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

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Just A Thought On Remembering Our Ancestors

pagan

I wasn’t going to torture you today with any of my comments. But I have been surfing the web for cartoons (it is actually hard to find good cartoons). I am beginning to think I should never leave the site. I ran across a few images that made my eyes water and then I was taken back centuries ago.

The images were of witches or accused witches tied to a stake and burning. Another was of a woman on a plank being dunked into the water. If you know me well, you know I can talk an hour or two on our ancestors. But what happened today moved my soul. Perhaps in all the hustle and bustle, I had forgotten for a moment what this season is all about. It is the Witches’ New Year but it is also a time to remember our ancestors.

For me, remembering my ancestors is both joyous and heartbreaking. I am into genealogy and was able (thanks to a dear friend) to trace my roots back to Ireland. Knowing where you came from can be a good thing or if your a witch, not so good. I know you are scratching your heads over that one, right? What I mean is, I know how witches were treated in Ireland. Persecuted. Then they sailed to the New World to escape the torment and the persecution. But unfortunately, they didn’t. They were found out and the same thing they were trying to escape confronted them again. No peace whatsoever. What kind of life did they have?

Most of my ancestors were healers. I have ran across a few that were hanged as witches. That makes my blood curdle. Their blood flows through my veins today. I know that for sure. There are times I have flash backs to my ancestors’ time. To see and experience one of your kin being hanged is one of the worse things in your life. You can see it plainly but you are powerless to do anything about it. When the flashback is over, I cry and cry. Why were people so ignorant and judgmental back then? Why couldn’t they just let the witches live in peace?

Perhaps if history didn’t happen the way it did, we wouldn’t have what we do now. Perhaps it was a test of some kind for our ancestors. I know they had to have unbelievable faith, courage and enormous amount of love for our Religion and our Goddess.

One of the reasons I can talk about our ancestors for hours is because I admire them so much. I know what they sacrificed for us. When accused of being a witch, they could have simply turned their backs and denied it. But they didn’t. I know they didn’t want to die anymore than the next person. But sadly enough they did. Some were killed and others went underground to protect our Religion. To ensure it would be passed on from one generation to the next. Everyone of them took risks so we could have what we do today.

This time of the year is very special to all of us. Don’t get caught up in all the festivities and forget what it is really about, remembering our ancestors. We owe them so much. And we never can repay the debt we owe them. But we can remember them. I believe remembering and honoring is the greatest way we can say “Thank You” to them for all they have given us.

Without our ancestors and their sacrifices, we wouldn’t have our Religion. This Samhain, hold the memories of your ancestors dear to your heart. Remember them and give them the honors they deserve. They have given us so much.

book75

In the honor and remembrance of all
our ancestors.
Thank the Goddess for them.
 

Calendar of the Sun for November 21

Calendar of the Sun

 

21 Blutmonath

Quetzalcoatl’s Day

Colors: Bright red, gold, green, and blue
Element: Air
Altar: On a multicolored cloth set many feathers of different colors, and a plate of chocolate.
Offerings: Colored feathers. Make something creative.
Daily Meal: Mexican food. Chocolate.

Invocation to Quetzalcoatl

Feathered Serpent
Creature of earth
That learned to fly,
You who brought the gifts
Of civilization and culture
To a troubled people,
You who fought against
The unnecessary sacrifices
Of the greedy gods,
Once a god, once a man,
Always a mystery,
You who sailed away into the west
And one day promised to return,
Lord of good judgment
Who is always fair,
Brighten our minds
With thoughts that dance and run
And finally leave the earth
And fly.

(All partake in a drum circle, after which the chocolate is passed around and shared.)

 

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Samhain

Samhain

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

Date: October 31.

Alternative names: All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, the Witches’ New Year, Third Festival of Harvest.

Primary meaning: Samhain, pronounced “sow-en” — not “sam hain”  — marks the beginning of the cold months or winter; it is the Day Between the Years. Primary elements to contemplate are endings and beginnings, change, reflection and reincarnation. Celebrations honor the dead, ancestors, the wisdom of the Crone and the death of the God.

Symbols: Cauldrons, jack o’ lanterns, masks, balefires, besoms (brooms), bats, owls, ravens and the ever-present witch and black cat.

Colors: Orange, black, brown, golden yellow and red.

Gemstones: Carnelian, jet, obsidian and onyx.

Herbs: Aborvitae (yellow cedar), acorn, allspice, apple, autumn flowers, catnip, corn, chrysanthemums, dittany of Crete, fall leaves (especially oak), ferns, flax, fumitory, gourds, grains, hazel, heather, mandrake, mugwort, mullein, nightshade, pear, pumpkin, sage, straw, thistle, turnip, wormwood.

Gods and goddesses: Crone goddesses, the Father or dying gods, gods of the underworld or death including Arawn, Cerridwen, Cernunnos, the Dagdha, Dis Pater, Hades, Hecate, Hel, Inanna, Ishtar, Kali, Lilith, Macha, Mari, the Morrigan, Osiris, Pomona, Psyche, Rhiannon, Samana, Sekhmet, Teutates and Taranis.

Customs and myths: In England, it formerly was the custom to go “a-souling” on this night, asking for little “soul cakes” and offering prayers for the dead in return. In the British Isles, lanterns carved out of turnips (in the New World pumpkins) were at one time used to provide light on a night when bale fires were lit, and all households let their fires go out so they could be rekindled from the new fire. Another custom was the Dumb Supper, in which an extra plate was laid for the dead and the meal was eaten in silence. Bobbing for apples, roasting nuts in the fire and baking cakes that contained tokens of luck are ancient methods of telling the future now. Ducking for apples was a divination for marriage. The first person to bite an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year. Apple peeling was a divination to see how long your life would be. The longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be. In Scotland, people would place stones in the ashes of the hearth before retiring for the night. Anyone whose stone had been disturbed during the night was said to be destined to die during the coming year.

Mabon Celebrations Around the World

Mabon Celebrations Around the World

By Patti Wigington

Mabon is the time of the second harvest, and of thanksgiving.

At the time of the autumn equinox, there are equal hours of light and dark. It is a time of balance, and while summer is ending, the winter is approaching. This is a season in which farmers are harvesting their fall crops, gardens are beginning to die, and the earth gets a bit cooler each day. Let’s look at some of the ways that this second harvest holiday has been honored around the world for centuries.

  • In China, the moon’s birthday falls around the time of the autumn equinox. Special holiday birthday cakes are baked with flour from harvested rice, and families gather together to honor the moon. It is believed that flowers will fall from the sky on the night of the moon’s birthday, and those who saw them fall would be blessed with great abundance. 
  • Many English counties still observe Michaelmas, which is the feast of St. Michael, on September 29. Customs included the preparation of a meal of goose which had been fed on the stubble of the fields following the harvest (called a stubble-goose). There was also a tradition of preparing special larger-than-usual loaves of bread, and St. Michael’s bannocks, which was a special kind of oatcake. 
  • Long before the Pilgrims arrived in the New World, the Native peoples of North America celebrated the harvest with thanksgiving festivals in the autumn. This typically included lots of meat and grains to eat. Games and activities were held, and it was also useful as a time of matchmaking between neighboring villages. 
  • In some Germanic countries, people worried about the fate of their grain harvest. If there was a great deal of wind during the harvesting season, it could be because Odin wanted a share of the crop. To keep him happy, a few spare sacks of flour were emptied into the wind. 
  • The Yoruba people of Nigeria had a celebration in October to celebrate the yam harvest. Dances were held to honor the ancestors, and to bid farewell to those who might have died in the past year. Yams were offered to dancers in hopes that a fertile crop would appear next year. Interestingly, studies have shown that women who consume a lot of yams (real African yams, not sweet potatoes) are statistically more likely to conceive twins, so there is certainly a link between yams and fertility symbolism! 
  • The Iroquois people celebrated a Corn Dance each fall. This was a way to give thanks for the ripening of the grain — songs, dances and drumming were part of the celebration. Naturally, food played an important part as well, including corn bread and soup. 
  • For the ancient Druids, the fall equinox was Alban Elfed. Many contemporary Druids celebrate this as at time of balance and thanksgiving.

