Today is the first of such holidays to occur since I began this blog. As many have urged me to post these emails in a blog of some kind, I have decided to post them here.
Before I continue, I need to clarify that in these blogs, I intend only to inform others of the religious practices taking place and of the possible need for religious accommodation for those who observe these holidays. I am in no way endorsing or not endorsing any particular faith or religious practice. Moreover, I in no way consider myself a theological expert and am in no way attempting to provide a judgment on proper religious practice. If I have made a mistake, please let me know. If you like these comments, let me know that too! If you have a story to share from your own religious practices on any of these, please add them to the comments below. I have tried to be respectful in any of these posts. All that I ask is that you remain respectful to other's faiths and practices as well if you post.
So... this is the blog that I sent out today.
Today is the autumnal equinox, celebrated as a one of the four Major Sabbats in the eight points of the Wheel of the Year by people practicing Wicca, neo-Druidism and Paganism. This holiday marks the time at which day and night are in total balance, and is accompanied by personal efforts of members of these faith to find a similar balance in their lives.
While this is a significant holiday for these faiths, it is not a day that would require the absence from class or work of faculty, staff or students.
The Autumnal Equinox has several other names. These include the Harvest Moon or the Harvest Home. When Christianity first spread in the Celtic regions, the Roman Catholic Church placed great emphasis on Michaelmas which, falling on September 29, came near the same time. In this tradition the Archangel Michael came to represent the power of light over darkness, an important attribute as the length of daylight began to shorten. Religious services honoring the Archangel Michael are still practiced in some Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and Lutheran congregations, especially in the United Kingdom. A folk custom still in evidence in the parts of the British Isles warns that it is unlucky to harvest blackberries after Michaelmas, as they have been cursed at that time by Lucifer. This custom that it is unlucky to harvest in the woods most likely has its origin in the woodland offerings of the autumnal harvest in pre-Christian Britain.
Such woodland harvest offerings are still practiced by neo-Druids and modern pagan (largely in British and Irish but with increasing practice in the US, Canada and New Zealand). For neo-Druids and some pagans, the holiday is called Mea'n Fo'mhair. In this tradition, neo-Druids gather in wooded areas and give offerings of the fall harvest (not only of berries but also of pine cones, acorns, apples and cider) to honor the Green Man of the Forest. In some neo-Pagan traditions, the holiday is known as Alban Elfed or the “Light of the Sun.” In this tradition, the same sort of offerings are proferred but to “The Lady” who is also called the “Spirit of the Land.”
The holiday has since the late 20th Century been called Mabon in the Wiccan tradition, although unlike many other Wiccan holidays, no corresponding name exists in ancient pagan traditions. Instead, the name was coined by the US Wiccan leader Aidan Kelley soon after the formation in 1967 of the NROOGD (New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn), one of the most important popularizers of the Wiccan faith. Kelley’s adoption of the name Mabon was to honor the early Welsh pagan divine son deity Mabon fab Mellt.
Both in ancient Druidic tradition and in modern neo-Druidic, pagan and Wiccan practice, offerings are often proffered in a horn of plenty called a cornucopia. As a result, Cornucopia is another name some practitioners use for the holiday. It should be noted that while the name Mabon has been growing in popularity in the UK and Ireland, many neo-Druids strongly oppose the term as a neologism. As a result, while it would be appropriate to wish a Wiccan a “Happy Mabon,” this may not be as appreciated for some neo-Druids and modern pagans.
As always in these write-ups, I welcome your feedback. Please feel free to send me corrections or things you would like me to include next time (and feel equally free to let me know if you find these worthwhile).
May you have a balance in your life on this Autumnal Equinox.
Want to read more? Here are more sites on the Autumnal Equinox holiday: