The Autumn Equinox (often called Mabon or Harvest Home in Neopagan circles) occurs on or around September 21st each year, and falls at the point of balance between day and night, when the two stand equal. This year it falls on Sunday, September 22, just a few days after the full Harvest Moon on Thursday September 19th. In the Wheel of the year, this is the second harvest festival – usually the harvest of vegetables and fruits – and serves as the gateway into the “dark” half of the year in some myths. (In other myths the dark and light halves of the year switch at the Summer and Winter Solstice, or at Samhain and Beltaine, so this is a common motif that has several different applications).
Our Own Druidry suggests that this is a time to honor Thor and Sif for their functions at the harvest (67), but this doesn’t make much sense to me, so I will be honoring the Vanir as a pantheon, for their role in the fertility of the earth and its productivity. These Gods and Spirits are involved in the productivity of man and the cultivation of the earth, from Frey’s direct patronage and sacrifice at the Harvest to Freyja’s fertility and Njord’s blessing on the harvest of fish from rivers and seas. Since this is a celebration of harvesting and preparing for the winter, storing up and taking stock and being thankful for the plenty of the year, the Vanir are an appropriate group of deities to honor.
Thematically, in the Neopagan Wheel of the Year, this is the time of reaping what we have sown – all of the ideas and plans that were set into motion at earlier holy days are now coming to fruition with the crops, and the focus is on harvesting the bounties we are due for our labors. The cornucopia is a common symbol, and in some traditions this holiday is called the “Pagan Thanksgiving” – a time of giving thanks and celebrating the harvest.
This is a time of plenty – all the crops are ripe – and a time of very busy preparation. Those ripe crops need to be picked and stored appropriately so they will last until next year, whether stored dry like grain, or canned and pickled, or just placed in cellar storage. Winter may be long, so it’s best to be prepared. Being thankful through that preparation is something I find very appropriate at this time of year. I also enjoy canning and pickling as hobbies, which are good ways of celebrating this harvest festival. My garden is still producing okra, so perhaps I will make some spicy okra pickles to mark the occasion.