Twice a year, between the solstices, the earth reaches a state of balance between day and night, signaling an official change of season. In the spring, we call this the vernal equinox. In September, it is known as the fall, or autumnal, equinox.
In many cultures, the fall equinox has been incorporated into other beliefs. This year, we're going to explore both the science and the celebration associated with this astronomical phenomenon.
First, the science. Thanks to National Geographic, I have little preparation to make. We'll start with this video, then take a peek at a celebration centered around an ancient Maya pyramid. We'll try some of the suggested activities (note the lesson plan links in the left corner, too), and even do an eggs-periment.
Thank you, National Geographic. You're my kind of site.
Now, on to the celebration.
For centuries, people of every culture have set aside a time for expressing gratitude for the bounties the earth has provided. Celebrations, often including a feast, are known by many names, including Mabon, Harvest Home, Harvest End, and Thanksgiving. The fact that every culture does this is just one reason I enjoy celebrating the pagan holidays...it's a way to show my children that people around the world have always shared more similarities than one might think. Our modern-day religious holidays originated and were adapted from the old pagan celebrations.
I enjoy celebrating holidays, especially the pagan ones. We don't observe them from a place of worship, but we do acknowledge the cycle of life, celebrate nature, and learn about the mythologies, themes, and rituals associated with each one. In the case of Mabon, the theme is balance.
Mabon, celebrated on the Autumnal equinox*, is a time of balance: darkness and light, generosity and conservation, receiving and sharing, gathering the harvest and setting aside for the coming months.
Mabon is a season of celebration: many crops have been harvested, and there is abundance. We reap the fruits of our labor, not only in regard to food, but in life experience, as well. In keeping with the theme of balance, we reflect upon and celebrate that which is passing, and that which is ahead.
Colors associated with Mabon are the colors associated with autumn: green to red, gold, yellow, orange, and brown.
Our plans include:
History and Mythology
We will read stories associated with harvest-time, including the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, and the British Isles myth of the Green Man.
We will decorate one of our tables with leaves, berries, acorns, fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, and nuts
Decorations Around the House
Our home will be decorated with Indian corn, spice-scented candles, leaves and wreaths
Depending on the interests each child, any or all of these activities may take place:
*participate in food drive
*make Green Man masks
*make apple candles
*field trip to orchard, where we will pick apples and purchase produce
*talk about things we've done over the summer, make plans for winter
*finish up projects from summer, prepare house for winter (this is a good time to clear out items we no longer need/want)
*talk about ways to conserve resources: water, electricity; recycling
*prepare a feast, including: roasted chicken with sage, corn, squash, fresh berries, nuts, applesauce and applebutter, bread, fresh melon, grapes, baked apples (cored and filled with butter and cinnamon)
We Gather Together by Wendy Pfeffer for the younger two
The Story of Mabon, Son of Modron, retold by Starhawk, from the book Circle Round
Persephone and Demeter from D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths
Using fresh leaves, the children will create their own versions of The Green Man.
*The Autumnal Equinox falls on September 22 this year.