Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mabon--The Hidden God...The Power of Transformation

You've probably gotten here from the wonderful work of Sandie Worthy  on the Tarot Blog Hop. If not, you can click the above link to read her musings. And of course, you're going to want to travel onward when you're done here. Look to the bottom of this blog for your ongoing link. And so, who is "Mabon" and what does he have to do with the Autumn Equinox, and with The Power of Transformation?

"Mabon" is the name of a mythic hero of Welsh mythology. He is the son of Modron, the Great Mother, and is "stolen away from between his mother and the wall" at the age of three days. He is sought by his mother for many years, but remains unfound. Finally Arthur, the High King, is assisting in the quests of Culluch, the Welsh hero, in order that he may marry Olwyn, the lovely daughter of Ysbaddaden, Chief Giant. And even this part of the story is relevant to our quest on the Autumnal Equinox, because the harvest of transformation only is gathered after questing and seeking. Arthur, to assist Culluch, comes with his knights to the search for Mabon, the Son of the Mother, and over many days he goes from bird to beast to tree, looking, seeking Mabon, but not finding him. At length, the Salmon of Wisdom assists him to find the Lost God, who has now become an adult, and who is powerful beyond expectation, successfully assisting Arthur and his Knights in the Quest for which they have been seeking him. "Mabon", as we stated, means "Son of the Mother" and he is representative for each of us of the "Shadow Self", the part of ourselves which is hidden, the part of ourselves which we only reveal to ourselves by searching and seeking, as well as invoking the power of transformation. Mabon's feast corresponds with the Autumnal Equinox, the time of Solar Balance, when day and night for a moment are equal, and it is Balance we seek in finding the Hidden Self. And Mabon also corresponds with the Vine Moon, the grape harvest, and for many of us is the season of mead-making...and therein lies a tale, and the crux of this festival for me.

In mead-making, one takes the freshest, sweetest, most succulent grapes, and the most powerful and natural of honeys, and one mixes them. Lovely, and wholesome, is this mixture, and will make wonderful mead, won't it? Not unless you let it ROT. WHAAAAT? you screech...ROT? What you talkin' 'bout, Willis? Well...therein lies a tale, as I said. Fermentation, in other words, the rotting of the grape which produces the alcohol and turns the juice into luscious liquor, is the only way mead may be created. And, when we think metaphorically, destruction of the Ego is necessary for the discovery of the Hidden Self, the Shadow, the deep lore and mystery of your own Being, without which you cannot be whole. One must, at this time of the Last Harvest, discard all that no longer serves, bring oneself into Balance, and permit destruction and change to take place in order to produce Transformation...

And so, to the cards. I thought about the concept of mead-making, and the process of self transformation, and I have decided there are some cards that definitely represent the phases of this process. I am trying something new here, rather than using the Tarot, because my own focus on Mabon is actually connected with the way I use the Celtic Tree Calendar in my personal practice. And there are four trees. actually, which occur in order in the Tree Year, which represent the journey of Mabon and which illustrate the cycle of transformation which is celebrated at the Autumnal Equinox. So, let's journey through the forest and see the hearts of these trees, and in so doing, let's discover our own personal Hidden God/dess.

First, at the end of August, or the beginning of September, we look to the Hazel tree. Hazel is the traditional Celtic symbol of wisdom. The old tale tells of Fintan, nine years a salmon and fed upon the hazel nut, who became thereby the wisest man in the world. (Please remember that it was the Salmon of Wisdom who assisted Arthur and his Knights in the search for Mabon, the Hidden God.) The hazel bears nuts after a nine-year cycle, which was a magickal number in Celtic lore. It is a small round nut in a seemingly seamless shell, which is nearly impossible to crack forcefully without smashing the nutmeat; therefore it became a prime exemplar of the kernel of truth or hidden wisdom...hidden sweetness which must be achieved with time, patience and art rather than brute force. Indeed the kernel of the hazelnut with its compact strength and sustenance is the source of our saying, " That's the whole thing in a nutshell." As the number nine indicates, eating of the hazel nut brought all the wisdom of the Nine Arts of the Celts: Music, Lore, Dancing, Truthtelling, Farseeing, Talemaking, Worldwalking, Healing, and Rebirth. At the Hazel Moon, Wise Ones concentrate on the lore and wisdom of their elders, on nurturing and expanding their own inner wisdom, and on studying the wisest ways to deal with the situations of their own lives. And so the Hazel Moon, for our purposes, is the goal-setter, the Tree that represents our discovery of the need for transformation, of the need to discover our own hidden truth, and sets for us the task of finding the hidden sweetness which will take our time, effort, and focus. So--the task is set. Where in the Forest do we travel next?

