2019 N. H. Samhain Gathering Wednesday, October 30th/ S. H. Beltane Gathering October 31st

This evening in the Northern Hemisphere celebrating Samhain your ritual was written by  Coven Life and Witches of The Craft High Priestess Lady Beltane who will also lead it.

This morning in the Southern Hemisphere celebrating Beltane your ritual was written by High Priestess Beth of Guild of the Gods located in Lafayette, Indiana, USA. She will also be leading your ritual.

Everyone is welcomed to do both the Samhain and Beltane rituals no matter which hemisphere you live in. As the Beltane ritual uses planting of seeds for part of it those in the Northern Hemisphere might want to empower the package of seeds write down the goals and then plant them in the spring and carry on with the rest of the ritual then.

WHERE:

Anyone who applies to come into our chatroom you have to be approved by Lady Beltane first. Lady Beltane checks for new requests up to 10 minutes before the time the circle is cast.

If this is the first time you will attending anything in Coven Life’s Chatroom please read our Guidelines:

Courtesy Guidelines for All Coven Gatherings and Open Chats

Before the sacred circle starts at 7:00 PM Central Time in the USA anyone entering the chat room is welcomed to socialize with anyone else that is there. Socializing time starts at 6:00 PM CT for Esbat and Sabbat gatherings Ask Lady Beltane or one of Priestesses or Priest questions about lessons or anything else. During Open Chats please come and go anytime you want to. Please check our Homepage under “Coven Life Events” for dates of Esbat and Sabbat gatherings for Northern and Southern Hemispheres and the times of the open chats.

For Esbat and Sabbat gatherings once the circle starts ALL SOCIALIZING AND COMMENTS must stop unless you see the word EVERYONE come up in the ritual feed.  You will get one warning if you break this guideline. If you do it a second time you will be asked to and expected to leave the gathering immediately. There will be no exceptions to this guideline. If you do not leave you will be banned forever from ever entering Coven Life’s chatroom again.

No one should enter or leave the chat room from 7:00 PM CT until the circle is finished. To enter or leave the chat room (your computer or internet provider knocking you out of the chat room during this time is the only exception for re-entering the circle) during this time breaks the circle and whoever is leading the circle needs to take their time and energy to close it up again.

All electronics in the room you are in during the sacred circle part of the gathering should be shut off except for the device you are using to access the chat room.

Anyone attending a gathering is welcome to stay after the circle is done to visit with the others and/or offer other ideas for the ritual performed at that gathering.

No one will be allowed to use hurtful or, discriminatory or foul or rude language in the chat room at any time during an Esbat or Sabbat gathering or Open Chat.  Anyone not following this guideline will be told to leave the socializing time or the ritual immediately and be banned from the chat room immediately forever.

These are simple guidelines and show courtesy to all coven members and visitors. Not obeying all of the guidelines can get you banned from the Coven Life chatroom forever.

Any questions about these guidelines can be sent to Lady Beltane at covenlifescoven@gmail.com with the subject line “For Lady B Guideline Question.”

We host open chats twice a month for people to stop in for as long as they like to get to know others in The Craft, questions and answers about The Craft. or whatever anyone wants to talk about within reason. They are held on the second and fourth Saturday’s of the month for the time please see the banner “Coven Life’s Events”

This is not a place to try to hook up with anyone for a date!

Please read all Courtesy Guidelines above before entering the chatroom for coven gatherings or open chats. Thank you!

Coven Life’s Private Chatroom

WHEN and WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

Look for which Hemisphere you live in:

For the Northern Hemisphere the coven gathering for Samhain will be on Wednesday, October 30th with the social hour will be at 6:00 to 6:55 PM CDT with the circle being cast at 7:00 PM CDT

