You Call It Hallowe’en… We Call It Samhain

You Call It Hallowe’en… We Call It Samhain

by Peg Aloi

 

October 31st, commonly called Hallowe’en, is associated with many customs, some of them mysterious, some light-hearted, some of them downright odd. Why do we bob for apples, carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, and tell ghost stories on this night? Why do children go door-to-door asking for candy, dressed in fantastical costumes? How is Hallowe’en connected to All Soul’s Day, celebrated by some Christian denominations on November 1st? And what is the significance of this holiday for modern-day Witches?

A Brief History of Hallowe’en

Hallowe’en has its origins in the British Isles. While the modern tradition of trick or treat developed in the U. S., it too is based on folk customs brought to this country with Irish immigrants after 1840. Since ancient times in Ireland, Scotland, and England, October 31st has been celebrated as a feast for the dead, and also the day that marks the new year. Mexico observes a Day of the Dead on this day, as do other world cultures. In Scotland, the Gaelic word “Samhain” (pronounced “SAW-win” or “SAW-vane”) means literally “summer’s end.”

Other names for this holiday include: All Hallows Eve (“hallow” means “sanctify”); Hallowtide; Hallowmass; Hallows; The Day of the Dead; All Soul’s Night; All Saints’ Day (both on November 1st).

For early Europeans, this time of the year marked the beginning of the cold, lean months to come; the flocks were brought in from the fields to live in sheds until spring. Some animals were slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for winter. The last gathering of crops was known as “Harvest Home, ” celebrated with fairs and festivals.

In addition to its agriculture significance, the ancient Celts also saw Samhain as a very spiritual time. Because October 31 lies exactly between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, it is theorized that ancient peoples, with their reliance on astrology, thought it was a very potent time for magic and communion with spirits. The “veil between the worlds” of the living and the dead was said to be at its thinnest on this day; so the dead were invited to return to feast with their loved ones; welcomed in from the cold, much as the animals were brought inside. Ancient customs range from placing food out for dead ancestors, to performing rituals for communicating with those who had passed over.

Communion with the dead was thought to be the work of witches and sorcerers, although the common folk thought nothing of it. Because the rise of the Church led to growing suspicion of the pagan ways of country dwellers, Samhain also became associated with witches, black cats (“familiars” or animal friends), bats (night creatures), ghosts and other “spooky” things…the stereotype of the old hag riding the broomstick is simply a caricature; fairy tales have exploited this image for centuries.

Divination of the future was also commonly practiced at this magically-potent time; since it was also the Celtic New Year, people focused on their desires for the coming year. Certain traditions, such as bobbing for apples, roasting nuts in the fire, and baking cakes which contained tokens of luck, are actually ancient methods of telling fortunes.

So What About Those Jack-O-Lanterns?

Other old traditions have survived to this day; lanterns carved out of pumpkins and turnips were used to provide light on a night when huge bonfires were lit, and all households let their fires go out so they could be rekindled from this new fire; this was believed to be good luck for all households. The name “Jack-O-Lantern” means “Jack of the Lantern, ” and comes from an old Irish tale. Jack was a man who could enter neither heaven nor hell and was condemned to wander through the night with only a candle in a turnip for light. Or so goes the legend…

But such folk names were commonly given to nature spirits, like the “Jack in the Green, ” or to plants believed to possess magical properties, like “John O’ Dreams, ” or “Jack in the Pulpit.” Irish fairy lore is full of such references. Since candles placed in hollowed-out pumpkins or turnips (commonly grown for food and abundant at this time of year) would produce flickering flames, especially on cold nights in October, this phenomenon may have led to the association of spirits with the lanterns; and this in turn may have led to the tradition of carving scary faces on them. It is an old legend that candle flames which flicker on Samhain night are being touched by the spirits of dead ancestors, or “ghosts.”

Okay, What about the Candy?

“Trick or treat” as it is practiced in the U. S. is a complex custom believed to derive from several Samhain traditions, as well as being unique to this country. Since Irish immigrants were predominantly Catholic, they were more likely to observe All Soul’s Day. But Ireland’s folk traditions die hard, and the old ways of Samhain were remembered. The old tradition of going door to door asking for donations of money or food for the New Year’s feast, was carried over to the U. S. from the British Isles. Hogmanay was celebrated January 1st in rural Scotland, and there are records of a “trick or treat” type of custom; curses would be invoked on those who did not give generously; while those who did give from their hearts were blessed and praised. Hence, the notion of “trick or treat” was born (although this greeting was not commonly used until the 1930’s in the U. S.). The wearing of costumes is an ancient practice; villagers would dress as ghosts, to escort the spirits of the dead to the outskirts of the town, at the end of the night’s celebration.

