Tomorrow is 2021’s Autumn Equinox but you wouldn’t know it around here. We’re having our usual late-in-summer Summer by ushering in a heat wave. (Not that I’m complaining.)
Mabon’s predecessor, Michaelmas, came about as a recognized holy day during harvest season as a means of subverting the Pagan harvest traditions by entrenching them in church doctrine. In 1011 the Christian church established September 29th as the feast of Saint Michael, to honor the protecting archangel as the leader of God’s heavenly host of angels, and to honor his triumph over Lucifer. Michaelmas evolved from a feast day into a day of conducting serious end-season business. In the 20th century, as Protestantism became dominant, Michaelmas then became England’s Harvest Festival. On this day farmers bring in baskets of their bounty to local parishes, where vicars bless the crop, and the baskets are then delivered to local food shelves and families in need. Harvest Festival remained a Pagan tradition, and Michaelmas often served as a Christian mask for the preservation of ancient practices.
Like the Spring Equinox, Autumn Equinox (Mabon) is that time of year when the day and night are of equal lengths. It marks the beginning of the dark phase of the year: the first day of Fall. This holiday is when we honor the Goddess as she enters cronehood. A day to reflect, remember, and look within. Even in today’s hectic world it’s important to set everything on pause for just a moment. Go somewhere quiet and take a deep breath – outside in nature, if possible. Close your eyes and reflect on all you’ve accomplished this year and the blessings received. Your life IS bountiful so take this opportunity to give thanks, for Mabon is known as the “Witches’ Thanksgiving”.
Ceremonies involving the spirit world are also observed, for the veil between the living and dead is gossamer thin. In Ireland, people would make pilgrimages to burial grounds and pay respect to the deceased – which sounds similar to the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos celebrated on November 1st. You don’t have to travel to your loved one’s grave to honor them – and you certainly don’t have to be Irish! Set out photos of those who have passed – perhaps light a white candle – and raise a glass of wine (or spiced cider) to each, while remembering how much you loved them and how much love they gave you in return.
In Ireland they believe it’s bad luck to eat blackberries after Mabon, so wines made from any other berry are permissible to consume including heather wine which is made from a flowering plant.
Goddesses: Morrigan, Morgan, Persephone, Hecate, Lilith, and Pomona
Colors: Red, orange, russet, maroon, brown, gold, and black
Incense: Cinnamon, sage, clove, pine, and myrrh
Stones: Yellow agate (joy and prosperity), amber (protection and positive energy), cat’s eye (luck), and sapphire (psychic protection and wisdom)
Decorate your altar (or table) with pumpkins, gourds, pine cones, acorns, corn husks, vines (such as ivy), dried seeds, and horns of plenty.
Traditional foods include breads, nuts, apples, pomegranates (symbolic of Persephone), and fall vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onions. Don’t forget the wine!
I made Mabon Apple Cake (recipe below) for the first time last night and it is the bomb!! A snap to make, too.
Mabon Apple Cake
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups finely chopped apples* (about 6 big apples, Jonagold is recommended)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour a 13 × 9-inch pan.
In a large bowl mix together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla with a spoon until smooth.
Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon, stirring just until blended.
Mix in the apples. (This batter will be stiff. I had to switch from spoon to my hands to incorporate the apples.)
Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.
Bake 40 to 60 minutes until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean and the edges are beginning to pull away from the pan. (Start testing at 40 minutes but don’t overbake.)
Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack.
This is a moist, delicious cake that keeps well at room temperature.
I served it up warm with a drizzle of half-and-half but it’d be great topped with whipped cream OR Talenti Madagascan Vanilla Bean ice cream.
*Next time I’m substituting one of the apples for a mix of raisins and chopped pecans.