All About Mabon

Mabon (pronounced MAB-on) is the modern word for the Autumn equinox, which is when we celebrate the mid-harvest. The Autumn equinox is one of the four ancient ‘quarter’ days. The others are Ostara (the Spring equinox), Yule (Winter solstice), and Litha (Summer solstice). Mabon was more recently named for a Welsh Celtic sun deity, Mabon ap Modron.

According to Welsh folklore, Mabon was the son of the Great Goddess of the Earth, Modron. He was the sun deity and after his birth, he was abducted for three days and three nights. His disappearance caused all light to go into hiding. When he returned, so did the world’s light.

His myth shares similarities with the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, which also takes place at this time of year.

The Season of Mabon

For many ancient cultures – including the Celts – the second harvest and Autumn equinox was a time of balance, and giving thanks. Also known as ‘Harvest Home’, pagans and ancient Celts saw this day as a time for gratitude to the earth for its bountiful harvest.  Agriculturally, it was the time of year when people could see how successful their Summer crops were, or how well-fed their animals. This success would determine whether there’d be enough food for the Winter ahead. 

By the time of the Autumn equinox, the fields were already picked clean, with the grain harvested at Lughnasadh being milled into flour or used for malt. Summer’s luscious gardens were turned over, with a focus on drying, preserving, pickling, or salting the abundance of fruits, vegetables, and meat. Honey was collected from the bees, and the brewing of mead began.

Pickling and preserving Summer’s fruits and vegetables is a practical activity during Mabon season.

To the Celts in particular, it was a time of honouring their gods and goddesses, and seeking a continuation of the harvest into the colder months. The Autumn equinox was also their time of equilibrium. A time to take a break, and have pleasure in what their hard labour and diligence had produced. 

Today, we can take that same moment! What are the fruits of your labour, whether it’s your garden, your relationships, or any projects you’ve been working on? Where can you give thanks, for who or what helped get you there?

What’s In A Name?

The second harvest has had many names over the centuries.

With origins in the Northern Hemisphere, celebrating a harvest festival during the Autumn equinox was common across many civilisations and practices. In ancient times, it focussed on giving thanks for the bounty of the harvest, to recognise the earth’s waning fertility, and share in the abundance of the season as a community.

The Irish calendar recognises Mea’n Fo’mhair, meaning ‘September’ and ‘middle of harvest.’

Across Britain, pagans bid farewell to the Green Man – a local god of the forest, and growing things – by offering his trees sacred water, wine or cider. 

Celtic druids named their own feast Alban Elfed, meaning ‘the Light of the Water.’

Druids performed rites and made offerings to the trees, in thanks for their grounding and blessing.

In 18th century Bavaria (now present day Germany) their harvest festival, Oktoberfest, was held during the last week of September, and continues today.

The original North American Thanksgiving in 1621 was a celebration of the harvest and other blessings of the past year, and it’s nowadays modelled on a harvest feast shared by British colonists (the ‘Pilgrims of Plymouth’) and the First Nations Wampanoag people. Thanksgiving is believed to have first been celebrated in late September/early October, and was later moved to late November for economic reasons (October makes more sense with North America’s harvest times, since by the end of November, there wasn’t that much left to harvest!)

The modern festival’s name Mabon is actually fairly recent, and borrowed from Welsh Celtic mythology and lore. As contemporary paganism emerged from the 1960s and 1970s, Aidan Kelly – an academic, poet, and initiated Wiccan –  wanted to create a common vocabulary for this new-world/old-world religion and practice. The Welsh god Mabon ap Modron, which translates to ‘divine son of the divine mother,’ was chosen by Kelly, since the Welsh god’s story shared elements with the Demeter/Persephone myth, and Demeter’s ancient cult already had strong associations with this time of year.

So, although the Autumn equinox and its harvest festival go back thousands of years, the sabbat of Mabon (as we know it today) is really a modern evolution of ancient equinox rites and practices. It has names long forgotten, and will no doubt continue to evolve and change as the world does.

The cornucopia – or ‘Horn of Plenty’ – is an ancient symbol of the autumn equinox.

Celebrating Mabon

The transition from Summer into Autumn is one of the most obvious and visually appealing times of year, with bright foliage, cooler mornings, and vivid sunsets. Shadows are shortening, and even the sounds around us are a little higher and sharper. The anticipation of the darker holidays has begun – Mabon, Samhain and Yule are atmospheric and ‘witchy’ and for many of us, Mabon kicks off this excitement. The divine beauty of this season brings joy and magic.

This is when we see true balance in nature. Night and day have equal length. The sun is warm, and the shadows cool. The natural world shares the same sky, across the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.

Mabon, and the equinox, is a really time of plenty. It’s when we express gratitude, and share our good fortune with others as we move towards the darker, more isolated period of Winter. It powerfully honours the cycle of death and rebirth, and connects us to the cycles of nature.

Mabon’s Magic

Some common symbols, deities and reflections for the Autumn Equinox.

Element: Water

Colours: blue, browns and golds, orange, violet

Plants: Blackberry, apple, oak, grain, thistle, sage, marigold, grapes

Deities: The Green Man, Dionysus, Mabon, Modron, Epona, Demeter, Ceres, the Morrigan, Persephone, Ishtar

Symbols: grains, the apple, the cornucopia, the wolf, the swan, balanced imagery (such as scales, chess boards, night and day, light and dark).

Reflect on: accomplishment, gratitude, grounding, balance, the beauty in death, rest and relaxation, your goals (both achieved, and yet to come)


Polly is a practicing witch who primarily works with Persephone, Brigid and the Cailleach. She's the High Priestess expert on seasonal Australian practice and archetypal symbolism, and is a teacher at Witch School.