“Come Autumn sae pensive in yellow and grey
And soothe me with tidings of nature’s decay.”
Mabon is the second of the three harvest festivals, celebrated as the wheel of the year turns to Autumn. Although the term is modern, the sentiments are not. The idea of celebrating the gathering of the harvests is as old as man himself.
Most of the crops are gathered now and storage preparations for Winter are well under way. Households are preserving the fruits and berries found in abundance within Autumnal nature. Those in charge of the Winter preparations are making jams, drying and salting meats and storing as much as possible away for the cold months ahead. The weather starts to grow cool and there is a definite chill in the air as we bid the Summer goodbye and embrace the colder half of the year.
Mabon celebrates the Autumn Equinox when days and nights are of equal length. It is a time of perfect balance before the wheel turns back to darkness and days get shorter and nights grow longer on the countdown to Yule. This balance is embraced by Pagans as Mabon is both a time of looking forward and backwards. We look back at the harvests we have reaped this year and give thanks for the bounty, but at the same time we look forward to our stores for the coming Winter and ask the God and Goddess to offer blessings for the cold time ahead. Mabon is a time of reckoning, we know now what we have reaped from the seeds we have sown and we know whether it will be enough to sustain us. Again, the idea of balance, a time of perfect joy for some and perfect sorrow for others as the reckoning of our efforts during the year come to fruition.
Mabon is a time for modern Pagans to take the time to evaluate their year so far. This sabbat represents the last burst of frenzied activity before Samhain freezes the land and the earth is once again bare awaiting the first signs of Spring. It can also be a time of inspired creativity as Pagans turn their attention not only to the cooking and storage preparations but to many different types of crafting. Autumn seems to inspire creativity and encourages Pagans to turn back to the productive pursuits and craft projects abandoned through the long hot summer months.
After Mabon Pagans begin the resting times, the natural inclination of humans to hibernate during the winter months. Activity dies down and contemplation replaces action as more time is spent indoors. The harvest festivals are a time to remember the less fortunate and to offer help, support and supplies to ensure that the vulnerable are supported throughout the Winter. This idea, originating in Paganism has been embraced by many religions throughout the world and harvest festivals are still celebrated in many schools today with donations of food gathered to give to the elderly or to those in need. The premise of thanking the Gods for the harvest can be seen particularly in the American observance of Thanksgiving which is still celebrated throughout the country today.
The God is now aged, his power on the wane. He will die at Samhain and sacrifice himself to the Earth before rebirth at Yule. The Goddess is croning, she too is aged, but resplendent in the prime of her power and wisdom. The earth in the hands of the Goddess will enjoy one last flash of colour, beauty and abundance before settling to sleep as the waiting period for Yule begins.