Back in March, when the world as most of us knew it was starting to shift faster than the ocean’s tides, I shared the second in an ongoing series of posts focused on budget-friendly ways to celebrate the sabbats.
As touched on in 10 Free and Low-Cost Ways to Celebrate Ostara, this series is not being published in purely sequential order. Nor will each entry appear here in the span of a single year.
Today’s post, in which the spotlight is shone upon the resplendently lovely sabbat that is Mabon, will be the third in this series.
As time marches ever onward, I intend to cover all eight of the sabbats – so be sure to watch this space for future economy-minded ways to embrace and make all the more of your Pagan holidays.
In the weeks leading up to Mabon 2020, I brainstormed a slew of possible post ideas for this year’s second harvest season sabbat.
And while many of them tickled my fancy (and are now tucked away in my post inspiration file for possible later use), a voice inside kept driving me back to writing about ways to embrace and make the most of Mabon that cost little to nothing.
Let’s face it, this year has not been kind to many people around the world. From layoffs and lost jobs to steep medical bills, increased costs of living, and so much more, belts have been tightened and pennies pinched in countless ways by a good many of us.
I am nothing if not a witch who listens to her intuition, so it was with pleasure and thanks (to the universe for nudging me in this direction) that I recently sat down to write this list of 15 Free and Low-Cost Ways to Celebrate Mabon.
Read on to learn about these fun, festive approaches, plus info about what Mabon is, when Mabon falls, and more!
What is Mabon?
Mabon is the second of three harvest season Pagan holidays/sacred days that take place annually.
It falls between Lammas in early August and Samhain at the end of October.
As with each of the eight sabbats that comprise the Wheel of the Year, Mabon’s roots run deep into the bedrock of the past.
However, Mabon as it is observed today, in the 21st century, is essentially a modern Pagan practice.
That said, countless cultures around the world have long celebrated the harvest season in myriad ways throughout the late summer and fall months.
Mabon draws richly on some of these traditional harvest time/fall equinox celebrations, particularly those from the British Isles, Ireland, Nordic and Germanic lands.
Interestingly, the word Mabon, in its neo-Pagan context, was termed in c. 1970 by New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn founder, Aiden Kelly. It is a reference to a Welsh mythological figure named Mabon ap Modron.
While the word Mabon tends to denote a Pagan/witchery harvest festival and the Fall Equinox or Autumn Equinox as both the astrological event and the more secular observance of such, some people happily use the two names interchangeably.
Other names for Mabon include Feast of the Ingathering, Meán Fómhair, An Clabhsúr, Alban Elfed, and the rather lovely, Harvest Home.
Mabon, much like its counter-sabbat Ostara, is a time of immense balance, as the night and day are roughly the same duration on the Fall Equinox.
From Mabon until Yule in the second half of December, the days will continue to grow ever darker, as we prepare for the long, cold winter months ahead.
At the moment though, at least a hint of warmth still remains in the air for many north of the equator. Far from being an overly solemn event, Mabon is a time of beautiful thanksgiving, inner reflection, harmony, balance, planning, and reflecting on what we’ve reaped or harvested in our lives over the past year.
Mabon is also an excellent time to take a well-deserved break. To relax, slow down, and honour both the shifting seasons and the bountiful harvest of autumn, as well as what we’ve helped to nurture and grow into being in the scope of our own daily existence.
September is one of the richest and most abundant months in terms of food crops, so it is quite natural to include feasting in your Mabon festivities, if so desired.
Not everyone personally identifies with the classic Triple Goddess archetypal iteration of the Maiden/Mother/Crone (and that is 100% okay).
Amongst those that do, however, Mabon is often seen as the point in the year when the Goddess/Divine feminine shifts from her role of Mother to that of the sagely and very powerful Crone.
When is Mabon?
Many, if not most, who observe Mabon in the Northern Hemisphere opt to do so in unison with the September Equinox.
The September, or Fall/Autumn, Equinox, denotes the moment when the sun appears to traverse the celestial equator on its exciting journey south.
