A Family Guide to Celebrating the Pagan Sabbat Mabon
Mabon is the celebration of the Autumn Equinox
and the second and main harvest festival of the Wiccan Calendar. (First harvest
is grains, third meat) It marks the beginning of the fall season on September
22nd. On an equinox there is an equal amount of day and night. It is another
time of balance, this time with the change over from Summer to Winter, activity
During the Autumn Equinox, the Goddess appears as the Bountiful Mother, and the God appears as the Corn King or Harvest Lord who is losing his strength as he gives up his life so that his people will have food to eat and therefore survive throughout the winter.
Mabon was named for the Celtic God of Youth, Mabon. According to Michael Jordan in his book Encyclopedia of the Gods, Mabon was, "The son of an earthly mother, Modron. According to legend he was abducted when three days old. Also a god of hunters and fishermen."
Since this is the time to harvest crops and gardens, the September moon is called the Harvest Moon.
People all over the world take this time to be thankful for the blessings and gifts they have received. Whereas the American holiday of Thanksgiving is at the end of the harvest season, Mabon is at the beginning.
Although Mabon in general celebrates the harvest, you do not need to have a large garden in order to participate. If you can only manage container gardening, or windowsill gardening, that is fine too. Many items can be grown in small containers, such as herbs, and hanging gardens are becoming more and more popular. Vine type of plants can be grown from hanging baskets such as tomatoes and berries. Perhaps you know of a friend or relative who has available land and is willing to share the land for a garden as a trade for having help taking care of the garden.
Other than harvesting food from a garden, there are many wonderful ways to celebrate Mabon and to give thanks to the Goddess and God for all that we have.
The Roman's celebrated the Wine Harvest in honor of the God of the vine and of resurrection at this time of the year.
The nature spirits associated with Mabon are called trooping fairies. In her book The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fairies, Anna Franklin describes trooping fairies as:
…the aristocratic fairies of English folklore who gather
together to form courts, ruled over by a fairy king and
queen. Sometimes, they ride out in formal processions
that are occasionally witnessed by humans…
Remember however, that although fairies may seem like a lot of fun, they can be sneaky and spiteful, so care should always be taken when dealing with them.
Autumn is a time of beautiful colors as leaves change and late blooming flowers blossom. Many colors are associated with Mabon and each color has its own meaning.
Blue is for truth, protection, hope, honor, change, peace, sleep, dreams, healing, unity, wisdom and knowledge.
Brown represents stability, justice, animals, concentration, strength, grace, decision making, pets, family issues and the home.
Gold symbolizes The God, strength, success, action, courage, confidence, wealth, sun, daylight hours, and prosperity.
Orange is used for courage, pride, ambition, enthusiasm, energy, friendship, imagination, success, and will power.
Purple maintains growth, self esteem, inspiration, power, connection to spirits, and inner strength.
Red increases strength, courage, and energy.
Yellow induces joy, study, creativity, divination and mental powers.
The flowers associated with Mabon are the narcissus and the lily.
The narcissus is for peace, love and harmony.
The lily is for peace, protection and purity.
Scents for Mabon include the flower gardenia and the lemon mint smell of bergamot.
Gardenia is for love, peace, healing and helping spiritual connections, while bergamot is for protection, peace, happiness and restful sleep.
Amber is used for purification and calming.
Amethyst is for meditation and change.
The Cat's Eye brings protection and luck.
Citrine aids in protection, creativity, preventing nightmares, inspiration, balancing energy.
Golden Topaz calls for relaxation and friendship.
Lapis Lazuli encourages courage, joy, love, protection, healing, beauty, prosperity, creativity, and freedom.
Peridot is used for protection, prosperity, sleep, health, balance and intuition.
Sapphire bestows joy, peace, wisdom, love, healing, power, protection and prosperity.
The Tiger's Eye summons courage, prosperity, protection, energy, luck, common sense, honesty, and balance.
Incense, Herbs, Trees and Woods
This category covers a lot of information as there are many associations with Mabon from the plant world, since Mabon is after all the time of harvest and plants are what we harvest.
Apple - Love, healing, and garden magic.
Bay - Protection, purification and strength.
Cedar - Healing, purification and protection.
Cinnamon - Success, healing, power, and protection.
Clove - Protection and love,
Copal - Love and purification.
