Saturday, August 18, 2007

Autumnal Equinox

Mabon, pronounced May-bon, MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn, is the Fall Equinox, named after the Celtic God of the same name. Falls on Sept. 23, 2007, 5:51 A.M. EDT. This lesser Sabbat is known, not only by the name of Mabon, but also that of Harvest Home, Winter Finding and Alban Elved plus various other names, such as The Second Harvest Festival, the Festival of Dionysus, Harvest of First Fruits, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), Alben Elfed (Caledonii), or Cornucopia. The Teutonic name, Winter Finding, spans a period of time from this Sabbat to Oct. 15th, Winter's Night, which is the Norse New Year. The Druids call this celebration, Mea'n Fo'mhair, and honor The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees.

Since most European peasants were not accomplished at calculating the exact date of the equinox, they celebrated the event on a fixed calendar date, September 25th, a holiday the medieval church Christianized under the name of 'Michaelmas', the feat of the Archangel Michael. In medieval times, rents fell due and contracts were settled at Easter and at Michaelmas.

The Autumnal Equinox is a specific moment in time - when the earth reaches a specific point in its cylindrical rotation around the sun. The Solstices are the tips of the cylinder, the equinox's are 1/2 way between the solstices (Yule and Summer Solstice). To the people of earth this day is marked by the appearance of the day and the night seeming to last the same amount of time. In the northern hemisphere it marks the end of summer and the begining of fall, as after this time the days will begin to shorten and the nights to lengthen through Winter.

Every Sabbat has an element of Thanksgiving....thanking the Gods for the
blessings of Spring at Beltane and teh fertility of the land, Thanking for the first harvest at Laughnasadh, etc. But many Wiccans liken the Autumnal Equinox to the American Holiday of Thanksgiving. because it is the main harvest festival, often associated with cornucopias of fruit, bread, and vegetables.

Many traditions view the Gods death (or transformation) beginning at Litha and ending at the Autumnal Equinox. The God is viewed to transform into the food for the land - meaning the fruits, vegetables, grains, etc that were harvested are parts of the God providing for us for the coming winter. When the field is harvested and turned this is also a part of the God, preparing for the fertilization of His seed in the coming Spring. His Spirit return to the Mother as His body is utilized by the land, and will be reunited to His body at Yule when He is reborn.

So, in a way we celebrate His "death" at the Autumnal Equinox - as His death is not an ending but a step along the path toward re-birth. We can not have a fertile Spring or enough food for winter without this "death". Therefore, it might be more appropriate to say we are celebrating His sacrifice to transformation rather than His "death" which is often viewed by mortals to be an ending rather than a step allong an essential path. This idea of death and rebirth or transformation is replayed again and again at the Autumnal Equinox - the grain must be cut from the fields, causing the lpant to "die" yet the grain is again transformed into bread.

Therefore, we celebrate, give thanks, and honor the cycle of life and
transformation, of the God and land, at the Autumnal Equinox. The most basic way to honor this cycle is through eating. Each time we imbibe food or drink we are acknowledging the item we eat was once "alive". We should realize the plant, animal, whatever, had to "die" or be transformed into food so that we might use that energy to live. It is transformed again through the digestive process, ending as a fertilizer to the land so that things may be born again or re-grown. So, when you eat your Sabbat Dinner, take a moment to thank the food for its generous sacrifice, for allowing its physical body to be transformed for the continuation of life. This is just another way to give thanks to the God for the same sacrifice.

This giving of thanks should also be an integral part of your Sabbat Ritual. You should honor the sacrifices made that you might continue on your own path. None of us survives alone, everything is interconnected, so in order for you to progress and evolve until your time of transformation (death) you acknowledge all the many things that made that evolution possible. This is also an essential element of the Autumnal Equinox, and it is why American's liken it to their Thanksgiving. If you were honoring all the things that make it possible for you to continue on your path, than you will also be honoring all the people who have touched your life - both directly and indirectly. At Samhain (the next Sabbat) we widen this honoring to include our ancestors and those people that are no longer with us on the physical plane.

Who do we thank? Well each tradition has different Gods associated with
thanksgiving and tha harvest. Some believe, as the Druids do, that each God and Goddess represent a separate entity, that the Gods are similar to people in that each is unique. Some other traditions see the 'separate' Gods as a way of describing different characteristics of the God and Goddess. When its all boiled down we thank and honor the Mother Goddess - that which is capable of giving life, nurturing, caring, and eternal; and the Horned God - that which is capable of transformation, dieing to be reborn.

