We wish you a blessed and enjoyable Samhain.
May any ancestor you wish to speak with be open to you today and/or tonight.
This is the last Sabbat on the Celtic Wheel of the Year.
May the next year bring you more love, joy, happiness, laughter, blessings, everything you need and even some things you just want.
Happy New Year!!!
There are many other things about Samhain posted on this site and of Coven Life.
This magical herb has a long connection to Samhain,
use for Clairvoyance, Scrying, Protection.
Rub this herb on “Magic Mirrors” and “Crystal balls”
to strengthen their powers.
Add to Scrying, clairvoyance and divination incenses.
Sprinkle about table top during Tarot readings.
Rub fresh Mugwort leaves on the blade of your ritual sword
or athame, and then let it soak up the light of the Full moon.
Use 3 tablespoons to 12 gallon spring (or rain) water to
cleanse your “Magical mirrors” crystals and stones.
~ Barbara Morris
As the power of the Sun fades, we embrace the harvest season and the decline of the fire element. This is a perfect time, as we approach the introspective tide of winter, to scry with flame. On a night close to the New Moon, cast a circle of protection, and light a purple candle. Sit silently and breathe deeply, allowing your conscious mind to grow quiet. Gaze at the candle flame and permit your thoughts to drift by without judgment. Soften your focus and relax your vision. Concentrate only on the flame. Ask a question. Observe the flame expectantly, and open your observations to your intuition. Invite the flame to impart images. Write down your insights, and carefully date your interpretation for future reference. Perfect to do on Samhain eve…
~ by: Karri Allrich
Recite this incantation before scrying into your black mirror on Samhain eve…
“Mirror of shadow, reveal what I seek.
Powers of old, secrets so deep.
East then South, West and North.
Watch tower guards, I call you forth.
Traveling sphere, no harm to fear.
Circle protects, here and there.
Stars beyond, from Pluto’s realm,
Scorpio rules God’s golden sun.
By the power of three times three,
Lord and Lady, so mote it be.”
~ Barbara Morris
Every Samhain (Halloween) the names of our “passed over” loved one’s are read at a candle vigil. An Old Celtic Magic tradition to remember and honor our dead on this Sabbat (Oct 31 thru Nov 2). Ritual for the Dead In a sacred space, ground & center. “White Sage” is burned to appease the spirits of Summerland Carve the initials of your lost loved one(s) in your black candle, “dress” the candle in an Autumn or special Samhain or Dark Knight oil. Add favorite elements of that loved one to your altar, such as flowers, wine, favorite foods etc. Read each name (from Remembrance list). Gather a cauldron or other fire proof vessel and burn a dried “Candlewick leaf” (mullein) or “Bay Leaf” for each name of honor. A dried “Rosemary” bundle is burned at end to “Remember” them all. You may then save all the ashes, hardened candle drippings, left over herbs and add them to a black cloth or bag. This is an amulet and can be worn or saved in honor. Do NOT let your Samhain candle burn out, as it is considered bad luck on Samhain, let it burn at least till morning light, if need be, use additional black candles. BUT please keep candles in a safe place ! ~ Barbara Morris
by Doug and Sandy Kopf
Samhain (pronounced Sow-wen), also called Hallowmas, is the final festival in the Witches’ year. It is celebrated on October 31st. The word Samhain means ‘Summer’s End’. It is the first day of Winter and the Witch’s New Year. In earlier agricultural societies, Samhain was also the end of the Harvest, the time to put aside the seed corn for the coming Spring. It was a time for feasting, too, as the weaker animals were culled and killed. Only the livestock most likely to make it through the hard Winters were spared. Feasts consisted of any parts of the animal that couldn’t be salted and preserved. It was also considered by the Celts to be one of the Spirit Nights. It was a time to remember the ancestors and tell stories about them. At this time, when the Veils are thin, we honor our ancestors and invite them to attend our celebrations.
Although the modern calendar counts four cross-quarter seasonal celebrations, some early Celts recognized only two: Gamain (Winter’s End), on May 1st, and Samhain (Summer’s End), on November 1st. As Gamain (or Beltane) is marked by the rising of the Pleiades, so Samhain is marked by it’s setting. Many of the old Festivals were timed according to the movement of the stars, a calendar available to everyone, even to the illiterate peasantry.
Now, we are aware of howling winds, the days are short and the nights are long. Fruit trees are bare and Winter coats come out of mothballs. Storm clouds gather in the sky. Coming home in the evenings, we are aware of the darkness, the light disappearing earlier with each passing day. Checking our supermarket shelves, very little is available in the way of fresh produce. More and more often, we find ourselves in front of the frozen food counter (for some of us, our only encounter with ice)! This is not a subtle seasonal change, even in the city.
Today, at Halloween, you probably open your door and dispense candy and treats to children in adorable or frightening costumes, as their parents watch, in both pride and concern, from a respectable distance. But why do they do it? Well, today, they do it because children love candy and are game for any excuse to play dress up. (Wait a minute…that applies to most of the adults we know! Modify that to read ‘people’ love candy and costumes, not just children!). However, that wasn’t the real reason for going house to house at Samhain.
