In the Old Icelandic Calendar, winter begins on the Satyrday between Hunting 11th and 17th. This festival marks the beginning of winter, which was often celebrated around the middle of October. Winter Nights celebrates the bounty of the harvest
- Also referred to as: Vetrablot, Vetrnætr, Winterfylleth, Veturnætur, Winter Finding, and Winter Day.
Winter Nights is a more accurate term, considering that the passage of time was marked by nights, not days. An example of this can be seen from Anglo-Saxon times as it applies to the English word ‘fortnight’ as a reckoning of time for two weeks.
Just as traditional Jewish sabbat begins at sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday… it appears that the festivities traditionally kicked off at night. This allows participants to work to prepare for the party during daylight hours too. On occasion you may even see reference to the term Winter Finding.
Some groups use this as being synonymous and interchangeable with the term Winter Nights. But others will call the harvest celebration at the autumnal equinox Winter Finding, and call the later October celebration Winter Nights instead.
Though we know the various names of the holiday, we don’t really know how people celebrated Winternights. Some people honored Freyr at this holiday, where He was given a sacrifice to thank him for the year’s harvest.
Some traditions honor Freya and the fertility and protective spirits called Disir, that She leads (often the Disir are seen as our female ancestors). Glory is given to Freya, a libation of ale, milk, or mead was poured into the soil as an offering to the Disir and the Earth itself.
We know that in Sweden, an event called an Alfarblot was held around the same time of year. It was a private event where ale was served and livestock were likely sacrificed. As Freyr is the lord of Alfheim, this event may be related to Winternights.
Some people honored Odin instead; some honored the dísir (female ancestors), some honored the alfar (elves; or male ancestors). Some people likely did a mix of all of the above.
When celebrating Winternights with a definite disir/alfar focus. Food is shared at a potluck based on recipes passed down to us from our ancestors or foods that they preferred. A sumbel is in their honor, honoring specifically those who have passed on in the last year, both animals and humans, and then sharing the stories of the food we brought, and of our ancestors of blood and of spirit. This can be an intimate, moving ritual, and a great way to start the winter season.
- A Sumbel is a formal drinking ritual composed of toasting, hails, oath-taking, the recitation of poetry or song, and other forms of verbal expression.
A Winternights sumbel might start with a round to Freyr to thank Him for the past harvest and to ask for prosperity in the days ahead. A round is included for the recently departed and for our ancestors of blood and of spirit as well.
So today we have a range of practice as it applies to this time of year. Some opt to celebrate it at the time of the autumnal equinox for sheer simplicity. But many others will instead decide to observe Winter Nights in October as that’s more in keeping with the traditional calendars.
Others split the celebration up, observing a Harvest-tide celebration in September, and then in October they will instead opt to specifically come together to honor the ancestors.
If you have children, incorporating ancestor veneration at this time helps to sync up to the Halloween and Day of the Dead décor that is on the market, and allow the children to have some similar dialogue among their peers at school. What Winternights does have in common with modern Samhain and Day of the Dead traditions, is that we both honor ancestors with their favorite foods and drink.
A Blot for Winternights
I hope all Heathens have a satisfying Winternights for both the living and the dead this year . Hail the disir! Hail the alfar! Hail Freyr!
Thunar, Guardian of Asgard and Midgard, We ask you to ward this stead well for Winternights. Hail Heimdall warder of Bifrost we ask that you hold us in your great sight.
We gather to honor the Aesir and Vanir on this Winter Night and give thanks for the fruits of this past year and the Harvest we have gathered from the Earth. We also look back on the past year and measure our time that it was used wisely; to look at the future to find our way; like the Ice of time scrubbing away the impurities to leave behind the clear work.
We ask the dwellers of Asgard to give us the strength to and to help us provide for our kinsman in preparation for the long Winternachten yet to come.
Hail Wodan, The All Father, for your wisdom and forethought in guiding us forward through the winter to come and for the knowledge you have shared with us.
Hail to Fro Ing for the bountiful harvest you have brought to us this eve.
Hail Fro Ing!
Hail to Freya for the love and life we hold to our hearts.
Hail to all the Ases and Wanes for the mighty work that you do.
Hail the Ases and Wanes!
And Hail to our Ancestors and Wights of the land. Hail to the All who have crossed Bifrost before.
Hail the Ancestors!
We welcome all the Ases and the Wanes. We welcome all the Wights, Alfs and Ancestors who have gone before us. We Welcome all the Wights and Landvaetter to witness this rite rightly done so that you shall see the truth in our hearts.
The time of Winternights marks the passing of Sunna farther down into the sky. This time of year marks the Mother Earth going to sleep to be rested for the coming Spring; for Fro Ing to renew the fertility of the Earth to bring forward the crops of our folk.
We look forward to Yule that is fast approaching. And we honor our ancestors that have gone before us. We look back over this past year with pride of the work rightly done. We look forward to prepare for the coming of winter, to protect our hearth and Kin from the cold of the frost giant called Winter, to open our hearths to those in need.
With this hallowed drink, brewed with the hand of Aegir the Brewer of Asgard we give our toasts:
- Wassail All!
Hail to the Aesir and Vanir!
Hail to the Alfs and the Dises!
Hail to our Ancestors!
Hail to the Landvaetter and all Wights of weal!
We now offer this sacrifice and return it to the Earth.
- Personal Hails!
- The Blessing and Ending
We thank the Gods and Goddesses, the Aesir and Vanir for the gifts that we have and the gifts we may receive, May you find us fitting to receive them.
The Autumn Equinox – or Mabon – is a time of harvesting and celebration. Often called “Witches’ Thanksgiving,” it’s a prosperity holiday which asks us to gather with one another to count our blessings, connect, and re-balance. The nights are about to become longer, and soon we’ll be turning inward.
Mabon is a celebration of life and death, and giving of life again, the cycle of the seasons. Mabon is a time to enjoy the fruits of a hard year’s labor, to stock up for the long winter. No matter how you celebrate Mabon, it is important to know that Mabon a time for giving thanks.
Freyfaxi, Freysblöt, or Hlæfæst (which means Loaf Feast) which celebrates the beginning of the harvest. There is no specific “correct” date for this harvest festival; some groups celebrate it at the beginning of the month (to coincide with Lammas), some mid-month, and some on the full moon.
Freyr is the Norse god of fertility and harvest and a blöt is a sacrifice or offering to a god. So Freysblöt is offerings to Freyr, this is done in celebration of the beginning of harvest. The feast is also thought of as holy to Thor as a harvest God and his wife Sif, whose long golden hair can be seen in fields of ripe grain.
The first sheaf of harvested grain was bound and blessed for the gods and the vaettir (land or place spirits). Bread baked from the first harvest was also made into an offering and shared with the community.
