Mabon 2016 for Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times
Mabon, or Autumnal Equinox always sneaks up on me. It is August 19, and while our tomato and cucumber harvest is going well, I can hardly believe that in a little over a month, we will be harvesting even more, and we’ll be quickly headed to Samhain!
An especially harsh Winter is forecast for this year. I suppose that is the price some of us in Central Ohio will just have to pay for the fact last year’s Winter was quite mild! I was told the insects were heavier this year as a result of the mild Winter- so the shrieking little girl in me hopes next year’s insect population will be less thick!
I say this, covered in chigger bites from my knees to my toes. Every Lughnassadh that I garden finds me covered in bites and unable to sleep until they heal- which takes at least a month. I spend so much time in the garden, refusing to wear shoes, long pants, or DEET, and would rather struggle for a few weeks than cover up. I guess the bugs figure since I am harvesting tomatoes and cucumbers they feel I grew simply for their consumption, they will just eat me instead!
I always review last year’s article before composing this years to ensure they are not similar- you can read last years here-
– and I was reminded that last year was the very first time I gardened from early Spring, all Summer long, and into Autumnal Equinox. I am pleased to say, this year, I did too!
The difference is that somehow, I failed miserably at radishes this time- but learned to grow cucumbers. We have about a dozen vines prolifically producing as I write this, as well as ten tomato plants, and new sprouts of snap peas- a first harvest of which was quite successful. I am pleased to say our blueberry we planted last year produced so beautifully, we bought another to plant beside it.
We are doing so well with veggies this year because of an agreement with a neighbor across the street. For the past three years, she has allowed us to grow things in her unused garden area. The first year, I planted perennial flowers- which did not come back. So, the next year, we planted lots of radishes and shared with her and a couple other neighbors. This year’s success with monstrous amounts of cucumbers and tomatoes came after amending the soil with a lot of compost and manure, diligent watering, and staking and careful managing of the long, flowering veggie vines. This is also the second year we have used mostly seeds as opposed to greenhouse sprouted plants.
As far as seeds go, marigolds can be planted from last year’s withered blooms, the flower heads opened up to get them, and each tiny seed laid about two inches away from the last. The rest of our seeds, we buy in Winter, usually starting in January or February, and they are gleefully planted after weeks of gawking at them in eager anticipation.
Our Own Harvests
Mabon, or time of Second Harvest is a good time to take stock of all you have accomplished and while some use it as time for review and of setting new goals, I see it as more of a time for building on what has already been done.
For example, one of my friends wants to do a full-house purge. He’s a pack rat and is too ashamed to let people into his house to see. I used to joke with him that I believed he had bodies stacked up from his serial killing sprees- until I caught a view of his back patio- in all of it’s cluttered glory- and I caught a glimpse of the disaster his living room is by peering in through his sliding glass door. There was not a body in sight, of course!
But realistically, he has already started his purge- it began in the front yard. He did quite a bit of the gardening WITH me this year. Any further progress is just building upon that. He is a big reason the garden has done so well. His encouragement was wind in my sails many times, and he even bought supplies and did some of the labor as well. He does not realize how much progress he has already made- but in the next couple of days, he will get back from a trip out of town and see the huge sunflowers that opened by his door while he was away- and I am pretty sure that will drive the message home.
Later on in the article, I will provide a working, but in the meantime, I’d like to share some information about an exciting historical landmark that shares the name with this Sabbat.
The Lochmaben Stone and The Once and Future King
The Lochmaben Stone is the one stone that is still visible of a ring of megalithic stones in Scotland- this one stone weighing ten tons just by itself. Local legend states it is from this stone that King Arthur drew his sword. Belief in the existence of a historical Arthur in general as well as him drawing a sword from a stone are worth discussing, and holds far more tradition than many modern folk suspect.
Sarmartians, Romans, and Brits, Oh My!
About him in general, it is speculated that many different warlords formed the basis for the legends about him, some of whom were not even British. One was a Sarmartian, and was named Batraz. The Sarmartians were from a confederation of Iranian peoples who dominated and later adapted the language of the Scythians, who gave us the torcs so cherished by the Celts. Like Arthur, Batraz had a magical sword of power that he had cast into the waters when he died. There was heavy Sarmatian presence in Britain just before Arthur was said to have lived. Sarmatians also buried their swords in the roots of trees, or stones where they buried their dead- and it is said Batraz pulled his magical sword from the roots of a tree.
The Sarmatians were there under a Roman military leader named Lucious Artorious Castus, and it is speculated the Sarmatians brought with them their stories of Batraz, which might have contributed to the Arthur myths. As you may have guessed, it is also speculated Lucious, whose middle named was Artorious, was the basis for the name Arthur as well. It is speculated he may have been guarding Hadrian’s Wall, and his career sent him to Judaea, Macedonia, and Italy as well. By the time he reached Great Britain, he was a good 50-60 years old with quite a track record.