The earlier custom was called Soul-caking. Soul-cakers would go to each house, singing either a begging song or a plea for prayers for the dead. They would put on a mummers play for the residents of the house, which would consist of a challenge, a battle, a death, and a magical revival. Specially-made cakes were given to the Soul-cakers at the conclusion of their performance. Soul-caking is still the custom at Antrobus, in Cheshire, but there has been a change or two. Instead of going house-to-house, the Soul-cakers go pub-to-pub, by car! Leaving cakes and wine out for visiting ancestors is also an old custom that has carried over into many British households, even today.
The Hooden Horse, a similar but more threatening counterpart of the Beltane ‘Obby ‘Oss, is another Samhain tradition. The Hooden Horse often accompanied the Soul-cakers, with its head made from the skull of a horse, its eyes from bottoms of glass bottles and a hinged lower jaw that could snap or bite. It was held by a man, draped in a blanket or a sheet, known as the ‘Hoodener’. The origins of the word Hoodening are unknown. It may have come from ‘Wooden’ horse or ‘Woden’s horse’, or possibly from ‘Robin Hood’s horse’. According to Janet and Colin Bord (‘Earth Rites’), it most likely meant ‘hooded’, referring to the covered Hoodener. There are thirty-three recorded sites in Kent for Hooden Horse performances, but they are all before the turn of the century. The custom has been revived in Folkestone and Charing, during this century.
Like the more comic ‘Obby ‘Oss, the Hooden Horse has, as companions, a groom with a whip, several musicians and a man dressed in women’s clothing, called ‘Mollie’, who carries a besom (broom). They go from house to house and are rewarded with food and drink. The horse snaps it’s jaws and chases young women, while being restrained by the groom. In Cheshire, the horse is attached to the Soul-caker’s mummers play.
The name Soul-caking probably came from the Christian All Souls Day, but it is obviously a carryover of an earlier custom. The Church adopted November 2nd as All Souls Day in the year 998 c.e., but Frazer shows, (in ‘Adonis, Attis, Osiris’) that this was simply another case of the Church creating a holiday to explain the Pagan customs they were unable to suppress. All Saints Day, on November 1st, was recognized in the seventh century, when the Pantheon in Rome was turned into a place of Christian worship and dedicated to Mary and all the martyrs. This was probably a first attempt that didn’t quite work. The Reformation abolished All Souls Day in the Church of England, but Anglo-Catholics have revived it. All Saints Day still exists as a date in the Christian calendar.
At this time of celebration, Christians in many countries leave lamps and candles burning overnight to commemorate the dead. This reminds us of the Egyptian Feast of Lamps, thought to have been approximately November 8th, during which lamps were also burned through the night in honor of the dead. So, in this case, the Christian custom may have been had it’s origins in the Egyptian one.
In Mexico, November 2nd is a National holiday. This is The Day of the Dead. For the week preceding the Festival, the face of Death can be seen everywhere, in the form of fantastic skulls and skeletons decorating store windows and homes. In the bakeries, you will find decorated loaves in the shapes of men, women, children and animals. These fancy breads are ‘ofrendas’ or ‘offerings to the dead’. They are placed on elaborate Day of the Dead altars in every home. These gifts are offered to those who have crossed over, along with the favorite foods of the departed loved ones, who are thought to visit on this day. Elaborate receptions are held to welcome them. The offerings of food are first given to the dead, then eaten by the living.
The souls of small children are called ‘angelitos’ and they arrive earlier, on October 31st. The little one are given toys and sweets and parents light fireworks to guide the souls of their lost children. These celebrations also include visits to cemeteries and parades in honor of the dead. The Day of the Dead customs are recognized by the Catholic Church, but their Pagan origins are hard to ignore.
Bonfires were part of the Samhain celebrations (this is another of the four great Fire Festivals) in many areas. They were prepared during the day and lit at dusk on a hilltop, if possible. Celebrations were held round the fires and apples and nuts were roasted. This was a time when the spirits were nearby and the events of the coming year could be foretold. Marked stones were cast into the fire and the prophecies made according to the condition of the stones in the morning. If a stone could not be found the next day, it was believed that the person would soon die. These fires were believed to consume all the miseries of the year gone by, and leave the people free to make a fresh start for the New Year.
Often, an effigy was burnt in the fire, representing any malevolent forces which might have been causing ill to the community. This effigy was called ‘The Hag’. In recent centuries, it has come to be called ‘The Witch’. Why did they change the effigy’s name to ‘Witch’? Because, during the Burning Times, Samhain was thought to be the best time to burn the real thing!
It was felt that Witches, who were well hidden through the rest of the year, would venture out of hiding for this, the most important gathering of the year. (At Samhain, they might be able to get aid from the spirits of the dead in handling their many problems, or throw those problems into a bonfire to be consumed.) Therefore, this was the time to burn Witches, because it was the time to FIND Witches. (And there were nice, ready-made fires, too!)