In Viking times this is also when the warriors who had gone off to fight at the end of planting season came back, loaded with a summer’s worth of plunder and ready to reap the crops that had ripened while they were gone. It is almost like American thanksgiving, feasting and celebrating the first fruits and grains from harvest.
In modern times this is often just before back-to-school giving families and kindreds a good opportunity to celebrate together before the added stresses of homework and extracurricular activities. While the celebrations were modest compared to some of the other major holidays it was still an excellent reason to gather in celebration and to recognize the prosperity in our lives.
Since it draws from First Harvest traditions, the dates would vary regionally, but falls sometime in the beginning of August, because that is when many of our gardens are coming into full production. Typically in the northern hemisphere it is around this time that we celebrate the bounty of the Earth, and the gifts that she brings us with the help of Frey.
In truth, “Freyfaxi” is basically made up and can be celebrated by any group that wants to when they want to. It isn’t wholly without reference, as it draws on a history of First Harvest traditions, but it isn’t historical by any means. Wikipedia pins it on August 1st, the Ásatrú Alliance’s holidays page dates it as August 19th, and many Pagan Calendars date it to August 23rd.
Loaf-Feast is the end of the summer’s vacation, the beginning of a time of hard work which lasts through the next two or three months, while we ready ourselves for the winter.
The holiday of FreyFaxi was much more important for the lives of our ancestors that it is today. Without a good harvest, many many people would perish in the winter. We honor Frey to thank him for the many harvests that we have had, if there was one terrible one, some of us may not be here today. Thanks to Frey we are. If a year was particularly horrible, drastic sacrifice would be used – animal, or even human in some cases.
Even though many of us are no longer farmers, we still depend on the land for all that we are given. Maybe we do not depend on it directly but most of us go to the grocery store and buy things that have come from the fields. This is a time to honor Frey, god of the harvest, rains, and fertility. A time to thank him for the bounty of the earth, and all the gifts that he bestows upon us.
Today we honor him with mead, or some type of drink, food from our table, typically foods we harvest ourselves, for example baked bread that we have made ourselves from the wheat he has bestowed upon us. It is traditional to mark the holiday by baking a figure of the God Freyr in bread, and then symbolically sacrificing and eating it. Any way that you honor Frey, is a good way. Traditionally however, it is with a blot and feast.
We honor him because without him, simply we would not have much of our food supply, and quite obviously without that, we do not have much at all! He bestows fertility to the fields and plants, gives them life, giving rain so that they may grow and flourish. These plants including trees, give us oxygen. So if you are not going to honor Frey, son of Njord, for the bounty of the land at least honor him for the life of the plants and world around us!
We honor Frey by giving him a blot, and a grand feast from our own gardens and the fields. (If you do not have these things at least go spend some money and get a few things from a farmers market or something similar). We thank Frey, and honor him for the harvest and the fertility of the land and ask him to give the land even greater fertility in the coming year and in the dark of winter.
The eighth Celtic Moon month sees in the start of the waning of the days. The power of the Sun is transferred to the Earth, highlighting our practical needs and desires. The Celtic fire festival of Lammas begins the harvest on 1st August. Thus, the month of the Holly Moon is a time to give thanks for what you have and to appreciate the good things in your life. Focus on your own ‘harvest’ during the month of Holly – on what you wish to achieve and why.
- Dates: July 8 – August 4
- Celtic Name: Tinne
- Language of Flowers: Foresight
- Qualities: Strength, Protection, Vitality, Life Force, Old Age, Dormancy, Healing
- Themes: Immortality, Rebirth, Masculine Energy, Protection, Strength, Safety.
Traditionally the first grain harvested was baked into a loaf that represented the spirit of the crop, or ‘John Barleycorn’ as it is called in England. This bread was then shared in a ceremony to ensure the wealth of the entire community.
This month is a time to celebrate your successes with family and friends and to consider sharing your good fortunes with others. Use the energetic blessings of the Holly Moon to celebrate and share the good things in your life and to increase your future fortune and success.
The spirit of renewal in the month of the Holly Moon makes it an excellent time to re-energize your life.
- Tune into the energies of your environment by eating energy-rich seasonal foods, preferably foods that are produced locally.
- Use Holly’s influence to rise to physical challenges and overhaul your personal fitness by joining a gym or taking up martial arts.
The Holly takes over the Oak when it starts to fall. This evergreen plant reminds us all year long about the immortality of nature. The Holly moon was called Tinne, pronounced chihnn-uh, by the Celts, who knew the potent Holly was a symbol of masculine energy and firmness.
The planetary ruler of Holly is Mars, which bestows upon the tree certain qualities. The ability to restore direction in your life. To re-balance and align energy. And, to help you achieve a sense of purpose.
In pagan tradition, men carry sachets of Holly leaves and berries, which will enhance their masculinity due to the trees restorative and energizing powers.
Holly the Ruler
The noble one among the Celtic tree astrology signs is the Holly. Those born under this sign are natural leaders and easily acquire power and higher status. They can effortlessly tackle the hardest tasks and often possess rare skills and tact. The Holly is always set to reach its goal and can be too competitive and ambitious at times.
This tree sign brims with confidence, kindness and passion. However, if it doesn’t lead and active lifestyle, the Holly can become too lazy. Ash and Elder signs can form a good partnership with the noble Holly sign.
Holly Magick and Lore
The Holly is a tree of strength and protection. It’s a tree that contains a vital life force to take us through the darkest days with light, colour, and tenacity. It’s a tree of foresight, wisdom and healing, of age and rebirth.
It’s a symbol of nature – the ‘wildman’ (and perhaps woman) in all of us – linking midsummer to midwinter – and linking our darkest hours to our times of plenty, giving us life and strength to carry on.
The Holly King is the god or guardian of the darker part of the year, while the Oak King is the god or guardian of the lighter part of the year…
But the switch-over was marked at the solstices – so the Oak King guards the waxing year of fecundity (from midwinter to midsummer) – and hands over the mantel at midsummer to the Holly King who guards the waning year (midsummer to midwinter) – the period of harvest, the dying days of the year and dormancy.
This is why we see the Holly tree, which we normally associate with midwinter festivities, celebrated in the very middle of summer, as the solstice is marked as a turning point in the year – the fulcrum point where the natural world starts to wane and die, ready to re-emerge again at the winter solstice.
The ancients used the wood of the Holly in the construction of weapons, but also in protective magick. Hang a sprig of Holly in your house to ensure good luck and safety to your family. Wear as a charm, or make Holly Water by soaking leaves overnight in spring water under a full moon — then use the water as a blessing to sprinkle on people or around the house for protection and cleansing.
The Holly tree is also known as the tree of sacrifice. It’s symbolic of sacrifice, unconditional love, and reincarnation. Holly serves to remind us to control our emotions and remain calm during periods of decision-making. Likewise we must also remain calm and accept responsibility for our actions; even when such acceptance comes with consequences. More importantly, the Holly encourages us to love ourselves, as well as others, in the light of compassion and unconditional love.
