Samhain ritual as performed in the Wiccan Church


Samhain (pronounced saw-an), commonly referred to as Halloween, is a religious holiday celebrated by Wiccan and witch. The festival traditionally is a feast for the gathering of the family in love and remembrance. All the family including one’s ancestors.

Wiccans do not regard physical death as an end but merely one more event in a continuing progress of the soul’s in its path toward fulfillment of divine destiny. Because of these beliefs, it is only natural at this time of year to invite our beloved ancestors to remember and to celebrate with us.

If you do not find these beliefs in conflict with your own personal beliefs, please join us in the following ritual of thanksgiving and remembrance.

    Whether you join with us or not,

      May you walk in the Light of the Lady

        and know the Wisdom of the Lord.

Blessed Be.

The clergy and members of the United Wiccan Church.

After you have shared the bounty of your harvest with the children of your neighborhood (candy, etc) and the house has settled down for the night, disconnect or turn off your telephone so that this state of serenity will continue uninterrupted.

Prepare a special feast of whatever foods reminds you of a special departed friend or family member, or of past family gatherings. While you are preparing this feast think of all of the good times you had with them.

When the feast is prepared, set your holiday table with a special place of honor for the departed friend or family member.

Decorate the table and room as you would for a holiday dinner with the family, add those special things that are important to you and your family (flowers, candles,etc.) If you have a picture of the loved one, it is nice to place it at their place at the table.

Speak to that special person and invite them to join you in this celebration and time of remembrance. It is completely appropriate to say grace or offer any prayer that you feel is fitting.

The following is done in complete silence:

Serve the meal remembering to serve your honored guest (or guests) first. If wine or other alcoholic beverages are served, it is recommended that they be kept in moderation as you and your guests need to have a clear head.

Now sit down to the table with your loved ones and enjoy your feast. When you address them in your mind, always see them as well. (Try not to say in your mind, “if you can hear me…”, etc.). After the meal, the time of silence is over. Do whatever you normally do at a family holiday gathering (clear the table, play games, sing songs, etc.). Enjoy the companionship.

When the evening is over, or in the morning if you wish to make it an all night party, thank your invited guests for being with you and for making your celebration a special one.

There are a few words of caution that we will offer.

  1. If this ritual does not feel right for you, do not do it. Follow your instincts.
  2. Remember that crossing over does not necessarily change a person, so if you could not get through a meal in peace with them while they were alive, you will probably have the same problem with their spirit.
  3. Do not ask your guest to grant you wishes or do you favors. It is rude to invite a guest and then make it obvious that a favor is the reason they were asked, not because of love and respect. Spirits do not like rudeness! Besides, spirits often forget that you are limited in ways that they are not. If you ask them for $1,000, it may come as an insurance settlement after a painful break in your water pipe with all the delight in cleaning up the mess from ensuing water damage.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos037.htm

Spooky Ancient Irish Myths on Halloween — Metal Gaia


Samhain is the ancient Irish festival that became Halloween as we know it. “The Celts believed the year was divided into two parts, the lighter half in the summer and the darker half in the winter. Samhain, or Halloween as it is now called, was the division between these halves. The Celts believed that the veil […]

via Spooky Ancient Irish Myths on Halloween — Metal Gaia

All Hallow’s Eve


by Mike Nichols

Halloween. Sly does it. Tiptoe catspaw. Slide and creep. But why? What for? How? Who? When! Where did it all begin? ‘You don’t know, do you?’ asks Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud climbing out under the pile of leaves under the Halloween Tree. ‘You don’t REALLY know!’
–Ray Bradbury, from ‘The Halloween Tree’

Samhain. All Hallows. All Hallow’s Eve. Hallow E’en. Halloween. The most magical night of the year. Exactly opposite Beltane on the wheel of the year, Halloween is Beltane’s dark twin. A night of glowing jack-o-lanterns, bobbing for apples, tricks or treats, and dressing in costume. A night of ghost stories and seances, tarot card readings and scrying with mirrors. A night of power, when the veil that separates our world from the Otherworld is at its thinnest. A ‘spirit night’, as they say in Wales.

