It is the time of the autumn equinox, and the harvest is winding down. The fields are nearly empty, because the crops have been plucked and stored for the coming winter. Mabon is the mid-harvest festival, and it is when we take a few moments to honor the changing seasons, and celebrate the second harvest.
Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Mabon, but typically the focus is on either the second harvest aspect, or the balance between light and dark.
On or around September 21, for many Pagan, Mabon is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops or other blessings. It is also a time of balance and reflection, following the theme of equal hours light and dark. Here are some ways you and your family can celebrate this day of bounty and abundance.
Some things to do on Mabon!
1. Find a Time of Positive and Negative Energy for Balance
Mabon is one of those times of year that affect people in different ways. For some, it’s a season to honor the darker aspects of the goddess, calling upon that which is devoid of light. For others, it’s a time of thankfulness, of gratitude for the abundance we have at the season of harvest. No matter how you see it, Mabon is traditionally a time of balance. After all, it’s one of the two times each year that has equal amounts of darkness and daytime. Because this is, for many people, a time of high energy, there is sometimes a feeling of restlessness in the air, a sense that something is just a bit “off”. If you’re feeling a bit spiritually lopsided, with this simple meditation you can restore a little balance into your life.
Setting the Mood
Now that fall is here, why not do an autumn version of Spring Cleaning? Get rid of any emotional baggage you’re dragging around with you. Accept that there are darker aspects to life, and embrace them, but don’t let them rule you. Understand that a healthy life finds balance in all things.
You can perform this ritual anywhere, but the best place to do it is outside, in the evening as the sun goes down. Decorate your altar (or if you’re outside, use a flat stone or tree stump) with colorful autumn leaves, acorns, small pumpkins, and other symbols of the season. You’ll need a black candle and a white one of any size, although tealights probably work best. Make sure you have something safe to put them in, either a candle holder or a bowl of sand.
light both candles, and say the following:
A balance of night and day, a balance of light and dark
Tonight I seek balance in my life
as it is found in the Universe.
A black candle for darkness and pain
and things I can eliminate from my life.
A white candle for the light, and for joy
and all the abundance I wish to bring forth.
At Mabon, the time of the equinox,
there is harmony and balance in the Universe,
and so there shall be in my life.
Meditate on the things you wish to change. Focus on eliminating the bad, and strengthening the good around you. Put toxic relationships into the past, where they belong, and welcome new positive relationships into your life. Let your baggage go, and take heart in knowing that for every dark night of the soul, there will be a sunrise the next morning.
2) Go Apple Picking!
Apples have always been popular tools for foretelling the future. There are a number of traditional methods in folklore for seeing who one’s lover might be.
- Peel the apple, keeping the peel in one long piece. When the peel comes off, drop it on the floor. The letter it forms is the first initial of your true love’s name.
- Wait until midnight and cut an apple into nine pieces. Take the pieces into a dark room with a mirror (either hanging on the wall or a hand-held one will do). At midnight, begin eating the pieces of apple while looking into the mirror. When you get to the ninth piece, throw it over your shoulder. The face of your lover should appear in the mirror.
- If a girl has more than one potential lover, peel an apple and pull out the seeds. Place a wet seed on your cheek for each boyfriend. The last one left stuck to the skin represents the suitor who is the true love.
Because of its associations with the harvest, the apple is perfect for Mabon magic. Try the Apple Harvest rite, or honor the goddess Pomona at the harvest.
- Mabon Apple Harvest Rite: This harvest ritual is designed with solitary Wiccans and Pagans in mind, and uses the apple and its five-pointed star as the focus. Honor the ancient gods at Mabon with this harvest ritual.
- Pomona, Goddess of Apples: Pomona was an obscure Roman goddess, but she still has significance when it comes to the blooming of orchards and fruit trees in the fall.
- Magic of the Apple Blossoms: The apple is associated with immortality, but is also considered a food for the dead, which is why it often makes its appearance at Mabon celebrations.
3) Apple Crafts
In addition to being tasty and sweet, apples are perfect for craft projects.
Try one of these to decorate your home with magical apple energy.
- Apple Candle holders: Make a set of decorative candle holders by coring out the top of a pair of apples. Here is the quick DIY Apple Candlestick Holder instructions:
Naturally, you’ll want to put candles on your altar to celebrate this Sabbat. Why not use vegetables and fruits symbolic of the season to make a candleholder? These easy candleholders are perfect for holding a taper-style candle.
First, you’ll want to select some firm fruits. Red apples, early acorn squash, even eggplants work well – apples seem to last the longest. Rinse and dry the fruit or vegetable thoroughly. Polish the outside with a soft cloth until the apple is shiny. Stand the apple up on its bottom, and use a knife or a corer to make a hole in the top where the stem is located. Go about halfway down into the apple so that the candle will have a sturdy base. Widen the hole until it’s the same diameter as your candle. Pour some lemon juice into the hole and allow it to sit for ten minutes. This will prevent the apple from browning and softening too quickly. Pour out the lemon juice, dry out the hole, and insert a sprig of rosemary, basil, or other fresh herb of your choice. Finally, add the taper candle. Use a little bit of dripped wax to secure the taper in place.
- Apple Garlands: This easy-to-make craft not only looks pretty, but will leave your home smelling delicious and welcoming! Here is a quick how to DIY Apple Garland instructions:
An apple garland is really easy to make. You can make it any length you wish, and it makes your house smell good in the process and magical apples are everywhere by the time Samhain rolls around! You will need: several large apples of any color, lemon juice, dried bay leaves, scraps of fabric, cinnamon sticks, raffia and florist’s wire. Start by peeling and coring the apples, and then slicing them horizontally into circles about 3/8” thick.