As celebrating the Autumnal Equinox is about celebrating the transformations in life and death, divination is another great past-time. Usually I harvest the materials for making my own divining tools on Lughnasadh, make and consecrate the tools during the Autumnal Equinox and then use them on Samhain....this makes the tools VERY powerful. Of course you can make them on any of the Sabbats, and use them on most as well. The 3 harvest festivals coming together in power makes for a fabulous tool that will last through your life. (see Autumnal Equinox Crafts for directions on making tools.) Also, due to the masculine nature of the Sabbat, making the more masculine tools would also be appropriate - the wand, staf, boline, athame, etc.

There are many simple ways honor this Sabbat if you are new or uncomfortable with performing a full ritual. Apples are sacred to this holiday as we are harvesting the vine and fruits (Lughnasadh was for harvesting grains). Apples represent the goddess - if you cut an apple in half the core is in the shape of a pentagram. In any Celtic traditions the Land of the Dead is called Avalon, which literally means "Land of Apples". So, apples represent the transformation from life to death to rebirth. Placing an apple ath te grave of a loved one, or in the windows, shows the Goddess you wish to be reunited with family and loved ones. The apple on a grave is a symbol to your loved ones that the Goddess ensures the renewal of life, even through death. You can ask any Mother Goddess, (Modron especially) or Mabon, to guide you in a meditation - to gain understanding of the Otherworld and of reincarnation, or of your place in the cycle of life of all things.

The best thing you can do for this day is to take a look at your life. What have you achieved? In what ways have you changed? Who aided you the most? Be thankful for all that has happened in your life - the good an the bad - as it has led you to this very moment. Acknowledge to yourself and the Gods that you are on a path of learning - and that is an ever changing state. Be thankful for the oportunity to gain this understanding. Imagine how flat life must be to the unenlightened - who can not see the interconnectedness of all living things. Be thankful for this vision, and the chance to gain the understanding of what is needed from yuo, what can YOU provide to this cycle that no others can. Think of it as if you were specifically chosen by the Gods for a specific purpose. Thank them for the chance to find meaning on this path, before moving to the next.

Myths are also an important part of celebrating any Sabbat, in the Celtic Traditions. Many Pagans refer to the Autumnal Equinox as Mabon.

MABON (Welsh) {MAH-bahn or BAY-bone] Also maponos and Maponus.
Mabon means "great son", the child of Modred whose name means "great mother". He was stolen from Modron at three years old and later rescued by King Arthur. Mabon's myths overlap those of Gwyn Ap Nuad, and they may have once been the same deity. Mabon rode wild horses, had prized guardian hunting hounds, and he may have been an actual ruler of Wales who later came into myth.
He is also a minor sun God, yet he represents the power in darkness. His images transcend all the life stages of other Gods. He is a king of death and the Otherworld, a deity of the harvest and fertility, and was once called "The Divine Youth" by his followers. He represents innocent youth when young, strength and virility as a young man, and the sacrificial God when elderly. His image is linked the hierarchies of sacred animals , and he may have once figured heavily in long lost Celtic creation myths since he is equated with the expelling of and control of the darkness and of storms. Some Celtic traditions see him as the original being, the first God, the first life carved out of the primal void of the divine womb. He was adopted by the Anglo-Romans as Maponus and was honored at Hadrian's Wall. He is sometimes called a masculine Persephone, or the Celtic Dionysus because of his linkage with the grape harvest.

