September 21 or 22
Search for the Lost Child
(Portions of the lesson which may be repeated from last year are shown in bold italics. Please be sure to review any repeated portions and study the new material.)
Today we honor the Autumn Equinox, which will happen this Wednesday, September 22, when the long days of summer finally come to an end, and in which night and day become the same length. After Tuesday, the nights will become longer and the days will become shorter as we prepare to go into the winter season once again.
Even here in Southern California, where the Temple of Fortuna worship services are recorded, although the difference between the seasons sometimes seems less pronounced than in other regions, we experience the same shortening of days. As we commute to school and work in the morning and back again in the evening, in the deepest parts of the winter ahead, it can feel as though we are wandering around in the middle of the night, instead of during the day, because of how short the daylight becomes this time of year.
The scientific theory for why we see the effects of the Autumn Equinox is because the earth’s axis is tilted. The earth rotates on its axis toward the North Star. At the same time, the earth is revolving around the sun. Half of the year the southern hemisphere has more solar exposure, and half of the year it’s the northern hemisphere that receives the lion’s share of solar rays. There is also a seasonal shift in places on the other side of the globe, such as Australia and New Zealand, which will experience a shift toward the longer days of summer at this time when we experience a shift toward shorter days here in our hemisphere.
The Autumn Equinox is also known as Alban Elfed, Cornucopia, Feast of Avilon, Festival of Dionysus, Harvest Home, Harvest Time, Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Witches’ Thanksgiving, the first day of Autumn and “Michaelmas” for the archangel Michael, Winter Finding, and Equinozio di Autunno. The full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox (this year it’s on October 4) is called the Harvest moon, and farmers may harvest their crops by moonlight as a part of seasonal celebrations.
Ancient people believed that the shortening of the days was created by some sort of huge sadness amongst their deities …… sadness that lasted for six months every year, creating darkness until the spring equinox. What sort of sadness could be so overwhelming to a deity? Surely no earthly being could cause such sadness. It must be something personal to a deity. Something that would be recovered in Spring, as the light returns. Something more important than all the petty struggles that go on between supreme beings all the time. This huge sadness could only be caused by a mother’s loss of her child.
This time of year our Wiccan friends celebrate Mabon, the second of the Wiccan harvest festivals. While many people enjoy the celebrations and festivities this time of year, our Pagan worship congregation may wish to know a little more about the name of this festival and its significance to Paganism. We have talked about how the Roman Empire spanned a large territory and was influenced by Celtic lore. The story of Mabon comes from the Celtic story of a mother who lost her child.
Anyone who has experienced the loss of a child, or knows someone who has lost their child, is no stranger to the enormous worry and emotional costs of this very traumatic experience. Anyone who has found a child that they thought lost, knows the incredible sense of relief, happiness and feelings of celebration that accompanies finding a lost child.
The story of Mabon is a Celtic story about a mother who lost her son, who was himself born on the Autumnal Equinox and was lost either three days, or three years after his birth, depending on the version of the story you believe. He was later freed, and returned directly to Her in person. Mabon’s mother, who is called Modron in this story, was a Celtic goddess, who protected him with her belief that he was still as safe as when he was within her body before he was born. Her belief in herself, her son and her unborn son created an Outerworld of protection for him during the winter months.
Modron, the mother, was at one with nature and, in the search for Mabon, many animals were asked if they were Mabon’s spirit guides so that perhaps they could assist in finding his location. In later stories, She was assisted by a knight of the round table, who asked: Tell me if thou knowest aught of Mabon, the son of Modron, who was taken when three nights old from between his mother and the wall? The spirit guides consulted were the Blackbird , the Stag, the Eagle, the Salmon, and the Owl.
In our service about the Hazel moon, we discovered that the Salmon had great wisdom because he had eaten nine hazelnuts of wisdom from the Sacred Hazel tree by the water. The Stag, a male deer, was the oldest creature in existance and a symbol of abundance and renewal, the antlers of the Stag represented the harvest, and white stags would come from the Otherworld and bring about profound change.
The blackbird is a mystical creature who can sing a person into a trance, and can not only pass freely into the Otherworld, it can also give a person access to the Otherworld as a familiar. The Owl is associated with wisdom, nocturnal vision, healing powers, magick, mysteries and its hoot can warn of death, The Eagle was associated with nobility and could also warn of death, and the Salmon, also one of the oldest creatures in the world, and the symbol of all knowledge, was linked to sacred mysteries and deep emotion.
Eventually, the wisdom of living animals showed a path in which Mabon was found and returned home. In his travels to the Outerworld Mabon grew strong and wise, and was greeted as a deity himself. WIth his return came the longer days of spring, and eventually the parties and festivities of the summer months as a blessing for his return.
The Autumn Equinox or Mabon festival is celebrated as part of the Autumnal season, with the colors and produce of the season. The pomegranite, apple and pumpkin are seasonal, as are many kinds of squash. Many people enjoy decorating with seasonal harvest fruits and vegetables. Prayers of thanksgiving abound for the good things that have come from our labor, and the good things that will come in the next year from efforts that we will put to good use.
May the Goddess Fortuna allow your cornucopia to be filled it with the wonderful harvest of prosperity this season!
Cornucopia Sketch, public domain image, colorized
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mirrored from GeoCities at the end of October 2009
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