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The Cottage September/Samhain 2001 Issue
Samhain


Samhain

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Samhain is the most magical night of the year. Opposite Betane on the Wheel of the Year, Halloween begins the dark half of the year. A night of power, when the veil that seperates our world from the Otherworld is at its thinnest. A 'spirit night' .This is the time of the year when the ancient tribes harvested for the last time during the year, and prepared for the long months of winter. Food was stored, animals brought in from the fields, animals needed for food supply were slaughter and prepared for long storage, activity was moved from outdoors to indoors, by the warmth of the hearth fire.

Samhain is also known as Halloween, All Hollows Eve, Day of the Dead, All Saint's Eve, Celtic Winter, Feast of Spirits, Celtic New Year, Third Harvest, Samana, Day of the Dead, Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), Vigil of Saman, Shadowfest (Strega), and Samhuinn

Samhain , pronounced Sow-en, is the most important Sabbat. Samhain is the last of the three harvest Sabbats. This holiday is considered the Witches New Year, representing one full turn of the seasonal year. This day is a celebration of the end of the Goddess ruled Summer and marks the arrival of the God ruled Winter. The name Samhain means Summers End.

With such an important holiday, Witches often hold two distinct celebrations. First, a large Halloween party for non-craft friends, often held on the previous weekend. And second, a Coven ritual held on Samhain night itself, late enough so as not to be interrupted by trick or treaters. If the rituals are performed properly, there is often the felling of invisible friends taking part in the rites. Another date which may be utilized in planning celebrations is the actual cross-quarter day, or Old Samhain. This occurs when the sun has reached 15 degrees Scorpio, an astrological 'power point' symbolized by the Eagle. Interestingly, this date (Old Samhain) was also appropriated by the church as the holiday of Marinmas.

The Samhain Holiday begins at sundown on October 31st. The nightide was always a time to be wary of walking alone in the countryside. So much more on this Night when the veils between the worlds of humans and spirits was at its thinnest. Traditional lore speaks of the dead returning to visit their kin and the doors to the Lands of the Sidhe (pronounced "shee") or Faery Realm being opened.
While almost all Celtic based traditions recognize this Holiday as the end of the "old" year, some groups do not celebrate the coming of the "new year" until Yule. Some consider the time between Samhain and Yule as a time which does not even exist on the Earthly plane. The "time which is no time" was considered in the "old days" to be both very magickal and very dangerous. So even today, we celebrate this Holiday with a mixture of joyous celebration and 'spine tingling" reverence.

As a feast of divination, this was the best time for peering into the future. The reason for this has to do with the Celtic view of time. In a culture that uses a linear concept of time, like our modern one, New Year's Eve is simply a milestone on a very long road that stretches in a straight line from birth to death. Thus, the New Year's festival is a part of time. The ancient Celtic view of time, however, is cyclical. And in this framework, New Year's Eve represents a point outside of time, when the natural order of the universe dissolves back into primordial chaos, preparatory to re-establishing itself in a new order. Thus, Samhain is a night that exists outside of time and maybe used to view any other point in time. At no other holiday is tarot card reading, crystal reading, or tea-leaf reading so likely to succeed.

There are so many types of divination that are traditional to Hallowstide. Girls were told to place hazel nuts along the front of the firegrate, each one so symbolize one of her suitors. She could then divine her future husband by chanting, 'If you love me, pop and fly; if you hate me, burn and die.' Several methods used the apple, that most popular of Halloween fruits. You should slice an apple through the center (to reveal the five pointed star within) and then eat it by candlelight before a mirror. Your future spouse will then appear over one shoulder. Or, peel an apple, making sure the peeling comes off in one long strand, reciting, 'I pare this apple round and round again; / My sweetheart's naem to flourish on the plain: ' I fling the unbroken paring o'er my head, / My sweetheart's letter on the ground to read.' Or, you might set a snail to crawl through the ashes of your hearth. The considerate little creature will then spell out the initial letter as it moves.



Ritual fires of Samhain were lit at the fall of dusk on the sacred hilltops, of ancient times, for the protection of people and land and to guide the souls of the dead home to their kin. Today we use fire in our Magic Circle to build a shield of protection and to light the Path for the future. It was customary to light a fire on the household hearth which would burn continuously until the first day of the following Spring. Huge bonfires were lit on the hilltops at sunset in honor of the old Gods and Goddesses,

As a feast of the dead, it was believed the dead could, if they wished, return to the land of the living for this one night, to celebrate with their family, tribe, or clan. On Samhain the veil between all worlds is the thinnest. It is a powerful time for divination and contacting those who have walk these lands before us. The Feast of the Dead" ("Fleadh nan Mairbh") is laid out by many to welcome these otherworldly visitors and gain their favor for the coming year. Extra places were set at the table and food set out for any who had died that year. Many folks leave milk and cakes ("Bannock Samhain" ) outside their door on Samhain Eve. Samhain is a time when we honor our ancestors and the memory they left behind.

Dumb Supper Chant

And so it is, we gather again,
The feast of our dead to begin.
Our Ancients, our Ancestors we invite, Come!
And follow the setting of the sun.

Whom do we call? We call them by name
(Name your ancestor that you wish want to welcome.)

The Ancients have come! Here with us stand
Where ever the country, where ever the land
They leave us not, to travel alone;
Flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone!

Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Great be their Power!
Past ones and present-at this very hour!

Welcome within are the dead who are kin,
Feast here with us and rest here within
Our hearth is your hearth and welcome to thee;
Old tales to tell and new visions to see!