Gwyn Ap Nuad (Welsh) King of the Fairies and the underworld. Later he became King of the Plant Annwn, or subterranean fairies. His name means "white son of darkness" and he was the child of the sun/death God Llud, also called Nuad or Nudd, the leader of the hunt.
God of war, death, and the hunt, and a patron God of fallen warriors. He is equated with Ireland's Fionn MacCumhal as both Gwyn and Fion mean "white". As the master hunter, he rode a wild horse and had three massive hounds; one red, one black, and one white. In an early Welsh poem he is a God of battle and of the Underworld, the escort of dead souls to Annwn. Rural people claim they can sometimes hear his wild chase at night. (The hunt is a metaphor for gathering souls for the Otherworld.)
Today he is often thought of as king of the Tylwyth Teg, the faeries of Wales who can be equated with the Tuatha of Ireland. Modern legend has him living on the summit of high Welsh hills looking down on his people. (1)
The Myth behind Authurs saving Mabon: The Price of Marriage
Arthur and Culhwch set out to find Ysbaddaden's home. Culhwch learned of where the giant lived, when he met a shepherd named Custenhin (Custennin), who was the husband of Goleuddydd's sister. He was told that no one left Ysbaddaden's domain alive. Culhwch gave the shepherd, a ring as a reward for the information. Custenhin gave the ring to his wife and told her that he had met his nephew. Custenhin's wife was sorrowful that her nephew was going to his death.
They invited their noble guests, where Culhwch met the couple's last son, named Goreu, who was hiding in the chest near the hearth. Ysbaddaden had killed the other twenty-three sons. Kei asked her to let Goreu to become his companion in the quest for Olwen.
Culhwch wanted to meet Olwen, so his aunt made arrangement. Culhwch fell in love with Olwen when she arrived at his aunt's house. Olwen refused to marry him unless her father agreed. Olwen knew that when she marries her father would die. Olwen advised Culhwch that he must go to his father and ask for her hand in marriage. Culwch must do everything Ysbaddaden ask for, if he hoped to marry her.
Culhwch and his companions arrived at Ysbaddaden's fortress, killing nine gatekeeper and nine mastiffs, until they stood before Ysbaddaden. When Ysbaddaden heard what they wanted, he asked his servants to lift his eyelids with a fork, so he could see his prospective son-in-law. Ysbaddaden told them to return tomorrow.
As they turned back to leave. Ysbaddaden hurled one of his three-poisoned spears at them. Bedywr caught the spear and threw it back at the giant. Ysbaddaden received a wound to his knee. Ysbaddaden cried out that he would have trouble walking up hill.
They returned in the morning, demanding to allow Culhwch to marry the giant's daughter. Ysbaddaden told them he must consult Olwen grandparents first. As Culhwch's company leave to have breakfast, Ysbaddaden threw another spear at the group. This time Menw, son of Teirwaedd caught the spear, before hurling back at Ysbaddaden. The spear pierced Ysbaddaden's chest. Ysbaddaden complained that he would suffer from chest pain and stomach ache.
Culhwch and his companions returned from their meal, again making their demand. Ysbaddaden's eyelids had drooped over his eyes. Once it was pushed up, the giant threw his last spear. This time it was Culhwch who caught the spear and threw it back at Ysbaddaden. The spear struck one of his eyes. The giant moaned that his eye would water whenever the wind blows, and he will suffer from dizziness and headache as a result of this latest injury.
It was then that Ysbaddaden started making demand from Culhwch. Culhwch promised Ysbaddaden he would fetch everything that the giant wanted. Ysbaddaden told Culhwch he must complete over forty impossible tasks. Some tasks can't be completed until he performs one or more task that was necessary for success. Some of these tasks were also preparation for his daughter's marriage.
Each task seemed to be short, yet it took at least seven pages for Ysbaddaden to list all his requirements. I don't think I will go through here. However, I will try to recount some of the most important tasks that Culhwch and his companions needed to complete.
One of the items that they had to fetch was the sword from Wrnach the Giant. Kei pretending to be a craftsman said he was a burnisher of swords. Kei polished Wrnach's sword before killing the giant with his own sword.
Next they had to find and release from prisoner, a man or youth named Mabon, the son of the goddess Modron. Culhwch needed Mabon to control Drudwyn, the hound of Greid, to hunt the boar (Twrch Trwyth). Fetching and the leash (Cors Hundred Claws) and the collar (Canhastyr Hundred Hands), as well as the hound (Drudwyn), were three other conditions that Culhwch needs fulfilling.
Gwrhyr, Arthur's interpreter, could speak the language of the animal. To find out where Mabon was held captive, Gwrhyr must talk to one animal after another. Each animal was older than the previous. First Gwrhyr talked to Ousel of Kilgwri, who did not know of Mabon, but thought that the Stag of Rhedenvre might know. The stag did not know, but the beast told him to find the Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd. The owl guided them to the Eagle of Gwernbwy, who in turn told them to speak to the Salmon of Llyn Llyw. The salmon was the oldest and the wisest of the animals. The salmon took Kei and Bedywr to Gloucester, where they found Mabon's prison. They freed Mabon, who in gratitude joined Culhwch's company.(2)

(1) Celtic Gods & Heroes : Mabon & Gwyn Ap Nuad Culhwch, Olwen & Arthur rescue Mabon.

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