By the 1920’s, “trick or treat” became a way of letting off steam for those urban poor living in crowded conditions. Innocent acts of vandalism (soaping windows, etc.) gave way to violent, cruel acts. Organizations like the Boy Scouts tried to organize ways for this holiday to become safe and fun; they started the practice of encouraging “good” children to visit shops and homes asking for treats, so as to prevent criminal acts. These “beggar’s nights” became very popular and have evolved to what we know as Hallowe’en today.

What Do Modern Witches Do at Hallowe’en?

It is an important holiday for us. Witches are diverse, and practice a variety of traditions. Many of us use this time to practice forms of divination (such as tarot or runes). Many Witches also perform rituals to honor the dead; and may invite their deceased loved ones to visit for a time, if they choose. This is not a “seance” in the usual sense of the word; Witches extend an invitation, rather than summoning the dead, and we believe the world of the dead is very close to this one. So on Samhain, and again on Beltane (May 1st), when the veil between the worlds is thin, we attempt to travel between those worlds. This is done through meditation, visualization, and astral projection. Because Witches acknowledge human existence as part of a cycle of life, death and rebirth, Samhain is a time to reflect on our mortality, and to confront our fears of dying.

Some Witches look on Samhain as a time to prepare for the long, dark months of winter, a time of introspection and drawing inward. They may bid goodbye to the summer with one last celebratory rite. They may have harvest feasts, with vegetables and fruits they have grown, or home-brewed cider or mead. They may give thanks for what they have, projecting for abundance through the winter. Still others may celebrate with costume parties, enjoying treats and good times with friends. There are as many ways of observing Samhain as there are Witches in the world!

The Samhain Experience

The Samhain Experience

Author:   Crick   

My family roots begin in Ireland and were later relocated to Tennessee and amongst the Ozark mountains of Missouri. My personal experience with Traditional witchcraft began in 1960. As such I was raised to honor the four main sabbats, though we did observe the solstices and the equinoxes as minor events if you will.

To our family, Samhain (Oiche Shamhna) is the most important Sabbat of the year. Pronounced as “Sow-in by the Irish, as SAV-en by the Scottish and as SOW-een by the Welsh. It is exactly opposite Beltain on the Wheel of the year. It is reckoned when the sun has reached 15 degrees Scorpio. Thus, Samhain lies exactly between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. And as such, it is known as a Cross Quarter day.

Samhain is also known as “Samhraidhreadh” which means “summers end”. This indicates that Samhain is the start of the Celtic “New Year”. The Celts were known to have divided the year into two seasons, consisting of summer and winter. The belief is that summer is governed by the Big Sun (the sun) and the winter is governed by what is known as the Little Sun (the moon) .

Samhain is one of the four Fire Festivals and is also known as “Trinoux Samonia.” Originally this Sabbat was celebrated for three days, the day before, the day of and the day after.

In modern times Samhain has become basically a one-day celebration. Neo Pagans tend to lose sight of the historical and spiritual significance of such an important day by combining their Christian beliefs with their newfound pagan beliefs and thus they often intermingle Halloween with Samhain. This corruption is explained away by parroting “it’s for the children”, though this special day is hardly one for children. I do not understand how Neo pagans can claim to understand the significance and energy of such a special time and yet allow their children to make a parody of such a spiritual experience, but then it is what it is.

Traditionally, Samhain is the day when the God symbolically dies and the Goddess is in mourning, though she knows that He will be reborn at Yule.

It is also the Third and Final Harvest, and as such, it is a time for preparing for the coming year. It is also known as the day of the Feast of the Roman Goddess “Pamona”.

Another interesting note is that Samhain is the day that the Tuatha De Danann realized their permanent victory over the Fomorians.

Since this is the time that the veil between Annwn (the Underworld) and our realm of existence, is at its thinnest, it is a time to honor and connect with our ancestors. To some Wiccan beliefs, this means direct descendants who have passed over. To those of us in the Celtic/Faery tradition, this would be the ancestral spirits and deity that resides within the earth.

One way to honor this day is “Fleadh nan Mairbh” (Feast of the Dead) . To do so, set an extra plate or two at the dinner table for visiting spirits. Another way is “Bannock Samhain” which entails setting out cakes and milk outside the door as an offering for passing spirits. This is also the time for the “Dumb Supper”, a meal served in silence in honor of those who have passed to the Summerland’s.