Samhain is a time for remembering those who have crossed the veil into the Summerlands before us. It is also celebrates the last harvest of the year, with anything not picked or gathered left on the trees, plants, and bushes for the wildlife and Fea Folk to help them through the cold months. Lastly if you follow the Celtic calendar (as we do with the Wheel of the Year celebrating the 8 Sabbats) it is last day of the year. This is the time of year that belongs to the Crone for life and death and rebirth in the spring.
I decorate my altar with a small loaf of homemade bread, a small pumpkin or gourds, fall leaves from my yard and pictures or mementos of my ancestors. Please keep in mind when thinking of ancestors that they do not have to be blood related , they can be anyone who has had a significant place in your life such as teachers, coaches, friends, a boss, etc.
Decide on 2 Ancestors you want to bring into our circle to visit with during the ritual
(SIDE NOTE FROM LADY B: you can set up an ancestors altar for October 31st to honor more of you ancestors if you wish to. I will do a post with some sample pictures for those of you who have not done this before. If you have a question(s) about the altar please write it or them in the comment section as others may have the same question(s))
Something comfortable to sit on for approximately 10 minutes and while the Beltane ritual is being done
2 – 4 inch White Candles
2 Candle holders
A SAFE place to put the burning candles as you will be leaving them to burn all the way down
Atheme, or Ceremonial Knife or Any Sharp Object to carve 1 name onto each candle
Matches or Lighter
Wine, or Fruit Juice or Water
1 Serving of Some type of an Apple or Pumpkin Dessert
2 Small Dishes or folded up Paper Towels
Lady Beltane: I walk this circle three times three as the Maiden and Crone walk with me. To celebrate a time of death and a time of rebirth. I take us from this Earthly plane and time to a place where this is no time and we are kept safe from everyday problems and fears.
EVERYONE: Please introduce yourself with just your 1st Name or your Pagan Name and the State or Country you live in do not put your town in.

This is the time for the Samhain ritual to start, The Beltane ritual will follow

Lady Beltane:  We call upon the Crone and the keeper of the veil between our physical world and the spirit world to lower the veil so we may visit with the ancestors we call upon.
EVERYONE: You will say this incantation 3 times individually for each ancestor. As you are chanting this spell write the name of the person on the candle and light it at the end of the 3rd time as you say, “So Mote It Be”
                       Name of your Ancestor I call to thee
                        Name of your Ancestor I honor thee
                        Name of your Ancestor Come to me
Place a small bite of your fall sweet and pour a couple of drops of your beverage on to it than place this as an offering to the ancestor by placing it in front of their candle either in a small dish or on a a paper towel fold a few times. Now sit quietly as in meditation feel the energy your ancestors brings with them and ask your ancestors questions or tell them a story you remember about the two of you or whatever you want to talk to them about. You will have 10 minutes of visiting time.
At the end of the 10 minutes Lady Beltane will type in done.
EVERYBODY:  Name of the Ancestor you call forth from the Spirit Plane I thank you for                                visiting me
                          Name of the Ancestor you call forth from the Spirit Plane one day I will                                   walk  with you there
                        Name of the Ancestor you call forth from the Spirit Plane I miss thee
                        Name of the Ancestor you call forth from the Spirit Plane until that time you                           go back and I stay here
When you are done type in So Mote It Be.

This is the end of the Samhain ritual. It is now time for the Beltane ritual to start.

If you live in the Southern Hemisphere and would be attending for the Beltane ritual please let me know if you will be attending or not please. If I do not hear from you by 8:00 PM AEDT on your Wednesday 30 October I will not plan on us doing the Beltane ritual. The Beltane gathering will be on Thursday, 31 October with the social part of the gathering starting at 10:00 to 10:55 AM AEDT with the circle cast at 11:00 AM AEDT.

Pillow and/or Blanket for Meditation or something comfortable to sit on for a total of approximately 20 minutes and why the Samhain ritual is being done

