Autumn Equinox - Mabon (20th - 21st September)
The Autumnal Equinox signals the end of the summer months and the
beginning of winter. At this time of year, days have been shortening
since the Summer Solstice some three months earlier, and the Equinox
is the point where nights reach the same length as days. After this
point, the Sun will shine lower and lower on the horizon until the
Winter Solstice in about three months' time.
Equinoxes occur because the Earth's axis of rotation isn't aligned
with the plane of its orbit around the Sun: it tilts over by about
23½°. The direction of this tilt is effectively constant,
relative to the stars, so that the Earth's north pole always points
towards Polaris, the Pole Star, and the south pole always points
at the constellation of Octans. (In fact, this direction is not
completely constant, and the poles move against the stars by about
a fifth of a degree every century).
Each year, the Earth completes a circuit of the Sun, and for its
poles to remain fixed against the stars, their direction must rotate
relative to the Sun. This effect gives us the seasons. When a pole
is angled towards the Sun, its hemisphere receives more hours of
sunlight, and when a pole is turned away from the Sun, its hemisphere
experiences long cold nights.
Equinox is either of the two times during the year that the sun
crosses the celestial equator, an imaginary line through the sky,
and appears directly above the equator, the imaginary line that
divides the earth into the northern and southern hemispheres. When
this occurs, the length of the day and the night are approximately
equal at every place on earth. While the earth orbits around the
sun, the position of the sun changes in relation to the equator.
Between the March, or vernal, equinox and the September, or autumnal
equinox, the sun appears north of the equator. It appears south
of the equator in the time between the September equinox and the
March equinox. The word equinox is derived from the Latin word aequinoctium
The equinoxes are not fixed points on the celestial sphere but
move westward along the ecliptic, passing through all the constellations
of the zodiac in 26,000 years. This motion is called the precession
of the equinoxes.
The Autumn Equinox is a time of harvesting and preparation. It
is a time to reflect on your life and to start making plans for
the future. The main agricultural harvest has been gathered and
all that is left are the late fruits, berries and nuts.
As plants wither, their energy goes into the hidden roots and nourishes
the Earth. The leaves of trees turn from green to red, brown and
gold - symbolic of the sinking Sun as nature prepared for winter.
This is the time of balance between the outer and the inner worlds.
From now on, we should turn towards nurturing our own roots, pondering
our inner lives and planning for the long-term. Thoughts can be
seeded, gradually growing in the unconscious until they can emerge
in the spring.
In the 19th century, as agriculture became more mechanised and
people became less connected with nature, the great harvest supper
was moved from Lammas to the Autumn Equinox. This festival is still
celebrated by the Christian Church at Harvest Festival. The coming
of the long nights gave the Church an opportunity to establish Michaelmas
on 29th September. St. Michael protects against the forces of darkness,
which the Church tends to consider with trepidation.
September 29 Michaelmas Day. Michael, the archangel, and
All Angels (Hebrew "Who is like God ?"). St. Michael is
one of the principal angels ; his name was the war-cry of the good
angels in the battle fought in heaven against He-who-has-no-name
and his followers. In Normandy St. Michael is the patron of mariners
in his famous sanctuary at Mont Saint Michel in the diocese of Coutances.
(See bottom of page) In Germany, after its evangelization, St. Michael
replaced for the Christians the pagan god Wotan, to whom many mountains
were sacred, hence the numerous mountain chapels of St. Michael
all over Germany. There are Michael hills all along the Michael
Line in England including the Glastonbury Tor, which is dedicated
to St. Michael. Michaelmas Day, in England and other countries,
is one of the regular quarter-days for settling rents and accounts;
but it is no longer remarkable for the hospitality with which it
was formerly celebrated. Stubble-geese being esteemed in perfection
about this time, most families had one dressed on Michaelmas Day.
In some parishes (Isle of Skye) they had a procession on this day
and baked a cake, called St. Michael's bannock.
Autumn Equinox, is also known as 'Mabon'. and many Pagans celebrate
Mabon as one of the eight sabbats (a celebration based on the cycles
of the sun). Mabon celebrates the second harvest and the beginning
of winter preparations. Mabon,can be pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone,
MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn. The Autumn Equinox divides the day and night
equally, and we all take a moment to pay our respects to the impending
dark. We also give thanks to the waning sunlight, as we store our
harvest of this year's crops. The Druids call this celebration,
Mea'n Fo'mhair, and honor The Green Man, the God of the Forest,
by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs
and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the
aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort
the God as he prepares for death and rebirth.
