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The Festival of Mabon

Mabon Date Celebrated
Autumnal Equinox (around 21st September)

Alternate Names
Celtic "Festival of the Vine," Alban Elfed or Alban Elued (Light of the Water)

Christian Equivalent
Saint Matthew's Day

Place in the Natural Cycle

Mabon is the solar festival that marks the transition from the light to the dark half of the year: day and night are of equal length. On this day, the sun rises due east and sets due west. The autumn quarter of the year runs from Lughnasadh to Samhain, so Mabon marks the mid-point of autumn. By Mabon, the land is showing clear signs of the journey towards winter - leaves are beginning to turn and birds are gathering for migration.

More About Mabon

Mabon is the time of the second harvest, when fruits are ready for collection. In Celtic mythology, Mabon was the Young God, abducted and imprisoned, only to return at a later date. This is thus an appropriate title for the day on which darkness gains the upper hand over light until the following equinox, Ostara. Mabon is the point at which, conceptually at least, the sun enters the sign of Libra, the Scales or Balance - the most appropriate sign for this day of perfect balance between darkness and light.

John Keats Mabon is a time to consider which aspects of your life you wish to preserve and which you would prefer to discard. It marks a time of thankfulness, equality and balance when you should try to appreciate and enjoy the fruits of your labors. The dark half of the year brings a greater emphasis on reflection, rest and planning, and Mabon is the point at which these influences begin to be felt.

The enchanting time of the year that Mabon celebrates is perhaps most beautifully evoked by To Autumn, by the English poet, John Keats. Appropriately for this time of benevolence, the poem first appeared in a lively letter to a friend, and even more appositely, this letter was written on the autumnal equinox of 1819. It was published in 1820 in the volume that would make Keats' reputation after his death: Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes and other poems. Further poems by Keats can be enjoyed in our poetry section.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

The Mystical Calendar
The Eight Festivals:     Yule   -   Imbolc   -   Ostara   -   Beltane   -   Litha   -   Lughnasadh   -   Mabon   -   Samhain