We queried a friend in England as to whether the bonfire custom existed anywhere, today. She replied:
“In a village with which I am familiar, picture this event. The celebrations have of course been moved to November 5th, and called Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night, but a bonfire is built, as it used to be. It is composed of anything for which the villagers have no further use, broken equipment, tree prunings, ancient furniture – just about anything which will burn. The children carry lanterns made from hollowed out swedes (no pumpkins here!!) There is a fireworks display, after which they all go into the village hall for the feast. What do they eat? Sausages, stew, potatoes, parkin (cake), toffee and apples. The sausages and stew contain meat which could not be preserved; the stew contains offerings from various farmers who have grown swedes (rutabagas), carrots etc. The ladies in the village cook potatoes (also donated by the farmers) in their skins and bring them to the hall. Everyone talks to everyone else; those who have not met socially for a long time get caught up on family news, and tell stories about what has happened to them during the year. After the feast, people wander to the fire, and can be seen quietly gazing into it What are they seeing? Pictures? Do these pictures mean anything to them?”
“Isn’t this familiar? The bonfire and fireworks to send help to the declining sun, the feast, the stories, divination in the fire, and the mutual support and co-operation. We still hold parties, where we bob for apples, roast chestnuts, tell ghost stories and sing the old songs. Food and wine is left on the hearth for our unseen kinsfolk, past, present or future!”
Guy Fawkes Night is a commemoration of the famous ‘Gunpowder Plot’ which occurred on November 5, 1605. According to Trefor Owen (‘Welsh Folk Customs’), the Samhain festivities were moved to this date in 1758. He refers to a letter, written by William Morris in that year, stating that this year the bonfires and nut-burning had moved to the new date, for the first time. November 5th is in keeping with this cross-quarter Festival, because if you divide the year between the Equinox and the Solstice, you will come up with something closer to the 5th than to the 31st or the 1st. It seems to us that Samhain in England isn’t gone, it’s just wearing a bit of a disguise!
In Wales, this night was ‘Nos Galan gaeaf’ or ‘Calan gaeaf’, (the eve of the Winter Kalend) and the feast was ‘ffest y wrach’, (The Hag’s Feast). As the fires burnt low, people would call out ‘Home! Home! Let each try to be first! May The Tail-less Black Sow take the hindmost’, and run as fast as they could for the safety of their homes. Not only would the good spirits aid them, but bad ones would harass them, and they felt safe only as long as the fire burned. The ancient Celts saw this as a very dangerous time of year, indeed, when all manner of spirits ran rampant. Their rituals served to protect them, as well as aid them.
Samhain, when people felt a closeness to the Otherworld, was seen as a time for divination of all sorts. Many of these activities can be tried in our celebrations today. One tradition, from Merioneth, in Wales, is the ‘mash of nine sorts’. The ingredients for this dish are potatoes, carrots, turnips, peas, parsnips, leeks, pepper, salt and enough milk to bring it to a good consistency. A wedding ring is carefully hidden in the mash. All participants stand around it, spoons in hand, and eat. The fortunate person who finds the ring will be first to marry and will have good fortune.
Another divination game requires placing three bowls on a table. One is filled with clear water, one with cloudy water and one with earth (or with nothing at all). A contestant is then blindfolded and asked to dip his or her hands into one of the bowls. A prophecy is based on the choice. The clear water signifies success throughout life, the cloudy water means marriage, followed by strife and the other bowl signifies death before marriage. We would think that other meanings could be applied to the choices, though.
Of course, apples are involved in many of the traditional Samhain games. Did you know that both bobbing for apples in a tub and catching an apple suspended from a string are very old traditions? Here’s another form of this game, but look out, it won’t be easy. A stick is suspended from the ceiling with a string tied around the middle. An apple is attached to one end of the stick and a lit candle to the other. Spin the string so both items are rotating, then try to catch the apple in your teeth. Good luck!
Samhain is also known as ‘Nutcrack Night’ in parts of England, because of the many divination games using nuts. One that is simple is to toss a nut into the fire and see how it burns. If it burns brightly, the thrower’s wish will come true. If not, it won’t. Another idea is to see how many nuts can be picked up in one hand. An even number indicates a faithful love, an odd number is betrayal.
On Okinawa, an Asian island, this is the time of Obun, an Ancestors Worship Festival. The Okinawans prepare special packets consisting of ‘Spirit Yen’ (incense wrapped in white rice paper) and put them out with fruits and flowers to honor their ancestors. The Spirit Yen is burnt as an offering at the end of the celebration.
Samhain is a Festival that has survived ’round the world. Call it by any name you like, but whether you bob for apples, practice some of the many forms of divination, light a fire (or just a candle) or spend the evening greeting costumed children at the door, you are celebrating in The Old Ways. Celebrate with your Honored Dead and have a wonderful Samhain (and May The Tail-less Black Sow take the hind-most!).
