And here we are at our beloved Pagan Thanksgiving, the Harvest Moon, this wondrous time of the year that belongs to celebration, yet smacks of the beginning of the end to a cycle. Alabama’s extended garden season (regardless of our earlier “monsoon” weather) has slung peppers, eggplant, pears, herbs and corn onto the ground until I hollered “Uncle!” Amidst the flurry of canning and drying and freezing and weeding, this little plot of land out in Salem, Alabama became home this year. Just over a year ago, we thunked our boxes down and planted our feet on a run-down country porch, hoping that it would love us back. And: it did.
It was a tough year, y’all. I released myself from an eleven-year toxic relationship, then stood as shocked witness to a student/daughter’s betrayal of herself and our Tribe, lost an unexpected baby among the stress of it all, started/closed a Pagan church and ultimately uncleaved myself from blood family who refused to allow me to grow out of the Black Sheep position they had worked so hard to maintain. Somewhere along this past year, I found myself sitting under my pear tree sobbing like a baby and swearing never, ever again would I put aside my own health  for someone else’s untreated dysfunctions. It finally occurred to me: I ain’t the tit of the world. But laws, I was being bled like one. (Yes, that is a disturbing image. And an unholy state of being.) And so . . .
I planned for Mabon. Let’s chat about harvesting, shall we?
Y’all ever watched a farmer haphazardly throw a garden together? You know, “oh, this is a pretty plant!” ends up by the tomatoes, drawing blight and raping the soil of nitrogen. Or, “Imma seed this here dirt in carrots!” followed by a refusal to thin them as their roots slowly choke. Mmm hmm. Me too. Chaotic, huh? (And not in that chaos-but-natural-so-the-whole-thing-works-out way that Mother Nature pulls off effortlessly all the time. More of a who-gives-a-shit-I-wanna-so-I-will sort of way that Mother Nature likes to knock down with a typhoon. Or three.) Given that our lives are already subject to daily fubars (tires and pipes bustin’ and the flu ripping through a community and bodies wearing out), why would we not at least attempt to think through our own personal harvest season?
In 2012, my back was bent under the wreckage of an “unconsidered” year, and man, that was all it took. Everything from my friendships to my worship practices went on the examination table; call it Shadow Work: The Extreme Edition. And so, I set out to prioritize what I would grow, what I would cull, and what I would learn to harvest.
Here’s what came out in the wash (or “warsh,” as Gran would call it):
1. Helping/taking in folks/saving folks is a fine idea: iffin they want to help themselves, if your family is taken care of first and if they (for certain) have a sliver of nobility in their soul.
2. The Pagan World is peppered with enough drama to do a series entitled: As the Cauldron Turns. Get caught up in that bubbly mess and . . . you got it. Your ass is cooked like a Mabon turkey. Find the right groups, watch for unsteady/egocentric/unhealthy muggles posing as “pagans.” Then haul it right oughta there.
3. The Marines have a code: God, Country, Corps. I’m not a Marine. Prioritizing my life in a healthy manner mean defining, then holding to a personal ethics of responsibility. They are Goddess, Self, Tribe. It has taken me forty-seven plus years to understand: if I am worn thin, if I have no oxygen or strength left, then I cannot help my Tribe. Period. 
4. My husband must come before my friends. Not a popular outlook, I know, but how am I to expect a vibrant relationship with my life partner if I continually put everyone else above that relationship? Mine was withering on the vine . . . and then I took out the trash, cleared the room and looked him in the eye. Vows, y’all. They matter. In my understanding of how we cleaved our lives together, he is now part of the “self.” My marriage, my promise, my responsibility. Got it.
5. Big Momma needs more of my heart and my time. I decided to hang up the phone more, kneel more, listen more, be more of her child. My magic atrophies otherwise. And no episode of “Dexter” is more important than sitting at Her altar feeling that thump.
