It is the time of the autumn equinox, and the harvest is winding down. The fields are nearly empty, because the crops have been plucked and stored for the coming winter. Mabon is the mid-harvest festival, and it is when we take a few moments to honor the changing seasons, and celebrate the second harvest. On or around September 21, for many Pagan and Wiccan traditions it is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops or other blessings.
It's a time of plenty, of gratitude, and of sharing our abundance with those less fortunate.
Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Mabon, but typically the focus is on either the second harvest aspect, or the balance between light and dark. This, after all, is the time when there is an equal amount of day and night. While we celebrate the gifts of the earth, we also accept that the soil is dying. We have food to eat, but the crops are brown and going dormant. Warmth is behind us, cold lies ahead. Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying -- and remember, any of them can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead.
Interested in learning about some of the traditions behind the celebrations of September? Find out why Mabon is important, learn the legend of Persephone and Demeter, and explore the magic of apples and more!
Also, don't forget to read up on ideas for celebrating with your family, how Mabon is celebrated around the world, and the reason why you'll see so many Pagans at your favorite Renaissance Festival.
Mabon is a time rich in magic, all connected to the changing seasons of the earth. Why not take advantage of nature's bounty, and work a little magic of your own? Use apples and grapevines to bring magic into your life at this time of year.
As the autumnal equinox approaches, decorate your home (and keep your kids entertained) with a number of easy craft projects. Start celebrating a bit early with these fun and simple ideas. Bring the season indoors with harvest potpourri and magical pokeberry ink, or celebrate the season of abundance with prosperity candles and cleansing wash!
During the Mabon season, one of the most magical aspects of this time of year is the smells. From campfires to burning leaves to pumpkin spice, the aromas of fall tend to trigger warm and happy memories for many of us. You can mix up a batch of harvest potpourri to use during the autumn months, and let it simmer on your stove top or in an electric warmer.
Although you can buy commercially prepared potpourri, it’s easy to make your own – and it’s something people have been doing for a long time. According to the Herb Lady, “Potpourri,” from the French word for “rotten pot“ (“pot-” meaning “pot” and “-pourri“ meaning “rotten“), is commonly used to describe “a collection of dried flower petals, leaves, herbs, and spices that is used to scent the air.” It was common practice for the French in the early 17th century to use these mixtures to scent their homes.”
Long before the French gave it a name, however, people had been blending together herbs, spices and other goodies to make their homes smell good. Keep in mind that our modern perception of fragrance is quite different from that of people in centuries past. With indoor plumbing and personal hygiene being relatively new in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t take much for your home to start smelling pretty ripe before the advent of these inventions.
The emperors of ancient Rome were big advocates of scented products, both to anoint the body and to freshen a living space. In ancient Egypt, pharaohs used perfumed ointments and oils, and fragrant rushes and plants were strewn about in temples and homes to keep the air fresh.
By the time the Middle Ages rolled around, people were carrying nosegays – a cloth bundle full of scented herbs – with them to inhale when they were in an area that smelled less than pleasant. Being the Middle Ages, when there were a lot of unwashed people living in close quarters with poor ventilation, there were a LOT of areas that didn’t smell good. People of this era also used herbs as “fumitories,” which was essentially a way of clearing the air out of a sickroom – it not only made the place smell a lot better, but it also was believed to keep away the noxious humors of disease.
Eventually the French – remember, they’re the ones who came up with the namepotpourri – discovered the idea of placing rose petals in a pot with a layer of salt. After the petals fermented and cured, the pots were placed around the home to keep the room smelling like (you guessed it!) roses.
In the fall, the rose bushes – and many other plants – are dying for the year, so it’s a good time to harvest them, hang them, and dry them for other uses. Making potpourri is an easy project, and a batch will last you a while. The recipes below make about 4 cups of potpourri each, but you can reduce or increase the measurements if you like – consider bagging your potpourri up, tying it with a ribbon or some raffia, and giving it away as a gift!
What I like to do before making potpourri is go for a walk in the woods and pick up things that are interesting – bits of tree bark, dried berries and acorns, pinecones, that sort of thing. I toss them in a bag and bring them home, and mix them into my potpourri blend – I use about a 1:1 ratio of woodsy mix to prepared potpourri. You don’t have to do this, but it adds a nice outdoorsy look to your potpourri, and will help to stretch it a bit farther as well.
HARVEST APPLE SPICE POTPOURRI
Blend all your ingredients together – the best way to get a good result from this is to use a mortar and pestle to grind them up a bit before you store them. This will help release the essential oils and fragrances. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle – or you don’t have one large enough to do this in – you can put the ingredients in a sealable bag, and run over it with a rolling pin a few times.
To use your potpourri, you can do a number of things with it. Place it out in pretty bowls to freshen a room, put it in a pot of water to simmer on the stovetop, or spoon it into individual sachets to spread around the house. The possibilities of potpourri are endless!
If you’re interested in reading up on potpourri and the history of other aromas and scents, check out some of these resources:
- Ann Tucker Fettner: Potpourri, Incense and other Fragrant Concoctions. (NY: Workman, 1972)
- Tania Bayard, Editor: A Medieval Home Companion: Housekeeping in the Fourteenth Century. (NY: HarperCollins, 1991)
- Nicholas Culpeper: Culpeper's Complete Herbal and The English Physician.
- Hildegarde of Bingen: Hildegard von Bingen's Physica: the Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and Healing. Translated by Patricia Throop. (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts, 1998).
No Pagan celebration is really complete without a meal to go along with it. For Mabon, celebrate with foods that honor the hearth and harvest -- breads and grains, autumn veggies like squash and onions, fruits, and wine. It's a great time of year to take advantage of the bounty of the season!