Posts Tagged With: Beltane

Ostara to Beltane

Ostara Comments

Ostara to Beltane

The advent of Spring marks the turning of the year, when hours of daylight begins to outnumber the hours of darkness again. New growth emerges around us and we experience renewed energy and hope, while fertility becomes the focus of the animal and human world and is also seen in the reawakening of the Earth and the flora it sustains. Because the Sun returns to our lives at the Spring Equinox, it is associated with the color yellow.

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The Full Wiccan Rede

Book & Candle Comments
The Full Wiccan Rede

Bide within the Law ye should To keep unwelcome spirits out.
To bind the spell well every time
Let the spell be spake in rhyme.For tread the Circle thrice about In perfect love and perfect trust.
Live ye must and let to live
Fairly take and fairly give.

Light of eye, and soft of touch
Speak you little, listen much.
Honour the Old Ones in deed and name
Let love and light be our guides again.

Deosil go by the waxing moon
Chanting out the Wiccan Rune.
Widdershins go by the waning moon
Chanting out the Baneful Rune.

When the Lady’s moon is new
Kiss the hand to her times two.
When the moon ridesat Her peak
Then your heart’s desire seek.

Heed the Northwinds mighty gale
Lock the door and trim the sail.
When the wind blows form the East
Expect the new and set the feast.

When the wind comes from the South
Love will kiss you on the mouth.
When the wind whispers form the West
All hearts will find peace and rest.

Nine woods in the Cauldron go
Burn them fast and burn them slow.
Birch in the fire goes
To represent what the Lady knows.

Oak in the forest towers with might
In the fire it brings the God’s insight.
Rowan is a tree of power
Causing life and magick to flower.

Willows at the waterside stand
Ready to help us to the summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to puify
And to draw faerie to your eye.

Hazel – the tree of wisdom and learning -
Adds it’s strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of the Apple tree
That brings us fruits of fertility.

Grapes grow upon the vine
Giving us both joy and wine.
Fir does mark the evergreen
To represent immortality seen.

Elder is the Lady’s tree
Burn it not or cursed you’ll be.
Four times the Major Sabbats mark
In the light and in the dark.

As the old year starts to wane
The new begin; it’s now Samhain.
When the time for Imblolc shows
watch for flowers through the snows.

When the wheel begins to turn
Soon the Beltane fires will burn.
As the wheel turns to Lammas night
Power is brought to magick rite.

Four times the Minor Sabbats fall
Use the Sun to mark them all.
When the wheel has turned to Yule
Light the log The Horned One rule.

In the spring, when night equals day
Time for Ostara to come our way.
When the sun has reached it’s hight
Time for Oak and Holly fight.

Harvesting comes to one and all
When the Autumn Equinox does fall.
Heed the flower, bush and tree
By the lady Blessed you’ll be.

Where the rippling waters go
Cast a stone, the truth you’ll know.
When you have and hold a need
Harken not to others greed

With a fool no season spend
Or be counted as his friend.
Merry Meet and Merry Part
Bright the cheeks and warm the heart.

Mind the Three-fold Law you should
Three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is enow
Wear the star upon your brow

Be true in love this you must do
Unless your love be false to you
Eight words the Rede fulfil
“An it harm none, do as ye will”

 

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A Little Rhyme That Ties Candlemas/Imbolc to Groundhog’s Day

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments
“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
If on Candlemas Day be shower and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.”
Alternately…
“If the sun shines bright on Candlemas Day,
The half of the winter’s not yet away.”

**Author Unknown**

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How Much Yule Do You Put into Christmas?

How Much Yule Do You Put into Christmas?

Author:   Stazya   

This is a difficult topic. I didn’t think it would be until I started. In fact, I thought it would take about two paragraphs to describe how I celebrate Yule by myself and then participate in Christmas with the rest of my family. Until now, that’s the way it’s been – separate.

And lonely.

I remember last year vividly – I shut the bedroom door, laid out a full altar, substituted a small piece of pine incense for my Yule Log since we had no fireplace, and sang of my wishes in a hushed voice, trying to drown myself in the raised volume of the television. I did this not because I was hiding from my husband in the next room, but because I didn’t want to “disturb”e; him with my ritual. A week later, we were in Danvers, MA sitting in the Congregational church with his family and as I watched the minister light his candles and listened to his words, She leaned over and whispered in my ear. “You’ve been here before.” It clicked later, but at first I didn’t pay attention.