Cypress - Healing, comfort and protection.
Fennel - Protection, healing and purification.
Hazel - Luck, protection and wishes.
Heather - Protection, rain making and luck.
Ivy - Protection and healing.
Juniper - Protection, love and health.
Mace - Mental and psychic powers.
Marigold - Protection and psychic powers.
Myrrh - Protection, healing and spirituality.
Nutmeg - Luck, love, and energy.
Oak - Protection, health, healing and luck.
Oak moss - Prosperity
Pine - Healing and protection.
Rye - Love
Sage - Wisdom, protection and wishes.
Sandalwood - Protection, healing and spirituality.
Valerian - Love, sleep, purification and protection.
Wheat - Fertility and money.
Animals and Birds
Autumn is the time when animals and birds begin preparing for the winter season, just as humans do. Some do this by storing food and getting their homes ready, others by leaving and going to warmer climates; we call this migrating.
Any migratory animal is a symbol of Mabon. Any animal preparing for the winter months ahead is also a symbol of Mabon.
The squirrels and chipmunks storing nuts and acorns for the winter are perfect examples. They harvest their food (often just by picking it up off the ground) and store it away in their dens so they can have food through out the winter. Humans do the same thing when harvesting their gardens and canning or freezing the picked foods.
Certain birds also store food such as seeds, away for the winter. At this time of the year we also start to see many birds begin to migrate south to warmer climates.
There are many other symbols for Mabon. Not only do these items remind us of Mabon, they tell us stories and serve as decorations for our homes, rituals and altars.
Acorns are abundant in the fall if you live in an area where oak trees grow. They remind us of the story of the Oak King who will soon be defeated by the Holly King for the winter, but will then be reborn in the spring to defeat the Holly King once again.
Acorns also are a symbol for the circle of life. The acorn contains the seed that will some day grow into a mighty oak tree which will then produce acorns of its own. The cycle is never ending and life continues to go on.
Because apples are also in abundance during the fall, they are also a symbol for Mabon and are said to hold magical healing properties. We have all heard the saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away". The history of apples is filled with fun and interesting stories including the Isle of Apples - also known as Avalon, and Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) who helped give us all the gift of apples by planting the seeds throughout parts of the Midwest and therefore helping to ensure the supply of apples and apple trees would be around for centuries to come.
Corn, gourds, squash, pumpkins, and cornucopias are other symbols for Mabon.
Corn represents the Corn Mother - the giver of life. Corn is also used as an
offering to the Goddess and God.
Gourds are hung for protection and can be used as decoration. Colorful Indian corn, and small gourds or pumpkins are beautiful decorations for an autumn altar.
Cornucopias, also known as the Horn of Plenty can be made out of real vegetables from the garden, or plastic, ceramic or other man made imitation vegetables can be used if you are worried about the items spoiling. Cornucopia baskets can be found at just about any craft store in the fall and in some places all year long.
Straw or hay bales can also be used as the base for setting up an outdoor altar.
Energy and Power Flows
During the autumn and harvest time of the year, energy and power flows make a natural turn just as the leaves change colors and fall from the trees.
Power turns to resting after the work of the harvest is done. The balance
between light and dark on Mabon signals the shift to shorter days and longer
nights to begin. This is the time to begin the work of cleaning, organizing and
straightening up all areas of your life; from your own room, to your yard to the
deep and sometimes confusing thoughts inside of you. Now is the time to sit and
meditate on what you have learned over the past year and prepare yourself for
learning in the year to come.
Energy should be spent through working on the harvest and by expressing appreciation and gratitude to the Goddess and God for all that you have.
You may have noticed while learning the correspondences of Mabon that many of them are associated with protection, purification, love, and other good things you would want for yourself and family. That is because Mabon is a time of preparing for the winter months (protecting yourself and family against hunger and cold), purifying your home and self (cleaning, organizing and straightening up both inside and outside your home and self) and for family (love for one another).
There are many ways to celebrate Mabon and the coming of fall. You and your family may already have some of your own customs and traditions, but here are some more ideas for you to choose from to add to your own Mabon celebration. All of these ideas kids can help with and participate in. Mabon is a time for family so the entire family should be involved.