Remember, this is not a time of mourning, but rather of rejoicing and connecting with those that have gone before us. We do not conjure up these visitors in the manner that a medium would do. But rather we invite them to share the day/night with us.

This is also an excellent time for divination. Roasting nuts in the fire and bobbing for apples are a couple of examples of divination from olden times. Another traditional way is to set a shirt on a thorn bush near a stream and see what spirit comes along to fit it on. At which time you would make enquiries. This form of divination is called the shaking bush. As a spirit fills the shirt, it causes the bush to shake.

Some of the Celtic Deity that you may appeal to for assistance during divination are; Ogma, Rosmerta, Baile, Beli, Coventina, Badh, and Gwyn Ap Nuad, just to name a few.

The concept of the carved pumpkin came about from the belief that carving a scary face on the pumpkin and using it as a lantern as one walked at night would scare away evil spirits. Originally they were carved out of turnips.

There is an Irish legend about an Irish lad named Jack. He tricked the devil into climbing a tree and then quickly carved a cross into the tree so that the devil could not get down. He then made a deal with the devil so that he would not go to hell upon passing. But when Jack did pass, not only was he barred from hell, but also he was barred from heaven as well because of the doings of his life on earth. Hence he was doomed to walk the earth carrying a lantern to light his way. Thus the Jack-O-Lantern was created.

A custom related to Samhain is to light a hearth fire on this day and to keep it lit until the first day of spring as a way of honoring one’s spiritual ancestors and deity. Originally, all hearth fires were extinguished on this day and then relit from the Druidic fire, which was lit at “Tlachhtga”. This particular fire represented the center of Ireland.

Another custom is to leave a candle in the window as a beacon for spirits to find their way home.

Samhain is a time for reflecting on the year just past and preparing for the coming year. One way to do this is to write the weaknesses and negative actions of the past year down on a piece of parchment. After a period of reflection/meditation, burn the parchment in the cauldron or hearth fire. In this way you are starting out fresh for the upcoming New Year.

– Some of the foods associated with Samhain are pork, corn, apples, pomegranates, pumpkin pie, and cider.
– The colors associated with this day are; red, orange, yellow, brown and black.
– For incense, you can try basil, lilac, clove, yarrow or frankincense.
– Some plants or herbs are apple trees, sage, mugwort (divination) , and gourds.
– Some crystals are onyx, carnelian, and obsidian.

It is my personal hope that Neo pagans will once again enjoy this unique time as it was meant to be celebrated and revered. There is much experience and an ethereal energy connected with Samhain if only one allows him/herself to open up to such a special experience. Halloween (All Saints day) is but a corruption of what used to be. Samhain is a revered occasion and time to connect with those who have gone before us. And with those others who walk a distinctly separate plane from this realm. May you have the inner strength and un-fettered desire to experience this event as it was meant to be…

October Lore — Pumpkins

October Lore

Pumpkins

The sights and sounds and smells of October bring about in all of us subtle changes, and as our bodies begin to change metabolism, preparing us for shorter Winter days, our consciousness begins to shift from the more actively mental to the more physically receptive state appropriate to the dark half of the year.  As all of these changes are taking place we are busy preparing for the most magical night of the year, Halloween.

The outward manifestations of these internal changes begin to appear around the house.  On the back porch a pumpkin and gourds are the centrepiece of the picnic table, while the grapevine wreath on the door is adorned with a huge black (and orange) bow…. On the front porch pumpkins and colourful squash nestle against the old red butter churn, and sprays of bittersweet are added to the bunch of Indian corn that hangs by the front door.  Bundles of dried cornstalks flank the front steps, and as the month progresses grinning jack-o’-lanterns stare from the windows.  We carefully cut the eyeholes of each jack-o’-lantern so that they appear to be watching anyone that approaches the front porch. As night falls their flaming grins and fiery eyes stare from every window.

The origin of the jack-o’-lantern is obscure, but no doubt started in the New World.  The name used to apply to a natural phenomenon, a luminous glow in the eastern sky after sunset.  It may be that since the sunset in the west symbolized death, this glow in the east symbolized the spiritual survival of death.

Today in Ireland, candles are lit in cottage windows on Samhain night to welcome the spirits of the deceased.  In faraway Japan, on a night equivalent to Halloween, the spirits of the deceased are welcomed home by glowing paper lanterns hung by garden gates.  How the candle got inside the pumpkin may remain forever a mystery, but there can be little doubt that the jack-o’-lantern originated as a beacon light to welcome the spirits who roam freely among us on this night of Halloween.