A year later and my life is as it should be – completely different. I still close the bedroom door for private rituals, but every now and then, I include my husband. He is definitely Christian, but he’s very tolerant and curious about everything I do. He helped me bless our seeds at Ostara. He attended an open festival at Beltane. He even sat with me to experiment with the open door ritual (Thank you Wren). And this summer, I managed to tell my mother and my best friend that I am a witch.

So now, as the days get darker, and the trees become bare, I am thinking ahead to the holidays. Suddenly, I am confused. Before, there was no question – I had to hide my beliefs. I had to keep to myself. This year though, I somehow have to figure out how much Yule to put into Christmas.

We flip-flop each season between my husband’s family, and mine. This year we will spend the holidays with mine. The only time my immediate family thinks of the birth of Christ on Christmas is if they happen to catch the Little Drummer Boy on TV. It’s never really been about religion with us – just food and family. Oh yeah, and presents. So my problem is not that I’m stomping on a holy cradle, but rather that I may actually inject something of a religious nature into the hors d’oeuvres and stuffing. I’ll be stomping on our traditions, which I’ve always thought to be a bigger offense.

For example, there’s the Christmas card tradition. Among us, cards are an obligation of sorts. You find the funniest one with Santa being farted on by Rudolph, or the sweetest one with puffy sparrows playing in bright red ribbon – but you never take the card that sends blessings to anyone. You receive these cards and then display them on your wall, or in the window, or on the front door. Really anywhere they’ll be seen by lots of people. I’ve always liked this tradition – it’s the one time my mailbox fills up with something other than bills. And yet, my principles tell me it’s a waste. All that paper, all those trees, sacrificed for vanity. So, what do I do?

Do I call everyone and say I don’t want to send cards anymore because we’re decimating Mother Earth? Do I tell them not to send me any? Do I tell everyone to only use recycled paper? Is it really my place to tell anyone anything at all?

And what of the Christmas feast? No one bows their head at my family’s table. I am the first. To make matters worse, I won’t be thanking God for the bounty before us. That would be acceptable to them, if uncomfortable. But I can just see the looks on their faces when I mutter my thanks to Mr. Turkey and the asparagus. At least I won’t have to mourn the passing of an evergreen. My mother’s tree is fake.

I start to think about my Yule rituals and wonder if they’d let me give out presents au natural. Or perhaps I can find some nice pine and sage incense to cleanse my mother’s house with and still be able to convince her she does not smell marijuana. And maybe she’ll allow me to light the front room with votives, being careful not to damage the fine finish of her furniture. Instead of presents, we’ll exchange wishes and burn them in my cauldron. Maybe I can gather my whole family into a circle, weaving it in and out of the sectional sofa and invoke the Goddess into our presence. Or we can gather together all the used pots and pans to drum and chant the evening away in merry camaraderie. Or maybe I’ll make one suggestion of a living wreath of flowers and seeds to wrap around the tree and endure the laughter and disdain the entire evening once I’ve stained the white carpet with cranberries.

Maybe I won’t do anything at all.

But then I remember Her voice in my ear and the warmth of Her breath on my cheek and I know what my answer is.

Tradition.

I know historically what Yule is all about. I know the story of the sun God’s return. But I also know that historical context doesn’t necessarily mean anything to us. We no longer sit huddled in sod huts with what’s left of our flock trying to keep warm. That the days are shorter now means we turn on the lights a little earlier. Why adhere to something when it’s meaningless? Why does my family still celebrate Christmas, even though Christ is no longer a part of it?

Because for them it isn’t about religion anymore. It isn’t even about presents or trees or cards. It’s about being together because we only see each other a few times a year now. It’s about coming together and reaffirming our faith in each other. It’s about touching base with the love that for some reason still exists, regardless of space and time.

How much Yule do I put into Christmas? The same amount I always have. I’ll bake nut tree pear bread for the family, and maybe an apple pie. We’ll all sit at the table and reminisce about the past year – catch up on each other’s lives. We’ll talk briefly about Dad and try to remember his corny jokes or some stray moment when you knew just how much he loved each one of us. After dinner, some of us will go for a walk and take in the beauty of the stark trees and icicle-laden eves. And when we’ve gotten our second wind, some of us will pile into the car and drive the neighborhoods to ooh and ah over this year’s most inspired displays. We’ll exchange tokens of love and admiration, and before we disperse, each will bless the other with love and happiness until we meet again.