Well, interestingly enough, the next Tree we encounter in the calendar is the Vine. The Vine, in and of itself, is the raw material of the harvest we seek, but the lore of this Tree tells us that there is more to be done here than merely picking grapes! The drawing of this card is concerned with the release of prophetic powers. The uses of the grape and the effects of wine are well known. The phrase "in vino veritas" almost expresses the meaning of this card. Wine dissolves the inhibitions and often allows you to speak more perceptively and truthfully than you otherwise would. in a similar way, you need at times to let go of your logic and intellectual attitudes and gather other resources in order that subtle intuition can surface and lead. During such periods, your psychic sense will be a more reliable ally than common sense, you must permit instinct alone to show you what should be done and allow your deepest emotions to show freely and openly. Allowing all your senses to open in such a way is a sign of inner development, as you learn to place your trust in them when they are acting for you strongly. Let your soul open so that it is able to harvest and gather together all the signs and omens that it is so capable of comprehending, if only you will permit it to do so. And so with Vine, we do not see the fruits of the harvest, but we do learn the techniques necessary for the success of our Quest. Think clearly and honestly within yourself. Let your inhibitions dissolve. Work with your intuition and insight, temporarily shelving the thought of "common sense" and instead reaching for "uncommon sensibility". In the nature of Vine, we find both tools and potential. But--potential of what sort? Well--maybe we'll get that answer when we look at the next Tree. 

The Tree in the Celtic Tree Calendar which follows Vine is, interestingly enough, Ivy. One of the most characteristic features of a vine of Ivy is the way the leaves and stems twine in on themselves in an ever-narrowing spiral. And, of course, the symbolism there is exactly what we're looking for.

On our Mabon-quest, we enter the complex labyrinth of our own psyche. The spirit turns inward, rather as must have Theseus, following his thread into the labyrinth. Theseus's act may have symbolized his exploration for the secret centre of his own being, which may appear monstrous, lying hidden most of the time. Of course, there is a reason we call what we are looking for the "Shadow Self". This quest, coincidentally occurring as the year is beginning to darken, leads us into the darkest, inmost recesses of our own souls, into the places where we have hidden away the parts of our own Self that we fear to admit, acknowledge, or encounter. This exploring, or soul searching, is as necessary to the Quest for Mabon, for Transformation, as was the journey of Theseus. Indeed, it is the center of the Quest. Such a journey may be in itself transformative, revealing to you spiritual strength and depth you may never previously have tapped or known about. And, of course, like the pattern of the Ivy spiral, there is more than one side to this spiral dance. Your spiralling dance through your Dark Self also eventually turns outward, linking you with others through the group soul or collective unconscious that pervades and encompasses all life. You have a part to play---to assist in the spiritual journey of others, as they also do in yours. This card represents the spiral of the Self, and the search for Self. Ivy represents the wandering of the soul, circling both inward and outward, seeking to face the shadows within, but also seeking nourishment and experience from the outside, to finally achieve its goal of enlightenment, of finding the Hidden God. And here it is well to recall, for all of us, that Mabon, when he was found, as it were, at the center of the labyrinth, was not an untaught, foolish, and bewildered child or youth, but a full-grown and skilful man who had taught himself, in silence and shadow, all he would need to know. And just so, the Shadow Self at the centre of your own quest, where the Ivy spiral will lead you, is going to amaze you with the value, worth, and sweetness buried within the darkness.

And so, then, what of the Transformation we seek at this season? Where does the Forest Path take us in order that we may, finally, achieve our Harvest, come face-to-face with our own personal Hidden God/dess and learn the value of that Being? Well, the final Tree in our Journey is the Reed, and this tree actually represents the successful culmination of our Quest.

Reeds were used to create the bundles of thatch which were used to roof the houses of the Celtic tribes. The reed itself has a multitude of uses, everything from roofing materials to whistles to arrows to brooms for cleansing, and many more uses. This Tree is telling you of all the multitude of possibilities for personal and familial or community transformation that may result from your discovery and acknowledgement of the Shadow Self. Just as the Vine reminds us of the necessary destruction and change which produces wonderful wines, the Reed indicates that we must be aware of potentials and possibilities, and that we are capable of finding order where others find only chaos. Your results are as sure as the intentions with which you started. You progress by keeping your aim in sight. The Reed gives you the capacity to make house and home safe and secure under your own roof, create, if needed, spiritual weapons like the arrows made of Reeds, create beauty and artistry as the Reed was used for flutes and whistles, and above all, conform, as does the flexible and pliable Reed, to the chance and occasional chaos of outside circumstances, bending in the wind and storm but refusing to break . With the Reed you are able to find direction and to give meaning and purpose to your Quest, your discovery of the multi-talented Mabon, the Hidden God/dess within you, and you are able to decide what you will do with this Transformation and how you will use it to better your own life and those of others.

Please journey along the Blog Hop to the home of Gary Ormond  to discover his take on the Power of Transformation. By chance, should the link on a page break, there is a Master List here which will make it possible for you to move forward And may the Winds of Mabon bring you balance, transformative energy, and many tools with which to travel onward. Blessings from your TarotWitch, and may your Equinox be joyful, productive, and ever wonderful for you. 

Mabon Blessings from 
Aisling the Bard


  1. Well played, indeed! What a cohesive path laid out among the trees to illustrate the inner quest! Thanks for the writing, and also the wrangling of the hop!

  2. Very intriguing and in-depth, Aisling!