This period marks the descent into increasing darkness and is the final festival of the season of harvesting time. The September Equinox happens the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imagined line in the sky above the Earth’s Equator – from north to south. This event is variable and thus occurs either on September 22, 23, or 24 each autumn. In nature, the activity of the summer months slows down towards the hibernation of winter. For many Pagans, now it is time to reflect on the previous season. It is also a time to recognise that the balance of the year has changed. The seasonal wheel has turned and the light of summer is now over.
Astrologers will recognise this as the date when the Sun enters the sign of Libra – the Scales of Balance. Mabon is a name alleged by some writers to originate from Welsh folklore. There is a figure known as Mabon ap Modron, or Mabon son of Modron. This character appears in some of the Arthurian legends. Mabon ap Modron simply means the ‘Son of the Mother.’ Mabon is believed by some to be the son of the Earth Mother Goddess, Modron. The title Mabon is derived from the Common Brythonic and Gaulish deity Maponos (Maponus), meaning ‘Great Son’. In Roman times he was equated with Apollo. As a god of the Sun, Apollo was called Sol.
According to Jones’s Celtic Encyclopedia, at least four inscriptions to Maponos refer to him as Apollo (Apollo Maponos):
RIB 1120 (Corbridge): Apollini Mapono Q Terentius Q F OVF Firmus Saen Praef Castr Leg VI VPFDD. ‘To Apollo Maponus, Quintus Terentius Firmus, son of Quintus, of the Aufentine voting tribe from Saena, Praefectus Castrorum of Legio Sextae Victrix Pia Fidelis, donated out of devotion.’
RIB 1121 (Corbridge): Deo Mapono Apolloni P AE [...]lus / Leg VI Vic VSLM. ‘To the god Maponus Apollo, Publius Ae[lius Lucul]lus, centurion of the victorious Sixth Legion, willingly and deservedly fulfills his vow’.
RIB 1122 (Corbridge): [Deo] / [M]apo[no] / Apo[llini]. ‘To the god Maponos Apollo.’
RIB 583 (Ribchester): Deo san(cto) / [A]pollini Mapono. ‘To the divine god Apollo Maponos’.
Therefore, we can see the ancient solar associations belonging to the deity Maponos commonly linked to the Autumn Equinox herein.
The Apollo Stone, dedicated to the god Apollo Maponos, from AD 241
In Ribchester’s museum an ancient podium may be seen, which is believed to have carried four figures in relief. On one side is Apollo, dressed in a cape and Phrygian cap, wearing an archery quiver and leaning on his lyre. The side which probably held a relief of Maponos has been disfigured.
On another side is a pair of feminine figures, whose character and roles have been inferred in different ways. Interpretations included that the relief may depict the genius loci (resident deity) of Ribchester, making an offering to Belisama, the goddess of the nearby River Ribble.
Other observers believe that the figures might be Modron, the divine mother of Maponus, and a native hunter goddess equated with the Roman deity Diana.
We can of course never know 'exactly' what lay in the minds of the ancient people who created such amazing reliefs, yet the spiritual associations are there to be instinctively felt by any intuitive individuals with open minds.
As a British Pagan, I could feel the awesome psychic draw of the Apollo Stone and its ancient link to our distant transcendent past. In fact I kissed it briefly in silent humble reverence, as others may also have done over previous centuries. Our primordial spiritual inheritance goes far behind and before any visits to theses green isles by intolerant 'one-god' missionaries.
The Autumn Equinox is both a time of balance yet also uncertainty on many levels. The darker nights make way for tales of spiritual disharmony that are frequently marked within old folk tales.
The security of summer’s warmth now heralds the colder nights of incoming winter and the approach of the next seasonal feast of Halloween (Samhain).
The Wheel of the Year turns and eternal seasonal change is marked within the landscape.
Author site 1:
Author site 2:
Author site 3: