‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for October 27th

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Haven’t you heard someone say, after experiencing something either good or bad, “I knew it was going to be that way.” And perhaps the conviction was very strong that certain conditions would take a definite turn. But much of the time we say it not out of conviction, but resignedly, agreeing beforehand that something will be a certain way, and usually with dire overturns.

It used to be believed that we had no power to control anything coming to us. We were mere victims of circumstances, almost like stones waiting to be kicked aside. But we were taught, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.”

We must not be so presumptuous as to believe we know everything there is to know about the workings of the mind. But we attract a great many of our problems simply by dwelling on them in our thoughts.

Premonition, or “knowing” things are going to be a certain way, is merely giving us a little time to head off the trouble. Such things should be a challenge, not an accepted rule. “Know” better until you believe it into conviction and into being

Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – October 27

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – October 27

“The white man does not obey the Great Spirit; this is why the Indians never could agree with him.”

–Flying Hawk, OGLALA LAKOTA

The Great Spirit runs the world and the people by a set of natural laws and principles. He says we are to live our lives and make decisions that will be in harmony with these laws. He says we should be respectful to all things and to all people. He says we should pray for each other. He says we should forgive one another. It is easy to tell if a person is following the ways of the Great Spirit. You can tell by how a man walks in life. He doesn’t need to say anything. If we are dishonest or deceitful, other people will know. This is true because we are all interconnected in the Unseen World.

My Creator, let me obey Your ways. Let me Walk the Talk.

October 27 – Daily Feast

October 27 – Daily Feast

Unwittingly we have been parts of broken relationships, discrimination, poverty, disease, and overbearing personalities. These things exist, and as long as someone endures it and someone does it, it will go on. So learn why these things happen if you want to overcome them. Learn and then don’t stay where they are happening, but go on to better things. This definitely can be done. Fear and helplessness are the usual reasons we stay in bad situations – but from those two things many other evils begin. Instead, say to yourself daily that you are able, you are intelligent, and you are protected. It expands your consciousness to stand up and shake off everything that has been degrading.

~ A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong. ~

BLUE JACKET – SHAWNEE CHIEF

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II’ by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Daily Motivator for October 27th – Right here and now

Right here and now

If you wish to have it done, begin to do it now. If you wish to experience  life, then fully live it today.

The future is not certain and the past is out of reach. Now is where your  possibilities dwell, and now is when you must live them.

Don’t waste your wish on what might never be, or long for what is finished.  Invest your energy in the magnificent life that is right here and now.

Yes, by all means work toward a meaningful purpose. And as you do, find  richness and joy in the portion of the journey that is happening now.

Everything that is, is now, and it is more than enough. Let go of any sense of lack or need, and open yourself to the unique wonder of this moment.

There is limitless value to be lived right here and now. This is when you can  experience life at its best, so do.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator

Daily OM for October 27th – Unlimited Vision

Unlimited Vision
Everything Is In Divine Order

We can only see so much from where we sit in our particular bodies, in the midst of our particular lives, rooted as we are in the continuum of space and time. The divine, on the other hand, is not limited to the constructs of either space or time, and its wisdom and workings often elude us as we try to make sense of what is happening in our lives. This is why things are not always what they seem to be and even the best-laid plans are sometimes overturned. Even when we feel we have been guided by our intuition every step of the way, we may find ourselves facing unexpected loss and disappointment. At times like these, we can find some solace in trusting that no matter how bad or just plain inexplicable things look from our perspective, they are, in fact, in divine order.

Even as we take our places in this earthly realm, a part of us remains completely free of the confines we face here. Regardless of what is happening in our lives, this part of us remains infused with joy and gratitude, connected to the unbroken source from which we come. Our small self, on the other hand, who is caught up in our false identity as a being limited in space and time, regards happiness as the result of things going the way it wants them to go. It is this part of us that suffers the greatest confusion and upset when the logic of events does not compute. And it is to this self that we must extend unconditional love, forgiveness, and compassion. In order to do this, we tap into our inner divinity, holding the space of a tender authority, extending love and light to our ego as a mother extends her love to a troubled child.

