The summer days are ending and fall is creeping in. We have that great mix between hot days and cool nights. You can almost taste the crispness in the air unique to autumn. Mabon plans are being made all over. The internet is covered with witches posting recipes and rituals and craft projects. Makes one just itch to get busy.
I was asked recently by a very dear friend and blogger to talk a little bit about what Mabon means to me as a Southern Witch. I am guessing the question was referring to how it might be different from Witches elsewhere. The answer to that is simple. I don’t know. All I know is what I have done with different groups, organizations and in my own personal practice and what I do in life. So here it is.
The group or tradition I first celebrated Mabon was with the coven I was trained. At the time that I was asked to join in circling with them, we did not refer to the group as a coven. They were “the family”. They didn’t adopt the words coven, degree, priest and priestess until much later. The practices were both very spiritual and very magickal and steeped in folk wisdom. We spent a lot of time working with what we could go outside and find on the property in the way of plants, dirt, rocks and animals.
As they were based in a small town in the Bible belt, secrecy was important. If any of us from outside town had conversations with people in town that were not of “the family” we were just that. Family from out of town. Outing the family to anyone was the single most heinous thing we could do. It could cause people to lose jobs and become outcasts in their own hometown. With the “out of the closet” attitude so many of us have these days, it seems like a backward way to be to some. With a short-lived stint of time a few years ago when they created a MySpace page and a Yahoo group, they still remain extremely secretive. Even with that there were no real names used and one person was asked to take care of all internet activity. I really think they were only attempting it to honor my path when I started working openly in the community.
So, back to Mabon. My first Mabon with them was not really referred to as Mabon except in passing in one of the classes that preceded it. Mostly it was referred to as Harvest. There was this big old beat up notebook that had handwritten recipes for dishes. When you flipped through it there were pages written in many different hands and some of those pages seemed old enough to be threatened by simply turning the page. Those of us that were students were responsible for preparing all the ingredients and pots and pans for dinner. The female elders supervised those preparations and added seasonings instructing us on how much to stir, etc. We were pretty much the labor. The men were out taking care of other preparations for the meal. Most of the meal came from the garden on the property or grown by members.
The table seemed to be loaded with varieties of dishes made from potatoes and pumpkin. (I particularly remember the potatoes because I spent a good part of the afternoon preparing potatoes for several of the recipes. Needless to say, the peeler is not one of my favorite kitchen tools after that experience.) There were also dishes made with cabbage, turnips and desserts from apples and pears. Someone brought in several chickens ready to cook. One of members raised chickens so that was the meat for the celebration.
I spent five years with “the family” and learned to enjoy those meals that came directly from the land. It was not that far from my own roots. My grandparents had a farm and provided the dinner table with vegetables and fruits grown on the property. My grandfather raised Black Angus cows, mostly as pets but some did make it to the dinner table. I was raised in the suburbs but spent many summers and weekends out in the garden picking things or sitting under the trees shelling various peas or beans and shucking corn. I loved the corn shucking days because we were always allowed to take a bucket of it down and feed the cows. In retrospect, we might not have named them had we known their final destination.
Since that time I have celebrated Harvest time with quite a few different groups. It is one of my favorite times of year as well as one of my saddest. My father died on September 21, 2005. So I have a bittersweet feeling as we approach Mabon. Mabon is a time of giving thanks as well as a time for preparing for the end of seasons. We end the summer and most of the harvests. If we look at the broader picture and how our life cycle mimics the yearly cycle it is the time to start letting go of things that no longer serve you and will not serve you in the life stage to come.
My personal practice has taken bits and pieces from all of those years that make up who I am today. I live on my grandparent’s farm now that they are gone. We have not lived here long enough to get settled in and get a garden started but have plans to do so. I love to have a full table around this time of year with plain country cooked dishes like roast chicken, or pot roast. I have my own coven or “family” and we get together each week for a day mixed with work and fellowship ending with a family potluck dinner. I love that tradition we have started. It feels more like the family tradition I came from both in my magickal roots as well as the family traditions I grew up with.
Another part of my personal practice at this time of year is to take stock of what projects I have going on and try to wrap up loose ends and finish off the ones that need to finish. This usually includes the need to open up the windows and let the cool fall air freshen up the house and clean every nook and cranny. Something about that chill air just spurs on the energy movement. Even the cats seem to get it as they dash from one end of the house to another with extra energy from the cooler air in the early morning and late evening. During the warmer part of the day I watch them enviously as they sack out for long nap. What a life.
This year cleaning out started a lot earlier. When we moved last year we moved everything, even the things in storage and brought them all into either the house or the Covenstead. I have been diligently going through things, forcing myself to get rid of most anything I can’t use. I have limited myself to a very few sentimental junk items that I really can’t use but have too much meaning to toss because of who gave it to me or who own it. One example is this really ugly piggy bank that my favorite uncle gave me as a child. He died when I was young and this is the only thing I have from him, so it made the cut of non useful things to keep.
Most things that I have been carrying around from house to house for years and years were things that I might be able to use in the “next” house. None of the places I was living were “the house”. Now we are in the last house. So if I can’t use it here, off it goes.
I am down to a lot of boxes of papers to go through and items that need to be framed and hung. I still have a lot of work to do, but the fall energy is spurring me on. Even my husband has been feeling it and spent this past weekend washing and cleaning out the cars.
Who else feels that energetic boost as the fall creeps in and the leaves begin to turn to wrap up this year’s projects and lay the ground work for next year?