Apple cake for Mabon (Pagan equinox festival)

apples in basketWe may not be ready to say goodbye to summer, but Wednesday, Sept. 23,  marks the autumn equinox, one of two days a year when the hours of daylight equal the hours of darkness. After that, it’s downhill all the way, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, until the equinox next spring.

In Pagan tradition, the autumn equinox is known as Mabon, and it’s a celebration of the fall harvest. As we rejoice in the bounty of the fields, orchards and gardens, it’s a good time to invite friends to gather and share.

Mabon is part of the Wheel of the Year, an annual cycle of seasonal festivals that include the solstices (the longest and shortest days) and equinoxes and the midpoints between them.

Mabon celebration at Stonehenge

Mabon celebration at Stonehenge

One of the sabbats

Wiccans refer to the festivals as sabbats – sources of the expression “witches’ Sabbath.”

Mabon is a time of rest after the labor of the fall harvest, a time to complete projects, let go of that which is no longer needed or wanted, and prepare to use the winter as a time for reflection and peace. Followers plant the seeds of new ideas and hopes, which will be nourished spiritually over the next months until the return of spring.

Many Pagans create a Mabon food altar with foods from the harvest. These may include fruits, nuts, grains (or fresh bread made from grain), vegetables, and squashes, especially pumpkins.

A cornucopia displays the fall harvest (photo by Carmen via Flickr Creative Commons).

A cornucopia displays the fall harvest (photo by Carmen via Flickr Creative Commons).

The wealth of the harvest

The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, is another symbol for Mabon, representing the wealth of the harvest; it is a balanced figure, including both male (phallic) and female (hollow and receptive) images.

Many Pagan groups use Mabon as a time for food drives, followed by a ritual for the blessing of donations.

Some Pagans have an apple harvest rite at Mabon. I find this interesting because we Jews just finished celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, which includes eating apples with honey to signify wishes for a sweet year to come.

Here is a recipe for one of my favorite apple cakes. It’s very moist and full of nuts. I very rarely add the frosting, because it’s plenty sweet without it.

Apple Dapple Cake

Apple Dapple Cake


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1½ cups chopped nuts
  • 3 cups peeled, chopped apples (3 medium-large apples)
  • Frosting (optional):
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter or margarine
  • ¼ cup milk, apple juice or orange juice


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans or a bundt pan.
  3. Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, eggs, oil and juice.
  5. Add the flour mixture in thirds until combined.
  6. Stir in vanilla, then fold in nuts and apples.
  7. Bake 45 minutes for the loaf pans or 1 hour for the bundt pan, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. If you frost the cake, start the frosting (it’s more like a glaze) in the last 5 minutes of baking.
  9. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter or margarine and milk or juice and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
  10. Cook 2½ minutes, stirring constantly. Pour the hot frosting over the hot cake.


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