Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Happy Mabon everyone! Mabon, or the Fall Equinox, is a time of celebration and community. This season marks the second harvest, the end of the growing season, and a period of light before the wheel turns to the coming darkness of Winter. The harvest for my family this year is embodied by the berries: Blackberry and Elderberry in particular. When we bought this house four years ago the Blackberry and Elder bushes were the very first things that went into the ground. I planted them before I even finished unpacking and shelving the books, ha! This was the year they really took off. Mabon is a season of giving thanks to the plants and earth that nourish us, and I for one am so grateful for the gallons and gallons of berries we harvested this year. I ended up processing most of the blackberries into delicious Blackberry and Basil jam. (Oh my goodness, a little of this on cream cheese and crackers is life altering!) I did keep one gallon in the freezer though as my son likes to snack his way through frozen fruit all winter. The elderberries I froze in anticipation of making Elderberry Syrup.
Elderberry Syrup is my family’s go-to Fall and Winter herbal recipe. It is the first thing I reach for when anyone looks run down or has been exposed to the crud. We all have a ‘tell’ that we might be coming down with something. For me it’s a tickle in my throat; for my daughter it’s a certain look in the eyes. It is in these moments that I’m especially grateful for the bags of elderberries stashed in the freezer. Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) are wonderfully antiviral, boost and aid the immune system, and are chock full of antioxidants. They have a special affinity for supporting the respiratory system, cold and flu. And they are simply delicious to boot!
I think of Elderberry Syrup almost like the lasagna of herbal therapy; it tends to change a bit each time you make it based on what you have on hand and what you’re in the mood for that moment, ha! My recipe always includes Ginger, Cinnamon, and Pepper. This year I added Holy Basil, Rosehips, and Thyme. I recommend the books Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar and Alchemy of Herbs by Rosalee de la Foret for lovely syrup recipes.
Elder not only brings potent and powerful herbal healing into our lives, it also has a long and storied reputation in magical lore. It is sacred to many Mother Goddess figures, is strongly associated with The Fae, and witches were once believed to live within it. When hung over doorways Elder is believed to protect a home from evil and it was often included in weddings to bring luck and happiness to the newlyweds.
As we celebrate this day of balance I invite you all to reflect on your own harvest this season. What blessings have you received or gifted to others? How has Mother Earth comforted and soothed you this year? What intentions and magic will you take with you as the Wheel turns? I wish you all a fantastic and healing Mabon!
Cunningham, S. (2019). Encyclopedia of magical herbs. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
de la Foret, R. (2017). Alchemy of herbs. New York. Hay House, Inc.
Gladstar, R. (2012). Medicinal herbs. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.
Mitchell, M. (2014). Hedge witch book of days. San Francisco, CA: Weiser Books.