It is also – excitingly – the first official calendar day of fall in many parts of the word.
As with Spring Equinox and both the Summer and Winter Solstices, the Fall Equinox can fall within a tight window of days each year. In the case of the Fall Equinox, that window spans September 21st to September 24th.
This year, the Fall Equinox is on September 22nd.
Thus, if you’re wondering when is Mabon 2020, the short answer becomes September 22nd.
However, that said, when and for how many days, one opts to observe a given sabbat is a highly personal choice. Plenty of witches, Pagans, and Wiccans will celebrate Mabon on the Autumn Equinox itself.
Doing so is not a requirement though by any means. Broadly speaking, September 20th to September 30th is considered to be Mabon season – though, in some ways, this season extends until Samhain, at the end of October.
I strongly encourage you to follow your heart and instincts when it comes to celebrating (or not) each of the sabbats and the days that you personally choose to observe them on.
While I generally observe the sabbats that correspond with solstices and equinoxes on the official dates that these events occur, I’ve been known to begin my Mabon celebrations + magickal workings as early as the start of September and to carry on with them well into the highly spiritually charged days of late October.
Is Mabon just for witches, Wiccans and Pagans?
Happily, the sabbats are open to those of all faiths and beliefs. They are days that mark important points in the ever-turning wheel of the year – something that impacts every single person’s life, regardless of their spiritual path or where they live on the planet.
If you feel called to observe and celebrate the Autumn Equinox/Mabon, then by all means have at it.
Life needs all the cheer, positivity, gratitude, and reasons to make merry that we can possibly muster.
After all, it is not without good reason that Mabon is sometimes called the Pagan Thanksgiving or Witches Thanksgiving.
However, I personally believe that the Fall Equinox has the ability to serve as a universal Thanksgiving Day for anyone around the world who wishes to focus on the blessings of the harvest season.
How to celebrate the Fall Equinox/Mabon
In the list that follows this section, numerous specific ways to celebrate Mabon are laid out. However, these are but fifteen of the limitless approaches one can take to honouring the harvest season.
Mabon is an excellent time to focus on thanksgiving, blessings, gratitude, warmth (what remains from the sun’s rays and that which we foster in our own lives and relationships), harmony, serenity, the liminal nature of the equinoxes, and other aspects of the season that resonate with our own hearts.
You may wish to create or decorate an existing altar for Mabon, hold a Mabon feast – be it for one or one hundred, take a leisurely nature walk, decorate your home for fall time (one of my personal faves!), reach out to people you hold dear to thank them for the ways in which they enrich your life, harvest some fruit, vegetables, herbs or other plants of your own, visit a corn maze or pumpkin patch, make seasonally related jewelry or other craft projects, create corn dollies, watch the leaves fall, or have a lovely bonfire at this point in the year.
Celebrate Mabon in the way(s) that feel right and natural to you and your spiritual path, that realistically work within the parameters of your daily life, and which, hopefully, bring you both happiness and an even deeper sense of connection to the wonders of fall time.
15 free and low-cost ways to celebrate Mabon
1. Gather natural treasures. While spring and summer might see more live greenery, I’d argue that no season offers quite the bounty of natural treasures that autumn does.
Even in the heart of sprawling metropolises, fall still shines radiantly and proudly via the changing leaves and early morning frost.
If you’re able to do so, head outside and take a leisurely look around for offerings from Gaia that you can bring home with you to use for all manner of purposes. From decorating your home and altar to (when applicable) eating now or storing away for the coming year until fall returns once again.
As always, ensure that anything you source is done in a legal and ethical manner, and that you are not greatly disrupting the local ecosystem by removing any elements from a given surrounding.
Some wonderful things to keep your eyes on high alert for during the crisp, gorgeous days of early to mid-autumn include dried leaves, strips of shed bark, seed pods, pine cones, chestnuts, acorns, walnuts, hazelnuts (filberts), seasonal wildflowers, corn husks, safe to eat wild foods (fruits, berries, vegetables, roots, herbs, mushrooms, etc), shed animal skins and antlers, empty bird’s egg shells, and feathers.