If that isn’t a Pagan evening what is?

And what of next year when I find myself back in the Congregational church, surrounded by my husband’s family? Well, I will admire the four candles on the altar and the Christmas flowers that adorn the stage. I will listen with rapt attention as my mother-in-law lends her beautiful voice to the choir and her faith shines on her face. I will hold my husband’s soft, warm hand and watch the snow fall silently. I will bask in the warmth of the moment and listen to Her whispering in my ear again, but this time I will pay attention.

I was never alone.

Stazya

Bio: Stazya is one of the luckiest Pagans alive. She has an understanding, if skeptical, family and a husband who loves her. She receives daily snuffles from her dog, Igor, and provides a pleasantly warm lap for her cat, Potato. In her spare time, she is a writer and an editor in desperate need of actual work (Show me a writer who isn’t!). She keeps one leg in the closet, one finger in the cookie jar and her nose out of most peoples’ business. It’s all about balance. Blessings to all and to all a joyful turn of the Wheel.

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A Little Humor for Your Day – ‘Top Thirteen Reasons To Be Pagan’

Top Thirteen Reasons To Be Pagan

13. I live for persecution!
12. I’m a night person at heart.
11. We respect our elders…and alders, and willows and oaks.
10. I just love explaining that a pentagram is NOT evil.
9. We do more after midnight than most people do all day!
8. Being burned at the stake is a great way to roast marshmallows.
7. We can talk to Elvis (and he IS dead).
6. You live, you learn, you die, you forget. Then you come back…
5. Double the deities, double the fun!
4. We get more holidays.
3. Brooms get great mileage.
2. We were here first!
1. BELTANE!!!

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Feast of the Dead

Feast of the Dead

Communication with the spirits is easiest at this time, for the veil between our world and theirs is very thin. It is a time to reflect on our ancestors and those who we have lost.

For the Witch, it is a holiday where we honor our dead friends, relatives, ancestors, and even pets who have passed on. We remember them by putting an extra plate at the dinner table for them.

Along the north wall of the dining room there is a small table prepared as an unobtrusive altar, and without preamble or fuss each person places there some small token or photograph of their dearly departed, some person or being whose memory or influence in their life still means something to them.

Each person quietly lights a candle for his or her various dead, and then they bow their heads in a moment of silence. Memories spill forth and emotions run deep. When it is time a bell is softly chimed and all stand.

A shared moment of silence is observed, and then everyone takes a turn making a toast to his or her chosen ancestor. The bell is sounded once more and everyone takes his or her place at the dining room table to partake of a feast enjoyed. In silence, each guest communing with their own spirits and remembrances.

We honor our ancestors at Samhain as they have honored us in the days before we were born. And as they shall honor us in the nights ahead when we eventually cross the river to take up our place beside those who have gone before into the greatest Mystery of all.

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The Witches Magick for Samhain – Honoring the Harvest’s End

Samhain Comments & Graphics

How To Honor the Harvest’s End

A Samhain Ritual for Wiccans and Pagans

By Patti Wigington, About.com

Celebrate the final harvest with a ritual.

Samhain represents, among other things, the end of the harvest season. If you haven’t picked it by Samhain, you probably won’t be eating it! The gardens have died off by now, and where we once saw lush green plants, there is nothing left but dry and dead stalks. The perennials have shut down for the season too, going dormant so that they may return to us in the spring. Animals are brought in from the fields for the winter — and if you’ve ever had a spider come wandering into your living room one chilly October night, you know that even the insects are trying to find a place to stay warm.

Here’s How:

If we had lived a few hundreds of years ago, we would not only have brought our cows and sheep in from the pastures. Most likely we’d slaughter a few of them, as well as some pigs and goats, smoking the meat so it would last through the cold months. Our grain that we picked back at Lghnasadhu has been baked into bread, and all of our herbs have been gathered, and hang from the rafters in the kitchen. The harvest is over, and now it’s time to settle in for winter with the coziness of a warm fireplace, heavy blankets, and big pots of comfort food on the stovetop.