Things To Do This Lammas……

Throughout today’s posts you will find hints on things to do this Lammas. I hope you enjoy them and find them useful.

Collect corn husks, dry and store  in shade.  “Corn” was a generic term for  cereal crops (i.e., wheat,  barley, oats), and New World corn was added after 1520.  Our non-irrigated winter wheat is harvested in June  and July where I live.  We can collect wild wheat stalks and seeds, tie, and hang in shade.   Make a corn dolly and keep  until the Yule Celebration.  We can pick fruit  (apricots, berries, figs and plums) and dry them.  Many kinds for fruit are ripe  in late July, so place some of these on your home altar.  Many garden herbs  are at their peak and ready for harvesting to make herbal remedies, air  fresheners, use in herbal magic, and for decoration.  There are hundreds of  good books and websites on the magical, sacramental, and health uses of herbs. 

What is Santeria?

by Efun Moyiwa

This article can also be found on Efun Moyiwa’s World Wide Web page, OrishaNet (http://www.seanet.com/~efunmoyiwa/welcome.html).

Santería, or La Regla Lucumí, originates in West Africa in what is now Nigeria and Benin. It is the traditional religion of the Yoruba peoples there. The slave trade brought many of these people to the shores of Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad and Puerto Rico, among other places. But along with the bodies being brought over for sale into a life of misery, something else was being brought along. Their souls. And their religion.

First of all, Santería is not a “primitive” religion. On the contrary, the Yorubas were and are a very civilized people with a rich culture and deep sense of ethics. We believe in one god known as Olorun or Olodumare. Olorun is the source of ashé, the spiritual energy that makes up the universe, all life and all things material.

Olorun interacts with the world and humankind through emissaries. These emissaries are called orishas. The orishas rule over every force of nature and every aspect of human life. They are approachable and can be counted on to come to the aid of their followers, guiding us to a better life materially as well as spiritually.

Communication between orishas and humankind is accomplished through ritual, prayer, divination and ebó or offerings (which includes sacrifice). Song, rhythms and trance possession are also means with which we interact with the orishas and with which we are able to affect our day-to-day lives so that we may lead deeper and fuller lives during our stay in this world.

In the New World, the orishas and much of the religion was hidden behind a facade of Catholicism, with the orishas themselves represented by various saints. The slave owners would then say, “Look at how pious this slave is. She spends all of her time worshipping Saint Barbara.” Unbeknownst to them, she would actually be praying to Shangó, the lord of lightning, fire and the dance, perhaps even praying for deliverance from that very slave owner. This is how the religion came to be known as Santería. The memory of this period of our history is also why many in our religion regard the term Santería as a derogatory.

The traditions of Santería are fiercely preserved, and full knowledge of the rites, songs and language is prerequisites to any deep involvement in the religion. Initiates must follow a strict regimen and are answerable to Olorun and the orishas for their actions. As a person passes through each initiation in the tradition, this knowledge deepens and their abilities and responsibilities grow accordingly. In fact, during the entire first year of their initiation into the priesthood, the initiate or iyawó or “bride” of the orisha must dress in white. The iyawo must not look into a mirror, touch anyone or allow themselves to be touched, and they may not wear makeup or go out at night for this year.

La Santería is famous for its “magic.” This magic is based on a knowledge of the mysteries or orishas and how to interact with them to better our lives and the lives of those who come to us for the aid of the orishas. We live under the premise that this world is a magical one. This knowledge seems “supernatural” only to those who don’t understand it, but it really is quite natural.

