Mabon, the second harvest and autumnal equinox, marks the time when the nights begin to be longer than the days. In the northern hemisphere that happens sometime between September 21 and 23. It is a time of celebration, but also of preparation. The long nights and deep cold of winter are coming soon.
Your altar and your celebrations should reflect three themes: the harvest, equality and balance, and the welcoming of the Dark Mother Goddess. Of the three, the welcoming of the Dark Mother Goddess, sometimes simply called the Dark Goddess, can be the most difficult to deal with.
The colors of Mabon should reflect the colors of nature in the area where you live. If the leaves on the trees are red, yellow and brown, that should be the colors on your altar.
Likewise the foods on your altar and in your celebratory meal should be whatever fruits and vegetables are harvested that time of year in your area. Most commonly this is squashes, yams, nuts, acorns and grapes. Wine or grape juice is good to incorporate into your meal and your ceremony.
A grape vine wreath or cornucopia filled with seasonal foods such as nuts, squash and grapes makes an excellent center piece for your Mabon altar. You can also use a large squash or a pumpkin that has been scooped out. Lacking any of these, simply pile the fruit, vegetables or even wheat stocks and corn on the altar in an attractive way.
Equality and balance
For balance and equality, you can use symbols such as the yin and yang or a balancing scale. You could even use two circles cut from felt, one black and one white, then cut one circle in half and glue it to the other circle. As always, there should be a God candle and a Goddess candle for a balance of male and female.
It is also a time of introspection. As explained in a previous article, Mabon is a time of Thanksgiving. Contemplate the gifts not only of the earth, but what has been given you by the God/dess. Count the riches of your life not in monetary terms, but in emotional and spiritual wealth.
In addition to this, it Mabon is a good time to consider how you will use the coming dark time to examine the balancing of opposites in your own mental and spiritual life. How can you balance your strengths with your weaknesses? Which aspects of your life are out of balance and need adjusting to create a better life for yourself and better relationships with others?
Embracing the Dark Mother Goddess
There are two schools of thought amongst Wiccans regarding the Dark Mother Goddess. The first is that she is the same goddess as the Crone, the third aspect of the Triple Goddess. In some cases that might be true. For example, Hecate (Hekate) is both a Dark Mother Goddess and a crone and completes the Triple Goddess with Persephone as the maiden and Demeter as the Mother.
However, within this same myth, Demeter could also be seen as a dark mother goddess since she lays waste to the plant life on Earth until she has her daughter back from Hades.
The Dark Mother Goddess is the goddess of destruction, vengeance, suffering and death. Not all crones are dark mother goddesses nor are all dark mother goddesses crones.
Kali of Vedic Hinduism is certainly not a crone. She was newly created by the Hindu mother goddess Parvati when she killed the demon Darkua by drinking all his blood. Interestingly, Kali and her consort, Shiva, also represent balance because she is death and he is life. Even more interesting, there is a statue of her receiving his seed while simultaneously eating his entrails. She is both taking life and creating it at the same time.
Lilith is also considered a dark mother goddess, but she too was freshly created at the time she was labeled as “evil” because she would not submit to Adam. In some mythologies she is an actual demon, but she is not at all a crone.
Regardless of how one views the Dark Mother Goddess, she represents death, destruction, cold, war, retribution and many other aspects of life we may see as negative. However, those things may not always be bad. This is well expressed in The Charge of the Dark Goddess, by Lynne O’Connor.
The Dark Mother Goddess does not necessarily bring death as Kali did. She may simply be present at death or the sign that death is coming like the Morrighan when warriors saw her washing bloody clothes or armor in the river before a battle.
In some ways she is quite the opposite of the murderous deity she is sometimes viewed as. She is a valiant warrior supporting us in the dark times. We call on her when we must be our strongest because she is fierce and will shy away from nothing. She is the ultimate comforter as she guides the dead to their final rest. She is death that brings forth new life as winter brings spring.
Find her within yourself when life feels hopeless and all seems lost. She will lend you her teeth and claws for the fight and stand beside you in battle.
To honor her in your ceremony, you could use O’connor’s charge or either of the other two on that page or one you create yourself. Her symbol is the dark of the moon. She is also represented by various statues of dark goddesses such as Kali, Hecate, the Morrighan and others. If you wish to make a dark of the moon symbol for your altar, you can uses a circle cut from white paper or felt and cover it with a very slightly smaller black circle to symbolize the moon covered by the shadow of the earth.
The Wheel of the Year turns. For now it turns to darkness, but from the darkness comes the light and from the death of the flower comes the seed that is new life. The night sky does not illuminate the ground we walk upon, but it gives us the stars to guide our way.