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Apples Eating Apples: A Vegan Pagan Mabon

 

Mabon is sometimes called the Pagan Thanksgiving. It is a harvest festival, as well as the time of the year when day and night (light and dark) are equally balanced. For the Vegan Pagan, Mabon gives us a chance to have a Thanksgiving Holiday that avoids modern connotations of colonization and genocide (when it comes to European relations toward Indigenous Americans) and also the association with eating turkeys. As I have mentioned in past posts, about forty-six million turkeys are slaughtered for American Thanksgiving each year. Information about this can be found at the Maine based project, https://46millionturkeys.com/. So perhaps you can already see why I think Mabon is the perfect Vegan Pagan Thanksgiving. We can make the celebration about a bountiful harvest of vegan foods like yams, corn, pumpkins, squash, acorns, chestnuts, blueberries, cranberries, and more. But perhaps the star food of the vegan Mabon feast should be acknowledged as the apple.

 

Apples are strongly associated with the Neo-pagan holiday of Mabon. Of course, this is the time of year when apples are coming to ripeness. But there are other reasons this particular plant holds special meaning in the lore of many ancient (and now modernized) religions. Recall the Garden of Eden and its infamous fruit of knowledge. The biblical apples clearly also had powers over mortality, since consuming one changed life on earth from an immortal to a mortal experience. Then the Welsh Avalon or Irish Emain Ablach, each with the apple trees bearing powers over life and death. This is similar to the Greek Garden of the Hesperides, who were nymphs attached to the powerful apple trees. In Norse myth, their pantheon ate sacred apples in order to maintain immortality. Loki once held them all hostage by taking these apples (and the sacred women or nymphs who guarded them) into his own power.

 

In all these myths, apples are fruit of both wisdom and mortality. This connects them to the cycle of life and death, as described in the wheel of reincarnation. The apple as a fruit of birth and rebirth (and the Goddess) can be described as a little individual womb, containing both the pentacle and the seeds of reincarnation. Dan Brown riddled in DaVinci Code about the apple by referring to its “rosy flesh and seeded womb.” This is especially apt since DaVinci was an ethical vegetarian who avoided most animal products and echoed veg Pagans like Porphyry in saying that eating them turns our bodies into “sepulchers,” or graves.

 

DaVinci’s role model Pythagoras considered the pentacle to be a geomantic symbol of eternal movement, which was also informed by his belief in transmigration, and his own veg diet. And according to Ovid, Pythagoras referenced the apple as one the ideal foods nature provides us with. Ancient Pagans who endeavored to live cruelty-free often did so due to their belief in the transmigration of souls. They believed that a soul was reincarnated across species. And because they did not have modern distinctions between plants and animals, they sometimes included some or all varieties of plant-life in this sphere of concern. Empedocles expresses this when he says in Purifications:

 

“Will you not cease from the din of slaughter? Do you not see that you are devouring each other in the heedlessness of your minds?...Alas, that the pitiless day did not destroy me first, before I contrived the wretched deed of eating flesh with my lips. …For I have already been once a boy and a girl, a bush and a bird and a leaping journeying fish.”

 

This expresses the reasoning through which veg Pagans like Pythagoras, Ovid, Empedocles, and Porphyry (and others) favored tree or shrub-based fruits, nuts, and berries. Like other fruits that can be harvested from the parent plant without killing it, they are seen as a less harmful food. In fact, fruits like apples are meant to be eaten when you look at the natural design. When they ripen and fall to the ground (or get plucked off the tree), the consumer carries their seeds out into the ecosystem. In other words, animals who eat the apples will deposit these seeds far and wide in their feces. This is the key to the survival of wild apples, and many other fruits which contribute to a healthy biodiversity.

 

Apples are also especially significant to veganism. It is for many of the reasons just discussed. Will Tuttle expresses this beautifully in World Peace Diet when he contemplates the apple.

 

“When we look into one apple, we see the entire universe. All the planets and stars, our sun and moon, the oceans, rivers, forests, fields, and creatures are in this apple. The apple tree is a manifestation of an infinite web of life, and for the tree to exist, every component of the web is vital. The apple is the gift of the tree and of the infinite universe propagating and celebrating itself through the apple. The seeds fall, in the apple, to become new trees, or are eaten by humans or bears or birds and thus distributed more widely, spreading and benefitting the tree and the whole system, unfolding in utter vastness, complexity, and perfection….”

 

In the apple we see a blueprint for the divine plan, through which all of life can be supported without a need for suffering or predation. Suddenly the common metaphor of the apple as the spiritually powerful fruit of divine wisdom, as well as immortality (as seen in Eden, Avalon, and innumerable fairy or folk tales) can be seen in a clearer light.

 

At Mabon, the young god (actually named Mabon in the Welsh tradition) is in transition between life and death. He reflects the equinox where day and night, summer and winter, and life and death hold their precarious and transient equality. Then the scales tip and the cycle moves on. The apple represents the womb of the goddess, the harvest of this season, and the cycle of death and rebirth.

 

So happy and blessed Mabon. May we see the apple as a blessing upon our harvest tables and celebration altars. And I will share a poem that I wrote which reflects the sentiment. As Will Tuttle says, “we are all just apples eating apples.” Blessed be.

 

Benediction

 

May these words be your black apples, still clinging to the bones of winter trees,

 

offering some small sustenance to get you through the in-between,

 

until sweet new life blossoms from the cycling heat.

 

The five pointed star at the center maps the course of all flesh.

 

Seeds become trees.

 

Trees become fruit.

 

Fruit becomes seeds.

 

We are all just apples eating apples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tagged in: apple Mabon Pagan vegan Wicca
Leslie earned her Master of Divinity Degree at Vanderbilt University and is a Wiccan Priestess, Ordained Interfaith and seeking ordination through the Temple of the Feminine Divine in Bangor. Her column in SageWoman, “Child of Artemis,” deals with women and our relationship with animals. Leslie considers herself a cultural worker, dealing with issues of violence and oppression as they impact humans and other species. She has worked at a rural domestic violence prevention program since 2001 and is a board member on VegME, Maine’s vegan advocacy group.  

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