I found the following in the World Book Encyclopedia:

… Many superstitions and symbols are connected with Halloween.  The Irish have a tale about the origin of jack-o’-lanterns.  They say that a man named Jack was unable to enter heaven because of his miserliness. he could not enter hell because he had played practical jokes on the devil.  So he had to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgment Day.

The Druids, an order of priests in ancient Gaul and Britain, believed that on Halloween, ghosts, spirits, fairies, witches, and elves came out to harm people.  They thought the cat was sacred and believed that cats had once been human beings but were changed as a punishment for evil deeds.  From these Druidic beliefs comes the present-day use of witches, ghosts, and cats in Halloween festivities.

The Druids had an autumn festival called *Samhain*, or *summer’s end*. It was an occasion for feasting on all kinds of food which had been grown during the summer.  The early peoples of Europe also had a festival similar to the Druid holiday.

In the 700’s, the Roman Catholic Church named November 1 as All Saints’ Day.  The old pagan customs and the Christian feast day were combined into the Halloween festival….

 

from: World Book Encyclopedia

Questions & Answers Regarding The Old Religion

The following is an excerpt from “Witchcraft: The Old Religion”

by Dr. L. L. Martello.

Questions and Answers.

Q. What is the  best way for one who  is interested in the Old  Religion to     make contact  with a genuine  coven?

A. Subscribe to  all of the  Pagan and     Witchcraft publications. It’s easier to get into a  Pagan grove which often     acts  as a backdoor  to the Craft,  since many are  Wicca-oriented in their     worship  and rituals.  Fill out  a Coven-Craft  application form  issued by     WICA. To obtain yours, enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope.      WICA’s address is Suite 1B, 153 West 80 Street; New York 10024.

Q. What are the major  feast-days of Witches? Could you tell me  more about     the origins of Halloween?

A. Most Anglo-American covens celebrate the following      holy days. The four major ones  are Oimelc or Candlemas on February  2; May     Eve, Beltane, or Walpurgisnacht on April 30; Lammas on July 31 or August 1;     and of course Halloween or Samhain on  October 31. The four minor Holy Days     are the two solstices: Yule, around December 22; and Midsummer, around June     21 or 22. The other  two are the equinoxes: March 20-21 for  spring and the     fall  equinox on September 22  or 23.  The following  will help to give you     some idea of the origins of Halloween:

November Eve, All Hallows’  Eve, the Gaelic fire festival  of Samhain,     now generally called Halloween, represents the summer’s end, when the Earth     Goddess turns  over her reign to the Horned God of the Hunt, the transition     from life to death, from an agrarian time to one of hunting, from summer to     winter,  from warmth  to  coldness, from  light to  darkness.  It has  been     Christianized into All Saints’ Day,  a time when the souls of  the departed     wander the land and in some cases where the souls of the living temporarily     join  their spirit brethren, a time for mediumship, remembrance of departed     loved ones,  and celebration (as  opposed to  mourning) of the  dead.   The     Roman Goddess of fruits and seeds, Pomona, was worshipped on  this day. The     stored fruits and seeds of the  summer were then opened for the celebrants.     Apples and  nuts were the  main fruits.  This was also  the autumn  harvest     festival of the Druids.

They believed in the transmigration of souls     and taught that  Saman, the Lord of Death, summoned  those wicked souls who     were   condemned to  occupy the bodies  of animals in  the preceding twelve     months. The accused believed that they  could propitiate Saman by gifts and     incantations, thus lessening if  not eliminating their sentences. This  was     also the time when the Druids lit huge bonfires in honor  of Baal, a custom     continued in Britain and Wales until recent times.    In Ireland October 31     was called Oidhche Shamhna, or Vigil of Saman.  In his Collectanea de Rebus     Hibernicis,  Villancey says  that in  Ireland  the peasants  assembled with     clubs  and sticks, “going from house to house, collecting money, breadcake,     butter, cheese, eggs, etc., for the feast, repeating verses in honor of the     solemnity,  demanding  preparations for  the festival  in  the name  of St.     Columb Kill, desiring them to lay aside the  fatted calf and to bring forth     the black sheep. The good women  are employed in making the griddlecake and     candles; these  last are sent from house to  house in the vicinity, and are     lighted up on the (Saman) next day, before which they pray, or are supposed     to pray, for the  departed soul of  the donor. Every  house abounds in  the     best viands they can afford: apples and nuts are devoured in abundance; the     nutshells are burnt, and from the  ashes many strange things are  foretold;     cabbages are  torn up by the  root; hemp-seed is  sown by the  maidens, and     they believe that if they look back they will see the apparition of the man     intended for their future spouse; they hang a smock before the fire, on the     close of the feast, and sit up all  night, concealed in the corner of  the     room, convinced  that his apparition will  come down the   chimney and turn     the smock; they throw a ball of yarn  out of the window, and wind it on the     reel within, convinced that  if they repeat the Pater Noster backwards, and     look  at the  ball of yarn  without, they  will then  also see his  sith or     apparition; they  dip for apples in a  tub of water, and  endeavor to bring     one up in the mouth; they suspend a cord with a cross-stick, with apples     at one point, and candles lighted at the other, and endeavor to catch the     apple,  while  it is  in a  circular  motion, in the mouth.”