The wood of the Holly was used to make spears due to it’s firmness after being dried. Holly berries were used in spellwork for female fertility and sexuality – they symbolize the blood of the life-giving Goddess.
The power of the Holly was seen to be in its life force – its living energy, so strong and vibrant in midwinter. This led to Druids advising people to bring the green foliage inside to decorate their homes and bring that life force inside.
The main symbolic importance of Holly is in its evergreen nature – in the darkest midwinter days, the Holly stays shiny and green and is even lit up with brilliant red berries – the hardy leaves withstanding even the harshest winter weathers. The glossy leaves of the Holly also reflected all available light around home and made those darkest days of winter a little lighter and brighter, lifting the mood of the inhabitants of the home.
It was also thought that the foliage would provide shelter to the elves and fairies who could live safely side by side with humans at this special time – with the caveat that the Holly foliage should be removed by Imbolc Eve (31st January).
Holly Money Energy
On the full Moon hold up a note of money to the moonlight and recite the words:
“Lady bright, lade bright,
harvest abundant dreams tonight.
Three times three times three times three,
prosperity return to me.”
Give the money to charity and in return the positive energy of Holly will provide you with the funds you need in the coming months.
4th of June is St Saturnina’s day, patron saint of farmers and wine merchants – and who is now believed to be ‘purely legendary’.
I’d suggest that here we have yet another hidden Pagan festival, this time dedicated to farmers and wine growers. Saturnina is the feminine form of Saturn, the Roman god of farmers and those who work with the earth. At this time of year, and especially looking at her patronages, it would be reasonable to have a festival to encourage a good harvest for farmers and wine growers.
The Legend of St Saturnina
Her legend states that she came from a noble German family (her father was a king, and that she took a vow of celibacy at the age of twelve. When her parents forced her into marriage when she turned twenty, she fled from Germany into France.
The man to whom she had been promised, a Saxon lord, pursued her into France after receiving approval to do so from Saturnina’s parents. He found her hiding with some shepherds at Arras; she had been working as a maidservant. He attempted to rape her, and when she resisted him, he decapitated her.
The lord miraculously drowned in a fountain, and Saturnina then carried her own head in her hands, and as witnessed by the townspeople, carried her head to the church of St. Remi, which was in the next village: Sains-Les-Marquion. She was then buried there.
Another tradition states that Saturnina placed her head on a stone at Sains-lès-Marquion, proclaiming herself to be the last human sacrifice the town would ever suffer.
Pongal is the first harvest festival of the year and the celebrations go on for four days. This is a sacred festival for Tamilians all over the world and the best celebrations take place in the state of Tamil Nadu. It falls on January 14 this year and the date pretty much remains constant over the years, sometimes it falls on January 15 as well. Pongal is also called Thai Pongal as the festival marks the beginning of the Tamil month Thai. This is considered to be an auspicious one and people celebrate it with much enthusiasm.
Thai month is believed to bring good luck by vanishing one’s problems away and therefore people look forward to celebrating Pongal. The harvest festival is celebrated over four days with each day having a different ritual. Here is how Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu.
Pongal is a harvest festival and since rice is one of the main crops grown here, it is given due importance during the rituals. Even turmeric and sugarcane are grown in Tamil Nadu. The harvest festival is in the month of Thai which is considered auspicious for weddings as well.
Pongal is all about letting go of the past and welcoming new things in life. Pongal is also known as Thai or Tai Pongal. People celebrate it to thank Lord Sun for a good harvest season. The four-day festivities are:
- Bhogi Pongal:
The first day of the four-day festivity is Bhogi Pongal. It marks the last day of Marghazi, Tamil month. People celebrate it together by lighting bonfires and burning discarded items.
The first day of Pongal is celebrated by paying respect to the rain gods who are responsible in ensuring a good crop year. People offer their prayers by thanking Indra for this blessings and ask for a good year again. People also light up a bonfire and throw the items they want to discard in it. In the evening, women sing and dance around the bonfire which helps keep warm as well as the night gets chilly.
- Surya Pongal:
The second day is Surya Pongal. It is dedicated to Lord Sun or Surya Dev. People thank him for providing a good harvest and seeking blessing for happiness and prosperity. On this day, the houses are decorated with banana and mango leaves.
The second day of the harvest festival has more elaborate rituals where the women of the house decorate the area outside the house using white powder in the morning. Then, rice is boiled in milk in an earthen pot outside the house. Sugarcane sticks are used for decoration along with banana leaves and turmeric plant. This rice is offered to the sun god who again is responsible for a good harvest.
The word Pongal translates to boil over and boiling rice signifies its name. On this day, people also wear new, ethnic wear for the celebrations.
- Mattu Pongal:
The third day marks Mattu Pongal. Mattu means cow, cattle or bullock. This celebrates cattle as they provide dairy products, fertilizers and agriculture support. This day of Pongal is reserved for offering prayers to cows who are considered a sacred animal for Hindus.
The cows horns are painted and adorned with bells and flowers around their neck. Women then perform aarti to get rid of any evil eye and seek the animal’s blessings. Cows are then paraded in the village and the tiny bells reverberate their arrival. There is a cheer in the atmosphere and villagers also organize cattle races on this day.
- Kanum Pongal:
The last day is Kanum Pongal. This day strengthens the bond between people. A lot of people come together and celebrate it.
The last day of Thai Pongal celebrations end with a pooja right outside the home. Women wake up in the morning and before bathing, they place a washed turmeric leaf on the ground. Different kinds of rice are placed on it along with sugarcane sticks, betel nuts and more. The pooja performed is essentially for their brothers, to ensure they prosper in life. This marks the end of the harvest festival celebration in Tamil Nadu.
There are two major stories that revolve around the celebration of Pongal.
Once, Lord Shiva had asked Basava, his bull, to travel around the world to inform people to eat once a month, have a bath and oil massage every day. Basava communicated exactly the opposite of what he was told. He told people to bathe once a month and eat everyday. This angered Lord Shiva and he ordered Basava to go into exile. He was made to assist people while ploughing. This is why cattle are linked with the harvest.
There is another story to it. According to a few people, Lord Krishna told the people of Gokul to stop worshipping Lord Indra as he was arrogant and was filled with pride. This angered Lord Indra. He caused thunderstorms and flooding. To protect people, Lord Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan on his little finger to provide shelter to people. Lord Indra realized his mistakes and asked for forgiveness from Lord Krishna.
Pongal Quotes and Invocations:
These are actually meant for greeting cards, but I thought they would make something nice to say over a meal, or during a meditation during these four days.
- As you offer thanks to the hero of your farmland – the Cattle, May the festival of Pongal which heralds the beginning of harvest season Bring you happiness, joy, prosperity and wealth. Pongalo Pongal!
We thank sun for burning himself to save us.
We thank plants sacrificing their life for us.
