Humans have been celebrating the harvest for as long as we have been growing plants to feed ourselves with. The pagan sabbat of Mabon takes place on the Autumn Equinox, and has been observed for thousands of years. On this day, there is an equal amount of sunlight and darkness, making it a stunning example of the balance and cyclical ways of nature (which makes this a perfect day to embrace your own halves and wholeness—both the darkness and the lighter parts of yourself). It is often called the “Pagan Thanksgiving,” as it historically celebrates abundance and reaping what we sow. It is the second of three harvest holidays (Lughnasadh being the first), as this is the time when gourds, grapes, apples and pumpkins would all be harvested and feasted on. The holiday itself is named after Mabon ap Modron—a Welsh hero god from ancient times (the name translating to “Son of Mother” because he was son of Mother Earth), but Demeter is often depicted as being associated with the day due to her correspondences being related to the harvest, as well as Persephone for her cyclical balance between above and below; darkness and light.
With all of this in mind, the harvest can be celebrated in a myriad of ways.
Meditate on what you are reaping.
What are you abundant in right now? Consider your “blessings” and good fortunes, attributes that you love about yourself, and things you’re enjoying currently. This can include everything from your able body, to your good grades, to the beautiful view you have in your living room, to your partner’s love for you, to your healthy hair. Think about what you’re harvesting in your own life, and bask in that gratitude. You can make a physical list (everyday or on Mabon), meditate on it every morning, or have a gathering where you discuss it (responsibly and following current COVID-19 guidelines). You can even treat it the way you treat Thanksgiving, but without the turkey slaughtering and insensitivity surrounding Indigenous genocide.
Meditate on what you’re currently sowing.
You can’t reap without sowing, so consider what you need to be sowing currently. What do you need to do in order to achieve what you want or to continue enjoying what you have? Maybe you need to go back to school. Maybe you need to read about a topic you’ve always wanted to learn about. Maybe you want to eat more whole foods or use less plastic. Focus on what needs to be done in order to continue reaping in your life. You can do this on Mabon, all month, or after Mabon in preparation for next year.
Hang up dried garlic bunches or make a wreath made from twigs and grape vines and dried apples. Embrace the season visually, and welcome it into your home. If you aren’t crafty, you can even buy autumn wreaths or art depicting harvest scenes or fruit that is local to you during this time of year. Not only will this be a good way to embrace the harvest, but it will help to connect you with the land and the current season. If you don’t have a house to decorate, decorate your room, your car, or even your clothes with it. Put a dried bunch of plants in your cupholders or wear colors that remind you of the local harvest. It’s all effective and beautifully to the point.
Eat seasonally and intentionally.
Whether you throw a feast of local, in-season food or you just choose to eat that way throughout the month, this is a great way to embrace the harvest. Traditionally, this would mean munching on foods like apple pie, roasted pumpkin, stuffed squash, and grape and grain bowls—of course served with wine or grape juice and cider. That all said, pay attention to what’s in season in your locality and eat those things. If you can’t afford the fresh version, try getting frozen or dried versions, or even flavors of them. For example if pumpkins are too expensive where you are, something as simple as buying a pumpkin coffee from your local coffee shop can be a great way to nod to the seasonal bounty. If you want to honor a goddess or the folklore of the season, eat pomegranates to honor Persephone or wheat bread to honor Demeter.
Even if you don’t live near lands that technically include “the harvest,” spending time in the fresh air anywhere is grounding. You can be in the middle of Manhattan and walking under the trees along the sidewalk or paying attention to the way the brisk air feels against your skin can help you embrace the harvest, because it connects you to the season and time of the year. If you live in a rural area, go earthing or respectfully forage (maybe even go apple picking). Wherever you are, think about ways that you can best connect to the season and land around you, further ensuring that you embody this holiday and time of year, because that is the most important thing to do- whether or not you celebrate Mabon. We are so interwoven into the fabric of nature, that the seasons are a part of us. If you ignore them, and don’t bond with them, we won’t only grow further from them and our ecosystems, but we will grow further from ourselves.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Emily Iris Degn