Paper and Pen

Packet of Flower or Herb Seeds
Wine or Fruit Juice or Water
Some kind of Sweet Treat
Beltane is a time when you can feel the ground coming to full life.  It is a fertility holiday, but there is so much to that word!  It is creativity, possibility.  It is the vibrance of a new relationship, the inspiration of a new project, the challenge of a new adventure.  It is the day we set things in motion, but the world itself is already in motion.  It’s growing, blooming – filling the ground with green, the trees with leaves, and the air with new smells and possibilities.
On this day we leave the passive time of year, where we rest, learn, and recuperate, and begin the active time of the year.  While the world is drunk on possibility, we embark on our own journey for the upcoming year.  When we do this, we take all the lessons of the year before, all the plans we’ve been assembling, and we embark on a new start.  But stating our intention helps.
I ask you to take time now to ponder the lessons you learned over this last winter.  Pick up your own story, and really look at it.  What is the next step for you?  What is it about this world that challenges you, excites you, pushes you to be more than you were before?  Rather than picturing what you want to accomplish specifically, instead imagine what would feel like home, belonging.  What is the scent of perfection in your own personal world?
It is easy to hide from the real goals we all wish to set, but I invite you to challenge yourself.  Take a moment to sit with me now.
EVERYONE: We are allowing 15 minutes for you to answer the questions below. But remember you can always go back and follow the ritual High Priestess Beth has written here to add to your answers at anytime. Pull up a blanket or pillow to allow you to comfortably sit on the ground, or rest on the earth itself if that’s an easy option.  Feel the earth beneath you, the air around you, and invite all of you into this moment.
Take a deep breath, and feel yourself fill up with the living energy.  Feel your soul breathe, as well as your body.
Take another deep breath.  Relax, and comfort yourself.  Be a good companion to yourself – greet this person who is you, and be kind to him or her.  Welcome him or her into this moment.
Take an even deeper breath, and hold it for a longer moment.  Ask every part of you to be honest, comfortable, and present, relaxed completely.
Sitting with yourself, ask that person who is all of you – what do you want?
What would you love to be, to do, to feel?
What would “accomplishment” feel like to you?
Feel the world growing around you, even right now, and allow the energy beneath and around you to fill you.
How will the next year unfold in a way to help that happen?
How can you help yourself to get there?
Are you brave enough to get there, from here?
Relax deeply into this moment as you listen to your inner honesty.  Whether you see images unfolding, feel a certainty, imagine words, or simply know that certain plans are going to work – stop for a moment.
Take a piece of paper now and write down what you discussed with your inner self. Feel no fear as you set your goals.  Be open and honest about everything you’ve witnessed internally.   Take short notes for now – you can fill in all necessary details later, so long as you remember all the pieces.  If you would like, you can share a couple of words here that sum up what you want to aim for.  If not, be sure to tell us “done” once you’ve got your short notes recorded.
Now take your packet of seeds – and hold them in your hands. Charge them with the intention of what you want from this upcoming year.  Picture the end result from your intentions. Fill the seeds with your energy, so that you can feel them ready to grow.
Now, as we finish our Beltane rite, picture the daily reality of seeking these goals.  Prepare yourself for the actual doing of it.   Pray to the divine as you picture this.  Ask them to help indicate anything you can prepare for, look out for.
Other questions to ask yourself as you journal or meditating on your goals:
What might you find yourself needing along the way?
Will you perhaps need extra support at some point?
Is there anything you can do to help ease the journey?
Are there any specific opportunities you should keep an eye out for?
(SIDE NOTE FROM LADY B: When I do this I pick only up to 3 goals per year and break the over all goal down into smaller parts that will make reaching it more manageable. I keep a weekly journal for what I am doing to reach each step of my goal and how big my plants have grown. When doing a long tern spell to bring about 1 or more goals I need a touchstone of how I am achieving what I want my touchstone is my journal. I use a new journal each time I plant seeds to help my intention reach it’s goal. I also separate the goals by writing each goal as a title than skip about 4 to 8 pages depending on the size of the journal I am using a smaller one I leave more pages in between goals than I do with a larger size journal. Spiral notebooks are good to use for this)