If you want to celebrate Samhain as the time of harvest’s end, you can do so as a single ritual, or as the first of three days of ceremony. If you don’t have a permanent altar in place, set up a table to leave in place for the three days prior to Samhain. This will act as a your family’s temporary altar for the Sabbat. Decorate the altar with symbols of late fall, such as:

Skulls, skeletons, grave rubbings, ghosts

Harvest food such as pumpkins, squash, root vegetables

Nuts and berries, dark breads

Dried leaves and acorns

A cornucopia filled with an abundance of fruit and veggies

Mulled cider, wine, or mead

To begin your ceremony, prepare a meal for the family — and this is something that everyone can get involved in. Put emphasis on fruits and vegetables, and wild game meat if available. Also make sure you have a loaf of a dark bread like rye or pumpernickel and a cup of apple cider or wine. Set the dinner table with candles and a fall centerpiece, and put all the food on the table at once. Consider the dinner table a sacred space.

Gather everyone around the table, and say:

Tonight is the first of three nights,
on which we celebrate Samhain.
It is the end of the harvest, the last days of summer,
and the cold nights wait on the other side for us.
The bounty of our labor, the abundance of the harvest,
the success of the hunt, all lies before us.
We thank the earth for all it has given us this season,
and yet we look forward to winter,

a time of sacred darkness.

Take the cup of cider or wine, and lead everyone outside. Make this a ceremonial and formal occasion. If you have a vegetable garden, great! Go there now — otherwise, just find a nice grassy spot in your yard. Each person in the family takes the cup in turn and sprinkles a little bit of cider onto the earth, saying:

Summer is gone, winter is coming.
We have planted and
we have watched the garden grow,
we have weeded,
and we have gathered the harvest.

Now it is at its end.

If you have any late-fall plants still waiting to be picked, gather them up now. Collect a bundle of dead plants and use them to make a straw man or woman. If you follow a more masculine path, he may be your King of Winter, and rule your home until spring returns. If you follow the Goddess in her many forms, make a female figure to represent the Goddess as hag or crone in winter.

Once that is done, go back inside and bring your King of Winter into your home with much pomp and circumstance. Place him on your table and prop him up with a plate of his own, and when you sit down to eat, serve him first.

Begin your meal with the breaking of the dark bread, and make sure you toss a few crumbs outside for the birds afterwards. Keep the King of Winter in a place of honor all season long — you can put him back outside in your garden on a pole to watch over next spring’s seedlings, and eventually burn him at your Beltane celebration.

When you are finished with your meal, put the leftovers out in the garden. Wrap up the evening by playing games, such as bobbing for apples or telling spooky stories before a bonfire.

What You Need

A table to use as your Samhain altar

Decorations that represent the late autumn season

A meal with lots of veggies, fruit, and bread

A cup of wine or cider

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A Celtic View of Samhain

A Celtic View of Samhain

Author:   Morgan   
  
One of the most widely known pagan holidays is Samhain, a day that is celebrated by Wiccans, Pagans, and Druids alike. The modern Samhain has its roots in the ancient Celtic fire festival from which it gets its name, pronounced SOW-en, believed by some to mean “summer’s end”. Samhain is the Irish Gaelic name for the holiday, which is also called Samhuinn in Scottish and Calan Gaiaf in Welsh (Kondratiev, 1998) . According to the Gaulish Coligny calendar it is called Trinuoxtion Samonii, which means the “three nights of summer’s end”, indicating that the holiday was originally celebrated over a three-day period (Kondratiev, 1998) .

In modern vernacular Samhain is called Halloween, abbreviated from All Hallow’s Eve, the name given to the holiday because of it’s placement near the Christian church’s holiday of All Saints day, or “All Hallows”. Originally the Catholic holidays that take place on and around Samhain of All Souls and All Saints days were in February having been set during the Roman feast of Feralia, but when the Church spread to the Celtic lands the dates were shifted to November.

The Celts celebrated Samhain as the ending of the old year and beginning of the new. Caesar tells us, in his writings about the Gallic War, that the Celts saw the day as well as the New Year beginning at sunset (Freeman, 2002) . This would mean that Samhain would have been celebrated starting as the sun went down on one day and continuing on to end at the next sunset. Samhain stood opposite Beltane, and as Beltane marked the beginning of summer, Samhain marked the beginning of winter; moreover as the beginning of the New Year Samhain was probably the most important holiday of the year (McNeill, 1961) .

