In Arizona, Mabon is the start of a whirlwind of activities. The rest of the world is slowing down, turning over crops, and preparing to nest through the cold winter months. But we’re the Northern Hemisphere misfits. After hibernating in our air-conditioned home caves through the 115-degree summer, around Mabon, everyone goes outside to catch up on yardwork and have outdoor BBQ's with neighbors. There is a long list of community activities: concerts, hay rides, farmers markets, sports activities, pumpkin fests and corn mazes. Everyone wants to play
outside after being cooped up indoors for so long.
In this frenzy of activity, Mabon always seems to catch me off-guard. So soon? Really?
I’ve done better this year. Because I’ve spent a lot of this fall at our forest cabin, I’ve been able to witness the seasonal changes from summer to fall. Our forest bed has become a sea of yellow flowers. (Say "hi" to my Australian Shepherd pal Teak).
We always stop at this favorite natural watering hole. On a 2-mile hike, these guys will drink as many water bottles as I'm willing to carry.
This is in case you've never seen elk droppings!
Nature is aware of the equinoxes, even if we sometimes are not. The September astrological sign is Libra, the scales, signifying balance. Mother Nature establishes, once again equality between the forces of light and darkness. From now on, the days will shorten and the nights get longer. The Goddess descends into the Underworld, the world of darkness, where she tends to her dead souls. This act of going down into the underworld and defeating death is celebrated by the many rituals and processions of the Eleusian mysteries.
The Eleusian rites were the most famous goddess festival in all of Europe. People came from all over the continent to participate, because they believed those who went through the mysteries gained good luck and insights, and they became sanctified by the goddesses.
The following day was a grand purification ritual, and initiates washed away ignorance and assumed new grace. Then on September 27, people marched day and night, carrying lit torches. This marked the true start of the mysteries. It began with Holy Night on September 28, when people thronged to a great bonfire. The hierophant invoked Kore, and her true presence was felt. Painted in dark colors, she was enthroned as the Queen of Hell.
Holy Night was the most important time because people confronted the idea of death as they watched Kore, the Divine Maiden, turn into the Crone and then turn back into the Young Queen of the Underworld. The presence of the Goddess gave people a chance to see their own death as part of their lives, and to remove fears about the afterlife.
I’ve always thought that this is a teaching that should have been continued. In our modern times, because of our denial of death and the aging of the body, we have rejected the wisdom of the aged, and in doing so have robbed old age of its meaning and youth of its direction.
It’s time for our cultural bias against age to end. The number of people reaching the mythic retirement age of 65 has zoomed from about seven and a half million in the 1930s (when Social Security legislation decreed 65 as the age of obsolescence) to 34 million today. By the turn of the century, that figure will be 61.4 million.
The Autumn Equinox reminds us that life has a beginning, a middle, ad also an ending. It’s us to us to convert our society to more “conscious aging” and a new way of looking at and experiencing aging that moves beyond our cultural obsession with youth, and toward a respect and need for the wisdom of age.