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The Outdoor Apothecary

What is the Autumn Equinox?

Happy Mabon! Autumn is definitely in the air, and it’s time for celebrating Mabon. We’re going to be talking about the mythology and folklore of Mabon as well as the herbs for this season. What better way to get into the spirit of fall and celebrate the season than with some ancient traditions & herbal inspiration?

The Autumn Equinox is a time for celebration and reflection. As harvest seasons come to an end, we’re thankful that nature’s spirit can still be felt in the air even after the growing season ends. 

The Fall Equinox is a representation of harvest seasons, a time of thankfulness and joy, as well as a time of bequeathing and melancholy. Now is the time when day and night are perfectly balanced, and similarly, we ponder over the stability and flow of our lives.

For the most part, the Autumnal Equinox as an astronomical phenomenon is associated with the concepts of equity, balance, accountability, honesty, and real friendship.

The autumn Equinox commemorates the Goddess’ passage into the Underworld. Hence, we witness the decay of nature’s spirit and the approach of winter as a result of her absence.

Etymologically, “Equinox” is derived from the Latin words “aequi” (equal) and “nox” (night).

samhain celebration

Mythology and Folklore of Mabon

Throughout history there have been many traditions, rituals and folklore associated with the autumn season. In fact, there are many rituals and ways for celebrating Mabon that have been observed in many cultures across the globe. 

All across the British Isles and Ireland, the last retreat of the harvest spirit, which is represented, symbolically, by the cutting of the final sheaf, has been marked by noteworthy ceremonial rites. Oftentimes, the sheaf was braided into the likeness of a woman and wrapped in a gown decorated with spring-themed ribbons, and then hung from a pole which is a phallic fertility symbol.

In Scotland, the final sheaf of harvest is referred to as the Maiden, and it must be cut by the eldest female present at the ceremony.

It was known as the Maiden or the Hag in the Highlands, just as the Celtic goddess typically has two faces— one of life and one of death.

A broomstick can be made to reproduce the male-female duality. The Harvest Lord is frequently represented by a straw figure whose sacrifice body is burned and the ashes spread across the earth. The Crop Queen, or Kern Baby, is fashioned from the final sheaf of the harvest and bundled by reapers shouting, “We have the Kern!”.

Upon the culmination of the harvest, everyone gathered for celebrating Mabon with the Maiden Feast, where a toast was offered saying “Here’s to the one who assisted us with the harvest!” referring to the adorned sheaf. Following that, the sheaf may be hung in the farmhouse for good luck over the winter or ploughed into the ground the following year. At Imbolc, it was occasionally preserved to “make Brede’s bed,” as the harvest goddess was another facet of Brede.

Moreover, the Greeks, Bavarians, Native Americans, Chinese, and Druids, each had their customs for commemorating a plentiful harvest, all with their specific rites.

In the lunar cycle, September is the Wine Moon, which is the period for grape harvesting. Early Greeks revered wine and grapevines as sacred upon commemorating Dionysus, the god of Resurrection. They saw grapes and wine as symbols of life and regeneration.

Additionally, the September equinox, according to the ancient Greeks, heralds Persephone’s return to the darkness of the underworld, where she is reunited with her husband Hades.

celebrating mabon

Mabon: The Autumnal Equinox Festival

The autumnal equinox festival, also known as Mabon, the Feast of the Ingathering, Meán Fómhair, An Clabhsúr, or Alban Elfed (in Neo-Druidic traditions), is a modern Pagan ritual of appreciation for the earth’s fruits and an acknowledgement of the obligation to share them in order to guarantee the goddess’s and god’s graces during the upcoming winter months.

Mabon means “Great Son” and it stands in reference to the Welsh mythological character Mabon ap Modron.

Mabon was an excellent hunter, possessing a nimble horse and a magnificent hound. When he was three nights old, he was kidnapped from his mother, Modron (“Great Mother”), the earth Great Goddess, causing light to hide. Eventually, he was later rescued by King Arthur. In other legends, it is said that he was rescued by the Blackbird, the Stag, the Owl, the Eagle, and the Salmon.