AFTER THE CIRCLE IS FINISHED and YOU FEEL READY: Get a flower pot or two and plant them. If you want to use some symbols or words written in any alphabet on the outside or even the inside of your flower pot to infuse more of your energy to help your intention to manifest go right a head and do it.(SIDE NOTE from Lady B If you want your flowers or herbs to be able to be transplanted outside then I suggest you use a Terra Cotta planter or a cardboard or peat moss starter planters. the first type you will have to break open to plant the dirt, roots, and plant. The second you can just pull it away some from the dirt and root ball and plant the whole thing. Make sure you do not get the cardboard or peat moss containers that do not have growing chemicals in them. Also if you plant herbs after they are a fairly good size try to keep them only SLIGHTLY moist at all time because if they get dry and than you water them they flavor of the herb will not be as strong.)
Put a couple of seeds into the paper, and crumple it small.  Soak it in water, compressing it into a wet ball.  Push the ball down into the dirt – following the instructions on the packet, please, as to the depth and soil type for the plant you’re using.  If you feel the need to preserve your notes, you can put the flower pot on top of the paper, instead.  Either way, be sure to moisten the soil once you’re done, asking the seeds to help your goals grow with you.
As the upcoming year unfolds, tend to the seeds as they grow.  Remember that goals need tending, the same as new plants.  Allow your new plants to remind you that your goals are still with you.  Even if the seeds do not grow, or do not grow the way you expected, know that you have contributed your part to the fertility of spring.  You have asked your goals to take root – the seeds are to remind and represent, but the personal intentions you set are the real destination.
Now, as we finish our Beltane rite, picture the daily reality of seeking these goals.  Prepare yourself for the actual doing of it.   Pray to the divine as you picture this.  Ask them to help indicate anything you can prepare for, look out for.
(SIDE NOTE FROM LADY B: When I do this I pick only up to 3 goals per year and break the over all goal down into smaller parts that will make reaching it more manageable. I keep a weekly journal for what I am doing to reach each step of my goal and how big my plants have grown. When doing a long tern spell to bring about 1 or more goals I need a touchstone of how I am achieving what I want my touchstone is my journal. I use a new journal each time I plant seeds to help my intention reach it’s goal. I also separate the goals by writing each goal as a title than skip about 4 to 8 pages depending on the size of the journal I am using a smaller one I leave more pages in between goals than I do with a larger size journal. Spiral notebooks are good to use for this)
Make a strong mental note of anything that comes up here.  Feel free to record anything important.
(SIDE NOTE FROM LADY B: These questions are one of the reasons I use a journal that I have described above.)
EVERYONE: Please thank High Priestess Beth for being part of our gathering this evening/morning and for the time and work she to bring us a wonderful ritual.
Lady Beltane: I walk this circle three times three as the Maiden and Crone walk with me. To celebrate a time of death and a time of rebirth. I bring us  back to our Earthly plane and time to celebrate life, death, and rebirth. We thank the Crone for her comfort in our time of remembrance and ask her to leave us. We thank the Maiden for blessing our seeds as we rejoice and ask her to leave us. As we will it so mote it be.
The circle is open but never broken go in peace and contentment dear sisters and brothers.
EVERYONE: Now put on a favorite song, and celebrate.  This is not the time to do, not yet.  This is just the first step.  Enjoy it!  Revel in it!  Life is not simply to be lived – it is to be experienced in all its glory.  Take a moment now to fill yourself with thanks for this new knowledge, and look forward to your goals.  Feel the possibility inside you, and let yourself feel gratitude.  Raise a glass of wine or juice, help yourself to a sweet treat.  Welcome that sweetness into your life, and ask for a blessing that every goal you accomplish will come with the sweetness of this moment.  Ask your own personal divine to sit with you now, and throughout the upcoming year.  And smile.
Because you know they will, and you know you will get what you truly need.
This is not a time to mourn those who have gone before us but a time to celebrate their lives. Remember our time with them and rejoice we will see them in the Summerlands or even possibly in the new incarnation in your family or circle of friends. AS you dance and rejoice lift your glass to them and say whatever comes to mind.
Both hemispheres remember to take a piece of your sweet and a sip of your beverage outside to place and pour on the ground to honor the Crone and Maiden for their presence and help with our rituals.

