When you think of Autumn, you probably think of changing leaves and cozy sweaters in warm colors. You might also think of a special latte flavor that spurs a whole lot of debate (pumpkin spice, I’m looking at you).
But thousands of years ago, this time of year was fraught with fear. With no supermarkets or Door Dash, agricultural peoples had to wonder: Did I save enough meat and grain to make it through the long, cold winter?
As time marched on, cultures across the planet created festivals and rituals to mark the changing seasons. The Great Wheel of the Year is a multicultural representation of the cycles of the year, segmented with holidays and equinoxes that celebrate the energies of each season.
In August we celebrated Lammas, the pagan holiday that marks the first harvest of fall. In September, Mabon is a celebration of the second harvest, when we give thanks for fat animals in the pen and fat sheaves of grain in the barn to nourish us throughout the winter.
What is Mabon?
Mabon is a pagan celebration of the autumn equinox, celebrated from September 21-29.
The name “Mabon” comes from the Welsh god who was the child of light, as well as the son of the earth mother goddess. But many experts assert that there’s little evidence that historical pagans called this fall festival “Mabon,” as the name only came into common use in the 1970s.
Many cultures around the world have marked this time of year as the time when the Goddess becomes the Harvest Queen. The god is included as the dying Green Man, with “the cutting of the last grain.”
Historic pagans often used the symbol of the apple to illustrate the culmination of the fruits of the harvest. Known as the Fruit Harvest in many traditions, those who go pumpkin or apple picking during this time might be unwittingly taking part in the ancient celebration.
The triumvirate harvest festivals — Lammas, Mabon, and Samhain (aka Halloween) are great times to pause, rest, give thanks, and take account of the year past.
How to Celebrate Mabon
For modern pagans, there are many ways you can celebrate Mabon this September.
Here are 4 fun ways to celebrate Mabon including a Mabon meditation, tarot exercise, and more.
1. Mabon Meditation
Start by sitting at your tarot altar or in a peaceful, quiet place in your home or out in nature.
You can create a special Mabon meditation altar by arranging apples, sheaves of grain (these can be from a craft store), baby gourds, or pumpkins around your meditation space. You can also include light orange, brown, or yellow candles.
Include anything else that evokes completion, thanks, and rest. You can play soft music, or find some relaxing pagan chants to listen to:
Look closely at the items you have arranged on your tarot altar. Let them conjure calm and safe emotions.
Close your eyes and begin to notice your breathing. Breathe in for a count of 4, out for a count of 5 until you begin to feel your thoughts calm. You will always have other thoughts — just notice them and continue to bring your attention to your breath.
Sit calmly for 10-20 minutes or so, allowing feelings of safety and peace to infuse you with a bright, healing light. Consider repeating the following mantra aloud or in your mind:
I have everything I need. I will be taken care of by the abundance of the universe.
According to Starhawk, celebrating the life of the waning sun god and recommitting to the generative power of the goddess that enables the tribes to survive winter mark the autumn equinox as a time of sadness as well as thanksgiving.
You can also softly chant IO! EVOHE IO! EVOHE! (Pronounced Yoh! Ay-VOH-hay!) to evoke the last bit of solar energy of the year and mark the passing of the harvest god into a time of darkness.
2. Mabon Tarot Ritual
Using planetary influences and astrological energies during your Mabon tarot ritual can help you deepen your tarot practice.
For a Mabon tarot reading, use a 3-card spread. The left tarot card is “What have I planted?”, the middle is, “What have I sown?”, and the right tarot card is “What have I put away, for good or ill, to sustain me?”
The sun will be in Libra at 12:21 pm PST. The Libra card in tarot is the Justice Card. It’s also associated with Venus.
Place the Justice Card above the 3-card spread above, and see what its meaning does for your spread. I always think of this card in terms of karmic law: How have your actions come to fruition in the cards?
Looking within to harvest new insight during Mabon can help you feel reinvigorated with thankfulness for the year’s lessons, trials, and triumphs.
3. Host a Mabon Blessings Party
If you would like to host an autumn equinox or Mabon Blessings party, have your guests bring a potluck of red, orange, brown and yellow foods.
Just be sure to organize who brings what, or you might all end up eating sugar-sprinkled pumpkin cookies from Safeway!
Mabon can be like a fun Friendsgiving. You can sit in a circle with your friends, eat and drink, and share what you’re thankful for this Mabon.
You can also discuss the things you would like to start, stop, and continue doing to bring your dreams to harvest next year.
I often write these goals down in my Writual tarot journal and look at them again next Mabon to see what’s transpired.
4. Raise a Banishing Cone of Power
You can raise a banishing cone of power to celebrate and recalibrate this Mabon, either with party guests, your coven, or on your own.
Witches traditionally dance counterclockwise around to raise banishing energies. These energies rise up above the circle of dancers as a “cone of power” that can either be loosed into the world with energetic spellwork, or grounded back into the earth to control or recenter the power for the betterment of the coven or of a witch who wants special help.
For an example, you can carry out an autumn equinox spell for letting go of regrets and recommitting to gratitude by asking your coven to dance widdershins first, with each participant calling out phrases of negative self-talk they want to reframe.
With the cone raised, participants may then release or ground this energy. You will then dance clockwise to give voice to the things you’re grateful for this year.
There are tons of books out there to help you learn about how to raise a banishing cone of power by yourself or with your coven. To start, I’d recommend the following:
- Living Wicca: A further guide for the solitary practitioner by Scott Cunningham
- The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries: Feminist Witchcraft, Goddess Rituals, Spellcasting and Other Womanly Arts by Z. Budapest’s
- And of course, Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance
Join The Writual Society For More Spiritual Guidance
Harvest or not, it’s always a good time to get in tune with your energy. If you’re looking for more ways to explore your spiritual practice, why not do it with a community of like-minded people?
We offer tarot resources, courses, and ways to engage with other tarot readers of all experience levels.
About the Author:
Patty Tomsky reads Tarot and works as a medium as Lila Satori, a magical persona that means “creative play.” Patty has practiced Tarot since 1985. She specializes in trauma-healing Tarot, female-identified empowerment, grief healing mediumship, and goddess-centered meditation practices. She's also a published poet, fiction writer, and memoirist. Find her on IG at @lila.satori, and on Facebook at Colorado Springs Tarot. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.