Celebrating The Fall Equinox
Mabon (May-bawn) is also known as the Feast of Avalon, the Festival of the Wine and the Festival of the Apple Harvest.
To the Celts, Avalon is the mysterious place for the land of the dead and literally means the “land of apples”. Thus this is a holiday for celebrating the bounty of the harvest and the desire for the living to be reunited with their deceased loved ones. But the holiday is also named for the Welsh God Mabon.
Mabon translates to the “great son”, but some say it’s the “great sun” and relates to the waning reign of the Sun in the sky as summer fades and the season changes to beacon the darkness of fall and winter.
From mythology, Mabon the person was the son of Modred who was kidnapped at the age of 3 and later rescued by King Arthur. His life represents the innocence of youth, the strength of survival and the growing wisdom of the elderly.
Perhaps it is this view of the cycle of life that brings Mabon to his most popular role, the King of the Otherworld and the God of Darkness. His myths overlap with other Gods such as the Welsh God Gwyn Ap Nuad, which means “white son of darkness”. He is seen as the God of war and death and the patron God of fallen warriors. Once again this is a representation or connection to the Land of Avalon where warriors reside in the after life.
The Purpose of Mabon
As a holiday, Mabon represents the time of honoring the dead, visiting burial sites, giving thankfulness for the end of the harvest season and the bounty it has provided. These are the themes of closing, remembering with honor and letting go of the past.
It honors the summer months, the work put into the harvest and for those who were lost to land of Avalon during the year. Although many view the Harvest season as a celebration of life, it is also a celebration of death. The bounty you gather from your garden provides nourishment for you, family and friends. But it is also the death of those plants and vegetables which have been harvested from that garden. Thus Mabon is a celebration of the cycle of life.
Additionally there are some recognition or ritual celebrations for those who have crossed to the Otherworld. Like the Norse, Celts have a land of the dead for those who died in service to their communities, with honor and those who simply crossed over without contributing anything significant in their lives. For the Celts this land of honor is Avalon, for the Norse it is Valhalla. The land of the dead for the Celts is known as the Otherworld and for the Norse it’s known as Hel (one L).
These underworlds share the persona of the Christian Hell. They are the lands of those who took advantage of their communities, were considered evil or committed crimes against their communities. There have been some research that says Avalon and Valhalla are reserved only for warriors who died in battle, but not everyone agrees with this view.
The mother of a great warrior was also honored and welcomed into Avalon. So too was the father who raised the warrior and taught him the ways of battle. But there are also stories about those who worked to support the community through the harsh winter months through farming or hunting. Providing for the entire community was also a practice that was honored, for without the harvest the armies could not defend their lands or their people. Starving was a big part of the ancient days so those who worked in the field and contributed to the community in ways other than battle were also honored and respected.
There are many ways to give honor during this 2nd harvest festival. One old traditional way is to visit the burial sites of your loved ones, placing an apple on their marker. This represents the promise of the Great Spirits for renewed life (a new incarnation). Some decorations fashion a wheel made of apple twigs and decorated with fall colored leaves and fall flowers to represent the circle of life, or the continuation of all things around the circle.
This is a Celtic festival of thanksgiving, so what better way to give thanks than to prepare a meal with the harvest of your garden. If you don’t have a garden of your own, it’s a good time to take a drive into the country to a local farm where you can gather some fresh vegetables and fruit.
Those that indulge in wine can brew a new batch of this home-made nectar of the Gods. Those that do not indulge, can brew preserves and jellies from grapes, raspberries and blackberries. Or my favorite, apple butter! Baking bread is also a big thing to do on this holiday as well. Don’t forget an apple pie for dessert.
A main course can consist of meats, most often red meats. But this is just a suggestion. In this day and age of healthy eating, you should prepare a meal that fits your personal lifestyle. However, your side dishes should consist of late summer and early fall vegetables.
During your meal, share tales and happy stories about those you lost during the year. Or share your experiences and review the lessons you feel you have learned during this past season. Reflect on your deeds and actions and give thanks for the gifts you were given. After your meal, share the chore of cleaning up. This is a way of showing honor and respect to your host and hostess. Think of it as a physical action to show that you understand the interconnection of all life and the desire to respect what you have been given and thanks for receiving those gifts.
During the evening hours you can continue the festival with a formal holiday ritual. There are as many ways and suggestions for conducting such a ceremony as there are people on this planet. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate. There’s only what’s right for you and your family or friends.
Typically the ritual involves some sort of bonfire. In day so old, the bonfire was a beacon of light for the coming months of darkness. The individual home fires would be lit by lighting a torch from the community fire and taking it home to the family hearth. This symbolized unity of the community and the sharing of support and harvest that will sustain everyone through the winter.
Of course what’s a bonfire without song and dance? Telling stories and sharing snacks that can be roasted over the warm flames. A modern celebration might be to share sa’mores and tell ghost stories or folk tales. Even stories about the history of the community, famous battles or warriors are also appropriate for honoring this time of year.
End your evening in private reflection. It is important for anyone practicing a spiritual life to reflect on his or her actions. Record your thoughts, your emotions and your experiences. This is the true value of your book of shadows. And there is no better time to take stock of yourself and your life than during a High Holy Day.
Consider what you’ve put behind you this year, the challenges you’ve meet and overcome and the support you’ve received and given to others. Honor those you’ve lost in your life, or the relationships that have ended and made way for new opportunities in your future. It’s ok to say goodbye to the old chapters in your life as you would for those family members or friends that have crossed over. Honor what each of them brought to you while they were here, the lessons you learned and the experiences you gained. Then say goodbye and make way for the new chapters and people you’ll meet in the future.
Close the evening with a short meditation, about 15 to 20 minutes is fine. Take the time to communicate with those in spirit, or those you said goodbye to in closed relationships. Put things to rest and at peace. Align with the Divine force in your life and share a moment of thanks and gratitude for the path you’ve walked and the blessings you’ve received.
Don’t forget to leave a little offering behind. A plate of fruit and veggies is always a good token of thanks. Close your circle and leave the night to close in peace and serenity around your home.
May you have a wondrous and joyful celebration on this special evening. Merry Mabon to one and all.
© 2012 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.