This is the time of the season which the Crone rules. She is one aspect of the Goddess, Crone, Maiden, and Mother. It is She who opens the Western gate for those departed to travel into Summerland. She rules areas of death and regination, occult sciences, healing, and the wisdom of the ages. She comes in the form of Cerridwen, Hecate, Arianrhod, Persephone, among many others. We use the Crone to assist us in transition from one life to the next, of leaving one level of our existence and entering the next. To bring us into the Womb of the Mother only to assist us in being reborn once again. For it is through Her Wisdom and guidance we learn lessons from experience past and begin life anew from the wisdom gained.

It is customary for Witches to dress on Samhain eve, the costume reflect the Witches projection for the upcoming year. The wearing of costumes or donning clothing of the opposite sex was a popular means of tricking the spirits as well. A few rituals have contributed to the fun of trick or treating. The custom of soul-caking was when children would go from door to door around the village, begging for cakes and in return would pray for the souls of the dearly departed.

Herbs and Plants of Samhain: Rosemary, Rue, Calendula, Sunflower, Pumpkin Seeds, Mullien Seeds, Turnip Seeds,Apple Leaf, Wormwood, Tarrogon, Bay Leaf, Almond, Hazelnut, Passionflower, Pine Needles, Nettle, Garlic, Hemlock Cones, mugwort, allspice, sage, gourds, catnip, Mushrooms,Wild Ginseng, Broom, Deadly Nightshade, Oak leaves, and Straw.

Colors associated with Samhain are: black, orange, red, brown, golden yellow, white, silver, and gold.

Gems Metals, and Stones of Samhain Granite, Marble,Sandstone, Smoky Quartz, Clear Quartz, Obsidian, Jet, Amber, Onyx Gold, Diamond,Iron, Steel, Ruby, Pyrite, Garnet,Hematite, Brass, carnelia, jet, and All Black Stones

Traditional Samhain foods Apples, Pumpkin Pie, Hazelnuts, Cakes for the Dead, Corn,Beets, Turnips, Gingerbread, Pomegrantates, Pork dishes. Nuts, Mead, Mulled Wines, Beef, Poultry, Cranberry Muffins and Breads, Ale, Cider, and Herbal Teas

Incense and Oil you can use any of the following scents, either blended together or alone: frankincense, basil, yarrow, lilac, ylang-ylang, clove, camphor. heliotrope, mint, nutmeg

Symbols used to represent Samhain : gourds, apples, black cats, jack-o'-lantern, balefire, besom, masks, cauldron, waning moon.

Symbolism of Samhain: Third Harvest, the Dark Mysteries, Rebirth through Death.

Animals and mythical beasts associated with Samhain : bats, cats, dogs, Phooka, goblins, Medusa,

Appropriate Samhain Goddesses are all Crone Goddesses, Underworld Goddesses. Hecate (Greek), Carlin (Scottish), Edda (Norse), Pamona (Roman), Crobh Dearg (Irish), Lilith (Hebrew), Psyche (Greek), the Morrigu/Morrigan (Celtic).

Appropriate Samhain Gods are all Death Gods, Aged Gods, Underworld Gods. Arawn (Welsh), Dis (Roman), Kronos/Cronus (Greco-Phoenician), Xocatl (Aztec), Woden (Teutonic), Pluto (Greco-Roman), Hades (Greek), Nefertum (Egyptian).

Altar decorations can consist of: small jack-'o-laterns, foods from the harvest, photographs of your loved ones who have departed this world, statue or figurine of the Goddess in her Crone aspect. Favorite decorative touches can include pumpkins and other late fall fruits, corn stalks and Indian corn, a scarecrow or wicker man, cauldron, crystals, candles.

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Samhain activities : past-life recall, spirit contact, drying of winter herbs, Carve jack-o-lanterns, Finish any incomplete projects and pay off lingering bills (if possible) to close out the old year and begin the new year afresh, Take your children trick-or-treating; go yourself! , Leave food out for the birds and other wild animals, If you don't have a wicker man left from Beltane, make one from dried grass or grains of some kind. Burn it in your Sabbat fire. If you don't have a fireplace or firepit, burn him in your cauldron, barbeque grill or hibachi, Put pictures of ancestors who have passed on your altar for your Sabbat rite. Light a special candle for them, to show them the way to return and celebrate with you, Visit the graves of your ancestors or, if this isn't possible, the nearest cemetery. Be still here, and listen for the voices of those who have passed. Leave offerings of food and drink for them, and for the animals,Tell ancestral stories and tales around the fire, or at the dinner table, Have a mask-making ceremony in which you create masks to represent your ancestry. Bob for apples. There were many divination practices associated with Samhain, many of which dealt with marriage, health, and the weather. Ducking for apples was a marriage divination based on the belief that the first to bite into an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year. This is similar to the wedding tradition of the throwing of the bride's bouquet for women and her garter for men. Apple peeling was another type of divination to determine how long one's life would be. The longer the unbroken peel, the longer the life of the one peeling it.

Taboos on Samhain are: travel after dark, eating grapes or berries

Spellwork can be for: protection, neutralizing harm. Samhain is also the time of the year for getting rid of weaknesses. Witches perform rituals, using the Crone's assistance, to leave behind that which they do not want to carry on into the future; outdated habits, completion of past relationships; insecurities and those thing which do not service to carry on. Magic is done to better our lives, the lives of those around us, and all connected to the web of life the Lord and Lady should be thanked for a bountiful harvest.