Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel – Mabon is here again, a time when light and dark balance before the winter draws in. The late harvest festival, it coincides with the Chinese Moon festival or the Time of the Singing Moon.
To celebrate Mabon at home, you should gather a harvest and prepare a feast. The supermarket is not going to cut it in this case, and I recommend foraging. It’s positively all the rage, y’know?
Whether you’re getting super intense and drilling for sap or digging for truffles or even just blackberrying, taking a gathering trip to a forested area is very much recommended if you can manage it.
At the weekend we found berries, nuts and crab apples practically falling off the trees in Epping Forest, and guiltily stuffed several tote bags with our swag. This stuff is great for creating liqueurs at home with, as they have a strong, tart flavour which has been bred out of most farmed crops.
The lovely thing about brewing your own liqueurs is that you end up with all kind of interesting, unique cocktail ingredients, plus as a bonus you get to freak out people who go snooping around in your cupboards at home when they see all the scary bottles full of murky liquids and oh my god is that an eyeball looking out! Oh no, just a crab apple. (Or is it?)
Making your own liqueur is too easy. Just wash and chop your fruits and bottle them in plain vodka or schnapps with sugar, then leave them in a cool dark place for at least 3 months, turning occasionally the first week to make sure the sugar dissolves. Exact recipes are not needed here, the thing to do is experiment and adjust for taste as you go along.
I am using last years blackberry liqueur to make a tu-tone syncretic cocktail for Mabon and the moon’s birthday. It is said that on the moon’s birthday, flowers will fall from the sky and those that see them fall will be blessed with great abundance.
A pansy flower garnishes the drink, to attract these blessings your way.
Mabon Moon Kir
Equal parts blackberry or blackcurrant liqueur & white wine.
(You should leave the wine in a clear container where it can be reached by the moons rays for 3 nights ideally, so that it becomes infused with moon rays, not unlike in Drinking Down the Moon: Making Moonshyne) or Embrace your Inner Lunatic – Making Moonwater
6 pomegranate seeds
Pansy flower or non-toxic blossom of your choice
Pour the liqueur into a champagne flute, half filling it. Put the flute in the freezer long enough for the liquid to freeze over a little. Then add the white wine to the top of the flute. The drink should divide into light and dark equally.
Add 6 pomegranate seeds in honour of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter the harvest goddess, whose fatal weakness for pomegranate seeds caused her to be tied to her husband Hades in the Underworld after he abducted her and carried her away.
Now is the time when Persephone will be turning away from her harvest home and returning to the Underworld, so we eat these seeds in sympathy with her.
The dark and light layers of the drink should be evenly balanced to represent the Autumn Equinox.
Top the drink with one of the moons flowers, and drink.
This would be well served with hedgehog buns and mooncakes for your Mabon feast.
Mooncakes are traditionally eaten at this time of year in China, and although I used a traditional wooden mould in the shape of a fish, you can easily find mooncake moulds online to make your own.
100g plain flour
3 drops of water which has been placed overnight in the moons rays to infuse
60g golden syrup
28g vegetable oil
egg to glaze
For the filling you can use lotus seed paste or red bean paste, or simply jam.
Mix the dough ingredients and massage the dough. Wrap it in clingfilm and allow it to sit for at least 3 hours. I added violet flavour at the mixing stage.
Press the dough into your pre-greased mould very thinly, then add your filling. I used fig jam, so the entire mooncake ended up as a kind of violet Fig Roll. Roll out a piece of dough and cover the filling up, pressing the whole cake together to that no filling leaks out.
Persuade the cake out of the mould, and bake for 10 minutes in a moderate oven when you have your cakes assembled. Remove from the oven, and glaze with beaten egg, then return to the oven and bake for a few more minutes, watching carefully, until they are golden brown.
Hedgehog Steamed Buns
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
mung beans or peppercorns for eyes
2 hotdogs and BBQ sauce for the filling
Mix the dough ingredients thoroughly and knead until smooth. Leave the dough in a warm place to rise for half an hour.
Knead the dough again and separate into 8 balls. Chop the hotdogs very finely and mix with the BBQ sauce for the filling.
Flatten each dough ball, put a spoonful of the filling in the middle and gather the dough together to enclose it. Turn the filled balls over, and decorate to look like little hedgehogs.
You use a fine comb to make the neck separate from the body, then scissors to snip and lift the dough to make the mouth and spines. I used pink peppercorns for the beady little eyeballs.
You will need a steamer to cook these breads, the easiest thing (always my favourite) being the kind you fit into a saucepan, which folds up like a waterlily after use. Put the little hogs into it, cover it with the saucepan lid, and leave it somewhere warm so the bread can rise again.
After they have risen for the second time, lift out the steamer layer, fill the bottom of the saucepan with boiling water, replace the steamer layer, cover and steam for 15 minutes, at which time they will be cooked and ready to eat.
As you devour your little hogs and fish, make a moment to meditate on the darker aspects of your own soul. This is a time of balance, yes, but the forces of darkness and destruction are hovering closer than usual at this time of year.
If there is a frustration or pain you have been suffering from, and especially if you have been filled with thoughts of the past which you seem unable to get past, it would be easy for them to overwhelm you at this time if you don’t stay alert.
You need to turn these dark energies which are pointlessly destructive, into a positive form. Consider your past issues to be situations which have educated you in order that you may appreciate better what you have now.
People who never have any obstacles in their lives find themselves unfulfilled and ultimately shallow. They yearn for something, they just don’t know what it is, and all their advantages turn to dust in the end. Struggle and heartbreak form you into a stronger, more complex being.
Use it, rather than letting it use you up. This is the season of dark goddesses such as Demeter, Inanna, Kali, Tiamet, Hecate, Nemesis and Morrighan, and they will look with, if not sympathy, understanding on your efforts to gain power during this time.