Article by Selena Fox
As October turns to November, thousands of Witches, Wiccans, Druids, and other Pagans across America, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere observe the sacred time of Samhain. Samhain is a festival of the Dead. Meaning “Summer’s End” and pronounced saah-win or saa-ween, Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest and the start of the coldest half of the year. For many practitioners, myself included, Samhain also is the beginning of the spiritual new year.
Originating in ancient Europe as a Celtic Fire festival, Samhain is now celebrated worldwide. The timing of contemporary Samhain celebrations varies according to spiritual tradition and geography. Many of us celebrate Samhain over the course of several days and nights, and these extended observances usually include a series of solo rites as well as ceremonies, feasts, and gatherings with family, friends, and spiritual community. In the northern hemisphere, many Pagans celebrate Samhain from sundown on October 31 through November 1. Others hold Samhain celebrations on the nearest weekend or on the Full or New Moon closest to this time. Some Pagans observe Samhain a bit later, or near November 6, to coincide more closely with the astronomical midpoint between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice. Most Pagans in the southern hemisphere time their Samhain observances to coincide with the middle of their Autumn in late April and early May, rather than at the traditional European time of the holiday.
Samhain also has been known by other names. Some Celtic Wiccans and Druids call it Calan Gaeaf, Calan Gwaf, Kala-Goanv, or Nos Galan Gaeof. In Welsh, it is Nos Cyn Calan Gaual. It also is known as Oie Houney. A medieval book of tales, the Yellow Book of Lecan, reports that common folk called it the “Feast of Mongfind,” the legendary Witch-Queen who married a King of Tara in old Ireland. In the ancient Coligny Calendar, an engraved bronze dating from the first century C.E.and dug up in 1897 in France, Samhain is called Trinouxtion Samonii, or “Three Nights of the End of Summer.” Variant spellings of Samhain include Samain, Samuin, and Samhuinn.
With the growth and spread of Christianity as the dominant religion throughout Europe, Samhain time took on Christian names and guises. All Saints’ Day or All Hallows on November 1 commemorated Christian saints and martyrs. All Souls’ Day on November 2 was a remembrance for all souls of the dead. With the coming of Christian Spaniards to Mexico, the indigenous customs of honoring the dead at this time of year mixed with Roman Catholicism and gave birth to the Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, in early November. Samhain shares the ancient spiritual practice of remembering and paying respects to the Dead with these related religious holidays of Christianity.
Halloween, short for All Hallow’s Eve, is celebrated on and around October 31. Although occurring at the same time of year and having roots in end-of-harvest celebrations of the ancient past, Halloween and Samhain are not the same, but two separate holidays that differ considerably in focus and practice. In contemporary America and elsewhere, Halloween is a secular folk holiday. Like its cousin, Thanksgiving, it is widely and publicly celebrated in homes, schools, and communities, large and small, by people of many paths, ethnic heritages, and worldviews. Furthermore, Halloween has evolved to be both a family-oriented children’s holiday as well as an occasion for those of all ages to creatively express themselves and engage in play in the realm of make-believe and fantasy through costumes, trick-or-treating, storytelling, play-acting, pranks, cathartic scary place visits, and parties.
In contrast, Samhain and its related Christian holiday counterparts continue to be religious in focus and spiritually observed by adherents. Although observances may include merry-making, the honoring of the Dead that is central to Samhain is a serious religious practice rather than a light-hearted make-believe re-enactment. Today’s Pagan Samhain rites, while somber, are benevolent, and, although centered on death, do not involve human or animal sacrifices. Most Samhain rituals are held in private rather than in public.
Samhain’s long association with death and the Dead reflects Nature’s rhythms. In many places, Samhain coincides with the end of the growing season. Vegetation dies back with killing frosts, and therefore, literally, death is in the air. This contributes to the ancient notion that at Samhain, the veil is thin between the world of the living and the realm of the Dead and this facilitates contact and communication. For those who have lost loved ones in the past year, Samhain rituals can be an opportunity to bring closure to grieving and to further adjust to their being in the Otherworld by spiritually communing with them.
There are many ways to celebrate Samhain. Here are a few:
- Samhain Nature Walk. Take a meditative walk in a natural area near your home. Observe and contemplate the colors, aromas, sounds, and other sensations of the season. Experience yourself as part of the Circle of Life and reflect on death and rebirth as being an important part of Nature. If the location you visit permits, gather some natural objects and upon your return use them to adorn your home.
- Seasonal Imagery. Decorate your home with Samhain seasonal symbols and the colors of orange and black. Place an Autumnal wreath on your front door. Create displays with pumpkins, cornstalks, gourds, acorns, and apples. Set candles in cauldrons.
- Ancestors Altar. Gather photographs, heirlooms, and other mementos of deceased family, friends, and companion creatures. Arrange them on a table, dresser, or other surface, along with several votive candles. Kindle the candles in their memory as you call out their names and express well wishes. Thank them for being part of your life. Sit quietly and pay attention to what you experience. Note any messages you receive in your journal. This Ancestors Altar can be created just for Samhain or kept year round.
