By Mike Gleason
Mabon: Pagan Thanksgiving, by Kristin Madden
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738700998, 240 pp. (+ appendices, bibliography and index), 2003
It took a while, but I finally got a copy of the missing book in my collection of “festival books” from Llewellyn. I had been looking forward to reading this book for months and finally got a chance to do so as one mundane year wound to a close and a new one opened up before me.
The first chapter is devoted to a brief history of Thanksgiving, which is closely related to this festival. It covers the American holiday, even making sure to present the Native American perspective.
The second chapter is devoted to similar festivals around the world, from the Incas to ancient Mediterranean cultures to those in the Far East and back into northern Europe and into Celtic lands; from ancient Babylon to modern Neopagan traditions.
Chapter Three delves into the myths and deities associated with those same cultures. Her notes are simple and not very extensive.
The fourth chapter covers symbols of the harvest, including some you might not expect (butterflies as a Mabon symbol? You might be surprised.). There is also a short listing of plants (again, you might be surprised).
Chapter Five contains a variety of Mabon rituals, representing quite a range of approaches. Some are familiar, some less so (Wiccan, Norse Blot, Neoshamanic, Eclectic Pagan, and Children’s rituals are all presented). Even experienced practitioners are likely to find some new inspiration here. Be open to new suggestions. The chapter ends with the lyrics of “John Barleycorn”, a song which very much embodies this season.
There are some wonderful recipes contained in the next chapter; everything from Salsa to Pomegranate Chicken, Corn Chowder to Berry Jam. If you can’t find at least one recipe here to pique your interest, see your physician – you’re nearly dead.
Chapter Seven offers some ideas for magickal workings at this time of year, ranging from items to make for your household, to offerings for our wildlife kin, to methods of divination. While many refrain from actual works of magick during Sabbats, there is an entire season to celebrate, and Ms. Madden offers some good ideas for extending that celebration over more than a single day and/or night.
Chapter Eight is “Fun Stuff” and includes ideas for decorating, both for your ritual and around your home, as well as ideas for gifts which can be given now, or prepared for Yule gift-giving. There are ideas for feeding the local fauna, whether you are talking about migrating animals, or the neighbourhood bird population. She even includes a few ideas for Equinox parties.
The final chapter is “Equinox Science” and covers, in broad outline, everything from weather folklore to archeoastronomy.
The appendices cover some wildlife resources and an Autumn Equinox Season Calendar (running from September 8th to October 9th).
Throughout this book I noticed, as I have for several years (and from various publishers) a number of editorial problems – dropped words, inconsistent italicizing, etc.). While none of these problems are major, they do appear to be an on-going problem. As the technology for publishing continues to evolve, I am hoping that these problems will eventually go away.
Once again Llewellyn has provided a book which, while by no means an indispensable classic, provides good basic information. Kristin Madden writes in a clear, easy to understand, reader-friendly style. You won’t find yourself scrambling to verify references, but neither will you find yourself feeling you wasted your money. Enjoy this book and use it to stimulate your own ideas.