All Hallow’s Eve is the eve of AllHallow’s Day (November 1st). And for once, even popular tradition remembers that the Eve is more important than the Day itself, the traditional celebration focusing on October 31st, beginning at sundown. And this seems only fitting for the great Celtic New Year’s festival. Not that the holiday was Celtic only. In fact, it is startling how many ancient and unconnected cultures (the Egyptians and pre-Spanish Mexicans, for example) celebrated this as a festival of the dead. But the majority of our modern traditions can be traced to the British Isles.

The Celts called it Samhain, which means ‘summer’s end’, according to their ancient two-fold division of the year, when summer ran from Beltane to Samhain and winter ran from Samhain to Beltane. (Some modern Covens echo this structure by letting the High Priest ‘rule’ the Coven beginning on Samhain, with rulership returned to the High Priestess at Beltane.) According to the later four-fold division of the year, Samhain is seen as ‘autumn’s end’ and the beginning of winter. Samhain is pro- nounced (depending on where you’re from) as ‘sow-in’ (in Ireland), or ‘sow-een’ (in Wales), or ‘sav-en’ (in Scotland), or (inevitably) ‘sam-hane’ (in the U.S., where we don’t speak Gaelic).

Not only is Samhain the end of autumn; it is also, more importantly, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Celtic New Year’s Eve, when the new year begins with the onset of the dark phase of the year, just as the new day begins at sundown. There are many representations of Celtic gods with two faces, and it surely must have been one of them who held sway over Samhain. Like his Greek counterpart Janus, he would straddle the threshold, one face turned toward the past in commemoration of those who died during the last year, and one face gazing hopefully toward the future, mystic eyes attempting to pierce the veil and divine what the coming year holds. These two themes, celebrating the dead and divining the future, are inexorably intertwined in Samhain, as they are likely to be in any New Year’s celebration.

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. And so the great burial mounds of Ireland (sidhe mounds) were opened up, with lighted torches lining the walls, so the dead could find their way. Extra places were set at the table and food set out for any who had died that year. And there are many stories that tell of Irish heroes making raids on the Underworld while the gates of faery stood open, though all must return to their appointed places by cock-crow.

As a feast of divination, this was the night par excellence 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 hence it may be used to view any other point in time. At no other holiday is a tarot card reading, crystal reading or tea-leaf reading so likely to succeed.

The Christian religion, with its emphasis on the ‘historical’ Christ and his act of redemption 2000 years ago, is forced into a linear view of time, where ‘seeing the future’ is an illogical proposition. In fact, from the Christian perspective, any attempt to do so is seen as inherently evil. This did not keep the medieval Church from co-opting Samhain’s other motif, commemoration of the dead. To the Church, however, it could never be a feast for all the dead, but only the blessed dead, all those hallowed (made holy) by obedience to God — thus, All Hallow’s, or Hallowmas, later All Saints and All Souls.

There are so many types of divination that are traditional to Hallowstide, it is possible to mention only a few. Girls were told to place hazel nuts along the front of the firegrate, each one to 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 equator (to reveal the five-pointed star within) and then eat it by candlelight before a mirror. Your future spouse will then appear over your 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 name 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.

Perhaps the most famous icon of the holiday is the jack-o-lantern. Various authorities attribute it to either Scottish or Irish origin. However, it seems clear that it was used as a lantern by people who traveled the road this night, the scary face to frighten away spirits or faeries who might otherwise lead one astray. Set on porches and in windows, they cast the same spell of protection over the household. (The American pumpkin seems to have forever superseded the European gourd as the jack-o-lantern of choice.) Bobbing for apples may well represent the remnants of a Pagan ‘baptism’ rite called a ‘seining’, according to some writers. The water-filled tub is a latter-day Cauldron of Regeneration, into which the novice’s head is immersed. The fact that the participant in this folk game was usually blindfolded with hands tied behind the back also puts one in mind of a traditional Craft initiation ceremony.

