Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Autumn Equinox

It’s nearly the autumn equinox, one of the eight Sabbats (major festivals) of the Pagan calendar or ‘Wheel of the Year’. In honour of this, I thought I’d explain a little bit about the Sabbat (sometimes called Mabon).
The Autumn Equinox is one of three harvest festivals in the Wheel of the Year (the other two being Lammas at the beginning of August and Samhain at the end of October). It is a festival of thanksgiving for the harvest, of celebration for a (hopefully) good yield and a time of slaughtering livestock and preserving food for the winter ahead.
It is also a time for relaxing and enjoying the ‘fruits of the harvest’ (although with this year’s credit crunch, we may need to be doing more storing of fruits than enjoying…!)

The change from longer days to longer nights as dark conquers light is closely associated to the Sun God’s journey from strong (in the Summer) to aging and dying (in Autumn) until his eventual death (at Yule) before his rebirth and growth (in Spring). This is middle age transforming into old age with its declining strength.
This change is mirrored in the turning of the Earth Goddess’ year: she is changing from Mother (maternal, productive, warm and caring) to Crone (symbolising wisdom, healing and rest) before her death and rebirth as Maiden.

Autumn Equinox traditions are primarily based around the last sheaf of the harvest. This was sometimes woven into a large man or woman (a la ‘Wickerman’ but minus the human sacrifices) and burned in celebration. The ashes would be scattered on the fields to ensure next year’s fertility. In some areas, the last sheaf was stored safely through the winter and ploughed back into the field in the Spring.
Small corn dollies were sometimes made from the last sheaf and kept in houses during the winter as a protection from evil spirits.