There are many ways to access our inner divinity—meditation, prayer, chanting, channeling, and conscious breathing, to name a few. It is helpful to develop a regular practice that provides us access to this all-powerful, healing presence, as it can be difficult to reach once we are in a stressful position, if we have not already established a connection. The more connected we are with this part of ourselves, the more we share its unlimited vision and the secure, knowing that all the things of our life, no matter how they appear, are in a state of divine and perfect order.

The Daily OM

When The Crone Pays A Visit, You’d Better Pay Attention

When The Crone Pays A Visit, You’d Better Pay Attention

Author:   Maire Durkan   

(Samhain 2012) I wake in pre-dawn hours, heart pounding. I’d placed photographs of my beloved dead on my altar, placed a welcome offering of my dad’s favorite candy and whiskey, and lit a candle. I’d asked for a dream—contact with a message—and had expected something like the warm and loving messages I received during Audience With the Ancestors, a Samhain ritual performed by my coven (Grail of the Birch Moon) and member covens of the Assemble of the Sacred Wheel in three locations. I expected a message along the lines of “follow the way of love, ” but the Wise Woman, the Crone, had visited me in the darkness of night, in the waning of the moon, bringing the chill of winter and a stern message.

I have never been a lucid dreamer. So, when I find myself in my very own bedroom confronted by a messenger dressed in black who is–shall we say–brutally frank, I’m pretty freaked out. First, the specter makes sure that I am icy cold (which certainly gets my attention) , then she dissolves the headboard of my bed and tears chunks out of the door to a very real crawl space behind it while my father (who passed in 2008) tells me to “wake up.”

This dream is not a nightmare—but its message is certainly stern. So, I wake to a room not quite as frigid as the astral room. When my heart rate dropped to normal, it was time to figure out my spiritual game plan.

As I’ve said, the crawl space is quite real and exactly where it was in the dream. There are a lot of things in that crawl space—old manuscripts, old books, old clothes, old memories good and not so good—things that I’m not quite ready to part with because they hold a part of me for good or ill.

As the space is behind the very large, very solid oak headboard of a behemoth of a bed, I can’t get at it without putting in a lot of effort. I put them there for a variety of reasons—nostalgia, the hope that they’ll be repurposed, and even (in the case of the manuscript) because I couldn’t bear to look at it but couldn’t bear to throw it away either.

Clearly, it is time for me to do some shadow work. But I don’t want to! That’s why all that stuff is packed away in an almost inaccessible physical space and in an equally inaccessible space inside of me. I have a hunch that the Goddess and my dad expect a New Year’s cleaning that involves more than sorting through the tangible junk that lurks behind that closed door.

As I do a lot when I’m working through “things, ” I take a walk in the woods and farmland around the Brandywine River Valley. Sometimes, the land and the beings that inhabit it, have lessons to teach me and sometimes the process of walking in the quiet countryside helps me find my way to an answer or at least help me pose questions that point me toward more clues.

The woods have turned towards winter. A cold breeze rattles bare limbs and dry leaves spiral down onto damp, cold earth. In the meadow, horses stand in groups, nose to nose. A maple tree felled by Hurricane Sandy lies across the path pressing down the electric wire around the fields of dun colored corn stubble. Its branches are filled with the tight knots of next year’s buds– life and potential that will never be realized in its current form–although it will be transformed and used. Nothing in nature goes to waste.

Near the last unharvested soybean fields migrating robins chirp with alarm, then fall silent as a local red tailed hawk wheels overhead. I’m like the robin, chirping, alarmed. Then, silent…listening…watching.

The woods hold death and danger –felled trees, downed leaves, and the feathers left from a kill; this is a cycle. I must embrace this–for it is my story as much as the tree’s or the bird’s. But it was also full of life. In strong roots that held firm despite Sandy’s fury. In the animals that are foraging or hibernating. In the last red clovers blooming low to the ground. In the Red Tail soaring high above crying its glorious “Keeyerr!” I whisper, “She changes everything She touches and everything She touches changes.”

