Saturday, September 29, 2012

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox/Mabon!

Autumn officially starts in September at the Autumn Equinox, when the hours of dayling and darkness are equal.  From this point forward, the daylight hours become noticeably shorter and the weather stars to cool with each passing day.  Autumn is a season of waning light and shadows, yet it is also a season of harvest, abundance and thanksgiving.

Autumn has always been a colorful season of reward and people harvested the bounty from the summer growing season and stored it safely away for the long winter:  the vegetables from the garden, the fruit from the orchards, and the grain from the fields.    Everyone in the community spent long hours participating in the harvest, and at the end, they were exhausted yet grateful, and looked forward to a celebration.

Around the world, there are Autumn Harvest festivals celebrated near the Fall Equinox:  from the English Festival of Harvest Home, to Michaelmas Day, to Bavarian Oktoberfest to American Thanksgiving.  (which was originally in October, then moved to the first weekend in November by President Lincoln, and then moved yet again by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress to the 4th Thursday in November to help boost the post-depression economy and assist merchants with holiday sales by giving folks a full month to shop.  ....No comment!)

Harvest Goddess Mythologies
In many mythologies throughout the world, a goddess of the grain, harvest and the good earth was celebrated at the Autumn Equinox, which is not surprising since the Earth herself is seen as a fertile mother or Gaia.  From this venerated matriarch, all life was born.  Throughout time and in various cultures, she is a great mother goddess known by many names:  Astarte and Ishtar to the Sumerians; Isis to the Egyptians; Demeter in Greece and Ceres in Rome.  To the indigenous populations of the Americans, she was known as 'Old Woman Who Never Dies' and Mother of Maize.

Equally important was the concept of the seeds from the harvest used for the next year, and considered Mother Earth's child.  In Greek mythology, we see this as Demeter being the harvest mother, the goddess of grain and fertile earth.  The seed that fell and was planted in the spring was  the child, or her daughter , Persephone.  The spirit of these future crops were often seen as the daughter, or a maiden, or a divine child.  In Russia, the child was simply called the Corn Baby.  The Aztecs called the harvest goddess Chicomecoatl, and a goddess named Xilonen was the Goddess of the New Corn.  Her son ws symbolized by the seeds and called the Spirit of the Corn.  In Egypt, the spirit of the grain was the goddess' son, Horus.  The Cherokee people called the harvest child the Green Corn Child.  In India, there is a harvest festival called Pongal.  It is a rice festival that lasts for three days.  The child rice that came from this harvest mother was called the Rice Baby.