- Feast of the Dead. Prepare a Samhain dinner. Include a place setting at your table or at a nearby altar for the Dead. Add an offering of a bit of each beverage being consumed to the cup at that place setting, and to the plate, add a bit of each food served. Invite your ancestors and other deceased loved ones to come and dine with you. To have this as a Samhain Dumb Supper experience, dine in silence. After the feast, place the contents of the plate and cup for the Dead outdoors in a natural location as an offering for the Dead.
- Ancestor Stories. Learn about family history. Contact one or more older relatives and ask them to share memories of family members now dead. Record them in some way and later write accounts of what they share. Give thanks. Share what you learned and have written with another family member or friend. Add names of those you learned about and wish to honor to your Ancestors Altar.
- Cemetery Visit. Visit and tend the gravesite of a loved one at a cemetery. Call to mind memories and consider ways the loved one continues to live on within you. Place an offering there such as fresh flowers, dried herbs, or a libation of water.
- Reflections. Reflect on you and your life over the past year. Review journals, planners, photographs, blogs, and other notations you have created during the past year. Consider how you have grown, accomplishments, challenges, adventures, travels, and learnings. Meditate. Journal about your year in review, your meditation, and your reflections.
- Renovate. Select an area of your home or life as a focus. Examine it. Re-organize it. Release what is no longer needed. Create a better pattern. Celebrate renewal and transformation.
- Bonfire Magic. Kindle a bonfire outdoors when possible or kindle flames in a fireplace or a small cauldron. Write down an outmoded habit that you wish to end and cast it into the Samhain flames as you imagine release. Imagine yourself adopting a new, healthier way of being as you move around the fire clockwise.
- Divinatory Guidance. Using Tarot, Runes, Scrying, or some other method of divination, seek and reflect on guidance for the year to come. Write a summary of your process and messages. Select something appropriate to act upon and do it.
- Divine Invocations. Honor and call upon the Divine in one or more Sacred Forms associated with Samhain, such as the Crone Goddess and Horned God of Nature. Invite Them to aid you in your remembrance of the Dead and in your understanding of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. If you have lost loved ones in the past year, ask these Divine Ones to comfort and support you.
- Transforming Expressions. If you encounter distortions, misinformation, and/or false, negative stereotypes about Paganism and Samhain in the media, contact the source, express your concerns, and share accurate information. Help eradicate derogatory stereotyping with courteous, concise, and intelligent communications.
- Community Connections. Connect with others. Join in a group ritual in your area. Organize a Samhain potluck in your home. Research old and contemporary Samhain customs in books, periodicals, on-line, and through communications with others. Exchange ideas, information, and celebration experiences. Regardless of whether you practice solo or with others, as part of your festivities, reflect for a time on being part of the vast network of those celebrating Samhain around the world
by Susa Morgan Black (Druid, FSA Scot)
To the ancient Celts, the year had two “hinges”. These were Beltaine (the first of May) and Samhain, (the first of November), which is also the traditional Celtic New Year. And these two days were the most magical, and often frightening times of the whole year.
The Celtic people were in superstitious awe of times and places “in between”. Holy sites were any border places – the shore between land and water (seas, lakes, and rivers), bridges, boundaries between territories (especially when marked by bodies of water), crossroads, thresholds, etc. Holy times were also border times – twilight and dawn marking the transitions of night and day; Beltaine and Samhain marking the transitions of summer and winter. Read your myths and fairytales – many of the stories occur in such places, and at such times.
At Samhain (which corresponds to modern Halloween), time lost all meaning and the past, present, and future were one. The dead, and the denizens of the Other World, walked among the living. It was a time of fairies, ghosts, demons, and witches. Winter itself was the Season of Ghosts, and Samhain is the night of their release from the Underworld. Many people lit bonfires to keep the evil spirits at bay. Often a torch was lit and carried around the boundaries of the home and farm, to protect the property and residents against the spirits throughout the winter.
Many Irish and Scottish Celts appeased their dead with a traditional Dumb Supper. On Samhain Eve, supper was served in absolute silence, and one place was set at the head of the table “for the ancestors”. This place was served food and drink without looking directly at the seat, for to see the dead would bring misfortune. Afterwards, the untouched plate and cup were taken outside “for the pookas”, and left in the woods. In other traditions, this is the night to remember, honor, and toast our beloved departed, for the veil between the living and the dead is thin, and communication is possible on Samhain Eve
Animals and food supplies needed special protection during this time, too. Samhain marked the time cattle, on which the Scottish Highland economy depended, were brought in from their summer grazing to their winter fold. The Gods were petitioned to protect the cattle during the long, hard winter. By now, the winter store of food had been harvested and stored.
Sir Walter Scott wrote:
On Hallowmas Eve, ere ye boune to rest,
Ever beware that your couch be blest;
Sign it with cross and sain it with bread,
Sing the Ave and the Creed.
For on Hallowmas Eve, the Night Hag shall ride
And all her nine-fold sweeping on by Her side,
Whether the wind sing lowly or loud,
Stealing through moonshine or swathed in cloud.
He that dare sit in St. Swithin’s Chair,
When the Night Hag wings the troubled air,
Questions three, when he speaks the spell,
He must ask and She must tell.
Samhain is also the night of the Great Sabbat for the witches (Ban-Druidh, in Scots Gaelic). On Hallowmas, all the witches of Scotland gather together to celebrate, prophesy, and cast their spells. Tradition has it that on this night, they can be seen flying through the air on broomsticks and eggshells, or riding black cats, ravens, or horses on their wild Hallowmas Ride. The rural people did not dare step outside their doors for fear this night. Some say the Queen of Witches is the Irish Morrigan (also called Morgan le Fay). In other traditions, the Blue Faced Hag of Winter – the Calleach – rules this night.
A good example of a Scottish Highland ghost story (as told to me by Clan Donald member, Kenneth Wiepert), is about Clan Donald’s own witch. He told me the following tale:
” The MacDonald’s of Glen Coe have their own witch. Her name was Sidiethe, and she was a Water Witch with fair skin and red hair. She was always seen in a white robe with a black cape. Sidiethe often sings along the banks of Loche Linhe, near Glen Coe and sometimes she is weeping. Shortly before the massacre at Glen Coe in 1692, she was seen washing clothes at the ford of the river while she wept. (Ed. Note: often the bean sidhe (banshee), attached to a great household is seen washing clothes or shrouds while she weeps, prior to a tragic death or catastrophe.)
Sightings of this ghost go back as far as the 1100’s. She is also known as the White Witch of Glen Coe. Loche Linhe is reported to have a kelpie, as well!”
Faeries migrated from the summer hillocks to the winter barrows on Samhain night. If you had families that were captured by fairies that year, this was the one night you could win them back, be snatching them off their faerie mounts as they rode by. The famous Scottish legend, Tam Lin, is the story of a faithful young maiden that rescued her lover from the faeries on this fateful night.
Many of the traditions of Halloween derive from Pagan and Druid customs. It is a time of prophesies, of disguising oneself to avert evil, of performing rites of protection from the dead and Otherworldly spirits. The ancient Druid practice was to circle the tribal Samhain bonfire with the skulls of their ancestors, who would protect the tribe from demons that night.
In modern Scotland, children have inherited the ancient custom of disguising themselves in costumes. These “guisers” wear masks, or blacken their faces. They carve turnips in the shape of skulls and place a candle within, creating an eerie effect. The children travel from door to door, performing or singing for their treats. When they are not rewarded for their antics, they resort to tricks.
Those with the Second Sight (Taibhsear, in Scots Gaelic) were often sought this night for traditional Halloween fortune telling. These persons were invited to gatherings to entertain guests with their arcane arts. One method was to prick an egg and let the contents drip into a glass of clear water. The Taibhsear could read the shapes, much like a crystal ball, and predict the supplicant’s future.
Apples were the fruit of the Other World, a land sometimes called Avalon or Avallach – the Isle of Apples. They are often used for magic and fortune telling. A young woman would peel an apple all in one paring, and throw it over her shoulder on Samhain Eve. The peeling would take the shape of the first initial of the man she would marry. Eating an apple in front of a mirror while combing your hair will conjure your true love’s image in the mirror. Another tradition is “dunking for apples”. Apples are placed in a tub or barrel of water, and dunkers will try to retrieve these apples with their teeth. Those who succeed will have good fortune the following year.
Hazel nuts were also used in matrimonial divination. Two groups of “Sweetheart” hazel nuts were placed within the hearth fire; one group was marked with the names of the village’s eligible maidens, and the other with the eligible bachelors. As the nuts popped, the names of the pairs were romantically linked. On a more somber note, people sometimes placed a hazelnut with their initials on them in the hearth fire. If the nuts were missing the next morning, the unlucky person would not survive the year. Hazel is a sacred tree in Irish and Scottish mythology. In Ireland, nine hazel trees grew around the Well of Segais, where the sacred Salmon lived. This was the source of all wisdom. Using hazel nuts at Samhain availed seers of that sacred wisdom.
Tha gliocas an ceann an fhitich!
“Sam” and “hain” meant “end of” and “summer” to the Celts. They observed only two seasons of the year: summer and winter. So, Samhain was celebrated at the transition of these seasons.
Samhain, (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne)is the third and final Harvest. The dark winter half of the year commences on this Sabbat. It is generally celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st. It is one of the two “spirit-nights” each year, the other being Beltane. Originally the “Feast of the Dead” was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the “wandering dead”.
To Witches, Samhain is one of the four High Holidays, or Greater Sabbats. Because it is the most important holiday of the year, it is sometimes called ‘THE’ Great Sabbat. Pagans consider Samhain the most magical night of the year. It occurs exactly opposite of Beltane on the Wheel of the Year. It is a night of glowing jack-o-lanterns, tricks or treats, and dressing in costume. A night for telling chilling ghost stories by the fire. And a time for seances, tarot card readings and scrying with mirrors. It is upon this night, that the veil which seperates our world from the Otherworld is at its thinnest, making it a Night of Power.