It’s time for me to touch, to draw out, acknowledge, and change. Nature is filled with harsh truths that I need to apply to my spiritual habitat. I have held on to old grief and hurt too long. I lock them away, unexamined, because they are too painful to acknowledge, but too much a part of me to easily relinquish.

It’s time to ground, center, pray for compassion and take them out of the darkness. It’s time to do the hard work of removing barriers that give false comfort and open the door to that shadowed place within myself.

Shadow work is as painful and healing as the nettle plant. Sometime the sting has to come before healing can begin.

When I get home, I know what I must do. This is my first task of the new year. Mastering my fear, I must open physical and spiritual doors, reach into the darkness, and bring what I’ve stored and hidden into the light to be examined, sorted, kept or discarded.

At fifty-two, (to paraphrase the Bard) , I’m a tree approaching winter. A tree shaped and weathered by many seasonal cycles. My roots are strong, deep, and I can withstand this shadow work. But I am still a vibrant, sexual, life-embracing woman. I acknowledge shadows and darkness and will to examine the things that I have hidden with care…but I will not hide there –I will open the dark door, embrace the Crone and embrace this new and powerful cycle of my life.

Preparing for Summerland During Samhain

Preparing for Summerland During Samhain

Author:   Crystal T.  

During the Sabbat of Samhain, many of us think it is the time when we need to remember our ancestors. Many of us set out photos of our relatives, friends and other loved ones that have passed. Some of us may set the table one night this month for a “Dumb Supper”. The veil is considered to be at its thinnest, and yet during this time one topic is rarely ever discussed:
Death. Yes, you read it correctly, death. More importantly, this is about your death!

Remembering the past is indeed a beautiful thing, but what about a topic that not a lot of people think about during this time… how would YOU want to be remembered when your time comes?

No matter if you want to be buried, cremated, or otherwise, one thing will most likely happen: An obituary will be written in your name. In some cases, someone who has never met you writes it. Your local newspaper editor is simply putting together words about you from a standardized form that was supplied to them by the funeral home that handled the processing of your physical body. I don’t mean to seem cold; it is something I don’t want to happen to me. I want to be remembered for what I accomplished in my lifetime, the things I loved, as well as the people I loved. Granted, the paper may not always honor final your wishes, but there are some things you can do to insure that your directives are followed.

Back in 2008, my father passed away. This motivated me to start researching on what I wanted when my time came. I began to research various things from “Pagan funeral” to “Green Burial”. I met a wonderful woman and Death Midwife, Nora Cedarwind Young as a result of my research. Throughout the past few years, she has become a mentor and friend. I have also learned from Nora to be pro-active in planning what I want to happen when my time comes to return to Gaia. Nora has taught me that there are six essential documents a person should have prepared and ready for when their time comes. They are:

1. A Will: A will is a legal document that states what you want to happen after you die. It includes naming a person or persons in charge of handling your estate, distribution of any property, and naming care for any minor children such as guardianship.

2. A Living Will: A Living Will is the document that will distinguish your wishes regarding medical treatments in prolonging your life when you are unable to do so for yourself. This may also be called a Health Care Directive or Advance Directive. A Living Will is also only good when your medical prognosis is deemed unrecoverable such in cases of a terminal illness.

3. Power of Attorney – Health: This paper names a person who would be in charge of your health and make decisions for you in the case you are not able to make them for yourself. This is also known as a Health Care Proxy.

4. Power of Attorney – Finance: This is the document where you would name someone to take charge of your finances when you are unable to do so yourself. Normally it will be your spouse, parent, adult child, or person you deem worthy of the responsibility.

5.Disposition of Body: This is the paper where you state your desire for burial, cremation, organ donation, etc. Please note that in some states, your spouse or next of kin has more rights to determine what is done with your body after you die more so than you do. This is where communication of your desires and wishes are discussed with your family.

6.HIPAA: This form is not to be confused with a HIPPA, which is something else. For a HIPAA you will need to complete and sign a HIPAA Privacy Authorization Form if you want a person beside yourself to have access to your medical records while you are competent.

