By Chris Friend
The Welsh hunter spirit known as Mabon is often associated with September and the autumn equinox. Mabon is considered a divine child born to the goddess Modron and no father to speak of. In just three nights Mabon was kidnapped and taken to the Underworld . According to legend it was King Arthur and his cousin Culhwch who searched for him and found him at Gloucester Castle. By the time he was set free from his enchanted imprisonment which created his magical reputation.
He was simultaneously the youngest and oldest of souls, In Britain and Gaul he was identified with the god Maponus. Among the Romans he was identified with Apollo. Roman soldiers revered him near Hadrian’s Wall. Maponus’ has a sanctuary in Chamalieres in what now modern day France is. Mabon is also the name for the harvest festival held during the autumn equinox.
The legend of Mabon has many similarities the famous tale of Rhiannon. On a similar note, there is the fairy queen known as Mab, also known as Queen Mab. Mab was described as a warrior queen who was called upon to offer her blessings to kings who wish to rule Ireland. Each king had to engage in special rites to gain Mab’s blessing and become the king. She is sometimes the consort to mortal kings and as well as giving the king the right to rule.
She will permit the king to rule as long as she sees’ that they as fit to rule. She also might find a better king to rule if they are seen as more fit to rule. She also offers prosperity to the land as well. Mab makes kings but she breaks them too’ She can deprive men of their strength merely by being in their presence. She rides into the battlefield in her chariot, and her presence will “un-man” the warriors.
In one Irish myth Mab is a fairy crone who guards a sacred well. She gave the hero Nial some water when he was dying of thirst. He hugged her and she became a beautiful maiden. She immediately granted him the kingdom. Fergus was Mab’s first husband, and she abandoned her second husband Conchobar when she judged him unworthy to be king.
Each husband had to have courage, fearlessness, and generosity. He can never be jealous of Mab because he will be judged unworthy. If she catches her husband cheating, she will kill him (naturally). The legend of Mab was kept alive from Irish Monks who sought to keep her legend alive. But to avoid mentioning obvious pagan roots they but as a warrior queen and possible the quintessential evil fairy queen.
Mab was an impossible character to ignore and became marginalized as a fairy. In some incarnations she became a tiny flower fairy who rode a chariot pulled by insects. She has remained a popular fairy queen writers, poets, play writers and folklorists. William Shakespeare mentions her in Romeo and Juliet as the fairy midwife. “Her chariot is an empty hazel nut” he writes at one point.
When she appears in normal size, she appears with birds on one shoulder and a red squirrel on the other. Mab is also well known as a shape-shifter extraordinaire. She can go to wise old crone to beautiful maiden She is associated with cattle, birds, swine, and wolves. Her association with squirrels connects her to autumn. She holds many sacred sites throughout Ireland. And so, it goes.