a guide to the Sabbat’s symbolism
by Arwynn MacFeylynnd
Date: September 20-23 (usually, the date of the calendar autumn equinox).
Alternative names: The Autumn Equinox, the Second Harvest Festival, the Feast of Avalon, Equizio di Autunoo and Alban Elfed.
Primary meanings: The Fall Equinox falls exactly opposite the Spring Equinox of March 20 to 23. Both are times of equal night and equal day. The Equinox is the time of equality between the God and Goddess–the God represented by the Sun, the Goddess by the Moon; fruitfulness of the land results from their connection, and now the harvest’s bounty is brought in and stored against winter and dark times. The key action at Mabon is giving thanks. At the Autumn Equinox, the Sun’s strength also begins markedly to diminish, even disappear, until Winter Solstice in December.
Symbols: Garlands, corn, apples, pinecones, gourds, acorns, wheat, dried leaves and horns of plenty (cornucopias). Foods include corn, beans, squash, nuts, apples and root vegetables; drink includes cider, wine and beer.
Colors: Red, orange, yellow, deep gold, brown, russet, maroon, indigo and violet.
Gemstones: Amethyst, carnelian, lapis lazuli, sapphire, yellow agate and yellow topaz.
Herbs: Acorns, aloe’s wood, asters, benzoin, cedar, chrysanthemums, cinnamon, cloves, ferns, frankincense, hazel, honeysuckle, hops, ivy, jasmine, marigold, milkweed, musk, myrrh, oak leaves, passionflower, pine, pomegranate, roses, sage, Solomon’s seal, thistles, tobacco and vines.
Goddesses and gods: Goddesses include Morgon, Snake Woman, Epona, the Muses and Demeter; gods include Thoth, Hermes, Thor, Dionysus, Bacchus and Herne. The Sabbat is named for a god, the Mabon ap Modron, who symbolizes the male fertilizing principle in Welsh myths. His full name (depending on the translation) means Great Son of the Great Mother, Young Son, Divine Youth or Son of Light. Modron, his mother, is the Great Goddess, Guardian of the Otherworld, Protector and Healer. She is Earth itself.
Customs and myths: In the myth of Mabon, the god disappears, taken from his mother, Modron, when only three nights old. Mabon is freed with the help of the wisdom and memory of the most ancient living animals — the blackbird, stag, owl, eagle and salmon. All along, Mabon has been quite happy, dwelling in Modron’s magickal Otherworld — Modron’s womb — to be reborn as his mother’s champion, the Son of Light. Mabon’s light has been drawn into the Earth, gathering strength and wisdom to become a new seed. In a Greek myth associated with the season, autumn begins when Persephone leaves her mother, the earth goddess Demeter, to return to the Underworld to live with her husband, Hades, lord of the dead.
Mabon is rather like Thanksgiving for pagans. The foods of Mabon consist of the second harvest’s gleanings, so grains, fruit and vegetables predominate. Pagan activities for the Sabbat include the making of wine and the adorning of graves. It is considered taboo to pass burial sites and not honor the dead. Another traditional practice is to walk wild places and forests, gathering seedpods and dried plants to decorate home or altar or to save for future herbal magick. The sounds of baying hounds passing through the sky, the “Hounds of Annwn” in the Welsh mythos, are associated with fall and winter.
Spell-work for protection, wealth and prosperity, security and self-confidence are appropriate for Mabon, as are spells that bring into balance and harmony the energies in a room, home or situation. Ritual actions might include the praising or honoring of fruit as proof of the love of the Goddess and God. River and stream stones gathered over the summer can be empowered now for various purposes.