Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times
I have been so busy gardening and learning about seeds, soil, and planning next year’s planting that Mabon, or second harvest, snuck up on me this time. I just can’t believe how fast this year is going by!
Friends all shared their first harvests at Lughnasadh time. Some grew veggies, others flowers and herbs. Everybody gave thanks for the first things they harvested. My husband was so proud to bring the first tomato and the first berries of the season in to eat.
Fast forward a month and a half, and we are cleaning up some garden debris and saving seeds from things we want to plant next year. Next comes pumpkins, of course, and the radishes and peas I put in the ground for fall harvesting.
In today’s households, most produce is from the store, but some of us cannot resist planting gardens of our own. It’s not like I had anything better to do this year.
It has been ten months since I have worked outside of the home. You guessed it, I am not well enough to go back to work yet. Truthfully, NOT working has taken a major toll on my self esteem. Of course, my husband LOVES coming home to a clean house and a hot meal every day. I, on the other hand, feel like my life is on hold and my perception of who I am has suffered. Who am I if I am not doing those things that I always considered to make me who I AM? I am still myself, despite what I do, and I discovered that while what I do changes from time to time, who I am really does not.
At one time, I was a director where a lot of people relied on me to make things happen. Now, by professional definition, I am a nobody who has not earned one penny in months and is completely dependent on others. There was a time I gave rides to other people on a regular basis. Now, I can’t even drive myself anyplace at all most days.
So you see, my focus went from being on worldly things, to being… well… sick. Anybody who has struggled with a chronic illness can tell you it is counterproductive to just focus on what you CANNOT do. It became crucial to focus on what I CAN do.
And all year, I have done those things to the very best of my ability.
I have continued my normal crafting, painting, beading, and cooking, of course, but gardening and touching the earth every day is genuinely what kept me sane. (Assuming that I am sane!) I have gardened for at least an hour a day, for seven days a week since the first week of May. Sometimes, that just entails watering plants. Some days it entails crushing eggshells into soil for organic fertilizing. Some days it entails research about certain plants. We planted something new almost every week, and started planning next year’s planting. Every day it entails going outside and being with Nature.
As I age, my body is more and more affected by the seasons. I noted I could tell, based on joint stiffness, when rain was coming. After getting on hands and knees and standing up countless times to do garden work, and my blood pressure yo-yoing to the point I saw stars and psychedelic colors, my mood was always better. Not because of the blood pressure variance, but because touching the ground, tending the plants, and being outdoors in nature is naturally good for the human body.
Besides making you more aware of coming weather, gardening also plugs you in to the seasons. A lot of people, for example, just cannot understand why they start to feel sleepier in late summer and early fall. A gardener knows it is because the days are shortening and the body is getting less vitamin D from the sun. The earth’s fruits have reached their limit and are ready to harvest. The nights are getting cooler and it gets light later in the morning. Our bodies respond to all of this.
We have an illusion that we are separate from everything. We believe we are individuals who exist apart from all other individuals. We also have the illusion that other species are not as valuable as we are. Many of our creation stories even interpret gods or goddesses to be immortal human beings, and the earth and the animals were created simply for the purpose of satisfying human beings. We can kill another creature with no consequence, and we can step on other human beings to get ahead.
But if you think about it, we really are not separate at all.
Like I used to mistakenly consider myself an individual who could do everything all on my own, many modern people miss the fact that we are inter dependant on one another, and the earth, as well as members of the other species. Notice I said INTER dependant. Not CO dependant.
Even if you work, live alone, and pay all of your own bills, somebody had to work to build that car you drive. Somebody further produced the parts it was made of. Then somebody had to ship the parts to the place where they built the car. A salesperson had to handle the sale so you could buy the car. The bank staff had to approve the loan. Even your boss has to sign your paycheck so you can have the money to pay for things.
Having transportation and all the things that go into maintaining it is just one example of the fact that people rely on one another for everything, really.
We further rely on animals. Even vegans do. Animals, aside from providing food sources, maintain populations. Predators, even domestic cats, keep critter populations in check so we are not overrun with them. Their bodies further decompose into the earth when they die, fertilizing it so our soil can support plant life. Plant life is both food, and a way to clean carbon dioxide out of the air so we can breathe.
In this way, from death comes all life.
Being part of nurturing plants entails prepping soil, planting seeds, caring for baby plants, harvest, and then saving their seeds for future planting. It creates understanding of how life cycles and our role in that.
All this year, that has been my “job” instead of earning money. I always had plants, but never like this year. This year’s gardening has changed my perception of the cycle of life and my role in it drastically. It helped me realize that I am more than just somebody who earns money to pay bills. I realize we all are.
This Mabon will be the first one I have fully participated in an entire cycle of life of plants. So this harvest will hold different meaning than if I just bought plants and tossed them after a few months.
Mabon itself was first named by Aiden Kelly in 1970. He was referring to Mabon ap Modron from Welsh myths. He is associated with Irish god Oengus, ruler of Tir na Nog, land of eternal youth.
