As an Equinox celebration, Mabon: (pronounced May-bon.) is also known as the Feast of Avalon and the festival of the Wine Harvest. Although many view the Harvest season as a celebration of life, it is also a celebration of death. The bounty you gather from your garden provides nourishment for you, your family, and your friends. But it is also the death of those plants and vegetables which have been harvested from that garden. Thus Mabon is a celebration of the cycle of life.
The holiday is named for the Welsh God Mabon. Mabon means the “great son”. He was the son of Modred, kidnapped at the age of 3, and later rescued by King Arthur. His life represents the innocence of youth, the strength of survival, and the growing wisdom of the elderly. Perhaps it is this view of the cycle of life that brings Mabon to his most popular role, the King of the Otherworld and the God of Darkness.
From the moment of the September Equinox, the Sun’s strength diminishes, until the moment of Winter Solstice in December, when the Sun grows stronger and the days once again become longer than the nights. Symbols celebrating the season include various types of gourds and melons. The stalk can be tied together symbolizing the Harvest Lord and then set in a circle of gourds. A besom can be constructed to symbolize the polarity of male and female. The Harvest Lord is often symbolized by a straw man, whose sacrificial body is burned and its ashes scattered upon the earth.
A Celtic festival of thanksgiving, so what better way to give thanks than to prepare a meal with the harvest of your garden? Those that indulge in wine can brew a new batch of this homemade nectar of the Gods. Those that do not indulge, can brew preserves and jellies from grapes, raspberries, and blackberries. Don’t forget an apple pie for dessert. During your meal, share tales and happy stories about those you lost during the year. Or share your experiences and review the lessons you feel you have learned during this past season.
Begin your festivities at sunset the night before the solstice. Prepare a simple altar where you can honor the passing strength of the Oak King and the movement of the Divine God into the wise Holly King. This night is a good time to focus on yourself and the current status of your goals.
On the day of the solstice, begin your day with a small blessing ritual. Thanking the Oak King for the blessing he has brought to you thus far. Focus this ritual on just the Oak King. Spend the morning harvesting your early summer vegetables. Or take a drive to the country and a fresh farm market. You’ll be looking for corn on the cob, green beans, cantaloupe, watermelon, and strawberries.
At harvest time, many ancient Pagan communities felt that the growing or harvest spirit had to be preserved over the winter. The very last sheaves of wheat or stalks of corn in the fields were felt to be where these energies gathered as the crops were harvested.
These last bits harvested were what was used to main a variety of figures known as corn dollies. Sometimes these are literal female figurines, often tied from dried corn stalks. A few handfuls folded over each other easily make a small figure. Other times these were symbolic knots or braids made from dried wheat sheaves, braided while the plant material is still somewhat moist and pliable.