Vallancey concludes that these practices are the  remnants of Druidism and will never     be eradicated while  the name of  Saman remains. In  this brief passage  we     will see  the origins of many  modern Halloween practices, such  a trick or     treat, the Jack-o-Lantern, and apple bobbing.

In the island of Lewis the     name Shamhna, or Saman, was called Shony.  One writer  in disgust described     “an  ancient  custom  here to  sacrifice  to  a sea-god,  called  Shony, at     Hallowtide.”  The supposed Christian inhabitants would gather at the Church     of  St. Mulvay, each  family bringing provisions and  malt which was brewed     into ale. They chose  one of themselves to wander into the  sea at night up     to his waist. He  then poured out a cup  of ale calling upon Shony to bless     his people for the coming year.   “At his return,” this writer says, “they     all went to church,  where there was a  candle burning upon the  altar; and     then standing silent for a little time, one of them gave a signal, at     which the  candle was  put out,  and immediately  all of  them went to  the     fields, where they fell a-drinking ale, and spent the rest  of the night in     dancing  and singing.   The ministers in  Lewis told me  they spent several     years  before  they  could persuade  the  vulgar  natives  to abandon  this     ridiculous piece of superstition.”

The name Saman shows evidence of      Druidism in the Irish. Another  word, the name of a drink,  is “lambswool.”     It is made from bruising roasted apples and mixing it with ale or milk.     The  Gentlemen’s  Magazine  for  May,  1784,  says,  “this  is  a  constant     ingredient at a  merrymaking on  Holy Eve.” Vallancey  shrewdly traced  its     etymological origin when he said, “The  first day of November was dedicated     to the angel presiding over fruits, seeds, etc., and was therefore named La     Mas  Ubhal, that is,  the day  of the  apple fruit, and  being pronounced     Lamasool, the English  have corrupted  the name to  Lambs-wool.” The  angel     referred to of course is the Roman Goddess Pomona.

Q. Are these Holy Days the same throughout the world?

A. No. However, there are many universal similarities between all the pagan     religions. Names, dates and days vary according to national origin.     For instance, one of the Holy Days still celebrated by many Italian and     some Sicilian  traditions is the Lupercalia,  on February 15. It  has since     been Christianized into  St. Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14.  Let me quote from     the WICA  Newsletter:  Ancient Roman  festival  honoring Lupercus,  God  of     Fertility. It was  called dies  februatus meaning ‘day  of expiation.’  The     Lupercal–‘wolf’s grotto’–a cave on the western slope of Palatine Hill.     Near it was the ficus ruminalis, the fig tree under which Romulus and Remus     were  found and  nursed by a  she-wolf.   The Lupercai  who celebrated this     yearly festival  were made up of the Fabian who belonged to the Sabines and     the Quintilian Lupercai, the Latins. Later in honor to Julius Caesar, there     was added the Julian  Brotherhood. They sacrificed a goat.  Young neophytes     were brought in. The  High Priest touched their  foreheads with the  bloody     knife. Then another priest wiped away the blood with wool dipped into milk.     The feast began with the celebrants clothed only in goat skins and carrying     (really hiding) thongs made from the same goat hides.  They ran up and down     the  streets  of the  city striking  anyone who  passed  them.   Women came     forward to  be hit  by the  goat-thongs, believing  it  enhanced their  own     fertility. This was also a symbolic purification of the land and of the     persons touched. This was on   of the last Pagan rites to be given up     before  Christianity   completely  dominated  the  country.   It  is  still     celebrated today but in modern form, without the goat or  any other kind of     sacrifice, but  all wearing  skins  and goat  horns  in a  special  streghe     ritual.”

