Living the Wheel: Seasonal Musings of the Pagan Year
Thoughts and musings of the wheel of the Pagan Year.
The Advent of Mabon
Autumn is a good time for visiting;
During its short days there is work for all...
There are sweet acorns in the high woods,
Cornstalks are kind over the brown earth.
The season of Mabon is come: orchards and fields are overflowing with harvest's yields, crisp bonfires crackle against chill nights. Warm tea and pumpkin bread are enjoyed while sitting on the back steps on cool misted mornings, mornings that become hot, hazy afternoons. It is a time of abundance, a time of gatherings, sharing the profusion with others.
Families celebrate, gathering in kitchens to can vegetables and make jams and fruit butters; preparations for Yule may even begin. This was the time of year my grandmother would make her fruitcakes; she kept them wrapped in wax paper, tucked away in a cool cabinet, occasionally brushing them with brandy, until they were ready to be offered at Christmas.
With my children's return to school I commence a favorite indulgence of ours, and every afternoon at three o'clock we gather around the kitchen table for tea. Often my sister joins us, occasionally a school friend as well. The teapot steams merrily, homemade treats are nibbled. (A favorite is Marla Meredith's sweet potato chocolate chip cookies, warm with cinnamon, clove and maple syrup. Autumn happiness is assured in every bite.)
In my household we greet the season with glee, welcoming the esbat with lighthearted joy. Apple-picking is a favorite observance, and we visit local pick-your-own orchards and gather far more apples than we possibly need, and yet all are used, as snacks, in chili and soup, in pies, cobblers, crisps and crumbles. The kitchen is scented with the apples' sweet spicy scent. We offer praise to Idunn, the Norse goddess of apples and immortality in gratitude for the sweet gifts she has granted us:
Hail to you, Lady of the Sacred Orchard!
Hail to you, gardener of Asgard!
You are the One Who Works,
The one without whom all the plans of others
Would simply come to nothing.
Giver of health and immortality,
Keep our bodies sound and strong!
Keep us healthy, that we may, like you,
Get up each and every morning
And go quietly to our tasks,
Working the Earth that you love so much,
Knowing that ours is the real work
And the real life, not some shell
Of distanced work whose products we will never see.
Help us in our daily round of sacred labor,
Lady of the Sacred Orchard,
And may our gardens bloom as yours.
(Invocation to Idunn, from The Pagan Book of Hours)
Apples are featured in our ritual work as well as we recognize that the Lughnasad death of the Green Man, John Barleycorn, is the source of all the life-giving abundance we see around us. In His death the Red Man, the Holly King rises, to preside over the darkening year until His death and subsequent rebirth as the Green Man at Yule. It is the Oak King's lifeblood we see in the fields and farm stands: His life-giving 'blood' the riches we so gaily harvest at summer's end.
"With The sober Autumn enter'd mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Show'd he bagan to fail.
His colour sicken'd more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.
They've taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.
They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell'd him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn'd him o'er and o'er."
Mabon is the celebration of light and dark being in harmony once again. The long summer days have begun to shorten. Darkness does not conquer light, not yet, but it is getting stronger. This is a time of thanksgiving as we reap the rewards of the Oak King’s death. Darkness and death are as much a part of our lives as light and birth. The experiences that we undergo are opportunities for us to learn and to grow. Caitlín Matthews tells us to "take a walk where [we] can best appreciate the turning season. As [we] walk, commune with the spirits of the plants, trees and animals...and learn from them the messages of fall." Observe the behavior of the creatures whose lives most depend on recognizing the seasons' changes. What do you see? What does nature Herself teach you about life, about death, about rebirth?
Listen to what the wind tells you. Watch monarch butterflies and geese as they begin their southward journeys. Light candles as nights begins to fall, slightly earlier each evening, and gather around the table with family and friends, rejoicing in the abundance of the season. Allow yourself to revel in the light-hearted atmosphere of Mabon. It is a season of endings, but it is not the end.
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