To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal …
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance …
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.
I don’t like Mabon.
Don’t get me wrong–I love this time of year. I love the autumnal equinox. I love the cool crispness that starts to seep into the air in the very early morning (even when you know that summer might rally a time or two or three before Samhain, and maybe even once or twice afterwards). I love the promise of the land’s slumber, fruits still ripening, acorns ready to drop, the first hints of migration for a multitude of bird species. I love celebrating the feast of apples just waiting to be plucked from the trees, and gathering the last summer herbs of the season. I love the last weekends at the beach as the warm water currents receed a bit southward and the dolphins make way for their solitary porpise cousins and the crabs retreat upstream, ready to settle into the mud once it get cold enough.
But I don’t particularly like Mabon.
I’m not alone in questioning its use (or the day itself):
The Triumph of Mabon
Mabon, Mabon Not
Mabon–The Myth of Progress
The problem, for me, comes down to the fact that Mabon (the name, and the mythology of it) doesn’t really mean anything to me. I don’t live in a part of America with a Northern Europe climate. We are what is called “humid subtropical” here (according to the the Köppen Climate Classification System, the southeastern US climate is what is classified as Cfa–a trait shared with northern Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil, southern Japan, and southern China. We just aren’t at fall yet. Its not the year’s bed time yet…more that pre-bedtime, when you think about getting your jammies on and have one last snack before brushing your teeth, and rush around trying to get all the stuff done for the next day.
We have celebrated Mabon as the Apple Harvest–sort of mini-Pomonalia in the past (never mind that Pomona’s feast day is November 1, not being a Mediterranean climate, that (also the Descent of Persephone) doesn’t quite work here either). I like Pomona. She probably fits here, though its not as obvious in a costal urban environment as it was when we lived in the midwest, on the edge of a cornfield and down the road from an orchard. But Mabon still, to me, feels like a manufactured holiday. If I weren’t Pagan, I doubt I’d even realize that today was the Autumnal Equinox amidst the many things I should be doing right now.
Today is the autumnal equinox, when the hours of sunlight balance the hours of night. For most of human history the equinox — connected as it was to the harvest — was celebrated with elaborate festivals, rites and rituals. The equinox was a compass point. It was a mile marker for the lived year. Life was experienced through sky and season rather than through the construct of the clock. The equinox bound human communities together in a shared time that was both personal and cosmic.
Today hardly anyone notices the equinox. Today we rarely give the sky more than a passing glance. We live by precisely metered clocks and appointment blocks on our electronic calendars, feeling little personal or communal connection to the kind of time the equinox once offered us. Within that simple fact lays a tectonic shift in human life and culture.
Your time — almost entirely divorced from natural cycles — is a new time. Your time, delivered through digital devices that move to nanosecond cadences, has never existed before in human history. As we rush through our overheated days we can barely recognize this new time for what it really is: an invention.
Adam Frank, NPR Blogs (source)
I think its time to for my celebration of the equinoxes to be a signifier of equal time, balanced time. A time to think about time. To think about balance and moderation. To think about one’s place in cosmic time, and to measure it against the reality of the modern time that we live in. To celebrate a modern cosmology of the unfolding of the universe.
Yes, we will still eat apples. Yes, we will still celebrate the harvest that hasn’t come home yet. Yes, we even will still probably call it Mabon.
But maybe we can do something deeper.
I’m not sure yet what that might look like.
But I’ve got some time to figure it out.
(also, please forgive typos, etc…this post was written from my phone)