Samhain – Day 6

Legend of the Samhain Needfire

In some areas of the Celtic lands, people believed that a special fire, called the Needfire, could be used to create magical results. However, much like Harry Potter’s Room of Requirement, the Needfire could only be created in times of great need. In many areas, Samhain was seen as an opportune time for the Needfire — after all, the harvest was over, the earth was getting cold, and in just a few short months, your family could be starving and freezing.

The Needfire helped to assure that your family would be safe from famine, pestilence, the deadly cold, and other natural disasters. In some nomadic societies, the Needfire was the place to make offerings – if you wanted to have a healthy crop of sheep, for example, you might carve an effigy of a ewe and toss it in the fire. Perhaps you’d throw a few seeds in there to assure an abundant crop in the following season.

Traditionally, the Needfire was lit without the use of iron. It could only be started by rubbing a pair of sticks together, or twisting a rope along a stake until a spark was created. In some areas, it was considered acceptable to use embers from a tree that had been hit by lightning as your starter, but typically, the Needfire was started by hand. Although it can be tricky to start a fire without flint or matches or a lighter — anyone who’s watched survival shows on television knows this — it is indeed possible to do it. If you practice your technique ahead of time, you should be able to light a Samhain Needfire to help protect and guard your family through the coming year.

There are some excellent resources online for how to make a fire using a bow-drill, which is basically a piece of wood with a string, run along a spindle until a spark is created. Check these websites for an idea of how you can get your Needfire started:

Light your Needfire on the night of Samhain Eve. Once the sparks have caught, and you have a good blaze going, make an offering to the deities of your tradition, thanking them for keeping an eye on you in the coming year. You may also wish to make an offering to your ancestors, invoking them to protect your family.

By Patti Wigington

http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/samhainoctober31/p/Needfire.htm

The Old Ways: Hallows

by Doug and Sandy Kopf

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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!).

Remembrance Cookies

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)
1 egg
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

 

Summerlands

“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.

Moonsmuses.com

Samhain Rituals and Ceremonies

11 ARTICLES IN: SAMHAIN RITUALS AND CEREMONIES – HOW TO CELEBRATE SAMHAIN

Samhain Ritual

By Dorothy Morrison

This ritual was written at a time when I did not have a qualified Priest in my group. However, it may easily be adapted for those groups in which the Priestess and Priest work together. It may be just as easily adapted to solitary work.

Place an apple and pomegranate upon the altar. There should also be a “planted” pot of earth for each participant – these may be arranged on the altar as well, if there is ample space. Instruments of divination may be placed within the Circle perimeter for use during the ritual if you wish. Arrange the altar as usual and decorate with Autumn leaves, pumpkins, etc.

The Circle is cast and purified the Circle in the usual manner. Dancing around the Circle in a shuffle step (deosil), all chant three times:

The Moon is bright, the Crone is old
The body lifeless – the bones so cold
We all live and pay our dues
To die in ones and threes and twos.

Death, dance and play the harp
Piercing silence in the dark
The Woman’s old with withered limbs
Death beckons Her to dance with Him

As She accepts the Dance of Death
The Earth is cooled by ghostly breath
To lie in dormancy once more
To have Her strength and life restored

Go to the Western Quarter and draw an invoking pentagram with the athame to open the gate. Then evoke the dead by saying:

All ye spirits who walk this night –
Hearken! Hearken to my call!
I bid you in our Circle join!
Enter! Enter – one and all!

Come ye, spirits of the dead:
Be ye spirit of plant or pet
Or human being who still roams!
Into this Circle you are let!

Speak to us of things unknown!
Lend your energies to this rite!
To speed your journey, we have joined
On this sacred Samhain night!

All ye spirits who walk this night –
Hearken! Hearken to my call!
I bid you in our Circle join!
Enter! Enter – one and all!

Bestow blessings upon the dead, saying:

Oh Mighty Pan of the Summerlands:
Guardian of the beloved dead
We pour forth love on those you keep
Safely, in your peaceful stead
We bless those who have walked the path
That someday, we as well, shall rove
We offer peace unto their souls
While resting in your arms, below

Now is the time for divination (Ouija Board, pendulum, cards, etc.) and communication with those who have gone on before us. Allow plenty of time for this. [Note: I have found that it is helpful to have a tape recorder handy within the Circle for recording any communications that may be “channeled” during this time. Some people disagree with this suggestion, saying that the metal of this electronic device causes scattered energies in the Circle; however, if the recorder has been cleansed and purified as the rest of the ritual tools, the problem seems to be resolved.]

