"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Merry Mabon (Be Prepared)

Mabon is one of the eight high festivals of the ancient Celtic calendar, and one of my favorites. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the autumnal equinox can be counted on to be one of the loveliest times of the year. The sky will almost always be electric blue, the temperature a comfortable 70 degrees, and the golden afternoon will nearly always fade to a crisp evening full of stars. This year is no exception.  I've been enjoying many beautiful afternoons lately out with the goats and a good book.

Mabon is the middle harvest, out of three. Lammas, or midsummer, is the festival of the early harvest. Here, we celebrate flowers, snap peas, spinach and other tender greens, eggs and milk. The late harvest is celebrated at Samhain, or Halloween. Pumpkins and gourds, nuts, and those crops which are improved by frost such as parsnips and kale. Mushrooms.

But here, the richest harvest is the middle harvest. I have been writing about nothing but the harvest lately, so I don't want to repeat myself, but I can't resist a little bit of harvest poetry.

Blue plums, on the branch and on the ground
wonton in abundance and in sweetness
a feast for wasps
hazelnuts, walnuts and chestnuts
glossy shells peering through their spiny husks
green beans and shelly beans and dry beans
rattling in the pod
still clinging to the yellow vines
thistle down and burdock root
blown dandelion and amaranth
pasture grass seed headed and heavy 
nearly horizontal
apples and apples and apples and apples
pears upon pears upon pears
fall raspberries, few and golden
blackberries, insouciantly out of reach
late potatoes, asleep in the loam
sweet corn and field corn and popcorn 
tall and tasseled, dressing up the landscape
staunch chard and sturdy kale
cabbages, round and ready
opening their outer leaves
proud to embody
the crisp green heart of fall. 

Today I dressed the altar for Mabon. I removed my Demeter icon and replaced her with a painting of autumn leaves. I laid down pears from our trees and chestnuts that I found on a walk, along with the last two blooms on my rosebush. It looks like there are several bottles of beer on the altar, but actually those are several bottles of home-brew apple cider, which I bottled today. I was a bit short on bottles, so I am enjoying the excess cider as I write this. 

Mabon is a time of preparation. In the most literal sense of course, a time of preparation for winter. Have I preserved the harvest? Is the freezer full? The bank account? Can we pay the second half property taxes? Do the children have winter coats? Are there home repairs that need to be completed before the rains start, or before it freezes? It is good to be reminded, via the calendar, to pay attention to the mundane work of the season. But for those who are so inclined, Mabon is an appropriate time to address other kinds of readiness. 

For those who choose to do so, this is a good time to ask not just what is the state of my larder,  but what is the state of my soul? What is the state of my marriage? How about my health? Have I done what I need to do to prepare for the next phase of my life? How about my children, have I laid a path for them to follow? Maybe I should write a will. Do my loved ones know what my wishes are?

These are hard, deep questions, and I don't know about you, but when I decide to think about them in a serious way, I want divine guidance. Far be it from me to suggest who anyone ought to pray to, but there are some gods and goddesses associated with this time of year, the time of perfect balance between light and dark. These are the threshold crossers; those numinous beings who are equally at home in the underworld and the world of light. My personal guide at this season is Persephone, bride of the God of the underworld. She joyfully sinks into the earth to meet her husband every fall and she joyfully rises again every spring to blossom in the sun. She is both the queen of the dead and the resurrected daughter of the dawn. She is the wisdom that comes at life's end and the hope that is manifest in the first signs of every spring. 

painting of Persephone I did many years ago

When I appeal to her, I ask her to grant me the ability to sit quietly in the midst of doubt and fear, in darkness and uncertainty. To stay balanced in the muddled middle until answers make themselves known.  I ask her to show me what are those aspects of my being that need to be brought up out of the depths and into the light of day? How can I make manifest and concrete those inklings and urges that want to remain hidden? Which of them should be lifted up and which of them should be remanded to outer darkness? Help me decide what belongs in the light and what belongs in the dark. Where, O Persephone, are the roots and where are the shoots? Help me give the right gifts to each, that each may be nurtured and come to full fruition. Help me, in this season of balance, to find the right balance in my life.

Help me to see the beauty in the bones, in the deepness, in the decay and the quiet work of winter. Help me to honor necessary rest, to partake in necessary rest, help me to gather and to guard my strength through the long dark, that I might rise renewed as you do, ready and refreshed. Blessed be the sacred season of repose, and thank you for the hospitality of the velvet earth.


Laura said...

Great thoughts. Great poem! And a good reminder of the purpose of the season - thanks!