The Mabon Altar
Mabon as we know it is the Witches’ Thanksgiving. This is a time when we come together to be grateful for the bounty we receive from the land. It is also a time for celebrating the bounty we receive from our own efforts and hard work related to family, career, community, and personal improvements.
To many Witches the end of the year is near and we are, in sorts, winding down as winter approaches. Knowing this you might imagine Mabon is key in helping us transition from summer into winter. This is a time to celebrate, be thankful, and enjoy time spent with family and friends.
As we think of how we want to celebrate this holiday we are often stumped when it comes to the details. I know I have found myself questioning how I can commemorate the occasion.
What do you serve?
How will you decorate?
How will you set up and decorate the altar? Where will you place this altar?
These questions are always more intense when you are entertaining guests or coven mates. You want things to be dazzling, memorable, and well… perfect. You feel the need to create the right atmosphere and appeal that will put everyone in a celebratory and cheerful mood.
I often find myself surfing the web finding dozens of beautiful altar and tablescapes that inspire me. I have a habit of wanting to go over the top and make everything marvelous. What I really end up doing is stressing myself out before I land one single good idea.
I think my anxiety and self-induced pressure is warranted, the table/altar is the centerpiece of this celebration. The table is about food, beverage, socializing, and relationships. Aesthetics make the atmosphere. They set the mood, and make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. Yeah… no pressure, right?
There is no way I am alone in all this. I am certain there are plenty of other excited and anxiety-filled witches out there seeking some clarity and direction. How on earth do we WOW our guests while we keep the decorating simple and beautiful? The atmosphere of your celebration will set the tone for your guests to follow, this is important stuff.
In my practice, our Mabon table is an altar in addition to a serving/buffet table. This is a tradition I have always loved because it reminds us that the food and drink of which we partake is sacred. This combination not only saves space but it also acts as a direct reminder of why we do what we do, while we are doing it.
Let me share with you how I learned to make things simple as I overcame my tablescape anxiety. This is a simple, beautiful and elegant altar set up you can use and inspiration for your own gathering.
1. I start by thinking about what elements I want to highlight in my design. What traditions or traditional aspects of this holiday do I need? For me, it was color, food, candles, and representations of the God and Goddess. Once you narrow them down you will make the process easier to handle. Remember to keep it simple. You don’t need to go over the top to make it meaningful.
2. I take to the web where I search for images that might give me inspiration. Unfortunately, Mabon is a very specific niche and there is not a whole lot out there depicting well-done tablescapes or altars. I made my search broader, looking at similar decorations and tablescapes not necessarily related to Mabon. I searched for Autumn scenes and tablescapes to get started. This helped a great deal. As I browsed, I begin organizing my ideas and needs. What colors do I want most? What items do I want on the table? How much space do I have? How do I arrange everything?
Whenever possible, make things easier on yourself. Take this time to decide what design elements are absolutely necessary and what is optional. An example of this in my design is a floral arrangement. I really wanted a floral arrangement. I also wanted something big and full, but I knew that space would be an issue. As a compromise, I made this an optional item for my tablescape. You will see how I modified my design to fit my needs but on a smaller scale.
3. I figure out the details. What items do I have and what I do need to purchase or make. What shape table do I need/want? What color(s) and type of cloth, candles, etc. do I need? Try to be specific, without being too rigid. Get a good idea in your head and make a list of what you need. Then gather all the items. This is a good time to clean anything that might be dusty, remove any wax from candle holders, etc.
4. SWEET! It’s time to set up. Here is another opportunity to make things easier on yourself. Get someone to help you, especially when you are hanging lights, and hauling items from the one place to another. I set this table up in the back portion of my long backyard. That means we had to walk a good distance from my back door to the location of the table. To curb the issue of making too many trips, I put items in clear plastic totes and on a large tray. Problem solved.
When setting-up, keep things flexible. I bring out my main elements… my “Must Haves” first. If there is room for more I will add as space and aesthetics allow. I start with my color scheme using table cloths. If you are looking for specific colors and have little space this is the best way to get what you want is to use layered tablecloths. I simply took three basic and classic colors and layered them so they all show. Easy and done!
5. Lastly, I began adding other critical and/or desired elements to my table. I arranged and rearranged until I felt the flow was comfortable and the look was appealing.
Be wary of trying to cram too many items onto your table. In most cases, it doesn’t look good and it will interfere with the movement of items as you pick them up and set them down. So give yourself wiggle room.
Now! Take a step back and look at your beautiful table! When you organize yourself and think ahead, you will find that the set up was not as hard as it may have seemed.
Here are photos of my Mabon Altar. I hope this will give you some inspiration.
Please let me know how you are doing out there. Feel free to comment and share this post.