And we thank all the creatures helping us to live in this world for some time.
- The sun shines bright
To guide and lead us the way
Towards bountiful harvest season
May we be blessed with prosperity and joy
May the sweetness of overflowing milk and sugarcane
Fill our home with harmony and happiness
- May the love and affection
Overflow from your heart
like Pongal milk from the pot
As you shout Pongalo Pongal
To welcome the prosperity and wealth
along with the overflowing Milk
I wish you everlasting happiness and joy
Ven Pongal Recipe
Pongal is a delicious South Indian porridge made with rice and yellow moong lentils. It can be made sweet or savory. Here I share the savory version of pongal recipe known as Ven Pongal or Khara Pongal laced with the wonderful flavors of cumin, asafetida, curry leaves, ginger and black pepper. Not to forget the lovely aroma of ghee, in it.
- ½ cup rice – any medium to short grained or regular rice, 100 grams
- ¼ cup moong dal or 60 grams moong dal
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds – lightly crushed
- ⅛ teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
- 1 inch ginger – chopped or 1 teaspoon heaped chopped ginger
- 3 to 3.25 cups water or add as required
- salt as required
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns whole or crushed, you can also add ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 sprig curry leaves or 10 to 12 small to medium curry leaves
- 10 to 12 cashews – whole or halved
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter)
Pick moong lentils first to get rid of stones if any. Then heat a small pan or a small kadai and add the moong lentils. On a low flame stirring often roast the moong lentils till they become aromatic. The moong lentils only need to be roasted till they become aromatic. No need to brown them.
Now take them in another bowl or you can use the same pan for rinsing. Add rice in the bowl containing the roasted moong dal. Rinse both rice and roasted moong dal a couple of times with water. Drain very well and then add them in a pressure cooker.
Now add the following ingredients:
- Cumin seeds
- Asafetida (hing)
- Chopped ginger
- Salt as per taste.
Pour in 3 to 3.25 cups water. The amount of water to be added depends on the consistency you want and also on the quality of moong dal. Pressure cook on a medium to high flame for 7 to 8 whistles or 11 to 12 minutes.
Let the pressure settle down on its own and then you remove the lid to check the doneness and consistency. If the pongal has a consistency like that of pulao, then add ½ to 1 cup hot water and mix very well.
Both the rice and the moong dal should be cooked very well. If you want you can even slightly mash the cooked rice and moong lentils. If cooked well, then cover with the lid and keep aside.
In another small pan, heat the ghee. Add the cumin seeds. Let them splutter. Then add the cashews. Fry until the cashews become light golden. Once they begin to get light golden, then add black peppercorns and 10 to 12 curry leaves.
Stir very well and fry until the curry leaves become crisp. The black pepper should also be fried well.
Putting It All Together:
Now pour this entire tempering on the pongal. Mix very well. Cover with the lid (with the vent weight/whistle on the lid) and keep ven pongal aside for 5 to 6 minutes. This allows the tempering flavors to infuse with the pongal and the aroma to stay in. Then remove the lid and serve hot with coconut chutney or sambar.
Makar Sankranti (also known as Makara Sankranthi or Maghi) refers both to a specific solar day in the Hindu calendar and a Hindu festival in reference to deity Surya (sun) that is observed in January every year. It marks the first day of sun’s transit into the Makara (Capricorn), marking the end of the month with the winter solstice and the start of longer days.
- Significance: Festival of Harvest, welcome longer days, sun worship
- Celebrations: Kite flying, bonfires, fairs, surya puja in river, feast, arts, dance, socialization
Makar Sankranti is one of the few ancient Hindu festivals that has been observed according to solar cycles, while most festivals are set by the lunar cycle.
Being a festival that celebrates the solar cycle, it almost always falls on the same Gregorian date every year (January 14), except in rare years when the date shifts by a day for that year, because of the complexity of earth-sun relative movement.
Makar Sankranti is observed with social festivities such as colorful decorations, rural children going house to house, singing and asking for treats (or pocket money), fairs, dances, kite flying, bonfires and feasts.
The Magha Mela is mentioned in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, thus placing this festival to be around 2,000 years old.
Makar Sankranti is regarded as important for spiritual practices and many people take a holy dip in sacred rivers or lakes, especially Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery. The bathing is believed to result in merit or absolution of past sins.
Every twelve years, the Hindus observe Makar Sankranti with one of the world’s largest mass pilgrimage, with an estimated 40 to 100 million people attending the event. At this event, they say a prayer to the sun and bathe at the Prayaga confluence of the River Ganga and River Yamuna at the Kumbh Mela.
Because the festival is dedicated to the Hindu sun god, Surya, people also pray to the sun and thank for their successes and prosperity. The traditional prayer to the sun is the Gayatri Mantra.
The Gayatri Mantra
The mantra is a hymn to the sun which represents both the physical sun and the Divine in all things. Here it is:
Om bhur bhuvah svah
tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.
The eternal, earth, air, heaven
That glory, that resplendence of the sun
May we contemplate the brilliance of that light
May the sun inspire our minds.
Chanting the mantra serves three purposes.
- The first is to give back to the sun. The sun gives but never receives. The mantra is a gift back to the sun, an offering of gratitude to refuel the sun’s gracious offering.
- The second purpose is to seek wisdom and enlightenment. The mantra is a request to the sun: May we meditate upon your form and be illumined by who you are? (Consider that the sun offers its gift of illumination and energy to all beings, without judgment and without attachment to the outcome of the gift.)
- Finally, the mantra is an expression of gratitude, to both the life-giving sun and the Divine. The sensibility it evokes is more important than the literal meaning. It’s an offering, a way to open to grace, to inspire oneself to connect to the ancient vision of India.
An Auspicious Period
Makar Sankranti is regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase or the holy phase of transition. It also marks the end of an inauspicious phase which begins around mid-December. Further it is also believed that any sacred ritual can be performed from this day onwards. The auspicious day of Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of warmer and longer days as compared to nights.
Makar Sankranti is all about forgetting bitter and sad moments which happened in the past and welcoming the new phase of life which is full of purity, knowledge and wisdom.
The Significance of Makar Sankranti
The significance of the Makar Sankranti festival is that it marks the day where there is a significant movement in the zodiac ~ the arrangement of the earth’s dial around the sun ~ and this movement brings about a new change in the way we experience the planet itself.
There are many sankrantis through the year; the two significant ones being Makar Sankranti, and right opposite, after summer solstice is Karka Sankranti. In between, there are many Sankrantis ~ every time the zodiac sign changes, it is called a Sankranti to suggest the movement of the planet, to understand that our life is sustained and nourished by this movement. If this movement ceases, everything about us will cease.
On the 22nd of December, the solstice happened, that means in relation to the sun, the movement or the tilt of the planet reaches its maximum. Now, from this day on, the northern movement is strong. Things really start changing upon the earth. From Makar Sankranti onwards, winter is being relieved step by step.