One of the most important ways of celebrating Mabon is of course to harvest the food and herbs grown in your garden. This can be a family event, a coven event, or a get together of friends. Make a festival out of it. Provide music, food and drinks. Work goes much smoother when made into fun. When the harvest is all brought in, the garden should be cleaned and readied for the spring planting. Clear away weeds, dead debris and have an adult till it.
Offerings are an important aspect of Mabon. It is a way of showing thanks and to share your good fortune.
Using a large rock, make an outdoors altar. Offerings of fresh picked fruits and vegetables should be given to the Goddess and God. This should be done through a ritual of your family's design or through your coven if you belong to one.
Offerings should also be made to the land to thank the I for the food it has helped to produce. When the harvest is over, some of the produce should be returned to the I. This can be done through compost, by burying it, or by using a tiller to grind it back into the I. You can also use a natural fertilizer to give back to the I. Ask for a blessing upon the I and thank the I for all that it has given to you.
Third, offerings should be made to the animals that live in your environment. Seeds and nuts are wonderful items for birds and animals to store for later use in the winter. Animals are a part of our world and should be helped out as much as we possibly can. A couple handfuls of seeds may not seem like a lot to you and me, but to the hungry bird, they can be the difference between life and starvation.
If you have a small yard, or live in an apartment, you can always visit a park and feed the animals there. You can also clean up a park by picking up litter or giving some volunteer hours to a nature center, this is another way of giving back to the I by helping to take care of it.
Finally, offerings can be made to those less fortunate. This type of offering I'm talking about is not a ritualistic type, but the type that simply comes from the heart. If you gardened, call the local food pantry, soup kitchen or homeless shelter and see if they can take donations of fresh produce. If they can't perhaps you can give some of your time or other nonperishable food item from your home. People often only remember these types of charities during November and December when the feeling of giving is "in the air", but these places need help and donations all year round.
Mabon is also a time to start preparing for the year to come. The garden should be cleaned and prepared for the next spring - this makes the work in the spring much easier. The yard should be prepared for the winter, this includes adding mulch to plants to help protect their roots, and some plants need to be covered throughout the cold season. This is also the time to plant bulbs for flowers to bloom in the spring. Garden hoses should be unhooked and put away along with other items that will not do well in the winter cold.
Preparations should also be made to make sure your home is ready for winter.
Children can help parents seal windows with plastic, inventory blankets, make
sure items like flashlights are available with working batteries in case of a
power outage, and stack firewood in a convenient location. You can go through
your summer clothes now and sort out those that are too small for you and either
pass them down to a younger sibling or friend or donate them to a second hand
All of these preparations are part of the cleaning and organizing that goes along with the celebration of Mabon.
Every season is a perfect time to take a nature walk, but Autumn is one of the best as the colors are astounding and because of the entire harvesting and gathering meaning behind Mabon.
Seeds and nuts can be collected for food for you or animals, or for crafts. Colorful leaves can be gathered to press, to make wreaths, and for other decorations.
Walks through the wild let you commune with and experience nature. You may
want to keep a journal of your walks and write about the plants and animals you
see. If you walk through the same area each season over the course of years, you
can write about the changes you notice as the area grows.
As you walk, think about what you are grateful for. Use this time to brainstorm ideas to use in your families Mabon and other rituals. Thank the Goddess and the God as you walk for all that you see, feel, hear and experience.
Autumn Game for Rainy Days
This is a game you can play inside on a rainy day, after you have done your nature walk. You will need about 50 dry leaves you have collected from the ground and then pressed. Keep them stored until ready to play the game.
Put a box on the floor and fill it with the leaves. Have everyone sit in a circle on the floor around the box.
Pass the box of leaves around the circle and have everyone take one. Each person needs to study their leaf very, very carefully. Give them 5 minutes. Learn everything you can about the leaf's shape, color, texture.
After 5 minutes all of the leaves go back into the box where they are all mixed up again. Dump the box in the middle of the circle. Everyone needs to find the same leaf they had before!
For smaller children, this game may be played with rocks to make it a little bit easier for them, and to help them tell the rocks apart. However, make sure the rocks are clean and children are supervised so that no one is putting rocks in their mouth!
Write an Autumn Story
Another great way to celebrate Mabon indoors, is by writing stories. Autumn is a very busy time of the year, for humans and for nature! You can start with any of the topics below or think of some of your own:
1) If I were a leaf, what color would I want to change to and why?