Mabon is the Autumn Equinox. Day and night will be equal, and afterwards, the nights will lengthen. I always think of Mabon as the right time for Thanksgiving. In the US, we celebrate that in November instead.
Mabon is really the time people are finishing up harvesting and storing the last of the crops and fruits before it gets cold. And of course, since foods are ripe and ready, it is the perfect time to feast and give thanks.
Throughout history, many people have celebrated harvest.
In Ireland, equinoxes were tracked and possibly celebrated at Loughcrew. Light strikes a burial cairn on both Spring and Autumn equinoxes there. The burial site dates back to 3500 BCE to 3300 BCE. Little is known about exactly what celebrations entailed back in
Pre- Christian days. The burial site was also used to keep track of seasons for agriculture. In a way, the dead were reminding their descendants of what to plant and harvest when!
In England, Stonehenge is one place where the Autumn Equinox sunrise is still observed, the sun rising above the stones. Farmers would begin slaughtering animals and prepping meat for winter use as well as finishing up the harvesting of crops at Autumn equinox.
In the British Isles, at sites like Loughcrew and Stonehenge, more than just burials were held. Some of those places had multiple structures for multiple purposes. Like the Hill of Tara, these ancient complexes seemed to be the sacred centers of all rites of passage, religious celebrations, and in some cases, lawmaking, matchmaking, and even places for royal or chieftain residence.
In Japan, Autumn Equinox is a time for visits from the ancestors. Visits to families graves and tombs as well as making offerings of foods and incense are given.
Greek myths say the goddess Persephone returns to the underworld at Autumn. When she leaves, wintertime starts to come in, when she returns in Spring, the warm days and growing season begins again.
The god Kelly chose to name the Sabbat after is related to the god Maponos who comes from Gaul and Britain. He is compared with Apollo, of course, since Romans compared other gods with their own. In Britain, he is the son of the Dagda, father of the gods. In Wales, he is the son of Modron, a matron goddess.
In modern Wicca, the god dies, a willing sacrifice into the earth. He will be reborn to the goddess come Springtime.
Christianization brought Michaelmas, which is still celebrated. It is the feast of the Saints Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael. Those who use the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram will recognize those names right away as being those of archangels!
Michaelmas at some churches specifically honors the archangel Michael, who is credited with defeating the devil.
It was also a time when harvest was over, and workers would need new jobs. Hiring went on and accounts were settled during this time.
Christianization bumped Lughnasadh sporting festivities to Mabon time instead.
All was kept alive by the Christian church. Timeframe was rearranged and patrons were changed, but once again, the Christians kept the Pagan ways alive and well.
The founder of modern Wicca, Gerald Gardner, gives a ritual in the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, which can be read for free on the Internet at sacred-texts.com. The altar is of course, decorated with seasonal offerings, and the Priest says, “ Farewell, O Sun, ever returning light. The hidden god, who ever yet remains. He departs to the land of youth, through the gates of death, to dwell enthroned, the judge of gods and men.“ More beautiful things are said, and a procession around the altar is lead. Dances and games are called for as well.
Personally, I always have a feast when I am hosting with a very short ritual and blessing of the foods. By then, the exhaustion of festival season has set in, and people will soon begin Samhain planning, which for a lot of us, is a very big deal. This “in between” harvest, as some call it, is more enjoyable for some of us if it is kept simple and low fuss.
Here is a simple, suggested working for you and your loved ones.
Simple Mabon by Saoirse
Invite everybody over for the Sabbat and tell them you will potluck it.
Have everybody bring with them a symbol of their own personal harvest. It can be things like garden plants, or evidence of accomplishments, or even a few extra dollars to donate to some cause. For many of us, the fruits of our labor are what we earn at jobs, and that is as good a harvest as any.
Have everybody also bring something to give as tribute for thanks. This is an easy opportunity to raise donations for some cause. It can be as simple as asking people to bring non perishable goods for a local food pantry, or as fancy as doing a raffle, or even arranging to do some volunteer work together.
My favorite harvest altars are not covered with ritual items, or decorations. They are loaded down with the fellowship gathering’s food. Have everybody put the fruits of their harvest on the table amongst the food, and the tribute on or around the table as well, if it is physical tribute gifts.
To cast circle, join hands circled around the table, and take a moment of silence for everybody to focus.
Then have everybody take turns, clockwise, starting at the East, saying a short prayer or blessing directed into the food, their harvest items, and the donations. The best part of this is that shy people who are not comfortable speaking in front of others can say their blessings silently while they direct the energy and well wishes into everything.
This ritual form, as opposed to traditional Priestess and Priest and attendees puts everybody in the same role. Symbolic of community, it reminds, we all bring something to the group. Each person blesses every other attendees harvest, the food everybody will eat, and also the tribute. Together.
When each person has done their blessing, let the fellowship begin. Eat, drink, and be merry!
Blessed Mabon. Blessed Be.