For most, September marks the end of summer, the return to the classroom, a new line-up of TV shows and, hopefully-- in Los Angeles anyway-- a shift to cooler autumn weather.
But for ancient cultures of the world like the Celts of pre-Christian Ireland, September heralded the arrival of a day of spiritual reverence on the pagan calendar known as Mabon, which is still celebrated by Wiccans and other earth-based religions on the 21st of the month.
It’s no coincidence that it falls the day before the official start of fall. One of eight annual sabbats recognized by ancient and neo pagans alike, Mabon marks the autumnal equinox, or the time of year when daylight is once again equal to nighttime as the hours of sunshine subside.
On nature’s ever-spinning wheel, Mabon is the spoke of balance, creativity and thankfulness.
A time of transformation for the outlying world, Mabon is also an occasion to make inward changes and pursue creative endeavors. Among the most meaningful ways to honor the dark mother as we spin toward a season of shadows involves invoking light within oneself through meditations and rituals.
Even children can tap into the holiday’s spirit of artistry and connect to the natural world with fun crafts.
Unlike most modern day religions, Earth-based faiths honor a Goddess in flux who, as the spiritual form of the Earth, wears different faces depending on the season. Mabon marks the final moment of equilibrium before darkness overtakes light, transforming the Goddess from a beautiful woman adorned with flowers to an old crone bearing a scythe—the original grim reaper.
It’s both literally and figuratively when you must reap what you have sewn.
For scythe-bearing farmers of yesteryear, it was a dynamic time of harvest and wine-fueled revelry as people, standing still on the precipice of winter’s chill, took stock of once vibrant fields now laid bare.
After reaping the harvest, entire communities would cast off the burden of work and get down by partying, making music and creating art. Keeping with the theme of balance, it was also a day to journey inward, and to prepare for upcoming changes by initiating them through meditation.
While today’s hectic, technology-saturated lifestyles based on arbitrary notions of time may seem far removed from nature’s moods, the returning dark days of Mabon remain an ideal occasion to take pause as seasons enter the next phase.
A harbinger of Halloween with harvest parties such as the upcoming Harvest Moon Festival in Arcadia Park Sunday, Mabon is also like Thanksgiving with a bit of magic thrown into the cauldron, along with plenty of new-age mysticism. This very old-world holiday is as malleable as the sun’s light filtered through a prismatic cascade of falling leaves.
Perhaps that’s why it has survived countless generations to be observed, albeit it by small numbers of neo-pagans scattered around the planet. Whether absorbed into newer traditions or revered as its Celtic counterpart, Taliesin, the spirit of Mabon remains steadfast in a modern age.
As millions of glittering screens undulate amid an ever-hastening dusk, it’s a better time than ever to infuse light into darkening days, to rekindle the creative spirit, to pay homage to the Goddess that is our Mother Earth for the food that sustains us all.
If nothing else, it’s another excuse to party (as if heathens needed one.)