As Witches,we observe this day as a religious festival. We consider it a memorial day for dead friends and family. It is still a night to practice various forms of divinitory arts such as scrying and rune casting. One could never hope for a better Tarot reading than on this night! Samhain is considered a time to wrap up old projects, take a good look at one’s stock in life, and consider new projects and endeavors for the coming year.
Bonfire, hearth fire, candle – gaze into the flame and revisit our ancient heritage. Draw friends close and leave an offering for the whispering ghosts. Samhain is here.
‘Listen! The wind is rising,
And the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings,
Now for October eves!’
~ Humbert Wolfe (1885-1940)
‘Witches are alive & magic is upon us,
blessed be the season of the witch’… ~ MooN
= Altar Decorations =
Altar should be decorated with Pumpkins, Wheat, colorful Native American Corn, Gourds. Fall leaves you have gatherd while walking in the woods or parks. Pine cones & Acorns. Pictures of dead ancestors (relatives or pets), Rosemary herb plants or dried bundles, Black and Orange candles. Scrying mirrors and or divination tools such as Tarot cards & Rune Stones.
= Herbs of Samhain =
Allspice Berries, Broom, Catnip, Mountain Ash Berries, Mugwort, Mullein, Oak leaves, Acorns, Rosemary, Sage, Pine cones, Straw.
“Bonfires dot the rolling hillsides
Figures dance around and around
To drums that pulse out echoes of darkness
Moving to the Pagan sound.”
~~ Loreena McKennitt, “All Souls Night”, “The Visit”
These cookies can be made on Samhain Eve. They can be shaped like people (use a gingerbread man cookie cutter to achieve this easily) and the herb rosemary is added to the dough as a symbol of remembrance. Some of the cookies are eaten while telling stories or attributes of special ancestors, reminding us that we still have access to their strengths–or perhaps a predisposition to their weaknesses. The rest of the cookies are left outside by a bonfire or by window next to a black candle as an offering. This can be a solemn ritual, but it need not be.
Ingredients for the cookies:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter or margarine (softened)
2 t. vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar
1 1/2 T. chopped fresh rosemary (substitute dry)
Please note: Small – t – = TEASPOON, big -T- = TABLESPOON
Heat oven 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, almond extract, and rosemary until creamy. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture. Beat until dough forms and refrigerate for three hours. Divide dough into halves. Roll out one portion to 3/16 of an inch on a floured surface. Cut out with gingerbread women or men cutters and place on an un-greased cookie sheet. Repeat rolling and cutting with second portion of dough. Bake for 5-7 minutes. You can also punch a hole in top of each cookie with a wooden skewer (BEFORE baking) and thread black ribbon through, these can be hung for decorations, or top gifts.
~ Barbara Morris
|Shining bright against the sky,
they never seem to fade or die
And as they glow throughout the night,
Round the world they go in flight”-Peter Fein
~ Three Stages of Life by Klimt
There were many symbols sacred to the Celts. The number three was evident in many of their spiritual practices,
for instance, the three worlds:
The Upperworld (Sky)
The Middle World or Earth (Land)
The Lowerworld or Underworld (Sea)
The Celts determined that the rise to the Summerland was by accessing the Sky, while entrance into to the Lowerworld or Underworld was admitted through the Sea or by mounds known as Sidhe (shee). The Underworld does not refer to ‘hell’ as the Christian beliefs, but rather a place of rest to await and be reborn. The Celts did not believe in an all-evil entity such as the Christian devil.
Reincarnation seems to be one of the most controversial spiritual topics of our time. Hundreds of books are being published on the subject as if the Western world had only recently discovered this ancient doctrine.
Reincarnation is one of Wicca’s most valuable lessons. The knowledge that this life is but one of many, that when the physical body dies we do not cease to exist but are reborn in another body answers many questions, but raises a few more.
Why? Why are we reincarnated? In common with many other religions, Wicca teaches that reincarnation is the instrument through which our souls are perfected. One lifetime isn’t sufficient to attain this goal; hence, the consciousness (soul) is reborn many times,each life encompassing a different set of lessons, until perfection is achieved. Perhaps being an “old soul” means one is a slow learner. No one can say how many lives are required before this is achieved. We are human and its easy to get caught up in our day to day dramas.
A man could even become his own daughter by dying before she is born and then entering her body at birth. Some tribes avoid eating certain animals because they believe that the souls of their ancestors dwell in those animals.
In Wicca, we seek to strengthen our bodies, minds and souls.We certainly live full, productive earthly lives, but we try to do so while harming none, the constant One upsmanship, intimidation and looking out for number one slows this journey down.