Give thanks for each treasure that you find and consider leaving an offering, picking up trash in the vicinity, or otherwise honouring the area that you’ve been forging for fall time nature finds in.
2. Engage in banishing magic. Banishing is something that aligns powerfully with the harvest season, as one distinct chapter of the year (the growing season of spring and summer) transforms into the harvesting, resting and renewing period that is fall and winter.
This year, most of us are feeling the need to weave some banishing work into our spiritual practices now more than ever.
If you’re keen to do just that, I highly recommend this Apple Magick Banishing Spell for Mabon that I penned as another of the guest posts that I had the pleasure of writing for The Witch of Lupine Hollow.
This spell is simple, meaningful, and, in my personal experience, highly effective. It also supports the spirit of the Autumn Equinox, which invites us to part ways with was and to gather strength and renewed focus for the coming chilly months.
3. Learn a new skill or further your education. While many a year may have passed since you last sat behind a school desk, one of the greatest gifts in life is that we have the ability to keep learning long after our days of formal classroom education are behind us.
In many parts of the world, the new school year begins in August or September.
Growing up, I adored the start of the school year and often find myself missing the heady rush of resuming classroom learning, a backpack bulging with new pencils and notebooks slung over my shoulder, when September returns.
While I won’t be raising my hand during rollcall again anytime soon, one way I can help temper this longing is to throw myself into learning or honing a new skill or area of interest as fall returns.
Sometimes my focus is squarely Pagan/witchy related, at others it may pertain to crafts, my health, the culinary arts, photography, or a multitude of other topics.
If there’s something you’ve been keen to learn more about, a class you’ve been wanting to take, or a subject you’d like to brush up, the Autumn Equinox is a superb time to honour your mind and enrich your life in the process.
4. Practice leaf divination. Formally known as phyllomancy, divining via leaves is an ancient practice whose roots (pun intended) likely stretch back to the early days of human existence.
Leaves are abundant in most parts of the world, so it stands to reason that they were a probable source for early peoples to turn to when engaging in divination. Historical records tell us that phyllomancy was used by cultures such as the ancient Greeks, Assyrians, Romans, Celts, and Chinese, to name but a few.
There are various ways to look for omens, signs, meanings, and answers in leaves. They include listening to the sounds, such as rustling, that they make, interpreting their shapes and colours (as well as if a leaf has fallen face up or face down), reading the veins and characteristic markings of a given leaf, using groups or piles of leaves in much the same way as tealeaf reading (tasseomancy), interrupting images seen in burning leaves, and mental impressions that present themselves to you when looking at autumn leaves.
5. Donate to a local food bank or other food-related charity. While fall is known as the season of plenty thanks to the abundance of agricultural crops that are harvest at this point in the year, the sad truth is that even in a world teeming with food, not everyone gets enough to eat and/or has an ongoing sense of food security.
If you have unexpired non-perishable foods to share, the means to make a monetary donation, and/or ability to volunteer some of your time to help out at a local food bank, soup kitchen or similar facility, Mabon is an excellent time of the year to do so.
If this is not possible, think about other ways that you might be able to share some of the bounty – be it modest or vast – of your own food stores with others.
For example, do you have an elderly neighbour who would appreciate a hearty homemade pumpkin bread, a pot of delicious acorn squash soup, or basket of perfectly ripe apples from the tree in your backyard?
As in many areas of life, it is often possible to give and enrich the lives of others without breaking the bank – or, in some cases, involving any money at all.
6. Create a crystal grid for Mabon. Crystal grids are incredible ways to harness the power, energy and benefits of working with crystals.
I adore putting together blessed and charged crystal grids for the Pagan holidays, often leaving them on one of my altars until the next sabbat approaches.
The sky is the limit when it comes to designing and laying out a crystal grid for Mabon.
You could opt to include only crystals, stones and/or rocks or may wish to involve other natural or manmade elements as well.