The precise dating of Samhain is difficult to determine, as it was, like all the Celtic festivals, agrarian based, but it is likely that it would take place around what is now November as this is the time when vegetation dies and the sun is clearly waning (McNeill, 1961) . In most modern practices the date is set on October 31st, although some people still celebrate it on November 12th holding to the older date before the transition between the Julian and Gregorian calendars that shifted everything back two weeks (McNeill, 1961) .

It is the end of the harvest period, and indeed any produce not gathered in by Samhain is left in the fields (Kondratiev, 1998) . This is done because tradition holds that after Samhain night everything left in the fields belongs to the fairies; in some areas the people believed that one fairy in particular, the Púca, went out on Samhain night and claimed all the fruit that was left by urinating on it, or some say spitting on it (Estyn Evans, 1957; McNeill, 1961; Danaher, 1972) . At this time as well the herds that were put out to summer pasture at Beltane are brought back in, reuniting the herders with their families and allowing the people to decide how much stock could be kept over the winter and how much should be butchered (Estyn Evans 1957) . This was a time for settling debts, and as the last of the harvest fairs ended people would make sure that anything they owed was paid before Samhain (Danaher, 1972) . Samhain was a time that was both joyous and eerie, as it was marked by great feasts and community gatherings, but was also a time for telling ghost stories and tales of the faeries stealing people (McNeill, 1961) .

Today we continue to celebrate with this dual feeling, enjoying the atmosphere of closeness and the visitations by our dead family members, but also relishing the scariness that comes when the veil is so thin. Great bonfires would be lit just as at Beltane and Midsummer. While the Beltane fires were traditionally lit at dawn the Samhain fires were lit as the sun set as a symbol of the light surviving in the dark (McNeill, 1961) . These modern bonfires are carry-overs from the ancient Celtic time when all the fires in each home would be put out and the Druids would light a huge bonfire on a hilltop from which all the other fires would be relit (McNeill, 1961) . This practice in Ireland centered on Tara, as it was believed that what was done there would spread outward from the center (Kondratiev, 1998) . After all the fires were extinguished the Druids would light a bonfire at Tlachtga, a sacred site near the hill of Tara (Kondratiev, 1998) . Even up until the 1970’s people still regularly lighted bonfires on Samhain night in Dublin (Danaher, 1972) . .

In some areas of Ireland when the fires began to die down men and boys would scoop up still burning embers and throw them at each other, which may possibly be linked to older rituals, although the practice is dangerous (Danaher, 1972) . In Scotland the ashes from the bonfires were scattered to fertilize the fields and for protection, since it was believed that they possessed the power to drive away dangerous spirits (McNeill, 1961) . In other areas people would blacken their faces with the ashes, believing it was a protection against baneful magic (McNeill, 1961) .

Possibly the most prominent theme of Samhain was that of the thinning of the veil between the worlds. On this night the dead could return to visit the living and the fairy hills were opened, releasing all the creatures of fairy into the mortal world (Estyn Evans, 1957; McNeill, 1961) . The belief in this was so strong in rural Ireland even up to the last century that it was considered extremely bad luck not to set an extra chair at the table, put out a bowl of a special porridge, and leave the door to the home open on Samhain (Estyn Evans, 1957) . In other accounts the door should be closed but left unlocked and a bowl of fresh water left out by the hearth to welcome any returning family ghosts that choose to visit (Danaher, 1972) . In Ireland, however, it is more widely believed that November 2nd is the day when the dead return to visit (Danaher, 1972) .

This is of particular interest because it may reflect the older practice of celebrating Samhain as a three-day holiday, in which case the return of the dead may have marked the final day of the celebration. In modern practice in Ireland people would light a candle for each deceased member of their family, and in some cases visit the graveyards where they were buried to clean the graves (Danaher, 1972) . Although popular imagination paints the idea of the dead returning in a negative light this is not the way the old belief was; in the old practice people didn’t fear the dead who came back to visit but saw them as protective of the living family (Danaher, 1972) . It is a very old doctrine of the Celts that the soul is immortal and passes from one life to spirit and then to another life so it would be impossible for the Celts to see Samhain as a holiday devoid of celebration (McNeill, 1961) .

