The autumn equinox marks the second annual harvest celebration. At the same time it is the last of the eight “wheel of the year” festivals. In modern witchcraft the feast day is called Mabon. As one of the four quarter days, it marks a time, when servants were hired, school terms started, and rents were due. The fruits of the season include grains, aromatic herbs, berries, grapes, apples, nuts, acorns, chestnuts and so on. Nature’s cornocupeia is filled to the rim. It is also rut and hunting time.
Though the equinox marks the point when the night wins over the day time, September days are still warm, due to a weather phenomenon known as “Indian Summer” and German “Altweibersommer”. Indeed, we are experiencing the third week in a row with day temperatures above 30°C. Only the lengthening shadows and the dew on the meadow give away that summer is coming to an end. And it is spider season! Sheet weavers aka money spiders, ride upon their silken threads and seem to be flying through the air. As their threads reflect the autumn sun, it was thought they resemble the hair of old women, which might have been the origin of the name “Altweibersommer”. But also, the art of weaving was once known as “weiben”. This time of the year is indeed also sacred to the goddesses of spinning and weaving. The end of the harvest season marks the beginning of the time spent indoors, with processing the harvest, crafting, spinning and weaving.
Now blooms the autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), or meadow saffron, as it is also called. In German the plant is known as Herbstzeitlose, either because the plant has ‘lost’ its time (pertaining to its unsual time of flowering), or because it foretells (from Old German lose, meaning to divine) autumn and is thus the messenger of autumn. Another name for it is Michelsblume, since it flowers around Michaelmas.
Michaelmas is celebrated in most Western countries on the 29th of September. St. Michael is the patron saint of many holy places formerly sacred to the Germanic Donar/Thor. The archangel is believed to have defeated the dragon (Satan/Belial) during the war in heaven. The vision of Michael riding through the sky in the company of other angels is perhaps a reinterpretation of Wotan’s Wild Hunt and evokes similar associations of heavenly flight and the descent of demons. A British Michaelmas tradition is the preparation of the stubble-goose. Eating the goose was thought to guarantee money in the purse during the coming year. In some parts of Germany the Michaelsbrot is being baked. On this day is also sown the Michaelskorn (grain), from which the next bread will be made. Contracts would be made on this day and accounts closed.
Germanic tribes celebrated September as the blot month, associated with the blood of those animals, which had to be slain before the winter, either because they were too weak or too many in number in order to be fed through the cold season. They were sacrificed to the gods and their blood was used to bless the people attending the blot rituals. The German word blodsian means to ‘make holy with blood’ and is possibly the root of the English words blessing and to bless. According to Wolf Dieter Storl, the blot rituals were considered necessary for sustaining the natural order and ensured the return of the sun.
In September, the color red also becomes present in nature. The leaves of the trees take on an autumn coloring, as the sun light wanes and chlorophyll decreases. Some plants invest extra energy into the production of red pigments, which cause for example the fiery red fall coloring in some maple tree species and on cherry trees. The red pigment is not visible to herbivores, and so, while occuring as a vibrant martial signal to the human eye, is in fact a camouflage for the tree, making its foliage invisible to aphids. In addition, herbivores presented on a red leave are better visible to birds, which now have to eat and gain reserves, either for migrating or overwintering.
Besides, if you ever wonder, as to why there is no or little bird singing during this time; the birds are now resting, as they no longer have to defend their territory.
The connection between the beginning of fall and the Celtic myth about Mabon is relatively new. It was introduced during the 1970ies. The name Mabon may be a reference to Maponos, the Celtic god of the hunt.
Mabon is a figure in Celtic myth and features in the Arthurian legends. Apparently, a son of divine origin, he was separated from his mother only three days after conception. Mabon could only be found again with the aid of Arthur and another hero who was able to communicate with animals, namely a blackbird, a stag, an owl, an eagle, and finally a salmon, which ultimately carries the men to Mabon, who is incarcerated in a fortress. Finally, Arthur and his friends manage to free Mabon, who proves himself by winning the battle against a giant wild boar with the aid of some supernatural dogs. Mabon’s incarceration is sometimes interpreted as a form of initiation into the underworld and an apprenticeship in witchcraft.
Suggestion for a fiery Mabon incense:
- dark copal
- dragon’s blood
- pine resin
- red sandalwood
- rowan berries
- storax bark
- sweet myrrh
- vetiver root
Turning to the trees once more, this is also a good time to contemplate the world tree Yggdrasil: nowadays thought to be an ash tree, more likely a mountain ash or rowan, to Germanic tribes an oak or linden tree. Its branches hold the firmament, its fruits form the stars, its stem shapes the milky way, its roots hold the earth and reach down to the world of the dead. The squirrel Ratatosk runs up and down its stem, delivering messages between the realms. Four deer gnaw on its branches (probably they were Germanic star signs) and a giant eagle sits in its crown.
The star sign of September is Virgo. But the stars of Virgo also form the figire of a deer. The star signs of Auriga and Perseus together form the sign of the big deer named Durathor.
The September full moon is also called harvest moon and corn moon.
September 13, 2023
Posted In: Feast Days