Numerous crystals are associated with Mabon. These include, but are not limited to, citrine, aragonite, jasper, sunstone, garnet, amber, cat’s eye, orange calcite, carnelian, pyrite, aventurine, peach selenite, rhyolite, and peach moonstone.
In addition to crystals and stones, I love including natural materials – particularly those that I’ve gathered myself – in my Mabon crystal grids.
Some great additions are sunflowers and their seeds, marigolds, dried summertime flowers, pumpkin seeds, mini pumpkins and gourds, apples (fresh or dried), pears (fresh or dried), ears of dried corn and/or corn husks, sheaves of wheat, fall leaves, acorns, chestnuts, seed pods, and feathers.
7. Recycle old candles to make new candles. Let’s face it, most of us witchy and Pagan folk love a good candle – or fifty! 😄 And while plenty may be burned until completion, chances are that you have some partially used candles laying around the house as we speak.
This Mabon season, to honour the warmth and light that helped to create the bountiful fall harvest, to prepare for the coming months of autumn and winter darkness, and to celebrate the fact that the fall equinox is a day of balance between the eternal sources of light and darkness, why not make some candles from existing ones that you have on hand?
The web is rife with tutorials on how to turn old candle ends, bits and pieces into new candles. YouTube is a great place to watch videos of how to do just that.
While a small number of basic candle making materials may be required for some of these techniques, the outlay in cost can usually be kept to a minimum – especially if you don’t plan to turn candle making into a major hobby or business.
Fall is a fantastic time of the year to sweep away, clean up and declutter the old, parting ways with what we can, while recycling and revamping in other areas. Handmade candles are one shining – again, pun intended – way to do just that.
8. Reflect on loss, death and the natural cycle of life. It’s safe to say that 2020 has driven these themes home for many people in powerful, perhaps for some individuals even unprecedented, ways.
It is beyond the scope of this post to even so much as skim the surface of grief processing and management or to delve into the extraordinary degree of loss + suffering that the world has endured this year.
Whether you chose to reflect on how death has touched and shaped 2020 or these subjects as they pertain to other areas of your life/spiritual path is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong here at all.
Of all the sabbats (as they transpire in the Northern Hemisphere), none is as closely linked to death, the spirit realm, ancestors, and imagery pertaining to the dead than Samhain.
Yet, Mabon, which proceeds Samhain by just a few short weeks, is another point in the year when the veil thins and workings (and thoughts) pertaining to death are especially appropriate.
After all, what does the autumn equinox mark but the death of summer. Even if the warmth and radiant sunlight of the former season lingers a while longer, as far as science and the calendar alike are concerned, summer is officially over.
While one might feel full on grief over the loss of summer – and, conversely, plenty rejoice when this point arrives – it is worthwhile to reflect on the season that was and to thank the universe for the chance to experience another summer.
Consider performing rituals and workings pertaining to some aspect of death, be it seasonal, connected to departed people or animals, or the general theme of death and the roles it plays in each of our journeys through life.
Visit a graveyard or cemetery, hold a dumb supper, connect with ancestral spirits, do tarot or oracle reading that relates to death, engage in death positive activities, or do anything else pertaining to death that feels right (and safe!) to you this autumn.
9. Dress is fall time colours. While black and grey (and to a lesser extent, dark brown) are have been the powerhouses of my wardrobe for years now, fall’s colour palette has a starring role in my closer the whole year through as well.
When autumn itself returns, I leap headfirst all the more into donning rich, earthy, elegant shades of everything from maroon to saffron, pumpkin to olive, cocoa to crimson and plenty of others.
Each colour in the visible spectrum connects to elements of nature, has meaningful spiritual correspondences and connections, and can impact everything from our mood to how people perceive us.
