Mabon can be a difficult holiday to conceptualize for a child. There is little lore or myth to go along with it, unlike Yule or Imbolc. And Mabon competes with other very important events, such as young elementary school kids who are ready for autumn fun, and teachers capitalize on the topic to introduce kids to a school time learning environment. In some ways, celebrating autumn is an American tradition.
There are two stories that parents can focus on for this holiday. The first is of Demeter and Kore, who becomes Persephone when she descends to the underworld to become Hades wife. Demeter (or the Romanized Ceres), is the Goddess of fertility, grains, harvest, and abundance. Her daughter was Kore, whom some believe her father was Zeus. The two wandered the Earth, as Demeter blessed the fields with abundance. Kore was kidnapped by Zeus’ brother, Hades, and taken to the Underworld, where Hades ruled. Only Hecate sees the abduction. Demeter cannot find her daughter, and begins to wander the Earth, neglecting the fields, and they began to wither and die. Zeus sends Hermes to the underworld with a message to Hades to release Kore, who’s name is now Persephone, (or, in some versions, Hecate finds Demeter, and leads her down into the underworld to retrieve her daughter). However, Hades is unwilling to part with Persephone, and convinces, coerces, or Persephone willingly eats, three pomegranate seeds. This binds her to the underworld, and she is then compelled to return to the underworld for 3 months of the year. In all versions, Persephone’s time in the underworld corresponds with the unfruitful seasons of the Greek calendar. Once Persephone returns to the world, Demeter is able to overcome her grief, and return to making the Earth bountiful again, until Persephone returns to the underworld. Read more about this story here.
A second story is Welsh in origin, and can take a bit to understand, as there is a lot of back story to the Welsh deities. It takes a minute to read the history between the various Gods and Goddess’ to appreciate the story. Find out more information here. The Welsh story of how Mabon got its name is in this version told by The Hedge Witch Cooks.
The Story of Mabon and Modron is once such tale and it starts when Mabon was taken from his mother Modron when he was only three nights old. King Arthur and his knights take up the quest to find Mabon and it’s only through speaking with the five wisest animals do they get to find the place where Mabon is hidden.
They first go and see the Ousel of Kilgwri (kil-GOOR-ee) (a mountain Blackbird), but when asked, the Ousel does not know anything of Mabon. She answers that she has never heard of Mabon son of Modron, when she came to live in the Valley there was an anvil she had used to sharpen her beak on. Now the anvil is no more, whittled down to dust and even in that time she had never heard of Mabon, but she told them that the Stag of Rhedenvre might know.
So they went in search of the Stag of Rendenvre (reh-DEN-vray) and found him within a woodland glade, resting for a time in the noon sun. They told him of their plight and he listened careful to their worlds but he told them that when he came to the woodland glade there was no trees but a single Oak. The Oak tree grew into the largest tree he ever had seen and a mighty forest grew around it but now there is only the stump and even in all that time he had never heard of Mabon Son of Modron but he knew of one who might know.
The stag took them to meet the Owl of Glen Cawlwyd (COWL –id) who was sat on a branch sleeping in the moonlight. When she heard of their search she hooted and told them that there was once a great forest that grew wild in the Glen, then a race of men came and destroyed it. Then a second mighty forest grew and this is the forest you see today she told them but even in all that time she had never heard of Mabon son of Modron, but she knew of one who might know. The Owl told them to find the Eagle of Gwernabwy (gwer – NAH – bwee) who could be found on top of the highest mountain.
Finally when they reached the summit there was the Eagle and they told him of their plight. The Eagle looked at them with his beady eyes and then told them that he had come to this place long ago and stood upon a rock that was so large it cast a great shadow upon the valley below. But the rock was now no more than a small boulder and even in all that time he had never hear of Mabon son of Modron but he was sure he knew one who would. He told them that while hunting in the lake below he captured a mighty Salmon that was so large it nearly pulled into the waters. He was such an ancient creature of great power and knowledge and he might be the one who knows of the Babe you seek the Eagle told them.
So King Arthur and his knights thanked the Eagle and went down to shores of the lake and called for the Salmon of Llyn Llyw (shlin shloo). There was a mighty churning of water as the Salmon surfaced and looked directly at them. ‘Do you know anything of Mabon son of Modron?’ Arthur asked. ‘I do’ said the salmon, ‘I swim up stream to Gloucester each day to feed and coming from inside the walls of a mighty prison is a terrible sound. The noise comes from Mabon son of Modrom who has been imprisoned there, if you climb upon my back I will take you there and you can release him yourselves.’ And so they climbed upon the back of the great Salmon and travelled up stream until they got the great walls. Behind them they could hear the lamenting moans and they asked if it was Mabon, the voice answered it was ‘but they would have to use force to release me’ he told them, and so they released Mabon and there the story ends.
A second version of this story can be found here as well.