Updated: Jun 10
This is by far my favourite time of the year. The last lingering flourishes of summer, slowly meandering into autumn, where the days are still sunny and warm – and a little more bearable – and the fields are parched and dry; the corn fully grown and ready for harvest; the swollen fruit and vegetables fully ripened and ready to burst; sunflower heads have now turned to seed and the trees are now displaying their autumnal coats of gold, crimson and brown. Acorns, leaves and sycamore seeds pile on the ground, while chestnut husks suspended above, hang ajar ready to release their fruit. The days and nights are now of equal measure as mother nature fights to provide her bounty before the cloak of darkness draws in.
It’s a comforting feeling, evoking fond memories of childhood, that seems so long ago, when we used to celebrate the traditional Harvest Festival. Coming from a small village in Lancashire, I remember the celebrations in our primary school, where we'd be asked to bring in non-perishable foodstuffs for distribution to the homeless and local care homes. I recall belting out hymns such as Autumn Days and visiting the old chestnut tree by Redcliffe with my grandparents to find the shiniest, plumpest, most gorgeous chestnuts. I'd display them around the house, leave them on a table, or on the mantelpiece where we'd all enjoy their beauty.
Over the years we appear to have lost touch with the seasons. We go about our daily lives – commuting, working, travelling and taking care of our families, paying little attention to the wheel of the year, only considering whether we’ll need an umbrella or not that day. With the convenience of fresh fruit and vegetables available all year round, we are distanced from the cycles of agriculture and how reliant we once were on seasonal produce.
However recently, for multiple reasons, we are experiencing a resurgence in Paganism, Witchcraft and Spiritualism. With the rise of social media and online activities now increasingly prevalent in our lives, perhaps we are striving to reach out, yearning for a deep rooted connection with nature. Just as our hunger pangs dictate the food we crave, maybe our souls crave grounding(for more on grounding click here) and to experience the cathartic energy of plants, crystals, the outdoors and weather. After all, we are animals and to feel a connection with our natural environment is primeval and I believe necessary for our well-being and our soul.
In addition, the cost of living crisis has prompted many of us to ‘grow your own’ in gardens and allotments and it’s almost like we have gone full circle. Many of us are now conscious of our spend and also our carbon footprint; checking where our produce is coming from, often opting for locally grown if you’re an ethical shopper. Somehow we are finding our way back to nature and relearning to appreciate our earth and what it provides for us. Perhaps we are all a little Pagan at heart!
The word Pagan derives from the old Latin Pagani, meaning village folk, or peasants for want of a better word. Pagan wasn’t a religion, merely a name for regular village people, who lived their life around the agricultural calendar. The ‘Pagans’ as we will call them, celebrated the harvest, which traditionally coincided with the Autumn Equinox, where the days and nights are of equal length. From this point on in the year, darkness begins to defeat the light, days will get shorter which served as a reminder or marker for the beginning of the new season and turn of the wheel. Being blessed with all this abundance, it makes perfect sense that it was celebrated with feasting, drinking, dancing and enjoying life. No wonder Harvest evokes nostalgia and warm feelings!
The actual term for the sabbat (any of eight neo-pagan religious festivals commemorating phases of the changing seasons), the name Mabon was applied to this celebration much later, believed to be in the 1970s, with the emerging neo-pagan religion of Wicca. (More on Wicca in upcoming blogs).
However the word Mabon is much older. It derives from Mabon, the legendary Welsh mythological figure, who likely has his roots in a once living person. Mabon ap Modron, who’s name fittingly means Son of the Mother, was kidnapped three nights after his birth and held captive in the in the city of Gloucester and was eventually rescued by King Arthur’s men and a giant talking salmon. He went on to be a fine hunter, who was pals with King Arthur.
Another source details the Welsh deity Mabon - the Child of Light and the son of the Earth Mother Goddess, Modron, who is, in her own right often associated with the maternal aspect of the triple goddess.
Decorate your sacred space or altar
I will be decorating my altar for Mabon using corn, apples from my garden, rose hips from my beautiful Gertrude Jekyll rose, hawthorn berries, perhaps onions and any kind of wonderful colourful items from the wild that I find beautiful.
I may even attempt to make a corn dolly, as I did many years ago with my grandmother!
In addition I will also be burning one of my new Mabon Candles to complete the fully immersive experience, with notes of rich honey, vanilla and autumnal spices of cinnamon and clove, on a base of amber, sandalwood and musk. Evoking the scent of late summer evenings.
Fresh produce: Corn, onions, tomatoes, apples, berries, rosehips, squashes, courgettes, honey
Crystals: Carnelian, Citrine, Smoky Quartz, Lapis Lazuli
Deities: Corn dollies, Mother Earth, Triple Goddess, Mabon
Accessories: Mabon candle, prosperity spell jars, cornucopia or basket
Flowers: sunflowers, crocosmia, asters, hydrangea, honesty seed pods