Just as all the dead were free to return to earth to visit, so the realm of Faery was opened up, although it has always been a very blurry line between faeries and the dead, as it was often said that some of the dead went to live with the fairies. The denizens of fairy were most likely to be encountered now and it was said that should a person meet a fairy rade and throw the dust from under his feet at them they would be compelled to release any humans they had taken (Danaher, 1972) . This night was one of celebration and merry making, but people preferred to travel in groups, fearing that to walk alone on Samhain risked being taken forever into Faery (Danaher, 1972) . It was thought that dusk and midnight were particularly dangerous times, and that the fairy troops passed to the west side of homes, and along water ways making it best to avoid these times and places (McNeill, 1961) . It was also a long time custom to shout out beware (seachain!) or water towards you (chughaibh an t-uisce!) if one was tossing water out of the home so that any passing fairies or ghosts would be warned (Danaher, 1972) .

This is the time that all the fairy raths, or hills, open up and the inhabitants parade from one hill to the next playing music which some people claim to hear (Danaher, 1972; McNeill, 1961) Anyone who had been kidnapped to faery could be freed within the first year and a day from when they were taken, but the spells to do so were the strongest on Halloween, as we can see in the old tale of Tam Lin (McNeill, 1961) . Because the faeries were all abroad it was also the custom in many places to leave them food offerings, but unlike the plates of food left for the dead, the food offerings for faeries took the form of a rich porridge that was made and then placed in a small pit dug in the ground (Sjoestedt, 1949) .

Another feature of the celebration is divination for the year to come. One form of such divination was to observe the direction the wind was blowing at midnight, as it was believed that this would indicate the weather of the winter to come (Danaher, 1972) . In a similar way the moon, if visible, was used for divination: a clear moon meant good weather, a cloudy moon would be observed and the degree of clouding would represent the amount of rain to come, and clouds passing quickly over the moon’s face meant storms (Danaher, 1972) . Other folk divinations took on a more homely focus as, for example, two hazel nuts or walnuts could be named after a couple and then placed near each other by the edge of the fire and if the stayed together it was a good omen but if the popped or jumped apart it meant the relationship would not last (Danaher, 1972) . Apples were also used in a variety of ways, including the modern game of bobbing for apples, which could be used to tell a person’s luck in the year to come.

Another method to foretell and individual’s fortune was to blindfold them and seat them at a table in front of a certain number of plates or bowls each of which contained something different; the bowl which the person touched first indicated something about how their year would go (Danaher, 1972; McNeill, 1961) While these practices are clearly modern they are fully in the spirit of the holiday and using divination to predict the fortunes of a person, and these methods are more easily used today than some of the older ones which focused less on the individual and more on the welfare of the community. In Scotland there was a form of divination that utilized the sacred bonfire; a circle would be made from the ashes of the still smoldering fire and around this circle of ashes stones would be placed to represent the people present – in the morning should any stone be moved or damaged it indicated doom for that person (McNeill, 1961) .

Samhain is also a time in the Celtic world to give thanks for the harvest, and the bounty that had been secured to get the people through the winter. McNeill compares Samhain to saying a prayer of thanks after a meal, just as she sees Beltane as a prayer before a meal (McNeill, 1961) . In certain parts of Scotland it was the custom up to the 1600’s for the people of a town to gather and each contribute a portion of ale, which one man would then carry out into the ocean as an offering to the sea god, Shony (McNeill, 1961) . Another interesting custom is the baking of a special oatmeal cake, which would be prepared with much ceremony and then offered to a stranger (McNeill, 1961) . This may be a reflection of older customs of sharing from one’s own abundance to ensure more in the future; this is also a reflection of a similar custom from Imbolc where after the feast the remnants were offered to the poor of the community (Carmichael, 1900) . Offerings would be made during this time by tossing them into the sacred bonfires, both in thanks for blessings received and symbolizing requests the people would like granted in the new year (Kondratiev, 1998) .

It is likely that the modern practice of Halloween trick or treating comes from older Celtic practices, called guising. In County Cork into the 19th century there was a practice of that involved a small procession led by someone dressed as a white mare that would go door to door asking for tolls and singing (Estyn Evans, 1957; Danaher, 1972) . In some parts of modern Ireland it is still the practice of trick or treating children to chant “Help the Halloween party! Any apples or nuts?” (Danaher, 1972) . This request for apples or nuts is almost certainly a reflection of older traditions, as apples are strongly connected to the Otherworld and the Hazel was a symbol of occult wisdom (McNeill, 1961) .