Q. What are some of the Christian holy days that are based upon or borrowed     from ancient Pagan Religions?

A. You’ll  find many of them discussed in this book. However, briefly, here     are some  of them. December 25 in  ancient times was the  day celebrated in     honor of  the sun, deified  in such figures  as Mithra, Osiris,  Horus, and     Adonis. It was also the  feast day of Bacchus, Krishna, Sakia,  and others.     The legends of these Gods were the same as those attributed to Jesus Christ     by  the early  Church.  Pope Julius  I  in A.D.  337 made  December  25 the     official day to celebrate Jesus’s birth, following older traditions who      honored their founders on that date. It was also the ancient celebration of     the  winter  solstice.  There  is absolutely  no  record  in  the  Bible or     elsewhere  of when Jesus  Christ was born.      All of us  are still paying     tribute to the ancient Gods  and Goddesses by the names of our  days of the     week.

English French Italian Spanish Planet Deity
Sunday Dimanche Domani Domingo Sun Mithra
Monday Lundi Lunedi Lunes Moon Diana
Tuesday Mardi Martedi Martes Mars Tiw
Wednesday Mercredi Mercoledi Miercoles Mercury Mercury
Thursday Jeudi Giovedi Jueves Jupiter Jove-Thor
Friday Vendredi Venerdi Viernes Venus Venus-Freya
Saturday Samedi Sabato Sabado Saturn Saturn

Two of the English  names come from Old Saxon rather  than Latin. Tiw’s Day     became Tuesday  in honor of the old Teutonic deity, Tiw or Tives. Wednesday     is named after the  old Teutonic Norse God  Wodan or Wotan. The Saxon  word     for  day  is  doeg.  In  olden  times the  days  were  called  Jove’s  Doeg     (Thursday), Mercury’s  Doeg (Wednesday), Mar’s <sic>  Doef <sic> (Tuesday),     etc.  Friday was the day when the  ancients paid tribute to Venus–the love     day. When  Christianity became dominant,  Friday was  no longer  considered     lucky–Jesus  was crucified on that day; also, the uninhibited sexual rites     dedicated to the love  Goddess Venus was considered a  great “sin.” Besides     the days of our week our months are also named after the ancient deities:

January: From Latin Januarius, honoring Janus, a Roman God. He presided     over the Gates of Heaven, which the Christians later assigned to St. Peter.     The Anglo-Saxons called it Aefter-Yule, and prior to that Wolf-monat.

February:  From Februus, another name  for the God  of purification Faunus,     thus fertility. The feast was held on February 15 (see  Lupercalia) and was     called Februa.

March:  After Mars, God  of War. Anglo-Saxons  called it     Hraed-monat,  rugged month, or Hlyd-monat, stormy month. A stormy March was     an omen of poor crops. A dry March indicated a rich harvest.

April: From Latin aperio “to open,” like buds. Anglo-Saxons called it Easter-monat, in honor of the Teutonic Goddess of the same name. She ruled spring and light. The Romans dedicated this month to  Venus, often referring to it as Mensis Veneris instead of Aprilis.

May: Named  after Maia  Majesta, ancient Roman Goddess of Spring. Considered Vulcan’s wife. Look up the folklore regarding the May Day celebrations, bonfires, and other rites  celebrated throughout Europe.

June: Named after the Roman Goddess Juno.     Called Sear-monat by Anglo-Saxons. Juno was Queen of Heaven and Guardian of     Marriage and ruled childbirth. June is still the most favored month for      marriage today.

July:  Originally called Quintilus, the fifth month. Old     Saxons  called it Maed-monat, “mead  month” the time to  gather honey for     the drink called mead.

August: Named after the Roman Emperor Augustus. Was once called Sixtilis, the sixth month.

September: Named  after the     Latin  number for seven,  that being the  month in the  old calender <sic>.     Saxons  called it  Gerst-monat,  barley month,  as  this crop  was  usually     gathered then.

October: From octo, the eighth  month in the old  calendar.     Saxons  named it  Wyn-monat,   “wine  month.”  This was  harvest time,  and     Bacchus and Dionysius and all the other ancient deities were honored.  See     Halloween  above.

November: From the  ninth month in  old Roman calendar.     Saxons called it Blot-monat,  “blood month.” This was  when the cattle  and     sheep were  slaughtered for food and  sacrifices.

December: Named after     the tenth month in  the old calendar. It was consecrated  to Saturn, and on     December 17  the great feast of Saturnalia  began, lasting several days. It     coincided  with the winter solstice  and the Yule  season. The Anglo-Saxons     called it Yule-monat, “midwinter month.” It coincided with the winter      solstice and the Yule season.