The custom of dressing in costume and ‘trick-or-treating’ is of Celtic origin with survivals particularly strong in Scotland. However, there are some important differences from the modern version. In the first place, the custom was not relegated to children, but was actively indulged in by adults as well. Also, the ‘treat’ which was required was often one of spirits (the liquid variety). This has recently been revived by college students who go ‘trick-or-drinking’. And in ancient times, the roving bands would sing seasonal carols from house to house, making the tradition very similar to Yuletide wassailing. In fact, the custom known as ‘caroling’, now connected exclusively with mid-winter, was once practiced at all the major holidays. Finally, in Scotland at least, the tradition of dressing in costume consisted almost exclusively of cross-dressing (i.e., men dressing as women, and women as men). It seems as though ancient societies provided an opportunity for people to ‘try on’ the role of the opposite gender for one night of the year. (Although in Scotland, this is admittedly less dramatic — but more confusing — since men were in the habit of wearing skirt-like kilts anyway. Oh well…)

To Witches, Halloween is one of the four High Holidays, or Greater Sabbats, or cross-quarter days. Because it is the most important holiday of the year, it is sometimes called ‘THE Great Sabbat.’ It is an ironic fact that the newer, self-created Covens tend to use the older name of the holiday, Samhain, which they have discovered through modern research. While the older hereditary and traditional Covens often use the newer name, Halloween, which has been handed down through oral tradition within their Coven. (This is often holds true for the names of the other holidays, as well. One may often get an indication of a Coven’s antiquity by noting what names it uses for the holidays.)

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 Halloween night itself, late enough so as not to be interrupted by trick-or-treaters. If the rituals are performed properly, there is often the feeling 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 Halloween, or Halloween O.S. (Old Style). This occurs when the sun has reached 15 degrees Scorpio, an astrological ‘power point’ symbolized by the Eagle. This year (1988), the date is November 6th at 10:55 pm CST, with the celebration beginning at sunset. Interestingly, this date (Old Halloween) was also appropriated by the Church as the holiday of Martinmas.

Of all the Witchcraft holidays, Halloween is the only one that still boasts anything near to popular celebration. Even though it is typically relegated to children (and the young-at-heart) and observed as an evening affair only, many of its traditions are firmly rooted in Paganism. Interestingly, some schools have recently attempted to abolish Halloween parties on the grounds that it violates the separation of state and religion. Speaking as a Pagan, I would be saddened by the success of this move, but as a supporter of the concept of religion-free public education, I fear I must concede the point. Nonetheless, it seems only right that there SHOULD be one night of the year when our minds are turned toward thoughts of the supernatural. A night when both Pagans and non-Pagans may ponder the mysteries of the Otherworld and its inhabitants. And if you are one of them, may all your jack-o’lanterns burn bright on this All Hallow’s Eve.

The Yule Log History


  The History of the Yule Log

Photo of a Yule Log by Wanye Camlin: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wcamlin/3128857279/

The tradition of yule logs has its roots in pagan rituals. In fact, the word “yule” is old English for a festival known to take place in December and January. Northern Europeans, like Vikings, celebrated the Festival of Yule to honor the winter solstice by journeying into the woods in search of a hearty oak tree. The event was a family affair, with family members venturing out in search of a choice cut of wood. They would return with the most robust log they could find and burn it in deference to various gods as well as in celebration of life and prosperity.

The custom of burning the Yule Log goes back to, and before, medieval times. It was originally a Nordic tradition. Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe, such as Germany.

The Yule Log was originally an entire tree, that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room! The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year’s log which had been carefully stored away and slowly fed into the fire through the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was considered important that the re-lighting process was carried out by someone with clean hands. Nowadays, of course, most people have central heating so it is very difficult to burn a tree!

Ultimately, the yule log was thought to determine a person’s good or bad luck, and there are many variations on this superstition. One European belief held that the log had to catch fire on the first attempt to light it, lest all the inhabitants of the home where it burned suffer bad luck. Another stated that the remains of a log must be kept for the following year’s ceremony for good luck, which would extend across successive generations. The ashes were sometimes stored under a bed in order to make a home immune to evil spirits and lightning strikes. English Christmas traditions called for the yule log to burn as a sign of goodwill through all Twelve Days of Christmas, during which time family members would refrain from labor to celebrate the season

In Provence (France), it is traditional that the whole family helps to cut the log down and that a little bit is burnt each night. If any of the log is left after Twelfth Night, it is kept safe in the house until the next Christmas to protect against lightning! In some parts of Holland, this was also done, but the log had to be stored under a bed! In some eastern European countries, the log was cut down on Christmas Eve morning and lit that evening.

