Whether I live or die I am Osiris.
I enter in and reappear through you,
I decay in you, I grow in you.
The gods are living in me
For I live and grow in the corn
That sustains the honoured ones.
Whether I live or die I am barley,
I am not destroyed.
I have entered in the cycle.
I emerge in the cycle.
— Egyptian Coffin Texts, Spell 330 (adapted)
Herfest or “Mabon,” as it is commonly known, is the autumn equinox, when the days and nights are of equal length. The autumn equinox usually falls on September 21st or 22nd in the northern hemisphere. It falls near the Jewish festival of Sukkot, which begins on the full moon following the equinox. At Sukkot, the Jewish ritual of waving palm branches was performed to bring rains at the beginning of the rainy season.
The autumn equinox is associated by many Neo-Pagans with the harvest of grapes/wine, and is called the “Second Harvest.” Some Neo-Pagans call the date “Harvest Home.” The date has come to be a kind of Neo-Pagan Thanksgiving.
Mythologically, at Herfest/Mabon, the Sun King is interred. The Goddess laments the loss of her Consort and descends to the Underworld in search of him. There she encounters the Dark God and submits to him. The two are united, representing the union of Thanatos (death) and Eros (love). However, the Dark God is sterile, so no child can be born from their union. In another version, the Dark Child is conceived. The Goddess assumes the aspect of the Dark Queen.