The Simple Facts About Samhain

The Simple Facts About Samhain

Shadowfest (Strega), Martinmas (Celtic/Scottish) Samhain, popularly known as Halloween, is the Witches’ New Year. This is the last of the three harvest Sabbats marking the end of the growing seasons. Celtic custom decreed that all crops must be gathered by sundown on October 31st. It is a time when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. Deceased ancestors and other friendly spirits are invited to join in Sabbat festivities and be reunited with loved ones. In Ireland it is still custom to leave candles in the windows and plates of food for the visiting spirits. Keep a fire lit or a candle burning all night to honour and welcome the dead. If clothes are left outside overnight, they will take on bewitching powers for all who wear them. Darkness increases and the Goddess reigns as the Crone, part of the three-in-one that also includes the Maiden and Mother. The God, the Dark Lord, passes into the underworld to become the seed of his own rebirth (which will occur again at Yule). Many Pagans prepare a Feast for the Dead on Samhain night, where they leave offerings of food and drink for the spirits. Divination is heightened this night. Jack-o-lanterns, gourds, cider, fall foliage can be used as altar decorations.

13 Ideas for Samhain

13 Ideas for Samhain

by Heather Evenstar Osterman

Let’s face it; Halloween is a major commercialized holiday. So how do you  find something meaningful to pull out of all the mainstream commercialism for your  Sabbat celebrations? What do you do when most of the people around your family don’t  understand the ancient traditions they unconsciously uphold?

Take a close look at the history behind the holiday, then create new traditions  for your family to enjoy year after year. You don’t have to reject the mainstream;  just teach your children why modern practices exist.

Samhain (also known as the Festival of the Dead or All Hallows’ Eve) is a time  for us to release the spirits of those who have died during the previous year and for us  to honor our ancestors. It is customary to set an extra place at your supper table  on Samhain Eve in honor of the departed. This is not a scary time, rather a time when  the veil is thin and we can spend time with the spirits in warmth and love. Here are  some activities to try out with your family:

  1. Volunteer to talk to your child’s class about the origins of Halloween  and how Wiccans really celebrate Samhain.
  2. Together as a family, create an altar honoring your family’s beloved  dead (including pets). Use photos, mementos, keepsakes or anything that seems right.
  3. Make candleholders out of apples, turnips, gourds and small  pumpkins by hollowing out deep holes in the tops. Make sure the candles are well-secured  in the bases.
  4. Put candles in the windows to guide spirit travelers on their way.
  5. Eat dinner by candlelight, setting a place at the table for your beloved  dead. If your children are older, try having a  Dumb Supper where the meal is eaten in silence so the spirits are not frightened away.
  6. Bob for apples in your cauldron!
  7. Carve jack-o-lanterns to protect your home from malicious spirits. Have  your children help make up a spell of protection to enforce the scary jack-o-lantern faces.
  8. Plant flower bulbs in your yard or somewhere special. Think of this as  a special promise for spring, a secret the earth will keep.
  9. Take a walk and observe animals (like squirrels and geese) prepare for  winter. At home, prepare for winter in your own way.
  10. Make a family tree on poster board. Let the kids draw pictures of  each of the people on your tree.
  11. Snack on seeds and nuts (try toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds).  Or try making skull-shaped popcorn balls.
  12. Tell your children stories of when they where younger. Then encourage  them to make up stories of their lives in the future.
  13. Why should kids have all the fun? The whole family should  make costumes and go trick-or-t

Halloween Spell

For many witches throughout the world, Halloween is an ideal time to magically do away with weaknesses. The Celts of old, for instance, on Samhain slaughtered all livestock that were too weak to live through the coming winter. Using a quill pen and dragon’s blood ink, write upon a piece of parchment the weaknesses you wish to be rid of. As you concentrate on your intent, crumple up the paper in your “power hand” and toss it into a fire or set it ablaze by holding it above the flame of a black candle. Place it into a fireproof container such as a cast iron cauldron, and as the parchment burns away into ashes, so too shall your weaknesses be consumed by the flames of magic.

 

By: Gerina Dunwich

Samhain History

Samhain History

By Patti Wigington, About.com Guide

What is Samhain?:

Samhain is known by most folks as Halloween, but for Wiccans and Pagans it’s considered a Sabbat to honor the ancestors who came before us. 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 a popular Internet-based (and 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 Hallows Eve, and eventually morphed into what we call Halloween.

The Witch’s 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!

Samhain Rituals:

Try one — or all — of these rituals to celebrate Samhain and welcome the new year.