Although the people were yanked away from their homes in Africa and enslaved in the New World, the orishas, the religion and its power could never be chained down, and the religion survives now – not as an anachronism, but ever-growing, even now in such places as France and the Netherlands.

Maferefún gbogbo orisha!

About Samhain: A Guide to the Sabbat’s Symbolism

About Samhain: A Guide to the Sabbat’s Symbolism

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

Editor’s note: Readers have asked for Widdershins to run a short piece in each paper to give a guide to the symbolism of the current Sabbat for new pagans and witches. Following is the first of these.

Date: October 31.

Alternative names: All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, the Witches’ New Year, Third Festival of Harvest.

Primary meaning: Samhain, pronounced “sow-en” — not “sam hain” — marks the beginning of the cold months or winter; it is the Day Between the Years. Primary elements to contemplate are endings and beginnings, change, reflection and reincarnation. Celebrations honor the dead, ancestors, the wisdom of the Crone and the death of the God.

Symbols: Cauldrons, jack o’ lanterns, masks, balefires, besoms (brooms), bats, owls, ravens and the ever-present witch and black cat.

Colors: Orange, black, brown, golden yellow and red.

Gemstones: Carnelian, jet, obsidian and onyx.

Herbs: Aborvitae (yellow cedar), acorn, allspice, apple, autumn flowers, catnip, corn, chrysanthemums, dittany of Crete, fall leaves (especially oak), ferns, flax, fumitory, gourds, grains, hazel, heather, mandrake, mugwort, mullein, nightshade, pear, pumpkin, sage, straw, thistle, turnip, wormwood.

Gods and goddesses: Crone goddesses, the Father or dying gods, gods of the underworld or death including Arawn, Cerridwen, Cernunnos, the Dagdha, Dis Pater, Hades, Hecate, Hel, Inanna, Ishtar, Kali, Lilith, Macha, Mari, the Morrigan, Osiris, Pomona, Psyche, Rhiannon, Samana, Sekhmet, Teutates and Taranis.

Customs and myths: In England, it formerly was the custom to go “a-souling” on this night, asking for little “soul cakes” and offering prayers for the dead in return.

In the British Isles, lanterns carved out of turnips (in the New World pumpkins) were at one time used to provide light on a night when bale fires were lit, and all households let their fires go out so they could be rekindled from the new fire.

Another custom was the Dumb Supper, in which an extra plate was laid for the dead and the meal was eaten in silence. Bobbing for apples, roasting nuts in the fire and baking cakes that contained tokens of luck are ancient methods of telling the future now. Ducking for apples was a divination for marriage. The first person to bite an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year. Apple peeling was a divination to see how long your life would be. The longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be.

In Scotland, people would place stones in the ashes of the hearth before retiring for the night. Anyone whose stone had been disturbed during the night was said to be destined to die during the coming year.

About Samhain: A Guide to the Sabbat’s Symbolism

About Samhain: A Guide to the Sabbat’s Symbolism

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

 

Date: October 31.

Alternative names: All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, the Witches’ New Year, Third Festival of Harvest.

Primary meaning: Samhain, pronounced “sow-en” — not “sam hain” — marks the beginning of the cold months or winter; it is the Day Between the Years. Primary elements to contemplate are endings and beginnings, change, reflection and reincarnation. Celebrations honor the dead, ancestors, the wisdom of the Crone and the death of the God.

Symbols: Cauldrons, jack o’ lanterns, masks, balefires, besoms (brooms), bats, owls, ravens and the ever-present witch and black cat.

Colors: Orange, black, brown, golden yellow and red.

Gemstones: Carnelian, jet, obsidian and onyx.

Herbs: Aborvitae (yellow cedar), acorn, allspice, apple, autumn flowers, catnip, corn, chrysanthemums, dittany of Crete, fall leaves (especially oak), ferns, flax, fumitory, gourds, grains, hazel, heather, mandrake, mugwort, mullein, nightshade, pear, pumpkin, sage, straw, thistle, turnip, wormwood.