This movement is also a significant aspect in the way we reap from this planet. There was a time when human beings could eat only what the earth offered. Then we learned how to get what we wanted from the earth; this is called agriculture. When we were hunting and gathering, we only picked up what was there.
It is like when you were an infant, you ate or swallowed whatever your mother gave you. When you became a child, you asked for what you wanted. So we grew up a bit and started demanding and getting what we wanted, but still, you can only get what you want to a point that She is willing. If you stretch it beyond that, you will not only not get it, you will get something else. That is called industrialization.
Agriculture is coaxing the Mother to give what you want. Industrialization is ripping her apart. I am not speaking against something. I want you to understand the way our minds are transiting, the way human activity is transiting from one level to another.
So this is a day when we remind ourselves that everything that we are is what we take from this planet. I see everywhere in the world, people are talking about giving. I don’t know from where they give. You can only take ~ either you take gently or you grab. Did you come with your own property from somewhere? What is there to give? You can only take. Everything is offered. Take sensibly, that is all there is.
Some Thoughts About Movement
Makar Sankranti is celebrated as a very important festival in India. Sankranti literally means “movement.” Everything that we recognize as life is movement. Fortunately, people who came before us have moved on, and people who come after us are waiting for us to move on ~ don’t have any doubts about this.
The planet is moving and that is why it churns up life. If it were still, it wouldn’t be capable of life. So there is something called movement in which every creature is involved, but if there has to be movement, this movement has to be housed ~ this movement can only happen in the lap of stillness. One who does not touch the stillness of his life, one who does not touch the stillness of his being, one who does not know or has not tasted the stillness within and without, will invariably get lost in the movement.
Movement is pleasant only to a point. The planet earth is moving gently in such a beautiful manner ~ it is only changing seasons. Tomorrow, if it just speeds up, throttles up a little bit, then all our seemingly balanced minds will become imbalanced, everything will spin out of control. So movement is beautiful only to a certain point. Once it crosses that point, movement becomes torture.
So Makar Sankranti is a festival to recognize the movement, movement being celebration, movement being life, movement being the process of life and the beginning and the end of life. At the same time, the word ‘shankara’ is used to remind you that the one behind this, Shiva, is a still one; stillness is the basis of movement.
Though all the other planets are moving, the most important one is not moving. If the sun also takes a walk, then we are in trouble. He hangs there not moving. That is why everybody else’s movement is okay. But his stillness is relative because the whole solar system may be moving; the whole galaxy may be moving. So beyond that, the space which holds all this is absolute stillness.
When a human being makes the necessary effort to touch the stillness within himself, only then he knows the joy of movement. Otherwise, people are bewildered by the movement of life. Every change that happens in their life they suffer.
These days, the so-called modern life is like this ~ any change means you must suffer. Childhood is tension, puberty is great suffering, middle age is unbearable, old age is abhorred and feared, and death is celebration ~no that is pure terror.
Every stage of life is a problem because people have a problem with movement, not understanding that the very nature of life is movement. You can only enjoy and celebrate movement if you have one leg stuck in stillness. If you know what stillness is then movement would be a pleasure. If you do not know what stillness is, if you have no contact with stillness, movement is bewildering.
People are trying to track the movement. Looking at the stars, looking at lines in their hands and looking at all kinds of signs including the tea leaves. People want to read the movement of their lives somehow. This struggle with movement, this paranoia about movement, is happening because there is no taste of stillness.
If there was a taste of stillness in you, movement would not disturb you. It is something which sets a certain rhythm. Every rhythm has a beginning and an end; every movement has a beginning and an end. Movement means that which is in transition. Stillness means that which always is. Movement means compulsiveness, stillness means consciousness.
The significance of Makar Sankranti is that it is the time to remind yourself that celebrating movement is possible only when there is a taste of stillness within you.
Because the festival is celebrated in winter, people start preparing food which can give them give them energy and also keep their body warm. Tilguls ~ Laddu of Til (Sesame) is made up of Jaggery and devotees also pay respect to Goddess Saraswati.
This type of sweet is a symbolism for being together in peace and joyfulness, despite the uniqueness and differences between individuals.
People greet each other Happy Sankranti by saying Tilgul Ghya Aani God God Bola.
For most parts of India, this period is a part of early stages of the Rabi crop and agricultural cycle, where crops have been sown and the hard work in the fields is mostly over. The time thus signifies a period of socializing and families enjoying each other’s company, taking care of the cattle, and celebrating around bonfires.
The Makar Sankranti festival is also known and referred to as the harvest festival because this is the time when harvesting is complete and there are big celebrations. This is the day we acknowledge all those who assisted in making the harvest. The farm animals play a huge role in harvesting, so the following day is for them and is called Mattu Pongal.
The first day is for the earth, the second is for us and the third is for the animals and livestock. See, they are placed a little higher than us because we exist because of them, they do not exist because of us. If we were not here, they would all be free and happy. But if they were not here, we couldn’t live.
These festivals are a reminder that we need to craft our present and our future in a conscious manner.
Also, on this day there are several Melas or fairs which are been held and one of the most famous among all melas is Kumbh Mela. It is been held every 12 years at one of four holy locations namely Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nashik.
The Magh Mela which is the mini mela is held annually at Prayag, the Gangasagar Mela held at the Ganges River, Tusu Mela in parts of Jharkhand and West Bengal and many more such fairs are been held on this auspicious day.
Known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the region, Makara or Makar Sankranti is an important pan-Indian solar festival observed on the same date, sometimes for multiple dates.
It is known as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh, Biku in Assam, Magha Mela in parts of central and north India, as Makar Sankranti in the west, and by other names. The festivities associated with Makar Sankranti are known by various names such as Lohri by north Indian Hindus and Sikhs, Sukarat in central India, Bhogali Bihu by Assamese Hindus, and Pongal by Tamil and other south Indian Hindus.
Wikipedia gives us this list:
- Suggi Habba, Makar Sankramana , Makara Sankranthi: Karnataka
- Makar Sankranthi: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala
- Makar Sankranti: Chhattisgarh, Goa, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Jammu
- Thai Pongal, Uzhavar Thirunal: Tamil Nadu
- Uttarayan: Gujarat
- Maghi: Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.
- Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu: Assam
- Shishur Saenkraat: Kashmir Valley
- Khichdi: Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar
- Poush Sangkranti: West Bengal
- Tila Sakrait: Mithila
In other countries too the day is celebrated by Hindus, but under different names and in different ways.
- Nepal: Maghe Sankranti or Maghi- /Khichdi Sankranti
- Bangladesh: Shakrain/ Poush Sangkranti
- Pakistan: (Sindh): Tirmoori
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is a popular East Asian celebration of abundance and togetherness, dating back over 3,000 years to China’s Zhou Dynasty. In Malaysia and Singapore, it is also sometimes referred to as the Lantern Festival or “Mooncake Festival.”
