There seems to be a lot of controversy as to the origin of the name Mabon for the Fall Equinox. But for the most part most of the evidence points to it being modern. Though there was a person who was named Mabon ap Modron, who was a servant of Uther Pendragon and later became a follower of Arthur Pendragon. And there is a god whose name is Mabon, though there seems to be little known about Him, other than the fact that He was a god of the Fall harvest and died at this time to be reborn at the Spring Equinox Ostara. However, there is no evidence that the Celt's ever named their Fall Equinox celebration Mabon.
In Druidic traditions, the Fall Equinox was call Alban Elfed, meaning “light of the water”. This referred to the balance of the light and dark that leads into the darkness that is taking over. Many ancient peoples all over the world celebrated the fall harvests at this time. In ancient Greece, there was the celebration of Oschophoria. Which was the celebration of the harvest of the grapes used in wines. In the 1700’s the Bavarians came up with Oktoberfest, which actually begins the last week of September. It was a time of great feasting and merriment, and is still celebrated to this day. China has the Mid-Autumn festival that is held at the time of the Harvest Moon and is a festival of honoring family unity. There are many harvest festivals celebrated in this the 21st century. They go by many different names in the various countries. Thanksgiving feasts are also prevalent in many countries. Some of them lasting for a single day and others for a whole weekend.
It is a time of the balance of light and dark. Time to rest for a moment after the labor and completion of most of the harvest. A time of thanksgiving. Nature is declining and is drawing back its bounty, readying for winter and its time of rest. This is a good time for meditation on reincarnation and introspection in preparation for Samhain and to make an offering to the land and prepare for the cold winter. This is the main harvest and with this harvest it was believed that the God died with the death of the vegetation. This is seen as the sacrifice of the God for the land and the people. However, this isn't a permanent death but a transition with the God's rebirth at Yule. The Goddess nods in the weakening Sun. The Goddess is very pregnant with the God at this time. She feels the presence of the God in Her womb even as He wanes. The God is the Corn King at this time of the season. The Goddess comes forth in a more prominent position during this time of year.
For Wiccans, this is the Pagan Thanksgiving. As Pagans and Wiccans, we need to be giving thanks not only for the abundance of the harvest but for the abundance of other things in our lives and we should be sharing this abundance with others as we are able to do. Look for and recognize what is abundant and good in your life and share with others.
Wiccans generally hold this sabbat celebration on or as near to the actual Autumn Equinox as they can. This is the time to harvest what you have not only physically grown but also what you have spiritually and intellectually grown. It is also a time of sacrifice and a time to give thanks for those that have made sacrifices in their lives. Take a look at your life and see if there are things you need to let go.
Just like Lughnasadh, this is a time to show thanks for what the land has given you in the form of fruits and vegetables and herbs. This is also the time when the farmers will start to make the decisions as to which of their meat animals they will keep over the winter and which will be processed for meat for the coming winter. However, this is also a time of the balance of the light and the dark, as well as the fact that the crops are almost all harvested and many are dying or going dormant for the winter months.
The story in ancient Greece is that this is about the time of year when Hades kidnapped Persephone. Demeter, Her mother and the goddess of the harvest and who was responsible for the mild weather, grieved deeply for Her daughter and caused the harsh winter to come upon the world. She told Zeus that She would not restore the milder weather till Her daughter was returned to Her. Hecate volunteers to go to Hades and recover Persephone, however Persephone has by this time eaten 6 pomegranate seeds and thus was committed to staying with Hades. Hecatepleads with Hades and in the end, He agrees to let Persephone go back to the surface for 6 months of the year but for the other 6 months She must come to Him and rule with Him as His Queen. So, for 6 months of the year Demeter mourns for Her daughter and the world suffers the cold winter. But when Persephone is returned to Her mother spring and summer comes back to the world.
In ancient Greece as winter neared, some villages would drive a goat through the village and then at the outskirts kill it. This was to symbolize the driving out of vermin and evil and thus cleansing the village and the fields. This is where the term scapegoat comes from. Some farmers sacrificed wild pigs for the same purpose.
The old British folk song, John Barleycorn is, in a dark humored way, about the process of the cereal grain harvest. He symbolizes the harvested vegetation. He also symbolizes the dying God and the scapegoat at the same time. The refrain, "John Barleycorn must die" is simply saying that he must give his life and blood to the land so that the land will have something to give back come spring.
