This excerpt is from the Gaia's Wheel Newsletter of 2007.
The first festival is Lammas, the second is Autumn Equinox and the last is Samhain or Sawain. In older text, this time of the year is called Autumn Equinox and the word Mabon is a recent addition to The Wheel of the Year. Mabon is used mostly by American Wiccans while in Britain and Europe it is still most commonly referred to as Autumn Equinox.
Another name for this holiday is Harvest Home or The Feast of Ingathering. Harvest Home is a festival that has been celebrated since before Anglo-Saxon times much as we celebrate Thanksgiving. This is the time of the year where families gather, celebrate, and give thanks for the crops. Many villages in the British Isles have records of festivals and localized customs that were practiced during the festivals of Harvest Home. Often times a special beer or ale was brewed to use in village celebrations.
In some villages, a corn maiden, made from the last corn (a term also used for barley) was made with the last swath cut from the field. The corn maiden was taken to a family who took care of her and honored her throughout the winter so she could be replanted in the spring. Some villages had a corn man who was honored in much the same way. Many historians believe that this was a custom left over from days when a real human life was offered to make the crops grow. Sensational movies such as the Wickerman and many books have used this type of theme in modern times.
Songs traditionally sung at this time, such as John Barleycorn, talk about the sacrifice of a man to make the crops grow. However, after careful listening one learns of how to make ale or beer instead of hearing of murder and sacrifice.
Mabon is a time also of balance since the night and days (in theory) are equal in length. For many, this is a time to begin working on plans that were started earlier in the year. Our fore-mothers and fathers also understood that this is a natural time to socialize, celebrate and work together and accomplish these types of endeavors. Culturally, this is the time when we head back to school, finish up the garden and set aside food for winter, and start to look forward to the holidays. Projects for winter are started. Animals prepare for winter, and this is time of year when they are hunted.
I personally like the term Harvest Home and the images it conjures up of bonfires, cider and spending the evening in celebration with friends. Harvest Home also acknowledges those who have passed and in which ties us to the past as we talk and remember friends and family. This keeps alive stories for the next generations to come. Many cultures practice a custom of setting aside a plate of food, often called a spirit plate, for the ancestors (or fairies) so that they may celebrate with everyone. In many cultures this plate was taken and placed in a cemetery on the oldest ancestral grave to be shared by all those who had died.
This compilation by Wyldrose.
This compilation by Wyldrose.