As well as being called “The Once and Future King”, Arthur was viewed as tied to the land. Legend has it when he fell ill, and the Knights were questing for the Holy Grail, all the land fell ill, and the people suffered. This came from Pre-Christian beliefs about divine kingship. The king was responsible for the people. He both blessed and defended them. If he suffered, both the land and the people suffered.
For a lot of modern Neo-Pagans, the Wheel of the year links the land to the life of the god who is born of the goddess at Yule, and develops, and is killed and returned to the earth with harvest. Arthur’s myths fit right in with this.
Papa Was a Royal Stone
Backtracking to the topic of the stones, both Scotland and Ireland had sacred stones used in coronation of kings. The Lia Fal, or Stone of Destiny which still stands in Ireland, was supposed to emit a shout when he who was meant to be king put his feet on the stone. It has been damaged a few times, once being back in antiquity by being split in anger by Cuchulainn when it did not choose the man he wanted to be king- and it only emitted the cry twice after that- for Conn of the Hundred Battles and Brian Boru. It was also hit with hammers and painted in recent years, but it still stands.
In Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle is housed an ancient Stone of Destiny where kings were placed for coronation. Queen Elizabeth the II is the last monarch crowned on the stone. In the 13th century, it was taken by Edward I and transported to Westminster Abbey in Britain. There, it was installed in a seat , used for coronation of British kings. After townsfolk prevented the crown from giving it back to Scotland close to a century later, it is said monks snuck the real stone away, burying it and replacing it with another. Nobody seems to know if this is true or not.
In 1950, it was stolen by some students, and hidden- but after being returned several months later, it was agreed the stone should return to Scotland. In 1996, was taken to Edinburgh Castle to be kept when not used during coronations.
As far as the god whose name the Lochmaben stone contains, nothing is known of what kind of worship of him took place there, but it is known stones held power, and were the places the kings and leaders were crowned or elected.
The Lochmabon Stone itself was used for various purposes after Christianization. It stood as a boundary marker between England and Scotland, and a landmark where people met for doing business. It was recorded that prisoners between Britain and Scotland were exchanged at the stone in the fourteenth century. A Battle where Scotland crushed the invading English occurred in the Fifteenth century, and in the 1800’s a tenant farmer shifted the stones around, trying to find valuables. In the 1995, a re-erection of the stone was had. And although various other stones that comprised the circle are now below ground, the Lochmabon stone still stands today.
It can be argued the idea of divine kingship Arthur and the rulers chosen at Lia Fal embodied so well was carried over into feudalism with the concept of the god of Abraham selecting the monarchy. That the king or leader was selected by omens or birth is something few neo-Pagans might submit to in this day and age of voting in leaders although Pre-Christian Pagans swore by it.
Mabon and Maponos
What all of this has to do with Mabon itself goes back to the name of the god whose name the stone takes- it is accepted there was at one time some sort of devotions done to the god Mabon- or Maponos at the Lochmabon Stone because simply because the stone is named after him. A god revered by ancient Gauls in France, and later by Celts in the British Isles, little is known about him, save he was believed to be a son of a mother goddess, who we likewise know little about!
Today’s neo-Pagans often have a second harvest celebration and decorate their altars with leaves, and flowers and fruits of the season. Some have a kind of thanksgiving celebration. However, I have never personally met a devotee of the god Maponos, although I am sure they are out there. So for many, this Sabbat has little, if anything to do with the god whose name it bears.
Although we all know that our neo-Pagan celebrations are neo- or new- I always look to see if I can find what was done in the pre-Christian days. I specifically wanted to see what was harvested at second harvest time.
Pass the Bottle and the Bag of Wheat
What I found was that before Prohibition in the US, Ireland was responsible for 90% of the world’s whiskey at the start of the 20th century! Now, Ireland’s whiskey accounts for just 2% of what is consumed and has only seven whiskey breweries. A lot of breweries went out of business due to Prohibition.
Whiskey is made using a yeast distilled mash of cereal grains, which may include any of the following- barley, corn, rye, or wheat. The sources I found indicated Irish whiskey is only made using barley. Barley is harvested in mid-July, and it takes years for the barley whiskey to age before it is ready to be consumed. So the barley harvest is not what would be celebrated Mabon time.
Wheat, however, is harvested in September, and despite the modern dislike of all things glutinous- wheat has been a staple in Europe for centuries. It stores well, and grows very well in Ireland, I discovered. So well, as a matter of fact, it is said Irish wheat growers have a leg up on wheat farmers in other Nations. It is said the weather there is best for the wheat. I found that pre Christian Pagan devotees released bags of flour from the newly harvested batch to the wind as gifts to the gods and in thanks for a successful harvest.
