20 March 2012

Who is Mabon?

These days the Autumn Equinox is more commonly referred to as "Mabon" (I say this because back in the 1990s, terms such as "Mabon", "Ostara" and even "Litha" were not commonly used, or at least not within the coven I was involved with). However, they tend to be used as opposed to the Autumn and Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice.  So much so that it is often that people new to the Craft these days are not aware of how these terms originated and who, in the case of Mabon, he actually is.

Whilst I will save going into the origin of the Sabbat names until a later stage (and which will be contained within Dancing the Sacred Wheel), the story of Mabon can be found within the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh myths and stories allegedly compiled together in the Middle Ages (although the origins of some of these stories are believed to be much older).  Within this collection, we turn to the story of "Culhwch ac Olwen" where the young hero, Culhwch fell in love with the beautiful Olwen, who was the daughter of a giant, Ysbaddaden.

In order to win his daughter's hand, Ysbaddaden set Culhwch a number of tasks for him to complete, one of which was to return Mabon ap Modron, the 'divine child', who had disappeared some three days after his birth and whom no one had seen since.  In order to succeed in this quest, Culhwch instructed the assistance of his cousin, the legendary King Arthur, who, together with his band of knights, went off in search of Mabon.

The whereabouts of Mabon were shrouded in mystery, and it was only through the wisdom and memory of the most ancient animals (Blackbird, Stag, Owl, Eagle, and Salmon) that Culhwch and Arthur are able to determine where he is and why.  Mabon dwells in His Mother’s womb, the Otherworld in a place of challenge, nurturing, renewal, regeneration and new life.  Just as the light is now being drawn into the earth accumulating strength and wisdom, to become a new seed, Mabon has returned to his Mother’s womb.

Australian Celtic site, Caer Australis, advise that the word Mabon literally means 'son' and comes from the Celtic maponos now found in 'map', 'mab' and 'mac' (meaning 'son of') in the extant Celtic languages.  Likewise, Modron literally means 'mother', from 'matronae', 'the Mothers', the Celtic tripartite Goddess.  The ultimate meaning of "the Mabinogion" relates to this, and the Four Branches together appear to have originally formed a 'Myth of the Son'.  

This divine child appears throughout the Mabinogion, as well as other sources, under various names including Culhwch, Lleu Llaw Gyffes (found in the story "Math fab Mathonwy", the fourth branch of the Mabinogion), and Pryderi fab Pwyll (the son of Pwyll and Rhiannon and the only character to appear in all four branches of the Mabinogion).

Anyone interested in reading the Mabinogion, a good site to visit is The Mabinogion.

The timing of the Autumn Equinox will occur at 3:44pm (South Australian time) today.

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