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar (usually around mid- or late-September in the Gregorian calendar), a date that parallels the Autumn Equinox of the solar calendar. The moon festival is celebrated on the full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox, which sometimes falls in October. This is the ideal time, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest, to celebrate the abundance of the summer’s harvest. The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties.
The Moon Festival is full of legendary stories. Legend says that Chang Er flew to the moon, where she has lived ever since. You might see her dancing on the moon during the Moon Festival. The Moon Festival is also an occasion for family reunions. When the full moon rises, families get together to watch the full moon, eat moon cakes, and sing moon poems. With the full moon, the legend, the family and the poems, you can’t help thinking that this is really a perfect world. That is why the Chinese are so fond of the Moon Festival.
The Moon Festival is also a romantic one. A perfect night for the festival is if it is a quiet night without a silk of cloud and with a little mild breeze from the sea. Lovers spend such a romatic night together tasting the delicious moon cake with some wine while watching the full moon. Even for a couple who can’t be together, they can still enjoy the night by watching the moon at the same time so it seems that they are together at that hour. A great number of poetry has been devoted to this romantic festival. Hope the Moon Festival will bring you happiness.
Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomeloes together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:
- Eating moon cakes outside under the moon
- Putting pomelo rinds on one’s head
- Carrying brightly lit lanterns
- Burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang’e
- Planting Mid-Autumn trees
- Collecting dandelion leaves and distributing them evenly among family members
- Lighting lanterns on towers
- Fire Dragon Dances
- Shops selling mooncakes, before the festival, often display pictures of Chang’e floating to the moon.
Stories behind the festival can be found at Widdershins:
The Moon Cake Uprising
In late Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368 AD), people in many parts of the country could not bear the cruel rule of the government and rose in revolt. Zhu Yuanzhang, founder of Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD), united the different resistance forces and wanted to organize an uprising. However, due to the narrow search by government, it was very difficult to pass messages.
The counselor Liu Bowen later though out the great idea of hiding notes with “uprise on the night of August 15th” in moon cakes and had them sent to different resistance forces. The uprising turned to be very successful and Zhu was so happy that he awarded his subjects with moon cakes on the following Mid-Autumn Festival. Since then, eating moon cakes has been a custom on Mid-Autumn Festival.
Mabon (pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn) marks the Second Harvest, the end of the grain harvest (which begun at Lughnasadh), and rests on the Autumn Equinox. The Equinox mirrors dwindling of life (and eventual progression to rebirth), as well as the struggle for balance; day and night are equal for a single day.
- Celebrated with wine, apples, garlands, gourds and cornucopias.
- With decorations of orange, russet and maroon.
- Honoring the aging Gods and Harvest deities.
Various other names for this Lesser Wiccan Sabbat are The Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), Alben Elfed (Caledonii), or Cornucopia.
Mabon is a celebration of life and death, and giving of life again, the cycle of the seasons. Mabon is a time to enjoy the fruits of a hard year’s labor, to stock up for the long winter. No matter how you celebrate Mabon, or how it came about, or whatever it’s true name may be, it is important to know that Mabon a time for giving thanks.
At the Autumn Equinox we all take a moment to pay our respects to the impending dark. We also give thanks to the waning sunlight, as we store our harvest of this year’s crops.
During this festival it is appropriate to wear all of your finery and dine and celebrate in a lavish setting. It is the drawing to and of family as we prepare for the winding down of the year at Samhain. It is a time to finish old business as we ready for a period of rest, relaxation, and reflection.
The pagans of antiquity didn’t have the ability to determine astrological positions as we do today. The European peasantry, therefore, celebrated this Sabbat on September 25th; actually, the Celts marked their days from sundown to sundown, so the Mabon celebration actually started on the sundown of our September 24th. Today, with the help of our technology, we can calculate the exact day of the Equinox; the date when the sun enters the sign of Libra, the Balanced Scales, which appropriately fits the Equinox.
The Druids call this celebration, Mea’n Fo’mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort the God as he prepares for death and re-birth.
The Teutonic name, Winter Finding, spans a period of time from the Sabbat to Oct. 15th, Winter’s Night, which is the Norse New Year.
As a holiday, Mabon represents the time of honoring the dead, visiting burial sites, giving thankfulness for the end of the harvest season and the bounty it provides. These are the themes of closing, letting go and remembering. For the year, the harvest and for those who were lost to land of Avalon during the year.
Decorations and Activities for Mabon
Activities vary with region and tradition, as well as personal preference. Some ideas include making a Sun Wheel or wreath. Also, one could mirror the Celtic tradition of dressing a corn stalk in cloths and burning it in celebration of the harvest and upcoming rebirth.
Simple altar decorations can be obtained by taking a calm “pilgrimage” through your local woods and collecting leaves, acorns, berries, and other things symbolic of nature’s bounty. Some chose to sprinkle Autumn leaves around the house and on the sides of walk ways as decoration, though this may not be convenient if one lives in the city or doesn’t enjoy the cleanup. Alternately, the changing leaves can be dipped in paraffin and put on wax paper. After the leaves dry, they may be placed around the house or in large jars with sigils of protection and/or abundance carved lightly into them.
Additional seeds and grains can be set out as offering to our fellow creatures, and provide a healthy chance for birds to join in the celebrations as well. Symbolic designs can be made out of the sprinklings if one chooses. Those less fortunate should not be omitted from the celebration. Small, meaningless (to you) packages of food and drink gifted to a homeless person will make their day!
To honor the dead, it is traditional to place apples on burial cairns as symbolism of rebirth and gratitude. This represents the promise of the Great Spirits for renewed life (a new incarnation). Furthermore, it is a time to honor the elders, who have devoted so much time and energy to your growth and development. Something special is in order for these gracious people.
Going through your personal gardens with thanks and lovingly harvesting what is ready is also appropriate. Breads may be baked in the shape of the Sun, combining fruits or vegetables and grains, incorporating both of the major aspects of this Harvest. The seeds of various plants are stored through winter for replanting, and therefore, the plant’s rebirth in the Spring. A feast for friends and family always provides a cheerful abundance of energy and thanks.
Although many view the Harvest season as a celebration of life, it is also a celebration of death. The bounty you gather from your garden provides nourishment for you, family and friends. But it is also the death of those plants and vegetables which have been harvested from that garden. Thus Mabon is a celebration of the cycle of life.
This is a Celtic festival of thanksgiving, so what a better way to give thanks than to prepare a meal with the harvest of your garden. Those that indulge in wine can brew a new batch of this home made nectar of the Gods. Those that do not indulge, can brew preserves and jellies from grapes, raspberries and blackberries. Don’t forget an apple pie for dessert.