When the divinatory processes are completed, the Priestess goes to the Western Quarter and draw the banishing pentagram, saying:

Blessings be upon thee, oh wondrous Spirits of the
Summerlands. We humbly thank thee for your presence in our
Circle and honor you in celebration this sacred night. We
beseech thee, oh Pan, keeper of the sacred dead, embrace
once again those souls within your keep and hold tightly
to your breast those which have been lost and wandering.
Grant them safe passage to the Summerland, where they may
rest peacefully in your strength until they are refreshed
and reborn again in perfect love. We bid thee all a fond
farewell. So mote it be!

The gate is now closed.

The Priestess goes to the altar and hold up the pomegranate, saying:

Behold the pomegranate, fruit of Life…

The athame is plunged into the pomegranate, splitting it open to display the seeds. She says:

Whose seeds lie in the dormancy of Death!

The Priestess eats one of the seeds, saying:

I Taste the seeds of Death.

The pomegranate is then passed hand to hand through the participants of the ritual, each eating a seed and saying to the next person:

“Taste the seeds of Death.”

The Priestess then holds up the apple, saying:

Behold the apple: fruit of wisdom, fruit of Death…

She then cuts the apple crosswise, saying:

Whose symbolism rewards us with life eternal!

She holds up the apple, displaying the inner pentagram, and says:

Behold the five-fold star – the promise of rebirth!

Consecrate the fruit and wine. Each person then tastes of the apple and sips the wine, saying to the next person:

Taste the fruit of rebirth and sip from the cup of wine of Life.

After libation, the Priestess presents each member of the group with a small pot of earth, planted with three seeds [preferably rue or lavender]. She briefly explains to the group that this is the season of the seed – it is a time of dormancy, but also a time of re-generation for growth. Further, as the seed rests in the earth, they should also take time to rest and re-evaluate their lives, metaphorically planting only those values which will enrich and enhance the growth within the Divine Self. She then instructs them to name the seeds within their pots with three values they wish to incorporate into their lives, knowing that as the seeds sprout with new life, their lives will be new, as well.

After the presentation, all join hands and hold them skyward.

PRIESTESS:

Thus is the Circle of Rebirth.
All pass from this life through the great god, Pan
But through My love you are all reborn
In the cycles of nature – through the Cosmic Plan.

In living we die – in dying we live
The fruit is first seed, yet seed comes from the fruit
In the mystery of life and death and rebirth
The Circle turns ever, and I am its root.

ALL RESPOND:

The Sun conceived in Darkness, cold
In the Shadow of Death, a Life unfolds
A shred of Light begins to burn
From Death comes Life – the Circle turns.

Dismiss Quarters and Dissolve Circle.

PRIESTESS:

The rite is ended.

ALL:

Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again!

Outdoor libation to the Lord and Lady, and the spirits of the dead.

A Samhain Ritual

 

by Joann Keesey

Even though in Irish, sam means summer, Samhain (pronounced sah’-wen)is the festival of November eve and the beginning of the dark half of the year for the Celts. In the Coligny calendar, a series of engraved bronze plates unearthed in France in 1897, the year begins with a month marked”SAM” and a festival known as Samonios or “summer’s end.”Alwyn and Brinley Rees comment in Celtic Heritage that this arrangement harmonizes with Caesar’s testimony concerning the precedence of night over day. “The Gauls, he says called themselves sons of the god of night and defined ‘the division of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights…”

The ritual outlined below makes use of the symbolism of apples quite extensively,along with honoring the ancestors, which was a common Celtic practice at the commencement of winter. If apples are not available, nuts can be used. Keeping with a Celtic theme, hazel nuts or filberts, for the divinatory aspects would be a good choice.

This ritual was designed for public use and, as such, has a few caveats.The format is extremely simple but the preparations are fairly extensive. In our case, the person chosen to be the apple woman was from another coven. We talked quite extensively about how I envisioned the role and what she would bring to it, and she was given a small but working sickle to meditate on for a week beforehand. That sickle also formed part of her ritual attire and was worn on a cord around her waist. She had a deep basket which held about 25 apples. We had 22 participants. The apple cores were gathered up afterwards and used for garden compost. Alternatively, the seeds could be planted by someone or the apples eaten completely. For a smaller group,it could also be feasible to carve a small sigil on the apple before it’s eaten.