When it comes to fall time dressing, some great colours choices include:
-Burgundy and maroon
-Reds, especially darker shades (such as scarlet, brick, and cranberry) and those with blue undertones
-Muted or, conversely, intense shades of earthy pink and peach, such as puce, salmon, and dusty rose
-Oranges, including rust, pumpkin, marigold, copper, persimmon, and terracotta
-Yellows and golds, including honey, saffron, sunflower, camel, brass, bronze, and mustard yellow
-Earthy greens like chartreuse, olive, sage, and moss
-Darker greens such as spruce, pine, forest, and hunter
-Deep, inky blues such as navy, midnight, dark denim, teal, and peacock
-Purples such plum, berry, sangria, bordeaux, eggplant (aubergine), and dusty shades of purple
-Browns, particularly medium and darker toned shades, as well as those with golden undertones, such as caramel, nutmeg, butterscotch, and toffee
-Greys in general, though darker shades spanning slate to charcoal are especially appropriate
-Silver and gunmetal
-Muted whites, creams, and ivories
-Black and colours so dark they almost look black (e.g., black cherry)
You do need to look like a walking poster for fall 24/7, of course (though, I’ll be the first to welcome you to team fall fashion, if you do! 😃).
From small splashes – say a scarf, pair of boots, bracelet, or hair accessory – to full-on ensembles and everything in between, you can rock as much or as little of autumn’s color palette this season.
And, in doing so, know that you are aligning yourself all the more with the energy and natural palette of this beautiful chapter of the year.
Likewise, these colours are all stellar choices for fall time altars, candles, home décor, seasonal décor, party colour schemes, craft projects, and even the foods you prepare throughout the autumn months.
10. Create an outdoor Mabon altar. If you have a safe, private place to do so, consider creating a seasonal altar outdoors for Mabon or adorning an existing outdoor altar in ways that align with Mabon and your spiritual path.
The wonderful blog Raising Knights and Fairies has a great post How to Make an Outdoor Mabon Altar, if you’re looking for some handy inspiration for your own altar Fall Equinox season altar.
Your altar need not be massive. You can base it off of small outdoor table, a stable rock or tree stump, or simply a cleared spot of land.
During the years when I lived on the 23rd floor of a high-rise apartment building, I often made lovely little outdoor altars throughout the year on our balcony in (or on top of) small recycled wooden and plastic crates.
Another possible place – assuming doing so wouldn’t risk damaging anything you may have planted – is to create altars in planter style window boxes.
Plus, a hanging altar can also be constructed from things such as planters, macramé, or woven baskets, if elevating your altar is a more feasible or desirable approach.
11. Make sun prints from leaves or other seasonal items. The process – aided by a little bit of chemical alchemy – of crating prints using the sun and natural (or manmade) objects is known as cyanotype. It is a form of non-mechanical, aka camera-less, photography that’s creates a cyan blue coloured print.
This process helped to name the act of making blueprints, as cyanotypes were a relatively easy way to create copies of drawing before the advent of more advance copying and image reproduction methods.
Cyanotypes often have a serene elegance to them, and the finished product – be it on paper or fabric can make for gorgeous home décor or be put to work in craft projects.
Creating cyanotypes will likely incur the expense of the materials needed, so it is not the absolute lowest option on this list. However, most kits (or individually sourced and utilized materials) create multiple prints, which helps to keep the costs down on a project-by-project basis.
If you’d rather skip the outlay involved, there are other methods such as preserving leaves with wax paper that are apt to cost you little to nothing (if you have waxed paper to hand already).
As well, the classic act of simply placing fall leaves beneath drawing paper and rubbing a wax crayon, pastel stick, or pencil crayon overtop to produce a rubbing of the leaves never goes out of style and can bring back a lovely hit of nostalgia for those of us who made leaf rubbings during our school days.
With any leaf art related project, consider displaying the end result on or near your altar/sacred space or otherwise giving it pride of place in your home this fall.
12. Gather up and record your favourite recipes. I’m a passionate home cook and kitchen witch the whole year through, but the moment the first fall leaf drops, I make a beeline for the pantry + stove like there’s no tomorrow! 😃
Many of us associate the colder months with comfort food, nostalgic dishes, and fond memories of the eats we adored (or otherwise ate) when we were growing up.