A main course can consist of meats, most often red meats. But this is just a suggestion. In this day and age of healthy eating, you should prepare a meal that fits your personal lifestyle. However, your side dishes should consist of late summer and early fall vegetables.
During your meal, share tales and happy stories about those you lost during the year. Or share your experiences and review the lessons you feel you have learned during this past season. Reflect on your deeds and actions and give thanks for the gifts you were given.
After your meal, share the chore of cleaning up. This is a way of showing honor and respect to your host and hostess. Think of it as a physical action to show that you understand the interconnection of all life and the desire to respect what you have been given and thanks for receiving those gifts.
During the evening hours you can continue the festival with a formal holiday ritual. There are as many ways and suggestions for conducting such a ceremony as there are people on this planet.
End your evening in private reflection. It is important for anyone practicing a spiritual life to reflect on his or her actions. Record your thoughts, your emotions and your experiences. This is the true value of your book of shadows. And there is no better time to take stock of yourself and your life than during a High Holy Day.
Ritual For Mabon
This Ritual is best performed during the early evening hours, just after Sunset, as this is the time of day which corresponds to the time of year. Sweep area, starting in the North and moving deosil (clockwise or sunwise direction), with your magickal broom to cleanse the Circle area and “sweep away” any lingering negative energies. Lay out the circumference of your Circle with cord, stones, etc., as necessary.
Set up the Quarter candles (North-Green, East-Yellow, South-Red, West-Blue) and/or other items symbolizing the elements at the Four Quarters (use a compass if not permanently marked out). Set up your altar as desired, and face it to the North, covering it with the red altar cloth.
Place all of the items listed below in their proper places upon it. For this ceremony, decorate the altar with the cornucopia filled with harvest items, and whatever else feels right. In addition to your usual tools and props, upon the altar should be:
- Red or Brown Altar Cloth
- Cornucopia filled with Fruits and Vegetables of the Harvest
- A Red Apple
- Bolline or another Sharp Knife (for cutting the Apple)
- Altar Pentacle or a Plate (to cut the apple on)
- A Bell
- A Second Wand decorated with Colored Ribbons (to use in the Demeter/Persephone portion of the ritual)
- A Wicker Basket (to carry the Decorated Wand in)
- Incense – Any of the following either alone or mixed together to make an Autumn Blend: Frankincense, Aloes Wood, Jasmine, Cinnamon, Musk, Cloves, Benzoin, Myrrh, and Sage
When all is set up, take a shower or bath for purification and don your ritual robe or other ritual attire. Be sure to wear your magickal jewelry. Sit quietly and meditate for a little while – to ground and center before beginning the Ritual. When you feel ready to begin, play some quiet peaceful music for the ritual.
Cast a circle in whatever way is familiar to you. After the Circle is cast, begin the Mabon sabbath Ceremony by sitting quietly for a few moments, then say these words aloud in dedication:
“Lady Autumn, Queen of the Harvest,
I have seen You in the setting Sun,
with Your long auburn tresses
blowing in the cool air that surrounds You.
Your crown of golden leaves is jeweled
with amber, amethyst, and rubies.
Your long, flowing purple robe
stretches across the horizon.
In Your hands You hold the ripened fruits.
At Your feet the squirrels gather acorns.
Black crows perch on Your outstretched arms.
All around You the leaves are falling.
You sit upon Your throne and watch the dying fires
of the setting Sun shine forth its final colors in the sky.
The purple and orange lingers and glows
like burning embers.
Then all colors fade into the twilight.
Lady Autumn, You are here at last.
I thank You for Your rewards.
I have worked hard for these gifts.
Lady Autumn, now grant me peace and rest.”
Sit quietly again and reflect on the meaning of the Autumn Season for a little while.
When you are ready, pick up your wand and hold it in your power hand, face the North and with your arms outstretched (kneel or stand) and say:
“The Wheel of the Year turns on and on,
bringing us all to and from each Season,
and from and to another.
What will be is. What was will be.
All time is here and now in this Sacred Space.
I now pause to watch the Wheel turn
and cast this Circle on this blessed eve
to celebrate the Season of Mabon, the Autumnal Equinox –
the time of the Second Harvest.
In this moment between time,
I come to praise the bountiful aging Goddess
and Her consort, the God of the Harvest.
I wish to give thanks and feel myself
as a part of the relentlessly turning
wheel of life, death, and rebirth.
O Great God of Wine and the Harvest,
who has been known as Mabon, Dionysus, Bacchus, and Thor –
Grant me strength and understanding
throughout this season and always.
O Great Goddess of the Harvest and the Underworld,
who has been known as Demeter, Persephone, Modron, and Morgan –
Teach me the secrets of the Mysteries and the ways of magic.”
Place your wand back in its place on the altar.
Spread your hands out over the Harvest Altar and say these words:
“The time of change is upon us again –
the Equinox comes, the Wheel turns…
The Goddess and the God prepare for
Their journey to the Otherworld,
as the Earth and all of Her children
prepare for the time of quiet and
reflection that lies ahead…
May I use this Autumnal period to
seek for the strength and power within
to assist me on my own quest for
vision, feeling, and peace…
May I see and feel the presence of
the Goddess and the God within,
the Earth begins Her slumber…
Keep me in Your light…”
Lower your arms and sit quietly meditating again for a while.
When you are ready, stand at your altar facing the North and raise your arms in greeting. Say:
“Between the worlds I build this sacred altar.
Outside of time, this rite leads to the ancient way.
Where I may find Demeter of high Olympus
And conjure magic great. Be here, I say.”
Place the decorated wand in the wicker basket and carry it to the North. Say:
“Persephone returns to the Underworld.
Weep not, Earth Mother,
For the Divine Child of love is here.”
Carry the basket to the East; say:
“Persephone returns to the Underworld.
Although the Light is fading,
It shall return to the Earth.”
Take the basket to the South; say:
“Persephone returns to the Underworld.
The cold of winter comes,
But only for a short time.”
Finish by carrying the basket to the West; say:
“Persephone returns to the Underworld.
The Earth shall lie in slumber
Until the Light of this Divine Child
Once more grows in strength and shines full upon us.”
Place the basket on the floor before the altar. Ring the bell three times.
Take your bolline in your power hand and the apple in the other. Say:
“Reveal to me your hidden secrets
That I may come to understand your sacred Mysteries.”
Set the apple on the altar pentacle (or plate) and cut it crosswise (with the bolline) to reveal the pentagram in the core. Contemplate this hidden sacred symbol for several moments. Then say:
“In life is death, in death life.
All must follow the sacred dance into the cauldron,
Time after time, to die and be reborn.
Help me to remember that
Every beginning has an ending
And that every ending has a new beginning.”
Take a bite of the apple.
What is left put outside later to share with the birds.
“Holy Mother, Demeter,
Comfort and protect me in my times of tribulation.
Instruct me into the Mysteries.
You, with your daughter Persephone, have the power
To lead me to new understanding.”