In Cornwall (in the UK), the log is called ‘The Mock’. The log is dried out and then the bark is taken off it before it comes into the house to be burnt. Also in the UK, barrel makers (or Coopers as barrel makers were traditionally called) gave their customers old logs that they could not use for making barrels for Yule logs. (My surname is Cooper, but I don’t make barrels! My Great Grandfather did own a walking stick factory though!)

yule-log

The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe and different kids of wood are used in different countries. In England, Oak is traditional; in Scotland, it is Birch; while in France, it’s Cherry. Also, in France, the log is sprinkled with wine, before it is burnt, so that it smells nice when it is lit.

In Devon and Somerset in the UK, some people have a very large bunch of Ash twigs instead of the log. This comes from a local legend that Joseph, Mary and Jesus were very cold when the shepherds found them on Christmas Night. So the shepherds got some bunches of twigs to burn in order to keep them warm.

In some parts of Ireland, people have a large candle instead of a log and this is only lit on New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night.

Different chemicals can be sprinkled on the log like wine to make the log burn with different colored flames!

  • Potassium Nitrate = Violet
  • Barium Nitrate = Apple Green
  • Borax = Vivid Green
  • Copper Sulfate = Blue
  • Table Salt = Bright Yellow

This sounds very dangerous, so please only try this out with some adult supervision!!

The ashes of Yule logs were meant to be very good for plants. This is true, because the ash from burnt wood contains a lot of ‘potash’, which helps plants flower. But if you throw the ashes out on Christmas day it was supposedly very unlucky!

But France isn’t the only place that has adapted the concept of the yule log. Urban areas, like New York City, have high-density populations, and, as a result, space is at a minimum. Therefore, fireplaces are a rare commodity in apartments and condominiums. In 1966, New York City television programming director Fred Thrower had an idea for log-deprived New Yorkers. Thrower had his local station, WPIX-TV, broadcast a looping video of a blazing fireplace — with Christmas music playing in the background — beginning on Christmas Eve. The broadcast, designed to provide city-dwellers with holiday ambiance they might otherwise lack, was an instant success and became a Christmas morning mainstay on the New York station. It began airing on national cable networks, and in high-definition, in 2004

While a proper yule log isn’t a common sight in 21st-century fireplaces, it can be found in holiday kitchens — in the form of a dessert. Bûche de Nöel is of French origin and is a sponge cake replica of a yule log. It comes in flavors like chocolate and gingerbread and is frosted in a wood-grain pattern.

It’s believed that the dessert was created in response to French families who didn’t have a fireplace for a real yule log in their homes but wanted to share in the holiday tradition . Yule log cakes are readily available in French bakeries, but many residents in the United States must make their own version of the delicacy from scratch.

A brilliant chocolate Yule log made by Meg Hourihan: http://www.megnut.com

A Chocolate Yule Log or ‘bûche de Noël’ is now a popular Christmas desert or pudding. It’s traditionally eaten in France and Belgium, where they are known as ‘Kerststronk’ in Flemish.

They are made of a chocolate sponge roll layered with cream. The outside is covered with chocolate or chocolate icing and decorated to look like a bark-covered log. Some people like to add extra decorations such as marzipan mushrooms!

(http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/yulelog.shtml)

(http://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/holidays-christmas/yule-log.htm)

Oastara is upon us!!


It is spring yet again!! Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. Why not take advantage of this time to do a bit of Spring magic? Celebrate the return of life and the warming of the earth. I’ll be doing a spring inspired feast after a day of planting seedlings and a hike. There are so many different ways to enjoy the equinox.

Paying homage to the spirits and deities of the earth with herbs and flowers I’ll be planting for future use in other celebrations and rituals. ^_^ Only fitting that the moon is waxing, thus making any renewal magic more potent. Blessings to all and enjoy your holiday!

Mother’s Day From the Begining


(apologies for the tartieness of the article. was with my own mommy ^_^ )
 
In order to truly appreciate the rich history of Mother’s Day, the evolution of motherhood as a concept is explored from ancient times to the 17th century.
 