Fill a bowl with the lemon juice, and place your apple slices in it. Allow them to soak for about ten minutes – this prevents them from turning brown and discolored. Remove the apple slices from the bowl and pat them dry with a paper towel. Bake your apples for about six hours at 200 degrees. If you like, before baking you can dust them with a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg. Once your apples are completely dried out, the fun really begins. Using the florist’s wire, begin stringing the apples. The wire should go straight through the apples, but if you have trouble, make a hole with a toothpick. Between every few apple slices, string some bay. You can also alternate the apples and bay leaves with bows made from your fabric scraps. Make your garland as long or as short as you like – or until your kids get bored – and then knot each end around a cinnamon stick. Tie a piece of raffia around the ends as well, and then drape your garland on your wall, across your mantel, or over your front door. A variation on the apple garland is to make a smaller length and then bend it into a circle, forming an apple wreath (see photo). Tie a piece of fabric – or bend a leftover bit of florist’s wire – to the top so you can hang it on a nail or hook.
- Apple Butter: Brew up a pot of delicious apple butter to celebrate the harvest. You can buy apple butter at any grocery store or farmers market but, it is especially delicious when it is home made!
4) Count Your Blessings
Mabon is a time of giving thanks, but sometimes we take our fortune for granted. Sit down and make a gratitude list. Write down things that you are thankful for. An attitude of gratefulness helps bring more abundance our way — what are things you’re glad you have in your life? Maybe it’s the small things, like “I’m glad I have my cat Peaches” or “I’m glad my car is running.” Maybe it’s something bigger, like “I’m thankful I have a warm home and food to eat” or “I’m thankful people love me even when I’m cranky.” Keep your list some place you can see it, and add to it when the mood strikes you.
5) Honor the Darkness
Without darkness, there is no light. Without night, there can be no day. Despite a basic human need to overlook the dark, there are many positive aspects to embracing the dark side, if it’s just for a short time. After all, it was (you can choose your own goddess of night for this but most people use Demeter’s story) Demeter’s love for her daughter Persephone that led her to wander the world, mourning for six months at a time, bringing us the death of the soil each fall. In some paths, Mabon is the time of year that celebrates the Crone aspect of a triune goddess. Celebrate a ritual that honors that aspect of the Goddess which we may not always find comforting or appealing, but which we must always be willing to acknowledge. Call upon the gods and goddesses of the dark night, and ask for their blessings this time of year.
6) Get Back to Nature
Fall is here, and that means the weather is bearable once more. The nights are becoming crisp and cool, and there’s a chill in the air. Take your family on a nature walk, and enjoy the changing sights and sounds of the outdoors. Listen for geese honking in the sky above you, check the trees for changing in the colors of the leaves, and watch the ground for dropped items likeacorns, nuts, and seed pods. If you live in an area that doesn’t have any restrictions on removing natural items from park property, take a small bag with you and fill it up with the things you discover along the way. Bring your goodies home for your family’s altar. If you are prohibited from removing natural items, fill your bag with trash and clean up the outdoors!
7) Tell Timeless Stories
In many cultures, fall was a time of celebration and gathering. It was the season in which friends and relatives would come from far and near to get together before the cold winter kept them apart for months at a time. Part of this custom was storytelling. Learn the harvest tales of your ancestors or of the people indigenous to the area in which you live. A common theme in these stories is the cycle of death and rebirth, as seen in the planting season. Learn about the stories of Osiris, Mithras, Dionysius, Odin and other deities who have died and then restored to life.
8) Raise Some Energy
It’s not uncommon for Pagans and Wiccans to make remarks regarding the “energy” of an experience or event. If you’re having friends or family over to celebrate Mabon with you, you can raise group energy by working together. A great way to do this is with a drum or music circle. Invite everyone to bring drums, rattles, bells, or other instruments. Those who don’t have an instrument can clap their hands. Begin in a slow, regular rhythm, gradually increasing the tempo until it reaches a rapid pace. End the drumming at a pre-arranged signal, and you’ll be able to feel that energy wash over the group in waves. Another way of raising group energy is chanting, or with dance. With enough people, you can hold a Spiral Dance.
9) Celebrate Hearth & Home
As autumn rolls in, we know we’ll be spending more time indoors in just a few months. Take some time to do a fall version of spring cleaning. Physically clean your home from top to bottom, and then do a ritual smudging. Use sage or sweet grass, or asperge with consecrated water as you go through your home and bless each room. Decorate your home with symbols of the harvest season, and set up a family Mabon altar. Put sickles, scythes and bales of hay around the yard. Collect colorful autumn leaves, gourds and fallen twigs and place them in decorative baskets in your house. If you have any repairs that need to be done, do them now so you don’t have to worry about them over the winter. Throw out or give away anything that’s no longer of use.
10) Welcome the Gods of the Vine
Grapes are everywhere, so it’s no surprise that the Mabon season is a popular time to celebrate wine making, and deities connected to the growth of the vine. Whether you see him as Bacchus, Dionysus, the Green Man, or some other vegetative god, the god of the vine is a key archetype in harvest celebrations. Take a tour of a local winery and see what it is they do this time of year. Better yet, try your hand at making your own wine! If you’re not into wine, that’s okay — you can still enjoy the bounty of grapes, and use their leaves and vines for recipes and craft projects. However you celebrate these deities of vine and vegetation, you may want to leave a small offering of thanks as you reap the benefits of the grape harvest.