All through Scotland it was the custom of groups of boys to go out disguised and travel from door to rood asking for money or treats, often while singing or chanting (McNeill, 1961) . The practice slowly switched to children going out dressed in masks and carrying torches who would repeat chants like “Hallowe’en! A nicht o’ tine! A can’le in a custock!” (Halloween! A night of fire! A candle in a holder!) or “Heigh ho for Halloween, when the fairies a’ are seen, some black and some green, heigh ho for Halloween!” (McNeill, 1961) . Both of these chants reflect the older practices of the pagan holiday in referring to fire and to the fairies being abroad.

Finally, Samhain was also connected, as where all the fire festivals to some degree, to blessing activities and making charms to bless, draw luck, and protect in the year to come. In Ireland it was a custom to make a charm very similar to the solar cross of St. Brighid which would be hung on the wall over the inside of the door to ward off all bad luck and harm in the year to come (Danaher, 1972) . Infants and children would be sprinkled with blessed water and a piece of iron or a cold ember from the fire was placed under their bed to protect them; in other areas a mix of oatmeal and salt is dabbed on the child’s forehead (Danaher, 1972) . In Scotland, even up until the 1850’s, people would go out on Samhain and make torches from wood or heather and these would be lit from the sacred fire (originally the Druidic fires and later the bonfires lit at home) ; these torches would be carried around the boundary of the home sun-wise by the family to bless the place (McNeill, 1961) .

There are a few specific deities associated with Samhain, which vary by area. In Scotland, many believe that it is at Samhain that Brighid turns over control of the year to the Cailleach, who rules then until Imbolc (McNeill, 1961) . The Cailleach is in many ways the spirit of winter and of the cold weather, who controls the storms, so her rule during this time of year makes sense. For some people who follow the Tuatha de Danann of Ireland Samhain may be a period to honor the Dagda and the Morrigan , who in mythology were said to have joined together on this date. Indeed many important events occur on Samhain in Irish mythology.

In modern practice, there are many ways to incorporate these Celtic traditions, whether you are solitary or celebrate in a group. I recommend celebrating the secular Halloween first, as it is firmly rooted in the ancient practice of guising. Go to a place you consider sacred and create sacred space as you normally would, then call whatever gods and spirits you feel appropriate for the rite. During the rite itself offers should be made to the Gods in thanks and to ask for their continued blessing, and porridge may be offered to the faeries. Afterwards you could have a bonfire after putting out any other fires and turning off all the lights, but even if that’s not possible, a symbolic bonfire could be made, perhaps in a cauldron, or a large candle lit. Put out all the lights and then relight your sacred fire for the new year and then small offerings can be made to the fire, both in thanks and with requests for the year to come.

One practice that I and several friends use that reflects the old idea of lighting candles for the dead is to carve the names of all those we care about who have passed onto a candle and then light it during ritual in their honor. Different methods of divination can be done, either based on traditional methods or more modern ones, to see what the year to come might bring. When the rite is done you can either pick up the candle or light a candle or small torch from the ritual fire and walk around your yard or ritual area, clockwise, carrying it to bless the space for the year to come. Then you or your group should have a potluck feast; it might be nice if everyone contributed a dish that held some significance for him or her or was a family recipe. Portions of this should be set aside for the visiting dead who should be as welcome to attend as the living members. After the feast this plate can be left on the table for the dead, and the candle in their honor can be left burning, if it is safe to do so. When the celebration is over ashes can be taken from the ritual fire and kept as a protective charm for the year to come.

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Footnotes:
Carmichael, A., (1900) . Carmina Gadelica , volume 1.
Danaher, K., (1972) . The Year in Ireland. Mercier Press
Estyn Evans, E., (1957) . Irish folk Ways. Routledge and Kegan Paul
Freeman, P., (2002) War, Women, and Druids. University of Texas Press
Kondratiev, A., (1998) . The Apple Branch: a path to Celtic Ritual. Citadel Press.
McNeill, F., (1961) . The Silver Bough, volume 3: Halloween to Yule. Stuart Titles Limited.
Sjoestedt, M., (1949) Celtic Gods and Heroes. Dover Publications

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