What is Mabon? Autumn Equinox Basics & 8 Mabon Celebrations
I don’t know about you but September is one of my favorite months. The leaves start to turn. There’s a tangible energy in the air that whispers to us of the coming Fall days. Many of us begin our preparations for the winter, be it physically or spiritually. In this article, we answer the question what is Mabon? And provide some easy and fun Mabon celebrations for the whole family.
What is Mabon?
Mabon is the Wiccan/Pagan term for the Autumn Equinox that occurs annually between September 21st and 23rd. It’s the first official day of Fall, sometimes known as the Witches’ Thanksgiving. Mabon is the second of three harvest festivals for many Wiccans, witches and neo-pagans (Lughnasadh and Samhain are the other two). Mabon is the welcoming of the harvest and our last farewell to the long days of Summer. Because following the Autumn Equinox, the days will start to fall shorter than the nights. In ancient Celtic times, Mabon was a time where the some of the women-folk descended from the hills, where they were caring for the livestock and children, to aid the men in harvesting the crop. Sometimes hand-fastings took place, which is a precursor to marriage, so to speak. But everyone feasted and celebrated the abundance of the earth.
Who is Mabon the god?
The term Mabon is of Celtic origin – it’s the name of a Welsh Celtic mythological figure. His name pops up in Arthurian legend and is featured in Welsh Celtic mythology. Mabon is pronounced May-bahn and his name translates to “the Great Son”. Which makes sense that Mabon’s mother is Modron “the Great Mother“. Here we see a divine mother-son motif as in many other religious and cultural belief systems (Mary – Jesus; Isis – Horus, etc.).
Mabon is a Welsh Celtic god of light, death and resurrection, the harvest and more. He is the eternal embodiment of youth and immortality. Interestingly, when he was only 3 days old, he was stolen from his mother. Turns out, after much searching and mourning, Modron hears that Mabon is actually just fine – he’s been safe in an otherworldly realm that’s located inside Mabon’s womb. As Modron is an earth goddess, and likely a personification of the earth itself, the idea that her son is forever within her womb makes sense. We are all safe within Mother Earth’s loving embrace. And we are forever young in her eyes.
It’s interesting to note how the Autumn Equinox came to be named after a male god, Mabon, rather than the female goddess Modron of whom is more closely linked to the earth and the harvest thereof. You might also hear of Mabon being the son of the Welsh horse goddess Rhiannon. This is because Modron is sometimes thought of as Rhiannon in another guise.
Mabon Magical Associations
Traditional Mabon Celebrations
On Mabon, we know of a few earth goddesses that symbolically go “underground” to rest during the winter including Persephone and Inanna. And in the Spring they are born anew. In modern times, Druids offer libations to the Green Man of the forest on Mabon, while Wiccans acknowledge the Mother aspect of the Goddess. These are just a few traditional Mabon celebrations.
8 Simple Mabon Celebrations
1. Decorate Your Mabon Altar
One of my favorite Mabon celebrations is to decorate for Fall. I start with my Mabon altar: I clear off my Summer decor, clean everything on my altar, then cleanse all of my tools and set them back on the altar. THEN I add Fall decor to my Mabon altar, for example: pinecones, acorns, twinkly orange lights, leaves, apples, gourds, etc. Orange, red, brown and yellow hues are best for a Mabon altar.
2. Decorate Your Home
In Ellen Dugan’s Cottage Witchery, Dugan states that being a witch isn’t about what you buy, it’s about being resourceful and creative. Easy, low-cost ideas for decorating include: dried leaves and/or acorns (picked from your yard or nearest park), dried corn sheaths or hollow gourds from a local market or craft store. Fall wreaths with apples, pumpkins, leaves, etc. Green, brown, and orange candles arranged throughout your home. Fall colored linens are a nice touch. Make your whole house your Mabon altar!
3. Have a Mabon Feast
Instead of planning an elaborate Mabon celebration, work your celebration into your daily life by cooking a planned Autumn dinner. Instead of having the usual quick weekly meal, try making an herb-roasted chicken with lemon thyme green beans and having a pumpkin dessert afterward. Click here for more Mabon food ideas.
4. Gratitude as a Mabon Celebration
What is Mabon all about, truly? It’s about being grateful and giving thanks to the Earth and the gods/ancestors for what we have in life. What are you thankful for? Discuss your gratitude at dinner or simply thank the people in your life who make your life better! You can also leave an offering on your altar to the earth goddesses or ancestors to show your gratitude.