2) I looked out the window today and saw….
3) I cut open a pumpkin and boy was I surprised to see…..
4) I saw a flock of birds flying south and one stopped and said to me….
5) I watched a squirrel gathering nuts, he saw me too. On the way back to
his home, he stopped and asked me…
The items you collected on your nature walk can be used to make decorations for your home and altar. Some of these crafts will need the help or supervision of an adult so please make sure you read through the directions carefully before you begin.
Leaf rubbings can be used to make note cards, invitations, wall hangings, and placemats.
You will need:
leaves you collected on your nature walk
different colored crayons with the paper removed
What to do:
Place the leaves on a flat surface and cover with the tracing paper. Carefully rub the crayon of your choice over the paper until you see the pattern of the leaves appear. You can then either decorate the rest of the paper and frame it to make a wall hanging, or cut the rubbed leaves out to glue on to heavier paper to make invitations to your Mabon Festival, note cards, placemats, or any other creative ideas you can come up with.
Fall Leaf Sun Catcher
By using different colored fall leaves, you can create a beautiful sun catcher to hang in front of a window.
You will need:
different colored fall leaves
a hot iron (adult supervision necessary)*
an old towel*
a picture frame
* clear contact paper may also be used, in which case the towel and iron are not necessary.
What to do:
Cut two pieces of wax paper (or contact paper), so that they are larger than your picture frame. Lay the towel down on the table and place one piece of wax paper on top of it. (If you use contact paper, make sure the sticky side is up.) Place the leaves on the wax paper arranging them the way you like, cover as much of the paper as possible leaving a little room around the edge. Put the second sheet of wax paper or contact paper (sticky side down) on top of the leaves. Fold the towel over the wax paper and iron quickly on high heat while pressing down firmly. Use some yarn or string to tie a loop hanger to the top of the picture frame. After the wax paper cools, insert the created picture into the frame and trim off any excess paper. Hang your design in front of a window so the sun can shine through it.
Tree of Thanks
This is a project the whole family can get involved in and share with one another what it is they are thankful for.
What you need:
large sheet of white poster board or sturdy board
large sheet of brown poster board
different colored sheets of construction paper (to make fall leaves from)
paint, crayons, marker, glitter, sequins or other items to decorate your leaves scissors
What to do:
Using the brown poster board, draw a tree trunk with branches making at least one branch for each family member. Feel free to give each family member two or three branches, depending on your family size and how big of a tree you want to make. Cut out the trunk and branches and glue on to the white poster or sturdy board.
Trace each family member's hands on the different colored construction paper to make leaves.
Have each person cut out their leaves and write one thing they are thankful for on each leaf. Decorate the leaves anyway you like and then glue them to the branches of the tree.
Wreaths can be used any time of the year by being made with different types of materials. A fall wreath can be made with colored leaves and other items collected on your nature walk. To make the leaves easier to work with, they can be pressed first by laying them under heavy books for a couple of days to flatten them as much as possible.
What you need:
cardboard cut into a ring
straw or Styrofoam wreath ring available from craft stores
glue (hot glue may be used with parent supervision)
spray craft glue
nuts or seeds
other items collected on your nature walk
fall colored ribbon
yarn, string or wreath hanger
What you do:
Take the pressed leaves and attach them using glue or a hot glue gun to the wreath base you have made or bought. Make sure you cover the entire wreath. Wrap the wreath with a pretty fall ribbon. Add acorns, pine cones or other items you collect on your nature walk. Use the spray glue as you wish and then sprinkle sprayed areas with glitter or sequins. Tie a bow with the ribbon and attach to the wreath.
Gourd rattles can be used in rituals and ceremonies, but they are also just plain fun to play with and make your own music.
What you need:
gourds of various sizes
dried beans or peas
a knife (adult supervision required)
dead branches to use as handles (optional)
paint or markers
What to do:
Have an adult cut a small hole in the gourd (save the area cut out) and scoop out the inside. Allow the gourd to dry out. Put some dried beans or peas inside the gourd and prepare to fill the hole. If you are using a branch for a handle you need to insert the handle into the hole and putty in around it. If you are not using a handle, replace the part of the gourd that had been removed to clean it out, and putty it in to place. Allow the putty to dry and then decorate the rattle any way you like.