Pronounced may-bone, this is the autumn equinox, when night and day are equal. The sun’s power is diminishing fast, and from now on, the nights will be longer than the days. In days past, the harvests would now be mainly gathered, and these celebrations would be a respite from the work. Children at school today still bring in groceries from home and have a Harvest Festival, giving thanks for a good year of crops. This is a follow on from the Old Ways, as are most of the religious festivals.
Mabon begins the commencement of autumn. The leaves are yellowing and beginning to fall, brambles are collected for jams and pies, and the rose hips and elderberries for syrups and wines to ward away the winter coughs and colds.
It is now a long-forgotten art of protecting the body for the forthcoming season with what was available from the ground and hedgerows. They didn’t have fridges and freezers, supermarkets and chemists. They had to live off the crops and hoped that they survived the winter – hence the celebration for the good harvest and the preparation by the women for the long nights and cold days ahead.
Today, we are out of tune with the seasons because food is available all year round from different countries all over the world. However, if you want to remain healthy over the winter then eat what is in season in your own country. Just because we can buy something doesn’t mean we should – salads won’t feed the body in the cold, and strawberries don’t feed and protect the body for the winter so it’s back to healthy stews and soups with lots of root vegetables and good stocks, so please think ahead. Ditch the processed foods full of rubbish, cut out the dreaded hydrogenated foods and aspartame, and plan to feed yourself and your family good, natural foods to keep the body healthy and ready to face the winter. Also, don’t forget, as always with the equinox, balance is in conflict as night and day fight to rule. Because night wins, expect arguments, depressed feelings and no energy/ extreme tiredness at this time (month surrounding the equinox). By October, you should start to feel better and no, you aren’t going mad!!
The year is winding down, and the nip is in the air first thing in the morning. Time to contemplate the bounty of the last six months and what has been brought into our lives – what had we planned to do, what have we done since the spring and what have we made happen. It is also time to slow things down as winter is on the way. Fruit would be dried, pickled, bottled – you name it. Food was stored, wood was chopped (I know that one with 2 coal fires to keep running), and houses checked and secured for the winter weather.
What to do at this time…
This is the Pagan Harvest Festival, when we are grateful for what the last 6 months has provided, and celebrate accordingly. The drink should be red and white wines, homebrewed beers, fruit juice (so I am fine with my gin and grapefruit!) and the likes whilst the food table should be full of fruit, salad, home baked bread, pies and quiches, cheese and pickles – nothing fancy, just plain, simple fayre.
It is a time to realise just what we have to be thankful for – healthy children, good friends, family, a warm comfortable home – not the material things of life but those things that should make life fun and worth while.
Your altar should be decorated with the fruits of the season, nuts, corn etc. Have a go at making your own fruit pies or pickles. This was a necessity back in days gone by, to ensure the food kept over the winter in whatever ways they could. As the winter approaches, why not select a project to keep you occupied during the coming months. Attend a night class and learn something you have always wanted to, or catch up on your reading. Set yourself a target and see if you have achieved it by the next equinox.
The autumn is a lovely time to take walks, not only to get exercise or keep your sanity, but to see what is going on with nature, especially as we can often get a wee glint of late summer at this time. See what you can find in the hedgerows – elderberries can be made into what is known as Elder Rob – great source of Vitamin C, as is rosehip syrup made from wild rosehips and all available from your local hedgerows. I used to make these when my kids were little to keep the colds away and they always worked. Another tip is if you find any teasels, take one home – they get the bits off your woollies as good as those electric defuzzer things!! Decorate your altar with some wheat or barley if you can find any and one black and one white candle to symbolise the balance of light and dark. Put some autumn flowers and some dried fruits too. The equinox is a good time to look at what you have achieved this year, and what you could have achieved but didn’t.
It is important for us all to embrace the season and where we are at in the Wheel of the Year. Time to change your duvet to the thicker one and swap your wardrobe. I have my universal clothes that stay (jeans etc) then my spring/summer/optimistic clothes; lighter layers and colours as the sun strengthens and days heats up, and this goes out at Ostara. The Equinox sees them sealed back away and exchanged for the autumn/winter/slob about cosy clothes; warm, thick, comfy layers for the longer, darker nights as we head for the colder, hibernating part of our year. There is something quite nice about changing your wardrobe and being part of the wheel, because for most of you, these simple things are all you do. I have coal fires so need to chop and dry wood, cut scrap wood for kindling and fill the bunkers at both house and shop, ready for the change of weather but for most, it is simply pressing a switch to bring the heating back on! By getting candles out, clothes swapped, coats cleaned, the duvet changed and summer sandals swapped for winter ankle boots, you are getting in tune with the movement of the Wheel.
The equinox is the time we contemplate the last 6 months. Did you succeed in your plans: did you have a productive season: did you achieve all you set out to achieve? Time to give thanks for the bounty you have been blessed to receive – no better way than with a party for friends to join in your thanks! Invite a few friends or family round for a drink or a last BBQ of the season. This is also your traditional Harvest Festival as the work is all over, so do something good for the less privileged: donate to a charity, give some time to a good cause or similar – even just help out a friend who is having a hard time with the kids.