If you are financially able, prepare these forms as soon as you can. I personally update my records every Samhain just in case something has changed. If you are not able to prepare these forms with a lawyer, there are some computer software applications available for a small amount available at your local office supply store, Best Buy, or available on the internet. Dependent on which state you live in, you might need to determine if the computer software “do it yourself” versions are legal.

Recently this past year, I was diagnosed with kidney disease. This began a journey for me into the many cases of “what if”. I am in no way ready to use any of these six essential documents, but I do however want my husband to be prepared on what I want to happen should something happen to me. I have everything written down in a notebook. We are in the process of drafting paperwork with a lawyer after saving up to prepare it for the welfare of our children should something happen to the both of us for guardianship of our minor children. I want him to know what I want as regarding funeral rites right down to the articles of clothing I want to wear. I have certain items that I wish passed on to (or returned to original person that gifted them to me) others that I have purchased or received over the years.

All these items are very important. One last thing you might want to consider writing during this time of year is your own obituary. Now your version may not make it to the newspapers, but it could be a valuable gift to those you love. This document would be the story of your life.

What do you want to be remembered for? What accomplishments did you achieve over your lifetime? What were your favorite foods, songs, television show, movies, etc? Give them the details that you want them to have. Throw in a fact or two they may not even know. Make them laugh; make them cry.

They will be glad that you gave them this last gift. In essence, this would be writing your own biography. Give them a piece of your history with this document. By simply writing the story of your life and then updating it each and every Samhain as our lives change and grow, it will make it easier on your family in the long run… knowing what your final wishes are and how you want to be remembered.

If you need more information about any of these things, I urge you pay a visit to Nora Cedarwind Young’s website. It is called Thresholds of Life (www.thresholdsoflife.org) and contains much valuable information.

I wish each and every one of you a “Spellbound Samhain”!

Sincerely,
Crystal LunaRouge

_____________________________________

Footnotes:
http://www.thresholdsoflife.org

The Sacredness of Halloween

The Sacredness of Halloween

Author:   Tut 

One of my Pagan friends has the same admonition for us each October. “Don’t try to contact me on Samhain, ” he informs, “I’ll be busy.” Of course, by “busy” he means that he’ll be deep in the midst of a self-imposed seclusion, fasting, meditating and performing solitary rites from sunup on October 31st to more or less sunup on November 1st. As a fellow Solitary Pagan, albeit of a different path, I can respect that. I also know members of an area coven that observe Samhain communally, going to the cemeteries to clean graves and make offerings or holding a silent supper before observing their Sabbat. I have to applaud them for their efforts as well. Even as an Egyptian Pagan, I consider October 31st a holy day, and I typically observe the Osiris Mysteries as close to that date as possible.

But I find one element of the sacred that still seems overlooked by both Solitaries and covens each October 31st. In our efforts as Pagans to mark the solemnity and sanctity of Samhain, we miss what probably made the day so hallowed and special for so many of us in the first place: dressing up, trick-or-treating, and celebrating all things spooky. In other words, we miss the importance of celebrating Halloween.

As a kid, I loved Halloween. Sure, Christmas was when I got presents and time off from school, but Halloween was a time when my creativity and imagination were allowed to soar. What am I going to be for Halloween? was a question I typically started asking myself around late August or early September, and by the time I was ten I was building my own costumes. Ironically, the Irish in my heritage was perhaps better celebrated through Halloween than it was through Saint Patrick’s Day. As a very young child, my mother told me the story of Jack and his Jack o’ Lantern while we carved pumpkins or colored paper decorations, and on occasion she would share ghost stories that her father had told her. The decorations we put up, combined with my own vivid imaginings of her stories, painted dark yet intriguing mental images of primeval forests stalked by fantastical creatures and lonely moonlit moors traversed by wandering souls.