6. Everything, every choice, every uttered word matters. I teach my students to be impeccable in their word, but such a precept is not limited to truth-telling: it also means to weigh them, syllable by syllable, to assure that my heart can carry the burden. I no longer make promises after a glass of wine, or late at night, or in the heat of a moment–for they become my oath, and my oath is my character, and my character weaves my karma, and my karma is my future.
7. Friendships, while often slipping back and forth on a scale of giving and receiving, must be overall fruitful and healthy in my life. Everyone else? Acquaintances. I reckon one of the hardest things I’ve swallowed this past year is the fact that folks don’t like to be turned away. They see the removal of their chair on the porch as rejection–or worse, war. Now, y’all: there’s a fine line between rejection of a human being and an affirmation of yor’ own life. Find it. As an old friend told me once: “Honey, walking away ain’t about them. It’s about you. Figure that out and stop wasting your lifeblood on someone else’s insecurities.” Amen.
As a Cherokee descendant, I like the number seven, so I’ll halt it here . . . but let me leave y’all with this:
My garden became fruitful. The friendships I saved now have blood coursing through their veins. My marriage became . . . um, spicy again. Ahem. My magic? Hot holy damn, I’ve got sparks flying from my fingertips. I reckon my Mabon harvest boils down to a very simple premise: I no longer will excuse the waste of my garden, my time, my love or my word. The weeding may be hard on my hands, but the results are on my table. So. What’s Southern about that?
Why, honey. Everything. A good, truly Southern witch knows that the dirt you plant your feet upon (and in our case, red clay) becomes the foundation of legacy, family, history and legend. We nurture a specifically intimate relationship with land and cannot divorce the sanctity of that union from our daily lives. My land no longer abides that which my soul cannot condone. This, my friends, is Southern Mabon: reaping what we sow, owning our harvest, reckoning our responsibility in the cycle and culling that which bruises our nobility. Why, there ain’t nothing more Southern than grabbing that reaper and bringing in the sheaves. This close to my beloved Samhain (and Dias Los Muertos), I have factored that the ancestors are moving in–pulling up their chairs nice and close.
I hope I make them proud. If not? Why, I’ll double up my efforts next year. I need another spade, anyhow.
From our Southern hearths to yours, wherever you may be, Blessed Mabon.
The following are short posts from my sisters, Tennessee and Georgia respectively. They represent only a fraction of my harvest: new family and friends. Y’all give them a warm welcome?
COMMUNITY MABON Southern Fried Pagan Style:
Rev. Sonya Miller (Temple of the Sacred Gift-ATC)
Mabon here in the Midsouth where I live is about community. This means we gather together and all travel near Jackson, TN and celebrate our Mabon with the other covens, churches and circles in the Midsouth area. Apple Oaks Grove-ATC (headed by Edwina and Tim Rickman) hosts this event and we all camp out on their lands, singing and laughing because we know great things are about to occur. There are Sageing and Croning rituals that are always observed and the community gathers together to witness and celebrate these rites of passage.
We open the Gathering walking to the first circle and along the way ring bells and sing stopping at the Memorials for our Elders and Ancestors that have already crossed over, Tzadia Morningstar and Trudy Herrin “Mama Dragon” and all of us sing “Awannnnnnnn” as the Druids lead us to laugh and spin energy because Hecate is the Goddess of that Grove (and the one we all hold in common) and Cernuous the God is the Shared one amongst our community. All of the Elders will be introduced and we will cheer, and then the announcements are made.
Workshops will be shared on Dark Moon rituals, Egyptian Pathing, Defensive magick, Herbalism, and a Journey will always occur (usually led by one of our Legendary Elders). We all eat a potluck dinner together the first night; we go to bed after sitting up way too late talking to people we have not seen for about half a year with drums and singing in the background and a fire a crackling.
The next morning we will rise early and gather limbs to decorate “Johnny Appleseed” (the God who must die), and the women will decorate him. Then we will have a women’s mystery circle, and the men will have a men’s mystery circle, a raffle will be held and the big prize is “Who will light the God on fire?” We eat and then a skit is performed with the Sages taking main stage and we end yelling … “THE GOD MUST DIE!”
