Turning of the Wheel of the Year
Mabon - Fall Equinox

There were three men came out of the West,

Their fortunes for to try,

And these three men made a solemn vow,

John Barleycorn must die...

by Gabrielle Diana Laney

This old folk song that has survived to this day, tells perfectly the story of this time of year called Harvest Home or Mabon. John Barleycorn was called the spirit of the fields.It was believed the sun’s life was trapped and crystallized in the corn (corn was a word that referred to wheat mainly, but also described other types of grain). Often this corn spirit was believed to reside most especially in the last sheaf or shock harvested, which was dressed in fine clothes, or woven into a wicker-like man-shaped form. This effigy was then cut and carried from the field, and usually burned, amidst much rejoicing. And yet, if we listen to the old ballad of John Barleycorn, we find we have not heard the last of him.

They let him stand till midsummer’s day,
Till he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John’s grown a long, long beard
And so become a man...

They’ve hired men with scythes so sharp,
To cut him off at the knee,
They’ve rolled him and tied him by the waist
Serving him most barbarously...

And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl,
And he’s brandy in the glass,
And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
Proved the strongest man at last.

The song of John Barleycorn is a metaphor of the mystery of death and rebirth. The song describes the life, death and resurrection of the grain as it tells the story of John Barleycorn, who was killed, buried, sprang up in the spring, grew stronger in the summer and grew weaker in the autumn. This is a story of life and not death. The cycle of the year and of the sacrifice and transformation of grain into food and drink.

The word “Mabon” is from the story of Mabon ap Modron, “the son of the mother”, the Divine Youth. Mabon is taken when he is three nights’ old. His whereabouts are shrouded in mystery; it is through the wisdom and memory of the most ancient animals (Blackbird, Stag, Owl, Eagle, and Salmon) that we understand 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.

Mythically, this is the day of the year when the god of light is defeated by his twin and alter-ego, the god of darkness. It is the time of the year when night conquers day.

The Druids call this celebration, Mea’n Fo’mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. On that note here’s wishing all a happy Harvest!