Now is the time for meditation and any spellworkings you may need or desire to end your sabbath celebration. Appropriate Spellwork for Mabon include those for protection, wealth and prosperity, security and spells to bring a feeling of self-confidence. If no spellwork is to be done at this time, then proceed with the Cakes and Ale Ceremony – or whatever is your practice, followed by Releasing the Magic Circle.
Please note this ritual is based on the Northern Hemisphere correspondences of elements and their colors, and directions and so on.
Mabon (May-bawn) is also known as the Feast of Avalon and the festival of the Wine Harvest. To the Celts, Avalon is the mysterious place for the land of the dead. and literally means the “land of apples”. Thus this is a holiday for celebrating the bounty of the harvest and the desire for the living to be reunited with their deceased loved ones.
But the holiday is also named for the Welsh God Mabon. Mabon means the “great son”. He was the son of Modred, kidnapped at the age of 3 and later rescued by King Arthur. His life represents the innocence of youth, the strength of survival and the growing wisdom of the elderly. Perhaps it is this view of the cycle of life that brings Mabon to his most popular role, the King of the Otherworld and the God of Darkness.
His myths overlap with other Gods such as the Welsh God Gwyn Ap Nuad, which means “white son of darkness”. He is seen as the God of war and death, the patron God of fallen warriors. Once again this is a representation or connection to the Land of Avalon.
Autumn Equinox refers to a time of the year when day and night are equally balanced. The dates vary slightly, falling between Sept 21 and Sept 23. The sun is in the process of crossing the equator and in astrological terms is entering the sign of Libra.
The sun is the focal point of energy (along with the moon) and such; its life force pushes us to discover more about ourselves. This movement into the Libra puts a congenial, cooperative outlook on that time of year, just what was needed by the communities, as they all worked together to complete the harvest.
Other names for the Autumnal Equinox include:
- Alban Elfed
- Equinozio di Autunno
- Fall Equinox
- Feast of Avalon
- Festival of Dionysus
- Festival of Strong Will
- Harvest Home
- Second Harvest Festival
- Wine Harvest
- Winter Finding
Harvest Home is an Anglo-Celtic version of the original Mabon, and fell in-between the First (Lugnasadh) and the Third (Samhain) Harvests. Harvests festivals were a very important part of the pre- industrialized culture. It was a time of relief and of rest. Relief that the crops were in and rest to catch their breath before the work of preparing for winter began. This was a time to give thanks.
- Color of the day: Yellow
- Incense of the day: Coriander
Once again the Sun’s path crosses the celestial equator, and the day and the night are now again of equal length. On the Gregorian calendar this is the first day of autumn, but on the modern Celtic calendar it is midautumn.
Autumn Equinox in Welsh Mythology
This holiday is more commonly known by its Welsh name Mabon. Mabon means “divine youth.” It is the name of a mythic hunter hero whose story is told at this time of year. At the beginning of time, Mabon was born to the mother goddess Modron. That we only know his mother and not his father attests to the matriarchal lineage of the early Celts.
The equinox marks the time when Mabon was three nights old and stolen from his crib. For the next three months, the heroes Cai and Bedwyr will search for him and ask all manner of birds and beasts for help. But, according to legend, it is only the salmon who can give them direction. On Yule, the heroes retrieve the divine child by freeing him from a prison in Gloucester.
Like Apollo, Mabon is a hunter with a bow and a musician with a harp. He is a Sun god. Mabon represents the Sun that is waning in strength during this quarter of the year and that will begin to return only after the solstice. The waning of the light is frightening and depressing, and it is necessary for our own sake to use magic at this time to help in the quest for Mabon.
The strongest act of magic that one can do at this time is to participate in the celebrations of the yearly cycle. As one integrates the yearly cycle deep into one’s unconscious, serenity and confidence are gained. This is the peace that comes from knowing and accepting that the light will return when it is time.
Autumn Equinox in Celtic Mythology
In this variation of the legend of the Autumn Equinox, this is the day of the year when the god of light, Lugh, is defeated by the god of darkness, Lugh’s twin and alter-ego, Tanist. The night conquers day.
The tales state that the Equinox is the only day which Lugh is vulnerable and the possibility of his defeat exists. Lugh stands on the balance (Autumn Equinox-Libra) with one foot on the goat (Winter Solstice-Capricorn) and the other on the cauldron (Summer Solstice-Cancer). He is betrayed by Blodeuwedd, the Virgin (Virgo) and transformed into an Eagle (Scorpio).
Two events occur rapidly with Lugh’s defeat. Tanist, having beaten Lugh, now takes over Lugh’s place both as King of our world and lover to the Goddess Tailltiu. Although Tanist now sits on Lugh’s throne, his official induction does not take place for another six weeks at Samhain, the beginning of Winter, when he becomes the Dark King, the Winter Lord, the Lord of Misrule. He mates with Tailltiu, who conceives, and will give birth nine months later (at the Summer Solstice) to her son, another incarnation of Tanist himself, the Dark Child.
Lugh’s sacrifice represents not only the sun’s dying power, but also the cycle of rebirth, his energy remaining within the corn we have since harvested. A incarnate (of Lugh) corn spirit was thought to specifically reside within the last stalk (or stock), which was traditionally dressed in fine clothes and decorations, or woven into a wicker man-shaped form. This symbolic decoration was then harvested and carried from the field to be burned with rejoicing for the spirits release and Lugh’s upcoming rebirth.
The Autumn Equinox in Greek Mythology
In Greek mythology, Autumn begins as Persephone returns to the Underworld to live with Hades, her husband.
In short, the myth says that Demeter’s daughter, Kore, had taken a day to pick flowers in a meadow when the Earth opened up, and Hades pulled the girl into the Underworld to become his bride. Kore’s name became Persephone when she married Hades.
For nine straight days, Demeter searched for Kore, with no success. In misery and despiration, Demeter questioned Helios, the Sun God, who informed her that her brother, Zeus, had given the girl to Hades. Furious, Demeter left Olympus to roam the Earth disguised as an old woman, ending up settled in her temple at Eleusis.
Soon after, she cursed the Earth so it would yield no crops. Zues sent her a frantic message inquiring as to why she had prevented growth on the planet. She replied that there would be no regeneration of vegetation on the Earth until her daughter, Kore, was safely returned.
Zeus immediately dispatched Hermes into the Underworld to retrieve the girl. Hades, not wanting to relinquish his bride permanently, convinced Persephone to eat some pomegranate seeds before she returned to her mother, Demeter. Demeter was yet again distraught when she learned of this trickery! Finally, Zeus declared that Kore-Persephone would live with her mother during one half of the year and return to her husband, Hades, during the other half. In thanks, Demeter lifted the curse on the Earth, creating Spring. Every year hence, during her time of greatest sorrow, Demeter renews the curse, as her daughter returns to Hades and the Underworld.
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