The Autumn Equinox is a harvest holiday that is also known as Mabon to many Pagans (Ellison 187). It is generally celebrated around the actual equinox date, usually September 21st. Although it was not an especially important time to the ancient Celts, there are traditions throughout the British Isles and Ireland. According to Mara Freeman, there was a special ceremony surrounding the cutting of the last sheaf. This was then transformed into a female doll that could represent any number of things, from the Cailleach to a young Goddess, depending on the region. It would then be hung in a barn, home, or saved for Imbolc festivities (Freeman, 260).
Mabon is also a time of year for feasting and food preparation as people prepare for the winter months. Specific foods, such as corn and nuts, are being harvested, and wine making is especially important (Ellison 188).
In many ways, this holiday seems like a Pagan version of Thanksgiving without the convoluted history between Europeans and Native Americans. In years past, I didn’t anticipate it as wholly as Samhain or Winter Solstice. In fact, I rarely thought much about it on the actual holiday. Yet now that I’ve read more about the Autumn Equinox it makes more sense to me than the American Thanksgiving which seems more about the beginning of the Christmas season now than celebrating the bounty of the earth. Mabon’s purpose, it seems, is to remind Pagans to stop, think about where their food comes from, and thank the Earth Mother.
How I Celebrated in 2007
Once again, I joined the members of Muin Mound to celebrate a holiday. This particular holiday, the Autumn Equinox, has never attracted me in the way that others have, but it is important to celebrate the end of the harvest and the preparation for colder times.
The ritual was lead by the senior Druid, Dennis. This is the second ritual I’ve seen him lead. I’ve found him to be very humble and he never seems as if he is on a power trip. He always organizes the rituals quite well. He knows the structure and he encouragingly helps to remind people when it’s their turn to present an offering or call to a particular spirit or kindred.
The patrons of the rite were the Welsh Mabon and Madron, Mabon’s mother. I know very little about them as I work with Irish deities, so it was very interesting to learn. The gatekeeper was Manannan Mac Lir. I stumbled my way through some of the chants, but I’m starting to form a firm grasp on the ritual format, the chants Muin Mound uses, and the appropriate responses during the rite. I’m becoming confident! I did, however, forget to bring a sacrifice. I felt bad, but recalled that I had already made an offering to my shrine earlier in the day. I didn’t do anything of note in the ritual except participate in the toast and boast.
I cannot remember the exact omens drawn. I know Dennis used runes and that the overall message was that we need to contribute to the whole community, not just to the grove or even just the Pagan community. It was a good omen and something I believe we need to do more of.
Whenever I’m at Muin Mound, I definitely feel the presence of nature spirits. They seem to love the grove. I feel the Gods and ancestors as well, but the nature spirits really make themselves known. The deity I felt most was Brighid, and I also sensed the Dagda. I felt Brighid standing mostly to my right, and the Dagda to my left. Brighid urged me to keep an eye on a little boy as he played dangerously close to the fire. She would have been upset with me if I let him hurt himself.