Whether these images came from some collective inherited subconscious reaching back to our distant forbears in Ireland or from my own super-active brain, I will never know, but I still see them in my mind every October as I watch the sun go down and the full moon rise. Another source of inspiration are the handful of decorations and other items I inherited directly from family members: my uncle’s black light, my mother’s pack of Gypsy Witch Tarot Cards (which by this point must be at least forty years old) , my paternal grandmother’s tabletop decoration of a black cat on a tombstone (I’ve had offers from friends to buy it, but it’s not for sale) , and most especially the cassette dub my late grandfather made for me from his old record of Halloween sound effects, complete with a playlist in his own handwriting. While he was alive, my maternal grandfather instilled in me a love of technical toys, especially recording and sound equipment, which carried over into my Halloween decorations–especially the screaming doormats I became notorious for in college!

From the general Pagan perspective Samhain, of course, is a time of transition when the Corn King dies and enters the Underworld (with variations depending on tradition) . It is a time to honor the dead, and an opportunity for divination because the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. The focus is on death, aging, and mortality, much the antithesis of childhood revelry. But when I think back to those Irish forbears–and probably our Welsh ancestors as well–observing the onset of winter, huddled around a bonfire as darkness closed around them and cries of wild animals echoed through the distant hills, I think of grandparents telling their grandchildren those same stories I heard about Jack with his lantern, the Will o’ the Wisp, the Banshee, and probably more I would never hear.

I think of children wrapping themselves tighter in Grandpa’s cloak, staring with wide eyes of wonder at the curtains of shadows beyond the fire, experiencing for the first time that thrill of a good ghost story, and the eternal question, Oh, that’s not real–is it?. Imagination is a sacred gift from the Gods Themselves, the more so when it is handed down from one generation to the next. The Irish and Anglo-Saxons that travelled from their native lands to North America passed down those stories, those characters, and that love of a good fright, regardless of whether they called it Samhain or Halloween, and that lively spirit lives on in our modern holiday.

Indeed, today Halloween is considered a major “kid” holiday, driving a multi-million-dollar industry fed every year by the young and young at heart. And as we all know, Halloween has no shortage of detractors among the evangelical Christian community who denounce it as a “devil’s holiday”–forgetting, of course, that it has long been celebrated as a Catholic holiday, whence it earned the name All Hallow’s Eve. The Mexican communities who observe Dia De Los Muertes two days later are no less devout in their Catholicism. But as we Pagans strive to reclaim the Samhain heritage of October 31st, establishing its legitimacy as a sacred occasion and not a night of “devil worship”, lost in the debate and dogma is the holiday’s golden opportunity to enhance the bond between generations, something just as spiritual and important as its ritual aspect.

A coven member once told me that children are not allowed at their Samhain rituals, owing to the dark and serious tone required to participate. How, then, are the next generation of Wiccans and Pagans going to identify with Samhain, especially if their Pagan parents are spending all their time observing the Sabbat for themselves? How are kids today to understand trick-or-treating, costumes and other traditions surrounding Halloween–and its Celtic prototype? Are we going to fill their heads with ideas of October 31st as Samhain, the misunderstood holy day they’re expected to defend against ignorant schoolmates but wait until they’re older to participate in; or as Halloween and Samhain, a time of year that has something for everyone to enjoy?

For my own part, I’m already planning how I will decorate for this year’s trick-or-treaters; I had better, considering I’ve gained a neighborhood reputation for having the best candy! I take joy in observing Halloween with the neighborhood kids, regardless of their religious affiliation–besides, if their parents opposed Halloween, chances are they wouldn’t be coming to my door (unless they snuck out to do so, in which case who am I to discourage defiance…?) . By doing so, I contribute a tiny part of my own heritage, passed down through the ages, to the next generation so that it won’t one day die with me.

I will have plenty of time to observe the Osiris Mysteries in private after the trick-or-treaters have all gone to bed. But whenever the time comes that I have others observing the Osiris feast with me, I will make sure that they know ahead of time to pitch in for the trick-or-treating first. A child’s imagination is just as sacred as any service, and it should be celebrated accordingly.

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

A Story For Autumn

A Story For Autumn

Author: Janice Van Cleve   

Let me tell you a story . . .

