The Autumn Equinox is coming up in about 2 ½ weeks. For those unacquainted with this holiday, there are two equinoxes a year, one marking the beginning of spring (sometime around March 21st-24th), and this one, marking the beginning of autumn (this year its September 22nd). The equinox occurs when the sun crosses the equator, making day and night approximately equal in length. Celebrating the harvest and feasting are big themes for the Autumn Equinox, but many people do something to celebrate the theme of balance (because of the equal night, equal day thing) as well.
Most Pagans call this holiday Mabon. I don’t and I’ll tell you why…
This holiday wasn’t always called Mabon. The name Mabon became connected to the Autumnal Equinox because Grad student Aidan Kelly named it such around 1970, as part of a religious studies project. (The use of the name “Litha” for the Summer Solstice is also attributed to Kelly.) He later became a co-founder of the “New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn” and the name for the holiday caught on in the rest of the Neo-pagan community in the U.S. It was in reference to Mabon ap Modron, a character from Welsh mythology. It appears that Aidan wanted to follow the tradition of naming holy days after deities. But it doesn’t really make sense for this holiday to be named for a Celtic deity. The big feast days for the Celtic peoples were Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh. There is really nothing that links the god Mabon to the Autumn Equinox. And there is no historical evidence of Mabon being worshiped on the Autumn Equinox.
Other names for this holiday used by the modern Pagan community are “Second Harvest Festival”, “Wine Harvest”, “Feast of Avalon”, “Alben Elfed”, and “Cornucopia”. I like the name Cornucopia, or just plain Autumn Equinox. I used to call this holiday “Harvest Home”, but Harvest Home is actually the name of a Christian harvest festival started in the mid-1800s in England that was celebrated at the end of harvest, not necessarily on the equinox.
Having said that, I do like this holiday, regardless of whether or not the ancient Celts celebrated it or what it’s named. September is a wonderful time of year in Arkansas. So many delicious foods are ready for harvest- apples, pears, cantaloupes, cucumbers, muscadines, peaches, pumpkins, summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and watermelon, just to name a few. (It’s also paw-paw time, which I’ll post more about tomorrow.) The heat is tapering off a bit, making this a great time for picnics. Autumn Equinox has been called the “witches’ thanksgiving”. I think it should be made our nation’s official thanksgiving. I would sure vote for it. According to Mike Nichols, most European peasants were not accomplished at calculating the exact date of the equinox, and so they celebrated the event on a fixed calendar date, September 25th. That’s even better. I vote that we should move our nation’s thanksgiving holiday to September 25th. (Now who is going to put it on the ballot?) Wouldn’t that be great though? Everyone would have that day off of work. The weather would still be mild enough (in much of the country) for an outdoor feast. Also, there would be about six weeks dividing up the last three holidays of the calendar year. It makes a lot more sense than what we have now for the official /national holidays.