Friday, September 18, 2020

Friday Ramble - Mabon

It seems as though summer has just arrived, but here we are again, just a few days away from the autumn equinox. Cooler mornings, light rains before sunrise, heavy dews, falling leaves and acorns after months of blistering heat and humidity, can it be?

The occasion is often observed on September 21st, but the astronomical coordinate this year is actually next Tuesday, September 22rd. Whatever day one chooses to observe it (or not observe it), the September equinox is a pivotal cosmic hinge wearing many  names: Mabon, Harvest Home, Second Harvest, the Feast of Ingathering and Alban Elfed, to name just a few.

Mabon is the most common name of the bunch on this side of the Atlantic, perhaps rooted in the god's status as the male fertilizing principle in Welsh mythology. Ceres, Demeter, John Barleycorn, Lugh or Persephone are also excellent contenders for a tutelary deity presiding over autumn harvest rites, but I am fond of the "Great Son" of the Mabinogion, sometimes thought to be a companion of Arthur's Round Table.

In the old Teutonic calendar, the autumn equinox marked the beginning of the Winter Finding, a ceremonial interval lasting until Winter Night on October 15, also the date of the old Norse New Year. For moderns, the date marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, and it is also associated with the Archangel Michael—his feast takes place a few days from now on September 25 and is known (for obvious reasons) as Michaelmas. The autumn blooming Michaelmas daisy or New England aster with its purple petals and golden heart is one of my favorite wildflowers. South of the equator, seasonal cycles are reversed of course, and the vernal equinox (Ostara) is approaching.

The autumn equinox is about abundance and harvest, but most of all, it is about balance and equilibrium, one of two astronomical coordinates in the whole turning year when day and night are perfectly balanced in length. Like all the old festivals dedicated to Mother Earth, it is a liminal or threshold time, for we are poised between two seasons, summer and autumn.

One holds out hopeful thoughts for the autumn equinox, that skies overhead will be brilliantly blue and full of singing geese by day, that trees and vines and creepers will be arrayed in crimson and gold, that a splendid waxing golden moon will be visible against a blanket of stars by night. 

An autumn wreath graces our door, and a pot of chrysanthemums graces the threshold.  Sometimes the pot is adorned by leaves fallen from the old oak nearby. The tree is our resident guardian, the wreath and "mum" a nod to the season and a tribute of sorts. Oak, fallen leaves, wreath and blooms are cheerful things, conveying a benediction on anyone who knocks at the door, treads our cobblestones or just passes by in the street. Autumn images tug at the heart, and I always sort through reams of archived images looking for just the right one for today, am never sure I have found it. Leaves, light, clouds, geese, herons, purple daisies??? It's always about the light, and autumn light is fabulous.

However, and whenever you choose to celebrate the occasion, a very happy Autumn Equinox, Harvest Home, or Mabon. May good things come to you.

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