Various other names for this Wiccan Sabbat are The Second Harvest
Festival, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega),
Alben Elfed (Caledonii), or Cornucopia. The Teutonic name, Winter
Finding, spans a period of time from the Sabbat to Oct. 15th, Winter's
Night, which is the Norse New Year.
At this festival it is appropriate to wear all of your finery and
dine and celebrate in a lavish setting. It is the drawing to and
of family as we prepare for the winding down of the year at Samhain.
It is a time to finish old business as we ready for a period of
rest, relaxation, and reflection.
Deities associated with Mabon include all Wine Deities - particularly
Dionysus and Bacchus, and Aging Deities. Emphasis might also be
placed on the Goddess in Her aspect of the Mother (Demeter is a
good example), Persephone (Queen of the Underworld and daughter
of Demeter), and Thor (Lord of Thunder in Norse mythology). Some
other Autumn Equinox Goddesses include Modron, Morgan, Snake Woman,
Epona, Pamona, and the Muses. Some appropriate Gods besides those
already mentioned are Mabon, Thoth, Hermes, and Hotei.
At this point in the Wheel of the Year, two appropriate mythological
legends are that of Mabon and Modron, and the story of Demeter,
Persephone and Hades. The Sabbat is named for Mabon, the Welsh God
who symbolized the male fertilizing principle in the Welsh myths.
Some mythologists equate him as the male counterpart for Persephone.
The universal story of Mabon and his mother, Modron has been passed
down to us from the ancient proto-Celtic oral tradition. Mabon ap
Modron, meaning "Great Son of the Great Mother", is the
Young Son, Divine Youth, or Son of Light. Just as the September
equinox marks a significant time of change, so, too, does the birth
of Mabon. Modron, his mother, is From the moment of the Autumn Equinox,
the Sun's strength diminishes, until the moment of the Winter Solstice
in December, when the Sun grows stronger and the days once again
become longer than the nights. Mabon also disappears, taken at birth
when only three nights old (some legends say he was stolen from
Modron at the age of three years). Modron cries in sweet sorrow...
and although his whereabouts are veiled in mystery, Mabon is eventually
freed with the wisdom and memory of the most ancient of living animals
- the Blackbird, the Stag, the Owl, the Eagle, and the Salmon (other
legends state that King Arthur himself was Mabon's rescuer). All
along, Mabon has been quite a happy captive, dwelling in Modron's
magickal Otherworld - Modron's womb. It is a nurturing and enchanted
place, but also one filled with challenges. Only in so powerful
a place of renewable strength can Mabon be reborn as his mother's
champion, as the Son of Light. Mabon's light has been drawn into
the Earth, gathering strength and wisdom enough to become a new
seed Great Goddess, Guardian of the Otherworld, Protector, and Healer.
She is Earth itself.
Mabon is considered a time of the Mysteries and marks the end of
the second of three Pagan Harvest Festivals, when the majority of
crops have been gathered. It is considered a time of balance, a
time of darkness overtaking light, a time of celebration of the
Second Harvest. It is a time to honor the Aging Deities and the
Spirit World. The principle key action of Mabon is giving thanks.
Pagan activities may include the making of wine and the adorning
of graves. A traditional practice is to walk in wild places and
forests, gathering seed pods and dried plants. Some of these can
be used to decorate the home or altar, others saved for future herbal
magick. It is considered taboo to pass burial sites and not honor
the dead. Considered a time of balance, it is when we stop and relax
and enjoy the fruits of our personal harvests, whether they be from
toiling in our gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families,
or just coping with the hussle-bussle of everyday life. May your
Mabon be memorable, and your hearts and spirits be filled to overflowing!
The symbolism of this Sabbat is that of the Second Harvest, the
Mysteries, Equality and Balance - when day and night are equal.
Symbols to represent the Mabon Sabbat are such things as grapes,
wine, vines, garland, gourds, pine cones, acorns, wheat, dried leaves,
burial cairns, rattles, Indian corn, Sun wheels, and horns of plenty.
Altar decorations might include autumn leaves, acorns, pine cones,
a pomegranate to symbolize Persephone's descent into the Underworld,
and a small statue or figure to represent the Triple Goddess in
Her Mother aspect.
Mont Saint Michel
Click on picture to enlarge
Perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks exposed
to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany stand the 'Wonder
of the West', a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the
Archangel St Michael, and the village that grew up in the shadow
of its great walls. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, the
abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt
to the problems posed by this unique natural site.
I took this photograph this year, July 2005, while I was on holiday.
It was a very dull day, as you can see, but it was worth seeing
in any weather.