If you’re not already recording some of your favourite recipes – or haven’t updated your recipe book in a while – fall is the ideal time to jot down those dishes that make your heart, stomach and soul alike all happy.
If so desired, feel free to include notes on any magickal workings or other spiritual elements that you’ve preformed or associate with your recipes.
Let your loved ones know about your treasure trove of recipes and don’t be shy about sharing copies of them. Passing along recipes is a time-honoured tradition and one that feels all the more at home come the season of potlucks (potlatches), Thanksgiving, Halloween/Samhain, and fall feasting.
13. Make your very own corn husk witch doll. I gasped, audibly gasped, when I first saw this beautiful DIY project online. With a few craft and household supplies, you can create what has to be one of the most perfect, witchery approved corn husk related crafts of all time: a corn husk witch doll.
Not only is your finished corn husk witch doll a wonderful representation of the spiritual bond we share with fall, but it can become a treasured piece that you either bring out each autumn or leave on your altar or elsewhere in your house the whole year through.
As well, I cannot help but think what a splendid gift for your fellow witchy and Halloween adoring friends one of these special corn husk dolls would be.
14. Go on a fall time picnic. Unless you are fortunate enough to live somewhere that never gets truly cold, chances are that pristine al fresco dining weather will soon be drawing to a close in your area.
Before it does, why not prepare or purchase and pack up a scrumptious picnic to be enjoyed in the majesty of the great outdoors (be it a safe public setting or the comfort of your own backyard)?
For extra fall time fun, correspondences and meaning, you could opt to feature a menu comprised of seasonal foods such as those involving pumpkin, squash, apples, plums, pears, grapes, cider, perry (pear cider), mead, wine, honey, pomegranates, corn, squash, leeks, onions, garlic, cornbread, hearty breads, oats, nuts and seeds, salmon, turkey, venison, and warm spices such as pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger, mustard, and cardamom.
15. Set intentions for the coming year. Samhain is often seen as the witches New Year. I myself view and utilize it in this meaningful capacity. Yet I have long been doing much the same with the return of fall as well.
The ball may drop on time square at the stroke of midnight on January 1st, but for myself and plenty of others, different points in the year feel like more natural or intrinsic starts to the next year for us.
Fall’s return is my new year and as such I make a point to be brutally and lovingly honest with myself about what it is I would ideally like to accomplish between now and the following Mabon.
I set intentions big and small, access how those from past years are doing, and accept that some past intentions either will not come to be or may no longer be realistic.
You can do the same through thoughts alone, by writing your intentions down, doing intention related spell work, making a vlog style video about your intentions, or utilizing another method that jives with your life.
Think big and dream broadly, but remember to keep at least a toe or two planted firmly in the reality of your current existence.
And keep in mind too that, much like traditional New Year’s resolutions, you will generally have to actively work to make your intentions and goals come to fruition.
Hope, luck, and faith all have their place, but so does self-propelled manifestation.
Reaping the blessings of Mabon
Much like the balance of light and dark that Mabon houses, the second fall harvest sabbat is a meaningful blend of joy and somberness. It celebrates life and thanksgiving, while also honouring death and, in some instances, rebirth as well.
Samhain might be the rock star of the Pagan sabbat world in the eyes of many, but Mabon holds its own, too, and is a powerful, spiritually charged, beautiful chapter of the year.
Yes, we’ve officially bid farewell to summer, but that just means we get to enjoy the next several weeks of fall weather before plunging into the icy heart of winter.
Mabon, much like autumn itself, is a time of both productivity and rest. It invites us to banish what no longer serves our lives and spiritual practices, while also providing us with comfort, joy, inspiration, beauty, magick, and merriment aplenty.
The blessings of this season are abundant. They shine out in every leaf and tendril of chimney smoke, greeting us via smiling jack-o-lanterns and scrumptious fall time comfort dishes. They are present in our communications with the departed, our evening walks through jewel toned carpets of crunchy leaves, and the dreams + goals we make for the year ahead.
May this Mabon bring unlimited goodness, support, safety, and enchantment your way, dear friends! 🍁🎃🍁