The second caveat has to do with the one non-Celtic element in this ritual.The second chant is a Yoruban ancestor chant from a South Carolina village that has worked extensively to recreate an African village compound in this country. It is not a chant to be used lightly. It does call the ancestors. There should be a trance medium or one who is used to working with ancestor spirits present. For those who are new to the topic or have not yet realized that you can work with ancestors other than your own, I would advise the substitution of another chant. Finally, for those who have recently lost friends or family, this chant may bring the fresh feelings of grief to the fore, and both the apple-woman and the presiding priestess as well as any other elders present should be prepared to deal with these appropriately.

The meditation, the ground of being, and the first ancestor chant are the work of Erynn Laurie from Seattle, who has a wonderful Celtic Internet list called nemeton-l. For those with Internet or e-mail access, you can subscribe by sending a message to majordomo@io.com which simply says in the body of the message “subscribe” and your e-mail address. Erynn also has a fine book out called A Circle of Stones: Journeys and Meditations for Modern Celts.

I would be happy to hear about peoples’ use of this ritual and will answer any questions. Write care of the Obsidianpost office box to Joann Keesey.

The apple is considered feminine, ruled by the planet Venus. Its element is water, and it is associated with the following deities: Venus, Dionysus, Olwen, Apollo, Hera, Athena, Diana, Zeus, Aphrodite, and Iduna. The powers of the apple are love, healing, garden magic and immortality. Folk names for the apple retain these associations; for example, Fruit of the Gods,Fruit of the Underworld, Silver Branch, and Tree of Love. Halloween apple games descended from Celtic feasts of Samhain at the end of October. If you bobbed for apples and got one, the luck of the year would accompany you. If you managed only water, then the prospects were not so bright. Iduna(1) guards her apples well,and only the worthy will emerge victorious. Throughout the Indo-European culture complex, apples represented the Goddess’s sacred heart of immortality,displaying the pentagram when cut across.

Hey ho for Hallow E’en
A’ the witches tae be seen
Some in black and some in green
Hey ho for Hallow E’en.

In the Celtic countries, this was the time when ghosts and spirits of the dead came back to their former homes looking for warmth and food. The harvest had been gathered in, the cattle bedded down in their winter stalls. Families could hardly deny the shades of relatives the welcome they gave their cattle.On Samhain Eve, a fire would be built up and a table set with food to welcome them. Sometimes there was even a dumb supper with the company of those who had gone before. Throughout Gaul and Britain, fires were kindled on the hilltops to serve as a guide to those well disposed and a warning to deter those bent on mischief. Hundreds of years after Samhain had been replaced by All Hallows’ Eve, people were still building up the fire and setting the table for a feast, then leaving the house unlocked and departing for church. The custom only died out when not only the food was gone, but also the silver and other family heirlooms. Italians and Latin Americans still make an elaborate celebration, often having picnics in the cemeteries.

Apple rust, and cinnamon rust,
And cloves like rusty nails,
Turn my head to an iron box
And my ribs to rusty rails.

Long a symbol of life and fertility, nuts were an indispensable part of the holiday feast. In some parts of the British Isles, Hallows was known as Nutcrack Night. Nuts were divinatory, especially as far as romance was concerned. For each couple, a pair of nuts would be placed near the fire or on a hot shovel. In Wales, if both “pop and fly” simultaneously,the couple will marry, but if they explode at different times, they will part. In Scotland and Northern England, the nuts should burn quietly together.If they spring apart, so will the couple, but in the South the rhyme has it:

If he loves me, pop and fly!
If he hates me, lie and die.

Samhain Ritual

Items needed:
4 quarter candles
altar decorations
stone, feather, water
large basket with apples or nuts
cakes and wine (good non-alcoholic choice here is apple cider)
container to dispose of apple cores

Cast the Circle

East, South, West, North! Let the people gather forth!
Air, Fire, Water, Earth! Sacred circle now sees birth!

Call the Quarters

EAST: (Lights Eastern candle)
Let there be a light kindled from the spirit.
Blessed be this Eastern Gate and blessed be the element of Air.