Now what? Yes, time to plan for the next 6 months – what are you going to do now the dark nights are here? What are you going to achieve through the winter? Although it is a time to hibernate, you don’t need to stagnate. Time to plan guys and gals! Is there something you should have done previous and regretted not doing so? Now is the time to put it right!! Write down your aims for the winter and place on the altar, along with some dry, fallen leaves and perhaps some nuts and pine cones, symbols of fertility, and leave as a theme and a reminder for the winter. By the time the new leaves of next spring appear, you should have achieved something useful, whether you have caught up with all those books, painted that room, knitted that jumper, gone to a night class and gained a new skill or taught yourself something you have wanted to learn for ages.
The winter is a time of learning, so what are you going to do with it this year. What will you do this winter? Now is the time to set things in motion and make use of these dark nights ahead, so do something with them. Start a project or finish one that you have begun. Do a correspondence course, join a gym or fitness class, learn a new skill or get down to reading those books you have had for ages – whatever you choose, make sure it will be a useful use of winter.
Easy spell for Mabon…
Is there anything in your life that needs to go? Then have a go at this:
Take a walk in the countryside and see the autumn taking hold – view the fallen decaying leaves and find one that is in good shape. Visualise what needs to be let go of or gotten rid of, and write a relevant single-word description on each leaf such as smoking or jealousy or whatever is in your darker side that needs to be let go of. Now bury the leaf in a pile of decaying leaves and leave to rot with the rest. As it rots over the winter, so will your issue. It is done so let it go –let the power of the Earth help give you strength and support.
A couple simple Autumnal spells just for you…
I mentioned spiders previously, but here is a simple thing to change how you think of spiders…even though they aim to trap flies and wasps etc and are very useful to us, some just hoover them up or kill them. Firstly, any spider sat in the open is simply a female looking for a mate…yes, it’s a horny spider, so leave her alone, poor girl! If you want to set her free, then catch her under a glass, place cardboard underneath and take her outside. Spiders are a symbol of connection, creation and all things communicative, so can help you weave your web of destiny!
When you take her outside to a nearby tree or bush, whisper the following:
“Mrs Spider, go run free, and weave a wish in your web for me”
As you introduce her to her new home in your garden, whisper your need/wish/goal and know, as you work to achieve your goal, there is a little friend out there helping to weave your wish for you too.
Autumn to us as kids meant bramble picking, free food for the winter, which mum made into pies and crumbles with apples. Brambles bring good health and abundance and apples protection, so traditional, bramble and apple pie would be weaved with a little magick to help you survive the winter in good health, with enough coal for heat and food to eat. My nan used the leaves as a tea for an upset tummy and the fruit to make blackberry rob to fight colds, and to dye cloth or wool, so helpful free berry indeed. As you pick, wash and prepare the fruit, simply say:
“Fruit dark and sweet, and so good to eat, bring us good health and abundant wealth”
Keep repeating as a quiet affirmation during preparation, cooking and serving and let the bramble do its best!
And there’s more…something to do with the kids…
Some homes have fancy festive fairy lights situated in a large vase to light up a corner. If you only bring it out at Christmas, then get it out of the loft and use it as a seasonal decoration. If you don’t have one, then check out your local DIY store and pick up a bargain that will become your year-round Sabbat centre-piece.
As the leaves fall, go for a walk with the kids and find some nice autumnal leaves that have fell but have not yet started to rot, especially if after a windy day as they get blown off trees on mass. Now bring the nicest home and place between 2 tea towels. Put some heavy books on top to dry and flatten them. The next day, cut a strip of greaseproof paper long enough to wrap around your vase. Fold in half and decorate with the leaves, using glue to hold them in place inside. When the kids have tastefully decorated the paper, affix with tape to the outside of the vase and switch on. Now you have a beautiful family-made Mabon decoration for your lounge. Using your imagination, you and the kids can change this with the seasons…so let their ideas flow and get creative!!
Bonkers for Conkers…more than an old autumnal game
In Aberdour, the old horse chestnut tree is the first to announce that autumn is on its way, then the kids simply wait…until the conkers (the tree’s seeds) begin to fall. In my day, the boys couldn’t wait for the conkers, as this was the big battle between friends…who had the champion conker? There were family traditions, with advice coming from dad, uncles and grandads, to see what they did and who was top dog. Did they soak them in vinegar or bake them in the oven to harden…the boys back in the day had loads of tricks, all of which were illegal in any competition!! It really wasn’t all about the biggest either but the heaviest. Fresh conkers are best, so as they begin to fall, select the shiniest and heaviest. A quick test is to put them in a bucket of water… damaged internally and they will float, so throw them away as they will never be any good. If they sink and intact, they are good to keep. Leave them to dry on a towel, then pierce with a metal skewer and hang on an old shoe lace. Then, it is time to challenge your mate and with alternate strikes, try to hit your mate’s conker…just check the string is the same length (another illegal move), then let the battle commence… this was serious stuff back in our day (and free)!!
However, there is more to conkers than battle. If you don’t like spiders, there is a lot of folklore about spiders and their hatred for conkers, so if you collect fresh conkers and place near windows and doorways, spiders will avoid your home for the winter, and if they are already there, they’ll leave…just pop behind furniture against their favourite wall or leave in corners of their favourite room, and wait. Other pieces of magickal folklore include:
So, it’s well worth taking the kids to the woods & collecting some fresh conkers…they might just come in handy!!