In Europe, the word "corn" referred to all kinds of grain crops, not only the maize crop that we know of from North America. Thus, a "corn dolly" could not only be made of maize but of wheat or even rye, oats, or millet. Other names for it are "mell-sheaf," or "kern baby," or even "carline." This tradition seems to have originated in ancient Egypt. The "dollies" were symbolically fed and set in a place or honor during feasts, and then later retired to a farmer's home until the following year, where the farmer would ceremonially burn them.
Harvest time was when the laborers would negotiate their wages and rents with the landowners. The laborers would elect one man to be the "lord of the harvest" and it was his job to do the negotiating for them all. This was also the time of the Harvest Home Feast where the laborers and the lord of the manor sat and feasted together to celebrate the harvest. September is an excellent time to negotiate contracts and agreements of any type. Call those you owe money to or make payments to on a regular basis to see if you can come to a new agreement as to how and how much you pay them.
There are many things you can do at this time of year. Observe the sunrise and sunset. Honor the Harvest Moon. Take walks in the woods. Host a barbecue. Roast nuts or go apple picking. Dancing is also a favorite activity and of course making corn dollies and wreaths. Depending when the leaves turn in your area, you may wish to paraffin the many different colored leaves. Just dip them in the melted paraffin and then quickly place them on wax paper. When they have dried, you can then use them as decorations. Other crafts you can do are making ink and making a God's Eye. There are many crafts you can do this time of year. This is also a favorite time for Pagan Pride events. You might do a fall version of spring cleaning to prepare you home for the long winter months.
Things you can do for your Mabon altar are : you will want to use Autumn colors on your altar, yellows, oranges, reds and browns are great colors for your altar cloth and candles; altar cloths can have Autumn designs; decorate your altar with those waxed leaves you made; dried corn, sheaves of wheat as well as squash, nuts and root vegetables go well on your altar; tools of the harvest also go well, scythes, sickles and baskets are just a few items that work well; use symbols of balance on your altar like the yin-yang symbol; one black and one white candle can also work; gourds would look great on your altar; and of course symbols or statues of Deities who symbolize the changing season.
As for your celebration of this sabbat, make it personal. You might include a sacrifice of the best of the harvest from your garden or if you can't garden then choose foods that are seasonal to your area. Invite your friends and family to your home for a feast if you wish. Remember this is a time to seek a balance in your life so include this in your ritual. You might try doing a home and hearth protection rite. Do what feels right to you. Just remember to give thanks to the Gods for what you have. You might do a Thanksgiving Circle, giving thanks for your gifts at each cardinal points; North - Knowledge, East - Accomplishments, South - Relationships, West - Spiritual Insight and Messages. This is the time to also honor the Darkness for without it there is no Light. Celebrate the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess. This is Her time.
Some things you can do with your children to celebrate Mabon are : take your children to an apple orchard to pick apples; help them to organize a food drive for your local food pantry, many Pagan Pride Events ask for canned or boxed foods as an entry fee to their festivals; try some seasonal crafts like grapevine pentacles, god's eyes, corn husk herbal sachets, and a corn husk chain; spend time with the children celebrating the hearth and home; and of course, go outside on nature walks and observe the changing season.
This is a time of balance so your spells should reflect that. You could do a spell to find lost objects or to promote community harmony and/or prosperity. A spell for wisdom would also be good. As well as a spell to bless your teacher, whether your pagan teacher or school teacher or any kind of teacher. A spell to bless and protect your community protectors, police or fire or medical personnel. Apple magic is great at this time. And of course, corn dolly spells and divination are excellent at this time as well as kitchen magic. River and stream stones gathered over the summer may be empowered for various purposes at this time.
This is the time to start to prepare for the winter. Food is prepared in various ways to preserve it. It is dried, frozen, pickled, and canned. There are all sorts of information about preserving food on the internet and in books, or talk to your elders about how they traditionally do it.
Foods for this sabbat are : any kind of bread including corn bread; apple dishes; squashes and pomegranate; corn and mushrooms; grapes and various meats; cakes and cider as well as dishes that include the local current harvest. Also, look up how to make buckeye candy, it's delicious. Making your own wine is also a good idea.
Colors used should be brown, orange, gold or red.
Incense for Mabon
2 parts Frankincense
1 part Sandalwood
1 part Cypress or Pine or Juniper
1 part Juniper
1 part Pine
1/2 part Oakmoss or few drops of Oakmoss Bouquet Oil
1 pinch Oak
Oakmoss Bouquet Oil
Use for Mabon Rituals or at that time to attune with the change of the seasons.