Celebration of the Autumnal Equinox

Mabon, (pronounced “MAY-bone’ or “MAY-bahn”), or Alban Elved (literally, “Light of the Waters’), is the Autumnal Equinox, usually around September 21 in the northern hemisphere. It is the time of the second harvest, and could be considered the Pagan thanksgiving. At this time of year, night and day are again in perfect balance, as the waning Sun moves toward rebirth at the Winter Solstice. Because day and night are equal on the Autumnal Equinox, it is a time for celebrating equality. The Druid name of this High Day, “Light of the Waters,” paints a picture of the reflective properties of water. As the Sun and the Moon are reflected on the waters, we take this time to reflect on our own progress on the path of life. It is a time for being thankful for how far we’ve come, and for considering how far we still have to go.

Druids celebrate the Autumnal Equinox by offering the trees libations of ciders, ale, wine, mead, or sacred herbs. If your Grove has a special tree, you may choose to honor it in this fashion. Another way of honoring the trees is by hanging bells, chimes, or colored ribbons (called “clooties”) from their branches. 

Since this is the time of the second harvest when the grapes are being picked and new wine is being made, many celebrations of the Autumnal Equinox involve wine. The God known as the Mabon (The Divine Child) is linked with wine and celebration, therefore wine would be an appropriate way to celebrate this holiday. You may choose to make a mulled wine punch or a wassail. In some circles where there are a lot of vintners, each brings a sample of his wares to the autumnal feast for others to sample and share.

The Autumnal Equinox, as a thanksgiving celebration, is a time of feasting and revelry. Pagans in general are the kings and queens of the potluck dinner, and Mabon feasts are no exception. The Mabon feast is a time for friends and family to gather together and thank the God and the Goddess for abundance. It is also a time to reflect on life’s journeys and to share both life’s joys and concerns with each other.

At this time of year, the Goddess passes from Mother to Crone, and the God (various traditions honor Cernunnos, Lugh, or the Green Man at this time) prepares for his death and rebirth at the Winter Solstice. When the God is reborn at Yule, he becomes the Mabon, or the Golden Child. Celebrations of the Autumnal Equinox sometimes include references to the Mabon as the Golden Child, and preparation for death and rebirth are common ways of celebrating this holiday.

Spiritual Significance of the Autumnal Equinox

An equinox is a time of balance. As such, Mabon is an excellent time of reflection as we head into the darker half of the year. What have you accomplished in your life? What is working? What is not working? Are you where you want to be, or does something in your life need to change in order to set your feet on the right path?

As the God prepares to be reborn as the Mabon, so can you prepare yourself to be transformed by taking evaluation of how far you’ve come, and how far you still have to go. Contemplation and meditation can help you to set new spiritual goals as the year wanes. Likewise, you may use this time to evaluate your spiritual progress on your path, and to make any needed changes.

The equinox is an excellent time for working magic pertaining to harmony and balance. Such magic may include protection, abundance, prosperity and self-improvement. Since this is a time of thanksgiving for the abundant harvest, you may also use Mabon to cultivate a spirit of gratitude. By choosing to be grateful for the things that you have instead of regretful for the things you do not, you are able to be reborn into a higher state of consciousness.

Symbols of the Autumnal Equinox

Just as the autumnal equinox is a period of balance between a day and a night of equal length, the holiday of Mabon is a time of balance and harmony. Any symbols that recognize this balance would be appropriate. It is also a time of thanksgiving and of contemplation and inward journeying, so any symbols reflecting this would also be appropriate.

Some symbols of the second harvest would include things like colored leaves, wreaths made with autumn flowers, corn, maize, pine cones, vines, and acorns. Symbols of balance and harmony at this time of year may include scales, depictions of the imbas or awen, and doves. Some animals considered to be symbolic of the Autumnal Equinox include wolves and birds of prey like the eagle, the hawk, and the owl, as these animals bring balance to the circle of life and death and remind us that without death, there can be no life. If you incorporate the Goddess into your celebration, then any icons reflecting her Crone aspect would be appropriate.

Gods and Goddesses of the Autumnal Equinox

The season of Mabon is the celebration of the Golden Child that bears the name “The Mabon.” This God goes by many names and is honored in various forms at this time of year, including his aspects as the Green Man, or the Holly King, or Cernunnos, or Lugh, or the Lord of the Wild Hunt.

Colors of the Autumnal Equinox

This is the season when the leaves are just beginning to change to their fall colors, so any colors reminiscent of turning leaves would be appropriate. This would include reds, oranges, deep golds, browns, maroons and violet.

Traditions of Mabon

This is the time of the second harvest, so it is a time for making wines, trying herbs and fruits, and making bonfires. Second harvest fruits and vegetables include grains, apples, pumpkins and squash. Corn bread and apple cider are traditional Mabon fare. So are beans, pumpkin pies, and squash casseroles. Hunters often prepare wild game for the Autumnal Equinox feast in honor of the Mabon. Root vegetables and wines are also commonly served. As you enjoy your feast, contemplate how to bring balance to your own life.

Winter SolsticeAlban ArthanYuleRebirth
February 1ImbolcImbolcQuickening
Vernal EquinoxAlban EilerOstaraYouth
May 1BeltaneBeltaneYoung Adulthood
Summer SolsticeAlban HeruinLitha or MidsummerAdulthood
August 1LughnasadhLughnasadh or LammasMaturity
Autumnal EquinoxAlban ElvedMabonOld Age
November 1SamhainSamhainCroning