Mother’s Day and its Historic Roots in the Ancient World

Mother’s Day, as we know it today, is a fairly recent development in terms of world history. The celebration of motherhood with its individual and human focus has only developed over the past few hundred years. In antiquity, the rituals honoring motherhood were of a symbolic and mythological nature; ancient societies were honoring symbols and goddesses, unlike the honoring of individual mothers it has evolved into today.

Egyptian Roots of Mother’s Day: Isis as Mother of the Pharaohs

The ancient Egyptians and their annual festival honoring the Goddess Isis is one of the earliest historical records of a society honoring a Mother deity.

Isis became known as the “Mother of the Pharaohs” from her personal history which tells how she reassembles the 13 dismembered pieces of her dead husband’s body, who was murdered by Isis’s jealous son, Seth. She then uses the reassembled body to impregnate herself and gives birth to Horus. Horus grows up and overtakes Seth, becoming the first ruler of a unified Egypt, and by extension, Isis becomes known as the “Mother of the Pharaohs.”

 
Roman and Greek Roots of Mother’s Day

Roman roots of Mother’s Day can be traced to their celebration of the Phrygian goddess Cybele, “Great Mother.” Cybele’s roots extend from the Greek goddess Rhea, considered the mother of most major deities.

Other societies honored similar deities to Cybele and Rhea such as Gaia, “Earth Goddess,” and Meteroreie, “Mountain Mother.” While the Mother Goddess was being celebrated across different cultures, in some regards, she was being viewed and honored in similar ways. Festivals and flowers suggest the ancient world as the place and time where an early conceptualization of motherhood as creator was somewhat widely understood or felt across cultures.

While some festivals celebrating the Mother Goddess were seen as too wild, less-offensive celebrations during which honey cakes were eaten and flowers were distributed were taking place throughout Asia Minor and later in Rome. The Roman celebration of the Mother Goddess took place around mid-March, similar to the Greek festival honoring Rhea, called Hilaria. During the games of Hilaria, there were arts, crafts, flowers, and a parade of sorts traveled the streets carrying a statue of the Goddess.

 
A Shift in Concept: the Ancient World to Europe’s Late Middle Ages

A big shift in the concept of motherhood comes with the evolution of the holiday instituted by early Christians in Europe. This holiday fell on the 4th Sunday of Lent, the 40 days of fasting prior to Easter Sunday, representing sharing in the sufferings and transformation of Jesus Christ. This day was initially used to honor and celebrate the church in which they were baptised, their “Mother Church.” The mother church was decorated with flowers and many offerings. At this time and in this part of the world, motherhood was assigned a religious spiritual significance as the mother of our very souls was seen as the Church.

From the ancient world, it is evident how the first celebrations of motherhood were established out of reverence for the mothers of the deities and of the earth and mountains. These celebrations had a more collective, mythological and symbolic significance. In the 17th century, early Christians linked the concept of motherhood and the church by honoring their Mother Church, emphasizing the spiritual nature of motherhood in religious terms.

The Evolution of Honoring Mom, the Individual

England in the 1600’s sees a clerical decree further expand the celebration of spiritual motherhood to include real mothers. Mothers as individuals were praised and acknowledged, culminating in what became known as Mothering Day.

Mothering Day further individualized the concept of motherhood as the day became a holiday for the working classes of England. For many servants and trade workers, this Lenten holiday became their one day off in which they would visit their homes and families. Mothering Day also provided a one-day break from the rigorous fasting and penance regimes of Lent so that families could enjoy a feast to celebrate the special mothers in their lives.

The history of the establishment of Mother’s Day is vast and comprehensive and varies from place to place. Continue on and explore the history of Mother’s Day in the UK and in the U.S.

Mother’s Day and its Conceptual History | Suite101.com http://larasmith.suite101.com/mothers-day-and-its-conceptual-history-a356269#ixzz1urzSNC2o)

Celebrating today May 2nd


 MAY 2nd

On this date, an annual fertility festival featuring a man wearing a costume of a hobbyhorse, a devilish mask, and a pointed hat is held in England, and throughout rural regions across Europe.

 

Ysahodhara, the consort of the great God Buddha, is honored in India, with a sacred festival that takes place on this day each year.