The soul is ageless, sexless, non-physical, possessed of the divine spark of the Goddess and God.Each manifestation of the soul(i.e: Each body it inhabits on earth) is different. No two bodies or lives are the same. If this wasn’t so,the soul would stagnate.The sex, race, place of birth,economic class and every other individuality of the soul is determined by its actions in past lives and the lessons necessary to the present.
As an aid in learning the lessons of each life, a phenomenon exists which has been called karma. Karma is often misunderstood.It is not a system of rewards and punishments,but a phenomenon that guides the soul toward evolving actions. Thusly, if a person performs negative actions, negative actions will be returned.Good brings good.With this in mind, there’s little reason to act negatively.
Karma means action,and that’s how it works. It is a tool, not a punishment. There’s no way one can “wipe out”karma, and neither is every seemingly terrible event in our lives a byproduct of karma.
We learn from karma only when we are aware of it. Many look into their past lives to discover their mistakes,to uncover the problems inhibiting progress in this one. Trance and meditation techniques can help here, but true self-knowledge is the best means of accomplishing this.
What happens after death? Only the body dies. The soul lives on.Some Wiccans say that it journeys to a realm variously known as the Land of the Faerie ,the summerland, and the land of the young. This realm is neither in heaven nor the underworld. It simply is-a non-physical reality much less dense than ours. Some Wiccan traditions describe it as a land of eternal summer, with grassy fields and sweet flowing rivers, perhaps the earth before the arrival of humans. Others see it vaguely as a realm without forms, where energy swirls coexist with the greatest energies-the Goddess and God in their celestial identities.
One day you may “know”, not believe, that reincarnation is as real as a plant that buds, flowers, drops its seed, withers and creates a new plant in its image. Reincarnation was probably first intuited by earlier peoples watching nature. Until you’ve decided for yourself, you may wish to reflect upon and consider the doctrine of reincarnation.
~ Vienna by Klimt
“We are not human-beings having a spiritual experience,
but we are spiritual-beings having a human experience.
~ Deepak Chopra
~ The Waiting by Klimt
Where we come from, where we go . . . beyond punishment and judgments there is acceptance and unconditional love, from where we separated us. Life never starts, never ends, just its expression does change, which makes us believe we die, or we take birth.
All the ancient peoples of the world believed in the reality of reincarnation and a majority in this world still does. Buddhists, Hindus, Druids, Celts, Britons, Gallics, Platonists, Pythagoreans, many gnostic Christians, are only some of the people that hold to this doctrine. Add the Inca and Maya civilizations, the old Egyptians, the Roman poets Vergil, Lucretius, Horatio, the Stoics, and the list is still not completed! Also the Jewish Sohar, the famous Kabbalistic book, contains references to reincarnation.
3 parts Frankincense
2 parts Myrrh
1 part Rosemary
1 part Cedar
1 part Juniper
Burn on charcoal blocks during fall and winter Sabbat rituals.
What is Samhain?:
Samhain is known by most folks as Halloween, but for many modern Pagans it’s considered a Sabbat to honor the ancestors who came before us, marking the dark time of the year. It’s a good time to contact the spirit world with a seance, because it’s the time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest.
Myths and Misconceptions:
Contrary to popular internet-Based (Chick-Tract encouraged) rumor, Samhain was not the name of some ancient Celtic god of death, or of anything else, for that matter. Religious scholars agree that the word Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”) comes from the Gaelic “Samhuin,” but they’re divided on whether it means the end or beginning of summer. After all, when summer is ending here on earth, it’s just beginning in the Underworld. Samhain actually refers to the daylight portion of the holiday, on November 1st.
All Hallow Mass:
Around the eighth century or so, the Catholic Church decided to use November 1st as All Saints Day. This was actually a pretty smart move on their part – the local pagans were already celebrating that day anyway, so it made sense to use it as a church holiday. All Saints’ became the festival to honor any saint who didn’t already have a day of his or her own. The mass which was said on All Saints’ was called Allhallowmas – the mass of all those who are hallowed. The night before naturally became known as All Hollows Eve and eventually morphed into what we call Halloween.
The Witches’ New Year:
Sunset on Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The old year has passed, the harvest has been gathered, cattle and sheep have been brought in from the fields, and the leaves have fallen from the trees. The earth slowly begins to die around us.
This is a good time for us to look at wrapping up the old and preparing for the new in our lives. Think about the things you did in the last twelve months. Have you left anything unresolved? If so, now is the time to wrap things up. Once you’ve gotten all that unfinished stuff cleared away, and out of your life, then you can begin looking towards the next year.
Honoring the Ancestors:
For some of us, Samhain is when we honor our ancestors who came before us. If you’ve ever done genealogy research, or if you’ve had a loved one die in the past year, this is the perfect night to celebrate their memory. If we’re fortunate, they will return to communicate with us from beyond the veil, and offer advice, protection and guidance for the upcoming year.
If you want to celebrate Samhain in the Celtic tradition, spread the festivities out over three consecutive days. You can hold a ritual and feast each night. Be flexible, though, so you can work around trick-or-treating schedules!