celebrated by ancient Pagans, it has meaning to the practice of magic and is an integral part of the solar procession through the zodiac.
Although there is no evidence of a special name that Northwestern Europeans had for the Autumnal Equinox, the Harvest, around which it is centered was an important part of life. It was a time of preparation and the assurance of survival throughout the winter months, and it continues to be for modern society as well. Grains needed to be properly stored and food needed to be properly preserved if it was expected to last through the winter. Any errors that resulted in spoilage would be devastating for early farming communities that depended on this as their main food source. This was also a time of preparation for the animals on the farm, making sure they were healthy enough to survive the harsh weather and the culling of those too weak to survive. Animals raised for their meat would also be slaughtered and preserved to provide sustenance until spring.
This was a time of harvest and thanksgiving for the bounty of the growing season, but also a time of death and sacrifice. The sacrifices made during the harvest would ensure the survival of the community, protecting them from the coming hardships and initiating the request for the next season’s fertility. As the sacrificial god of the previous year passes through the stone gates of the Underworld he begins his transformation from the Lord of the Hunt to the Lord of the Dead. His remains, cremated, are scattered across the field, his blood nourishes the soil, and his bones are scattered to the four quarters. This is represented by the last sheaf of corn that is either preserved until spring when it is buried in the first furrow that is plowed, or burned in the sacrificial fires at Samhain symbolic of the blood sacrifices of old.
This time of year is marked by the Harvest Moon, the bright light of the September Full Moon allowed farmers to work late into the night ensuring the completion of the Harvest. Mabon is a time of year when there is much traffic between the worlds. The gods of light and vegetation are descending to the Underworld, while the dark gods of the waning year begin to emerge from their resting place. The Anglo-Saxons called September halegmonath or “holy month.” It was during this time that the Feast of the Archangel St. Michael was held on September 29th, also known as the Feast of the Archangels. Believers would pray to St. Michael the Archangel for protection against the coming forces of darkness, much like their Pagan counterparts made offerings and sacrifices to their ancient gods in return for the same.
The Balancing of Light and Darkness
The Autumnal Equinox begins when the Sun enters the Sign of Libra, the scales. Libra represents balance and temperance, and the reconciling of opposing forces. The integration of life and death, fire and water, solar and lunar energies. It is a social Sign, ruling partnerships of all kinds and the individual contributions one makes to a group. This Air Sign is a Sign of communication and intellect-of justice and discernment. Its position on the zodiac is the halfway point between the completion of the Sun’s transit through the zodiac. The astrological year is initiated by the fires of Aries the Ram, the Vernal Equinox. This places Libra at the horizon of the descendant, marking the movement of the Sun through the outer realm of the ego and its material environment into the realms of the unconscious and the emotions. Libra is the fulcrum point marking the division between the light and dark halves of the year.
Libra is a Cardinal sign, meaning it is an initiator. The Cardinal Signs begin each season; Aries-the Spring, Cancer-the Summer, Libra-the Fall and Capricorn-the Winter. Looking at the Signs before and after Libra also give us insight into her nature. The preceding Sign of Libra is Virgo, commonly known as the Virgin. This is the nurturing, earthy, mother of all, the Goddess as Ceres or Demeter, depicted with her sheaf of grain. The Sign of the Scorpion follows Virgo, a Sign ruled by Pluto ruling over sex, death, and the subconscious; this psychic sign teaches us about transformation. The position of Libra between Virgo and Scorpio presents an interesting connection between the goddess of nature and god of the underworld. This mirrors the myth of Persephone/Kore, and the tipping of the scales between her time spent as Queen of the Underworld and her return to her mother Demeter. As the Sun begins its descent after the Equinox, the goddess Persephone also prepares for hers.
Preparing for Samhain
Mabon is the twilight point between the growing light of the summer and the reigning darkness of the winter. During this time of transitions the forces of waxing and waning are in balance. We can utilize this time to thank the gods of vegetation and increase for their blessings throughout the past year. Offerings can be made to the spirits of the green world as they prepare for their winter slumber. Offerings of milk, honey and grain can be given to the spirits of the forest and plant kingdoms, while sacrifices of fruit, wine and blood can be given to the gods and spirits of the Otherworld to help them wake for their slumber. This is a time for completing projects started in the previous year and asking for guidance and insight into the introspective period approaching. Setting the ground for divination and spirit flight to be undertaken during Hallowstide can be infused with the energy of the Cardinal Sign that initiates the season. It is a time for us to bury those things within ourselves that we wish to incubate and absorb the fertile powers of the Underworld during the dark half of the year so that as the seasons turn they take root, branching out into new more fully realized manifestations that will be reborn in the Spring.
- Cartwright, Mark. ancient.eu/Persephone
- Howard, Michael. Liber Nox: A Witch’s Grammarye. Skylight Press. 2014.