Once upon a time there was a little yellow flower petal named Dandelion. Her full name was Dandelion 232 because she shared the crown of the mother plant with 231 of her sisters. Dandelion was very happy. She basked in the sun with her siblings and gloried in her comfortable and easy life. Her mother fed her every day and brought her water to drink. Every night the mother closed her green sepals around the petals to protect and shelter them.

One day there was a distinct chill in the air and Dandelion noticed that the days were growing shorter. Soon she began to feel herself changing. Her lower half grew into a seed while her bright yellow petal transformed into a stem with a white parachute on top. This was very strange and she knew not what it meant. Yet she still felt the security of home. She still shared the cozy flower crown with her sisters and her mother always closed her sepals around them at night.

One night, the mother did not close her sepals. The petals stretched open their parachutes and by the dawn, they had spread out into a great round puffball. A couple of them even blew away in the breeze! “I won’t leave you, Mother! ” cried Dandelion. Mother tried to explain to her little daughter what was happening. She tried to tell her that this was part of the cycle of all things. Dandelion would not listen. She feared the changes that were happening. The next day the wind blew stronger and more of her sisters floated away. Terrified, little Dandelion pleaded, “Please, Mother, don’t let go of me!” She held on with all her might but to no avail. The mother plant died, and there was nothing left to hold onto. Another gust, and Dandelion was plucked from the secure home she had always known and was cast to the wind.

For many days Dandelion was blown about, tumbled around, and bumped by all manner of obstacles until finally her parachute and stem broke off. She lay on the ground bruised and sore and very much afraid. “I’m lost and alone, ” she wailed, “woe is me. It cannot get any worse.” Then along came a bird.

The bird was hungry. It spied Dandelion and decided she would be tasty. Before Dandelion knew what was happening, she was swallowed down. “Oh no! ” cried Dandelion, “this is much worse. At least on the ground I could still see the light. It’s pitch dark in here.”

Several hours later the bird lightened its load and Dandelion found herself buried in a bird deposit. “This is it – the absolute worst, ” sighed Dandelion. “I’ve been torn from my home, abandoned by my mother, abused, battered, and bitten, and now here I am, alone in a strange place and in deep poop!” So Dandelion relinquished all she had known and held dear. She resigned herself to what is and let go of what she wished it to be. She unclenched her grip on life as she knew it and let it unfold as it would.

Time passed. After several months the sun returned to warm the land again. The bird deposit had dried and cracked and now it decomposed itself to become nutrient for the soil. Instead of being the worst of fates, it had been a protection for Dandelion from the harshness of the winter. Dandelion could see the light again. Then she felt a stirring within her. Her seedpod swelled and split open. One long tendril grew out and extended itself down from her into the dirt. Another stretched up into the air and leaves sprouted from it. As the days grew warmer, Dandelion grew bigger. Soon she was a strong and healthy plant with a deep taproot and many lush green leaves.

Summer came and Dandelion began to feel a new stirring. Up from her center grew a stalk. On that stalk grew a crown with sepals and many little petals. She opened the sepals and discovered to her delight a crown of hundreds of little yellow petals basking in the sun. She fed them every day and brought them water to drink. She held them high so they could receive as much sun as possible. They grew and swelled with pride in their bright yellow finery. Every night Dandelion closed her sepals around her daughters in protective embrace. She was very happy.

One day the air turned chill and Dandelion noticed that the days were growing shorter. She knew what was coming. She released the special hormone that triggered seed and parachute formation and fed it to her daughters. She continued to protect them as long as she was able, but at last her sepals would not respond any longer. She recalled how once before she had let go of home and mother and all that she had loved and held dear, and now she knew it was time to let go again. She remembered her mother’s last words about the cycle of all things and she was prepared now for the next turning of the cycle.

The wind began to blow. One by one she felt her daughters plucked from her crown. She knew what they would face but she was confident also in their future and that they would be reborn and become mothers in their own right. She knew that they would have petals of their own and that the cycle of all things would renew as it always had and as it always would. One of her daughters, however, was still holding on to her crown tenaciously and repeating, “I won’t leave you, mother! I won’t leave you!”

And the mother sighed and said, “Dandelion, let me tell you a story