Gods and goddesses: Crone goddesses, the Father or dying gods, gods of the underworld or death including Arawn, Cerridwen, Cernunnos, the Dagdha, Dis Pater, Hades, Hecate, Hel, Inanna, Ishtar, Kali, Lilith, Macha, Mari, the Morrigan, Osiris, Pomona, Psyche, Rhiannon, Samana, Sekhmet, Teutates and Taranis.

Customs and myths: In England, it formerly was the custom to go “a-souling” on this night, asking for little “soul cakes” and offering prayers for the dead in return.

In the British Isles, lanterns carved out of turnips (in the New World pumpkins) were at one time used to provide light on a night when bale fires were lit, and all households let their fires go out so they could be rekindled from the new fire.

Another custom was the Dumb Supper, in which an extra plate was laid for the dead and the meal was eaten in silence. Bobbing for apples, roasting nuts in the fire and baking cakes that contained tokens of luck are ancient methods of telling the future now. Ducking for apples was a divination for marriage. The first person to bite an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year. Apple peeling was a divination to see how long your life would be. The longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be.

In Scotland, people would place stones in the ashes of the hearth before retiring for the night. Anyone whose stone had been disturbed during the night was said to be destined to die during the coming year.

What is Santeria?

What is Santeria?

by Efun Moyiwa

Santería, or La Regla Lucumí, originates in West Africa in what is now Nigeria and Benin. It is the traditional religion of the Yoruba peoples there. The slave trade brought many of these people to the shores of Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad and Puerto Rico, among other places. But along with the bodies being brought over for sale into a life of misery, something else was being brought along. Their souls. And their religion.

First of all, Santería is not a “primitive” religion. On the contrary, the Yorubas were and are a very civilized people with a rich culture and deep sense of ethics. We believe in one god known as Olorun or Olodumare. Olorun is the source of ashé, the spiritual energy that makes up the universe, all life and all things material.

Olorun interacts with the world and humankind through emissaries. These emissaries are called orishas. The orishas rule over every force of nature and every aspect of human life. They are approachable and can be counted on to come to the aid of their followers, guiding us to a better life materially as well as spiritually.

Communicationbetween orishas and humankind is accomplished through ritual, prayer, divination and ebó or offerings (which includes sacrifice). Song, rhythms and trance possession are also means with which we interact with the orishas and with which we are able to affect our day-to-day lives so that we may lead deeper and fuller lives during our stay in this world.

In the New World, the orishas and much of the religion was hidden behind a facade of Catholicism, with the orishas themselves represented by various saints. The slave owners would then say, “Look at how pious this slave is. She spends all of her time worshipping Saint Barbara.” Unbeknownst to them, she would actually be praying to Shangó, the lord of lightning, fire and the dance, perhaps even praying for deliverance from that very slave owner. This is how the religion came to be known as Santería. The memory of this period of our history is also why many in our religion regard the term Santería as a derogatory.

The traditions of Santería are fiercely preserved, and full knowledge of the rites, songs and language is prerequisites to any deep involvement in the religion. Initiates must follow a strict regimen and are answerable to Olorun and the orishas for their actions. As a person passes through each initiation in the tradition, this knowledge deepens and their abilities and responsibilities grow accordingly. In fact, during the entire first year of their initiation into the priesthood, the initiate or iyawó or “bride” of the orisha must dress in white. The iyawo must not look into a mirror, touch anyone or allow themselves to be touched, and they may not wear makeup or go out at night for this year.

La Santería is famous for its “magic.” This magic is based on a knowledge of the mysteries or orishas and how to interact with them to better our lives and the lives of those who come to us for the aid of the orishas. We live under the premise that this world is a magical one. This knowledge seems “supernatural” only to those who don’t understand it, but it really is quite natural.

Although the people were yanked away from their homes in Africa and enslaved in the New World, the orishas, the religion and its power could never be chained down, and the religion survives now – not as an anachronism, but ever-growing, even now in such places as France and the Netherlands.

Maferefún gbogbo orisha!