For main ritual we all wear our best ritual attire and solemnly walk to the main ritual circle which is flanked by a beautiful pond and surround a 19 foot Burning Man toe-to-toe forming a circle. The Dragons are called in, the Ancestors, the Goddess Hecate, and the God Cernuous, and then we sing “Hoof and Horn, Hoof and Horn, all that dies must be reborn. Sage and Crone, Sage and Crone wisdom’s gifts will be our own. Crone and Sage, Crone and Sage, wisdom is the gift of age….” The fire is lit as we all yell: “for the good of this community and for the future harvests THE GOD MUST DIE!” Then we all yell southern-style: “yyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeee haaaaaaaaaaaa” and run around in circles as fast as we can holding hands around and around the God as the outside quarters sing: “Spirit of fire, come to us, we will kindle the fire.” The God dies and we all stand back and fireworks shoot out of him at the very end before he falls.
Everyone sits around each other’s campfires floating to tent to tent talking, laughing, smelling like hickory smoke and human sweat—but we love our community. We work together and make sacrifices seen and unseen to make it grow to build a spirit of love and friendship. The next morning we will all pack up, clean the land, thank the Rickmans and close the Circle and thank the spirits. We will arrive all at our separate destinations tired and happy just like the day after you finally had sex with a person you have longed for. Yes, sometime along the way the Great Rite was slipped into that stew pot of community, friends, fellowship, learning, discipline, honoring your ancestors, acknowledging the rites of passages and accomplishments of others . . . and yes, the God must die. However, we all sleep happily knowing that sacrifice and willingness to let go and let it flow is what brings us together and keeps our traditions growing.
I hope you come down and see us sometime.
Lady Charissa, Priestess and Founder of North Georgia Solitaries
As a southern witch, I have no idea how my traditions might differ from a sister witch in the north or west. I just know what this time means to me. Mabon, for me, is a time of reflecting on what I have done throughout the year, what I have been blessed with and what else has happened. I take time to look for the blessings in things that might not have seemed like blessings at the time. I am firm believer that things happen for a reason. Sometimes that reason is that you need that change to be made so you can make room for something else. Sometimes you just need that kick in the pants. I have found many blessings, both obvious and hidden in this past year.
Fall is also when my juices get going to clean and clean out. Forget spring cleaning. Around here you see yard sales and people hauling things out to the curb in the fall. Throw open the windows and let that fall air in the house. Clean out the closets and the nooks and crannies. Go into the winter with all the cobwebs dealt with both in your physical space and in your mind.
As far as the southern twist goes, there is always food. We southerners love our country cookin’. There is nothing better than overloading a table with food and enjoying it with people you love and trust. We share recipes and discussions. We laugh and love over that food.
* A word about these two AUDACIOUS priestesses:
I remember running into Southern Fried Pagan/Sonya Miller on Facebook. We were both all: you too? And there it began. She is a true pioneer of the pagan spirit here in the Bible Belt, and I am so hoping to meet her next year!
Ah, Lady Charissa. From the moment I met her at PPD in 2012 (it was electric) to the moment she sent me the Community Wreath in May, and finally hugging her tight at Atlanta Marketplace of Ideas: we became kin. Sharing a heritage that springs from a family trad, Southern ideals of family and ethical responsibility, Charissa and I were destined to become sisters.
I am blessed to find family in the odds and ends corners of this world. Happy Mabon to them and to all of you!
(Hang in there, y’all. I just wet my whistle up nice . . . and there’s more fat to chew soon.)
1. The Cherokee word for “health” is tohi: mind, body and spirit in balance.
2. Southern women tend to have a very hard time with this concept, but my grandma was as Dixie as you get and she taught me: take care of you first. Folks will guilt you for it . . . you will live longer and be more productive because of it. (Miss you, Momma.)