Many neo Pagans celebrate the equinox as a thanksgiving and for saying goodbye to long Summer days. I have never found that a good thing- some of us are tired from Fall through mid Spring- so I admit, Mabon is not a favorite of mine. But a lot of people look forward to the cooling days, and view the coming Winter as time to rest and die back with the earth.
Taking all the things I have read over in the past few days into account, the suggested working this time will include taking stock of our own personal power through the accomplishments of the harvests in each of our lives. Like our once and future king, we are the kings and queens of our own worlds. Our people- loved ones- and land…yards and work lives- reflect how we are doing. If we suffer, they suffer. Likewise, if we thrive, so do they. Some harvest celebrations will find us feeling we have accomplished more than others- but all in all, what we HAVE done is what needs to be celebrated.
Saoirse’s 2016 Mabon Working
Like most of my suggested rites, invite everybody over and have a potluck. Before the ritual begins, set a gorgeous table with all the things that makes you think of Fall Equinox time. Use whatever seasonal decorations you desire- or if you just don’t decorate- line the table with the food only, and that will look plenty festive enough!
I like to use a great free Sabbat decoration come Fall time… LEAVES! I stuff jars and vases full of branches of leaves and scatter leaves from outside EVERYWHERE, even the floor! You can sweep them right out the door and vacuum up any particles left behind. If you think about this, fallen leaves are the perfect symbol of the Sabbat. The trees have produced all they are going to and are now changing colors as they die back, and nothing looks prettier.
Also, if it is affordable, buy a bottle of Irish whiskey to use in this ritual. You can have a little something from the motherland right in your home anywhere on earth for Mabon that way!
To prepare for the ritual, come with a story. It should be a story of some accomplishment of yours- the proudest moment for you this harvest season. For some, it will be they got a new job. For others, it will be figuring out how to fix the plumbing. For others, it will be overcoming the urge to honk at people in traffic- thus defeating your own road rage!
No accomplishment is too small, but let there be a twist in how this is done. Amplify the story to some heroic level. For example- a friend was selected to be the one who chases geese off of her place of businesses property. When she told us about a bloody battle in which she emerged victorious- she started by saying she stealthily inched out the front door with her mighty broom in hand, and looked the largest geese in the bunch in the eye and said “You have slept your LAST peaceful night, goose!” Realistically, all she did was charge at them and scatter them a couple of times until they flew away. Yet to hear her tell it, the battle was a major military excursion, and will go down in the annals of history as the time the Great Anna defeated the Gang of the Filthy Tailfeathers.
In our culture, we are encouraged to tear ourselves down, hate our bodies, downplay our accomplishments, and then everybody wonders why our self-esteem is so low and depression levels are so high in this country! At this Sabbat, we are going to reverse this, at least for our dinner. I suggest a Mabon Bragfest Dinner where everybody takes a turn bragging about some major accomplishment before the food is blessed and everybody feasts.
I highly suggest beginning by first blessing and opening the bottle of whiskey, giving some as offering to the gods, and then passing it from person to person and having everybody take a sip to get nice and warm.
Next, begin the storytelling. Each person will first pour a bit out to the gods, as the gods come first, then take a sip themselves, tell their story of esteem, and pass the bottle to the next person. If your party does not want to drink alcohol, grab some amazing sparkling juice or fresh cider. Remember that you can always give the gods the whiskey, even if you prefer non-alcoholic beverages yourself.
While I understand modern people cannot do all just as the ancients did, these ARE still ancient gods. Many are used to getting whole herds of animals or even human being sacrificed to them as well as caches of bronze, gold, silver, and whatnot. To just give this god a little sip of apple cider or juice or milk or something seems like little effort, and is a far cry from what they are used to. Give em’ the whiskey!
Make sure that after each person has told their story of mighty accomplishment, everybody cheers and claps riotously- the whiskey should help with this. Not only are we tooting our own horn, but we are encouraging and tooting each other’s horns!
To bless the food, once everybody has spoken, join hands, or do a group hug in a circle around the table and say something like,
“Lady and Lord, we thank you for this second harvest and for all of the beautiful things we have brought into our lives. Accept the offerings of all good things we have done, and all good things we plan to do and build up our strengths, and let us build one another up.
We have enjoyed another harvest together, and a third is yet to come as the days shorten, and the nights cool and lengthen. Thank you for all we have been blessed with, and for all the blessings we have bestowed upon one another. We are the sons and daughters of the gods of the Old Ways. Let us never hunger. Let us never thirst, and let us never wither or weaken before our time to join our brethren in the Summerlands comes. So Mote it Be.”
Then feast and have wonderful fellowship.