Now, from another perspective, Mabon has been fortunate enough to spend his entire life imprisoned in Modron’s mystical Otherworld— Madron’s womb. Only in this manner is he capable of rebirth. Consequently, Mabon’s light has been dragged into the Earth, where it has gathered sufficient power and knowledge to germinate as a new seed.

From a mythological perspective, Mabon also portrays the harvest’s masculine figure.

In this respect, Mabon is the masculine equivalent of Persephone— the seasonally withdrawn male fertilising power and therefore, Modron is a resemblance to Demeter.

Subsequently, in British folklore, Mabon is associated with Herne the Hunter and marks the beginning of the deer hunting season in many regions.

the wheel of the year

Herbalism During the Mabon Season

For herbalists, the autumn Equinox is a meaningful time of the year and signifies a critical shift from summer to fall, a time to reap what has been sowed.

Additionally, this moment of the year carries a greater significance, particularly when a full moon coincides with or happens during the Autumn Equinox.

Herbalists place more value on the attributes of plants at this time because the plant’s therapeutic properties are at their highest.

Similarly, a new Moon coinciding with the Fall Equinox is a special occasion that highlights the medicinal benefits of root and leaf harvesting.

As a result, herbalists prefer to collect medicinal plants and prepare herbal medications on a lunar calendar basis. For flowers, leaves, and seeds, a full moon is optimal. This is an excellent time to begin experimenting with herbal remedies such as fire cider, a sweet vinegar mixture historically used to sustain our immune systems during the winter months. It can be made from ginger and fresh horseradish roots, herbs and spices like onion, garlic, habanero pepper, powdered turmeric, and also fruits like lemon, orange, and raw apple cider vinegar.

Furthermore, at this time of year, herbalists also recommend adding therapeutic plants into the cookery. Turmeric and ginger roots and rhizomes help us stay warm and grounded. Spices like nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon, contribute to seasonal well-being and are reputed ingredients for the delightful combination of pumpkin pie spice. Besides, foragers also like this time of year because the seasonal weather conditions give a great growing environment for mushrooms such as reishi, lion’s mane, and wild shiitake, which help boost the immune system.

Traditionally, Mabon altars are decked in seasonal hues of orange, red, yellow, gold, and brown. Some people burn campfires and perform ritual dances at night, while others simply enjoy the autumn sky.

Mabon altars are adorned with the season’s best fruits and berries, including apples, pears, rosehips, elderberries, blackberries, and other late-autumn fruits and berries.

Apart from apples, pomegranates represent the fruit of death handed to Persephone by Hades.

Burdock, dandelion, butterfly weed, angelica, and licorice are just a few of the plants that are highly prized during the autumn Equinox. Because the roots are at their strongest right now, ready to sustain the plants till spring, this is the optimum time to recruit them and consider them as medicinal allies during the winter months.

Sage, rose hips, marigold, yarrow, and honeysuckle constitute important elements of herbal origin to feel gratitude and thankfulness towards the Goddess for her bounty and to join in the harvest delights.

Other vegetative symbols of the season include numerous varieties of gourds and melons.

celebrating mabon

Conclusion

Autumn has arrived! Therefore, once the harvest is complete, the leaves begin to change colour and the warmth of summer is replaced by pleasant, breezy days.

This is a time to reap the bounty of summer, to plant new seeds for the spring, to contemplate new ideas, and to make medicine.

Because autumn is the harvest season for many foods, it’s natural that we begin to focus on fueling our bodies with heartier foods such as potatoes, squash, and corn.

Celebrating Mabon at this time of year honors equilibrium, introspection, and grace. Symbols of this season include mid-autumn vegetables such as squash, eggplant, pumpkin, and gourd; apple products such as pie, cider, and sauce; baskets and harvesting equipment indicating the collection of harvests; and anything made of grapes, particularly wine. Apart from being used to commemorate ancient feasts, these symbols are also utilized to decorate homes and shrines during the Mabon festivity.

Moreover, to the herbalist and wildcrafter, autumn calls to mind specific imagery of ripe fruits, roots, and tea recipes. In addition, the Autumn Equinox is a good time to observe when plants’ leaves begin to die back, as this indicates that the plant is concentrating its energy on the roots, which is a perfect time to harvest root vegetables and herbs.

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