SOUTH: (Lights Southern candle)
Let there be a light increasing and illuminating the South.
Blessed be this Southern Gate and blessed be the element of Fire.

WEST: (Lights Western candle)
Let there be a light radiating in the West.
Blessed be this Western Gate and blessed be the Element of Water.

NORTH: (Lights Northern candle)
Let there be a light reflecting in the North.
Blessed be this Northern Gate and blessed be the Element of Earth.

Casters: Let these powers be as one.

All: So mote it be.

Meditation

Stand quietly and relax with your hands resting at your sides. Clear your mind and concentrate on your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly and follow along with this meditation.

Take three breaths. On the fourth, raise the hands from the sides to the heart, palm over palm.

We are at the center of the World.

Exhale, move to one knee with palms on the ground before you.

We stand firmly upon the Land.

Inhale and rise to your feet, moving the hands behind at hip height, palms up, cupping. Exhale and move the hands in an arc until they meet in front.

The sea always surrounds us.

Inhale and move hands to the sides, spread the fingers wide, palms forward.Exhale and raise the arms, bringing the hands together above the head, thumb and forefinger meeting to create a triangle.

The sky spreads itself above us.

Inhale and lower hands to heart again.

We are at the center of the Three Realms.

Exhale and lower hands to the sides.

Ground of Being

Take stone and raise it above the head, lower it to touch the ground.

May Talamh Naomh (2)support us.

Set stone back. Take water and tip some salt into it. Swirl water three times clockwise. Walk three times clockwise around group.

May Farraighe Siorai (3)surround us.

Place water back and take feather. With the feather, describe an arc from east to west over the group.

May Speir Eigriochta (4)watch over us.

Honoring of the Ancestors

After pouring the libation, the Priest/ess says:

Let us make offerings to the ancestors and land spirits. Meditate upon our debt to them, for without them we would not exist.

All chant (in one-note chant):

Here I stand on sacred land
The sky is over my head
All around me the endless sea
We honor the Mighty Dead.

Priest/ess then says:

Beginning with [name of person in circle] and continuing deosil around the circle, when you are ready go to the Apple woman and receive your offering of immortality after you have remembered those who have gone before.

All chant:

Wole wa, egun gun, wole wa (three times)
Oh, ohh… wole wa. (5)
(Continue entire chant until all have visited the Apple woman)

The fruit is eaten, and the Priest/ess then says:

As we have eaten of the fruit of life, so our ancestors live in our fruitful memories of them.

Apple cores are collected and disposed of in the manner chosen.

Cakes and Wine

Dismissal of the Ancestors

All chant:

Dobayo, egun gun, dobayo (three times)
Oh…ohh Dobayo!

Dismissal of the Quarters

NORTH: By the power of the stone at Midnight, I transform, send forth and remain at Peace.

WEST: By the power of the setting sun and rising moon at Twilight,I transform, send forth and remain at Peace.

SOUTH: By the power of the radiant Sun at Noon, I transform, send forth, and remain at Peace.

EAST: By the power of the rising sun and morning star at Dawn, I transform, send forth and remain at Peace.

Priest/ess: Let these powers be as none.

All: So mote it be.

Opening of Circle and Closing

North, West, South, and East! All have eaten of the Feast!
Earth, Water, Fire, and Air! Circle is open with joy and care!

The circle is open…

JOANN KEESEY has been a witch for ten years. She belongs to a small working coven that specializes in British and Celtic folklore.

FOOTNOTES:

1. The goddess Induna lives in Asgard and possesses magical apples which the Gods eat and, as a result, never grow old.(Return to text)

2. Pronounced “Talav Noom.” (Return to text)

3. Pronounced “Farrah Sheer.”(Return to text)

4. Pronounced “Spear Eg-greesh.” (Return to text)

Further reading:
McNeill, F. Marian, The Silver Bough, Volume Three, a Calendar of Scottish National Festivals, Hallowe’en to Yule, (Glasgow: William Maclellan,240 Hope Street, Glasgow, 1959).
Rees, Alwyn and Brinley, Celtic Heritage, Ancient Tradition in Irelandand Wales, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1961).