We may not be ready to say goodbye to summer, but Wednesday, Sept. 23, marks the autumn equinox, one of two days a year when the hours of daylight equal the hours of darkness. After that, it’s downhill all the way, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, until the equinox next spring.
In Pagan tradition, the autumn equinox is known as Mabon, and it’s a celebration of the fall harvest. As we rejoice in the bounty of the fields, orchards and gardens, it’s a good time to invite friends to gather and share.
Mabon is part of the Wheel of the Year, an annual cycle of seasonal festivals that include the solstices (the longest and shortest days) and equinoxes and the midpoints between them.
One of the sabbats
Wiccans refer to the festivals as sabbats – sources of the expression “witches’ Sabbath.”
Mabon is a time of rest after the labor of the fall harvest, a time to complete projects, let go of that which is no longer needed or wanted, and prepare to use the winter as a time for reflection and peace. Followers plant the seeds of new ideas and hopes, which will be nourished spiritually over the next months until the return of spring.
Many Pagans create a Mabon food altar with foods from the harvest. These may include fruits, nuts, grains (or fresh bread made from grain), vegetables, and squashes, especially pumpkins.
The wealth of the harvest
The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, is another symbol for Mabon, representing the wealth of the harvest; it is a balanced figure, including both male (phallic) and female (hollow and receptive) images.
Many Pagan groups use Mabon as a time for food drives, followed by a ritual for the blessing of donations.
Some Pagans have an apple harvest rite at Mabon. I find this interesting because we Jews just finished celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, which includes eating apples with honey to signify wishes for a sweet year to come.
Here is a recipe for one of my favorite apple cakes. It’s very moist and full of nuts. I very rarely add the frosting, because it’s plenty sweet without it.