Mabon, the first day of Autumn

Goose and apples are traditional foods for the celebrations of the autumnal equinox, Mabon, and Michaelmas.

Goose and apples are traditional foods for the celebrations of the autumnal equinox, Mabon, and Michaelmas.

The sky is darker now when I get up in the morning because the sun rises later in the morning(though I do not)! This year, the NYC weather reports all say that the equinox happens Monday night (Sept. 22) at 10:29 p.m. In many cultures, the September equinox is a sign of fall (autumn) in the northern hemisphere. In Greek mythology fall is associated with when the goddess Persephone returns to the underworld to be with her husband Hades. It was supposedly a good time to enact rituals for protection and security as well as reflect on successes or failures from the previous months.

In the Celtic pracitce, the autumnal equinox, is also known as ‘Mabon,’ the Welsh God who symbolized the male fertilizing principle in the Welsh myths. Some mythologists equate him as the male counterpart for Persephone.

Mabon ap Modron is a figure of Welsh mythology, the son of Modron. Both he and his mother were likely deities in origin, descending from a divine mother–son pair. His name is related to the Romano-British god Maponos, whose name means “divine son”; Modron, in turn, is likely related to the Gaulish goddess Dea Matrona.

Mabon was a common name in medieval Wales, and it is difficult to determine whether the various references to Mabons in poetry and the Triads are to the same character. The most important appearance of Mabon ap Modron is in the prose tale Culhwch and Olwen, associated with the Mabinogion and perhaps authored around 1100. King Arthur’s men must recruit Mabon to fulfill the demands of Ysbaddaden the giant before he will allow his daughter Olwen marry the protagonist Culhwch. Mabon is the only one who can hunt with the dog Drudwyn, in turn the only dog who can track the great boar Twrch Trwyth.

However, Mabon has been missing since he was three nights old, when unknown intruders stole him from between his mother and the wall. Arthur determines that he and his men will find and rescue Mabon. Mabon’s whereabouts are unknown even to Britain’s oldest and wisest animals, but finally Arthur’s followers are led to the Salmon of Llyn Llyw, the oldest animal of all. The enormous salmon carries Arthur’s men Cei and Bedwyr downstream to Mabon’s prison in Gloucester; they hear him through the walls, singing a lamentation for his fate. The rest of Arthur’s men launch an assault on the front of the prison, while Cei and Bedwyr sneak in the back and rescue Mabon. Mabon subsequently participates in the hunt for the Twrch Trwyth.

3 thoughts on “Mabon, the first day of Autumn

  1. Great post Stephen! Also very timely for me personally as I recently bought Caitlin Matthews’ ” Mabon & the Guardians of Celtic Britain ” as a guide to interpretation of the Mabinogion. I have a copy of Lady Charlotte Guest’s translation and also one by Sioned Davies. Plus a book by Evangeline Walton called “The Mabinogion Tetralogy”. Would appreciate your thoughts about which of these would be best for a newbie to the Mabinogion to read. Perhaps you have alternate versions to recommend too?

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