5. Mabon Corn Dollies
If you’re a particularly crafty person, try making corn dollies in honor of the harvest goddesses.
Corn Dolly Instructions:
- Take five pieces of straw with heads, and 20 to 30 more stalk stems.
- Tie the five pieces (with heads) around your dowel, making the tie as close to the wheat heads as possible with the clove hitch knot (see illustration).
- Bend each stem in a 90 degree angle, so that one head points in each direction. (Think of the north, south, east, and west points on the compass.) This arrangement will leave one extra straw that you’ll aim just to your left, assuming you are sitting south of the compass.
- Start with the extra “beginner” straw pointed toward you (the one just to the left of the south stem) and bend it up parallel to the dowel. Then bend it to the right over two wheat stems. If you’re thinking compass: your first bend will be over the south and east stems.
- Now, turn the dowel 90 degrees (a 1/4 turn) clockwise. The east stem will now become the south stem. Take your new south stem and bend it over two more stems. Again, turn the dowel 90 degrees, and repeat the process.
- It will take five bends to complete the circle, and you’ll continue building up circles one on top of the other. It won’t be long before you’ll reach the end of a stem and run out of straw. Simply join another straw stem into the “run-out” one. To do so, cut the small end of a stem (the end nearest the top) at an angle and then slip this end into the larger, hollow end of the used-up stem.
- Try to use only one of these for each round around the dowel or it will weaken the spiral.
- When you’ve made the size dolly you want, simply tie off the ends with a brightly colored ribbon or another piece of straw.
- Add the finishing touch by joining heads into the weave, which will leave you with straw heads at both the top and bottom of your weave (instructions pulled from Mother Earth News here).
6. Mabon Celebration Bonfire
In addition to having a feast or making crafts for Mabon celebrations, having a bonfire is always a warm and welcome treat to welcome in Autumn. As a family, we enjoy writing down what we are thankful for on a piece of paper. Then throwing it into the fire as a sort of gratitude prayer or offering to the elementals, gods and ancestors.
7. Rituals for Prosperity
Since the Autumn Equinox is a harvest festival at its core, PROSPERITY is a big theme on this sabbat. If you could use some extra money in the bank or food on the table, perform rituals to bring more prosperity into your life on Mabon. This could be as simple as a candle spell, or as elaborate as a ceremonial circle in which you invoke the earth goddess.
8. Make Your Own Wine
It’s traditional to drink wine on Mabon. So wine not make your own? Get your own wine-making kit, start it on Mabon, and it should be ready in time for Samhain. Then you can drink it during your dumb supper, offer it to your ancestors, and use it in ritual. It will have all the energy of Mabon infused within it.
9. Cast Spells for Balance
If life has seemed chaotic lately, if there’s discord in your home or within yourself, you need balance. The best days to perform rituals and cast spells for balance are on the Equinox days – Ostara and Mabon. On the Equinox, the length of time in the day equals the length of time in the night. There is, essentially, perfect balance. Gather your tools and ingredients, decorate the space you’ll be using (if possible), give offerings to the earth and your gods, and cast a spell to bring the energies back into balance. Here we provide you with 2 Mabon spells, as well as blessings and divination.
10. Mabon Blessings
Since Mabon is also the Witches’ Thanksgiving, why not bless those who are less fortunate? This is a great time to donate food to a food bank or drive. Clean out your closets and donate clothes you no longer wear to the nearest homeless shelter or domestic abuse shelter. Same goes with kids’ toys and clothes. Bless others on a sabbat where you feel the most blessed. What you give comes back to you times three.
11. Bobbing for Apples
It’s NEVER too early in the Fall to start bobbing for apples! This is an old tradition that dates back centuries in the British Isles. Apples are a definite symbol of the Autumn season, so what better way to kick off the season than with a good ol’ fashioned apple ducking contest? Learn more about this tradition and how to bob for apples here.
Mabon is a great night to engage in divination of many kinds. A few we find particularly fit for this Harvest holiday include: Tarot, oracle, reading animal and bird omens, aleuromancy (divining with flour), Ogham, mirror scrying, fire scrying and more. The spirits and gods are always active on an equinox or solstice and are typically willing to give us messages from the spirit world.
More Magical Fall Fun:
- Mabon Foods and Recipes Your Whole Family Will Love
- 50+ Fun Pagan Things to Do in Fall
- Thanksgiving’s Origins and How to Celebrate as a Pagan
- Samhain Ancestral Herbal Offering