|Lamp and moon, photo I took|
at Winterfinding back in 2014
Winterfylleþ was the Anglo-Saxon word for 'Winterfinding'. As you may gather from the timing of this post, it occurred each year at the start of what is now the month of October (months once began with the full moon so the old festivals often start out of sync with our modern fixed calendars) and is essentially synonymous with the more neo-pagan celebration of the autumn equinox. My personal understanding is that there is no right or wrong way to mark the passage into the winter. You can celebrate 'Mabon' the equinox, or the first moon of October (which this year will be on the 5th,) or both - its entirely up to you.
The overarching principle at this time of year, as with the day and night, is the balance in nature. Walking about the forest you're reminded that winter is not too far off as the sound of conkers and acorns falling to the ground fill the air. But whilst we have this autumnal sound heralding in the shorter days, most of the trees still have a full canopy of leaves and the last hardy flowers are still clinging on for dear life. The weather is unpredictable too, and in a single day you can very much expect to see aspects of both summer and winter.
Autumn seems to be romanticised in our media and modern perspectives. The colours, visions of kids playing in fallen leaves and the return to drinking hot chocolate - its all very much a positive thing but it wasn't always that way. To us today the coming of winter is hardly an issue for us with our central heating and twenty-four hour supermarkets, but the rich colours of autumn would have been a stressful reminder to most of our ancestors throughout human history. This time of year was about preparing everything a family needed for the winter months. Reaping the rest of the produce, stacking and chopping wood, getting livestock ready for slaughter and milling grain into flour. If you weren't productive and ready for winter by the time it came around, then there was a good chance you and your family would not survive.
Thankfully we live in an age of plenty and so are spared the forces of nature, for now at least, but I feel it is important that as a society we remain connected with the changes in seasons and remain aware of the dangers those changes can bring should our modern conveniences ever fail us.
How should we celebrate Mabon or Winterfinding?
My personal favourite is to collect up the fallen apples in the gardens or in public orchards to make use with somehow. Personally I use them to make a melomel (a type of mead with fruit in) but you could just as easily boil them up to make a nice fruit pie. Over the years I've considered making cider with them, but seeing as I can't drink the stuff it seems a bit of a waste of time!
The good thing about brewing a mead or cider at this time of year is that it should be ready to drink around Yule, which is handy if you like a good tipple or if you'd like to offer the drink in libations around that time. Obviously if you want to do something for the equinox then you can just offer the fruit itself as it is, or maybe cook them into something to both enjoy and share with your deities.
There is some nice symbology behind this too. Apples in both Celtic and Germanic mythology were associated with immortality. In the Germanic lore there was the goddess Idunn who handed out this fruit to the gods of both the Vanir and the Aesir providing them with eternal youth, and in Celtic lore there exists similar tales. In fact over much of Europe there are many cases where apples were in fact buried with the deceased - no doubt in an attempt to provide the dead with new life either symbolically or literally. It would seem fitting then to offer such things in libations or offerings at this time of year, as nature goes into hibernation as a gesture of thanks and as a symbol of this years seeds patiently awaiting the spring.
Something else to consider besides honouring your choice of deities at this time of year, is to give thanks and offerings to your house wights. During the summer we're always out gallivanting around, but come winter we're much more inclined to stay in and put our feet up in the warm, so I think its only fair that we should acknowledge our intrusion into their peace and quiet by giving them a small offering and a few words of thanks.
In any case I hope you have a wonderful autumnal equinox! If you have any other ways that you celebrate Mabon/Winterfinding I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.