  • Celebrating the End of the Harvest
  • Samhain Ritual for Animals
  • Honoring the Ancestors
  • Hold a Seance at Samhain
  • Host a Dumb Supper
  • Honor the God and Goddess at Samhain
  • Celebrating the Cycle of Life and Death
  • Ancestor Meditation

Halloween Traditions:

Even if you’re celebrating Samhain as a Pagan holiday, you may want to read up on some of the traditions of the secular celebration of Halloween:

  • Black Cats
  • Jack O’Lanterns
  • Trick or Treating

Ancestor Prayer for Samhain

Ancestor Prayer for Samhain

By Patti Wigington, About.com Guide

 

A Prayer to the Ancestors

This is the night when the gateway between
our world and the spirit world is thinnest.
Tonight is a night to call out those who came before.
Tonight I honor my ancestors.
Spirits of my fathers and mothers, I call to you,
and welcome you to join me for this night.
You watch over me always,
protecting and guiding me,
and tonight I thank you.
Your blood runs in my veins,
your spirit is in my heart,
your memories are in my soul.

[If you wish, you may want to recite your genealogy here. This can include both your blood family, and your spiritual one.]

With the gift of remembrance.
I remember all of you.
You are dead but never forgotten,
and you live on within me,
and within those who are yet to come.

Season Ritual

Season Ritual
By: Willow Myst, White Moon School
 
This is a ritual for Hallows. I was thinking that, if he’s willing, my husband and I could do this together, late at night after our
children are done with trick or treat and fast asleep.
 
Intent: Banish our fears and inspire our hopes for the new year
Need: Jack-O-Lantern already lit
black and white candles
Paper and pen/pencil for each person
Bowl of cooked pumpkin seeds (from Jack-O-Lantern)
Cauldron/pot for burning paper
 
Fold papers in half lengthwise. Then on the left half, write fears you’d like to banish and on the right half write your hopes for the future. Then light the black candle to represent banishing the fears. Tear the sheet in half and take the fear half and light it on fire from the Jack-O-Lantern. Light the white candle to represent your hopes. If you are doing this with a partner, take turns reading out loud your hopes and eat a pumpkin seed for each one. Hang your lists of hopes somewhere you can read them everyday.
 
About the Author: Willow Myst is a mother of two wonderful children and currently studying to become a Priestess of the Order of the White Moon.

13 Ideas for Samhain

13 Ideas for Samhain

by Heather Evenstar Osterman

 

Let’s face it; Halloween is a major commercialized holiday. So how do you find something meaningful to pull out of all the mainstream commercialism for your Sabbat celebrations? What do you do when most of the people around your family don’t understand the ancient traditions they unconsciously uphold?

Take a close look at the history behind the holiday, then create new traditions for your family to enjoy year after year. You don’t have to reject the mainstream; just teach your children why modern practices exist.

Samhain (also known as the Festival of the Dead or All Hallows’ Eve) is a time for us to release the spirits of those who have died during the previous year and for us to honor our ancestors. It is customary to set an extra place at your supper table on Samhain Eve in honor of the departed. This is not a scary time, rather a time when the veil is thin and we can spend time with the spirits in warmth and love. Here are some activities to try out with your family:

  1. Volunteer to talk to your child’s class about the origins of Halloween and how Wiccans really celebrate Samhain.
  2. Together as a family, create an altar honoring your family’s beloved dead (including pets). Use photos, mementos, keepsakes or anything that seems right.
  3. Make candleholders out of apples, turnips, gourds and small pumpkins by hollowing out deep holes in the tops. Make sure the candles are well-secured in the bases.
  4. Put candles in the windows to guide spirit travelers on their way.
  5. Eat dinner by candlelight, setting a place at the table for your beloved dead. If your children are older, try having a Dumb Supper where the meal is eaten in silence so the spirits are not frightened away.
  6. Bob for apples in your cauldron!
  7. Carve jack-o-lanterns to protect your home from malicious spirits. Have your children help make up a spell of protection to enforce the scary jack-o-lantern faces.
  8. Plant flower bulbs in your yard or somewhere special. Think of this as a special promise for spring, a secret the earth will keep.
  9. Take a walk and observe animals (like squirrels and geese) prepare for winter. At home, prepare for winter in your own way.
  10. Make a family tree on poster board. Let the kids draw pictures of each of the people on your tree.
  11. Snack on seeds and nuts (try toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds). Or try making skull-shaped popcorn balls.
  12. Tell your children stories of when they where younger. Then encourage them to make up stories of their lives in the future.
  13. Why should kids have all the fun? The whole family should make costumes and go trick-or-treating!