Subject: Samhain - October 31st Wed Aug 24, 2016 4:42 pm
Sunset 31 October – Sunset 1 November
Samhain is the third and final harvest, the harvest of meat. The Old King is dead, and the Crone Goddess mourns him greatly during the next six weeks. The sun is at its lowest point on the horizon as measured by the ancient standing stones of Britain and Ireland, the reason the Celts chose this sabbat rather than Yule as their new year. To the ancient Celts, this holiday divided the year into two seasons, Winter and Summer. Samhain is the day on which the Celtic New Year and winter begin together, so it is a time for both beginnings and endings.
It is also the day we honor our dead. Now, while the veil between the worlds is thinnest, those who have died in the past year and those who are to be reincarnated pass through. The doors of the sidhe-mounds are open, and neither human nor faery need any magickal passwords to come and go. Our ancestors, the blessed dead, are more accessible, more approachable during the time of the dying of the land. Samhain is a day to commune with the dead and a celebration of the eternal cycle of reincarnation.
Samhain is pronounced as sow-in (in Ireland), sow-een (in Wales), and sav-en (in Scotland). It marks the end of the harvest, the end of the year, and the death of the god. Self-reflection becomes not simply a custom, but a necessity. One cannot (or at least should not) allow the Wheel of the Year to turn without some kind of examination of what has occurred. How have I spent the last year? Did I grow or remain stagnant? Did I live according to the values I claim to embrace? These are questions which must be addressed in solitude and solemnity.
Just as Samhain ends the old year, it must begin the new, though many witches do not celebrate the New Year until Yule. Reflection should continue during this dark time, but reflection should be accompanied by a growing sense of the changes to be made and the light to be sought. I sometimes make many lists during this time -- lists of what I have accomplished and what I still want to accomplish, things I have neglected and those I have tended, and other similar lists. Samhain symbolizes both the past and the future, illuminated by the cycle of the seasons, forever linked as steps on the journey we must all make.
The Goddess tells us: "And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without." We must look inside ourselves for self-knowledge and for the spirit that will sustain us in life's trials. Silence is one of the keys to seeking truth, for we cannot hear the answers in the midst of this noisy world in which we walk every day, nor in the noise of holiday celebrations however joyous.
Samhain is also said to be the time when the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest, allowing us some communication with those who have departed. How befitting this is for such a time of endings and beginnings. Reflections on death can be as instructive as the self-examinations just mentioned. When we think of those who have died, it reminds us of time passing by and of things we could have or should have done. These reminders, coupled with our lists of past and future actions, encourages us to take our New Year's resolutions far more seriously. We know our time is limited, and most of us have much to do in our alloted time. Most of us have to make a living somehow, but death reminds us that we had better spend some of that time in pursuit of our other dreams lest they be lost in the struggle merely to survive.
Last edited by Trinity on Wed Aug 24, 2016 6:12 pm; edited 1 time in total
Subject: Setting Up Your Altar Wed Aug 24, 2016 4:53 pm
Setting Up Your Altar
Samhain is the time of year when many members of the Pagan community celebrate the cycle of life and death. This Sabbat is about the end of the harvest, the calling of the spirits, and the changing aspects of the god and goddess. Try some or even all of these ideas -- obviously, space may be a limiting factor for some, but use what calls to you most.
Colors of the Season The leaves have fallen, and most are on the ground. This is a time when the earth is going dark, so reflect the colors of late autumn in your altar decorations. Use rich, deep colors like purples, burgundies and black, as well as harvest shades like gold and orange. Cover your altar with dark cloths, welcoming the coming darker nights. Add candles in deep, rich colors, or consider adding an ethereal contrasting touch with white or silver.
Symbols of Death Samhain is the time of the dying of the crops and of life itself. Add skulls, skeletons, grave rubbings or ghosts to your altar. Death itself is often portrayed carrying a scythe, so if you've got one of those handy, you can display that on your altar as well. Some people choose to add representations of their ancestors to their Samhain altar - you can certainly do this, or you can create a separate ancestor shrine.
The Harvest Ends In addition to symbols of death, cover your Samhain altar with the products of your final harvest. Add a basket of apples, pumpkins, squash, or root vegetables. Fill a cornucopia and add it to your table. If you live in an agricultural area, visit farmer's markets to gather up straw, sheaves of wheat, corn shucks, and even sickles or other harvest tools. If you planted a herb garden this year, use seasonally appropriate herbs on your altar, such as rosemary to remember your ancestors, mugwort for divination, or yew branches, which are commonly associated with mortality.
Divination Tools If you're considering doing a bit of Samhain divination - and many of us do - add your divination tools to your altar for the season. Add a scrying mirror, your favorite deck of Tarot cards, or a pendulum to use in rituals related to divination at Samhain. If you do any kind of spirit communication work, this is a great time of year to reconsecrate them prior to use, and give them a bit of a magical boost.
Other Symbols of Samhain Mulled wine Dried leaves, acorns and nuts Dark breads Ears of corn A straw man Offerings to the ancestors Statuary of deities symbolizing death
Last edited by Trinity on Fri Sep 23, 2016 9:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
Subject: Re: Samhain - October 31st Wed Aug 24, 2016 5:15 pm
Rosemary (for remembrance of our ancestors), Mullein seeds (a projection for abundance), mugwort (to aid in divination), rue, calendula, sunflower petals and seeds, pumpkin seeds, turnip seeds, apple leaf, sage, mushrooms, wild ginseng, wormwood, tarragon, bay leaf, almond, hazelnut, passionflower, pine needles, nettle, garlic, hemlock cones, mandrake root
At Samhain, witches once gave one another acorns as gifts. During the Burning Times, giving someone an acorn was a secret means of telling that person you were a witch. Acorns are fruits of the oak, one of the most sacred trees to the ancient Celts. They are symbols of protection, fertility, growth, values, and friendship.
Subject: Re: Samhain - October 31st Wed Aug 24, 2016 5:44 pm
At Samhain, witches cast spells to keep anything negative from the past -- evil, harm, corruption, greed -- out of the future. Cast spells to psychically contact our deceased forebears and retrieve ancient knowledge, thus preserving the great Web that stretches through many generations of human families. -- Laurie Cabot, Celebrate the Earth
"Bonfires dot the rolling hillsides Figures dance around and around To drums that pulse out echoes of darkness Moving to the Pagan sound."
~~ Loreena McKennitt, "All Souls Night",
Eve of Samhain Spell to Connect with the Spirit World
Get a white candle, matches, and a mirror for this spell. At dusk, go to a haunted area or a place you feel the spirits are especially powerful. Make contact by walking about and allowing your mind to roam. Light your white candle, and stare into it saying:
Clear as midnight, the spirits are bright. Ghostly curiosity brings you to me. As a form takes shape, I am not asleep. Spirit awake, take your shape.
Let the candle flicker. Glance into the mirror, and look past your shoulder. Do you see mists or lighted balls in the reflection? This is how ghosts typically appear. Return to the area on the next three nights. Take some pictures. At home, place your mirror facedown. Mirrors trap spirits. Some spirits will track you as you search for their reflections. If you want your ghost to leave, just say so. Follow this up by putting a broom over your transom and burning sage.
Subject: Re: Samhain - October 31st Wed Aug 24, 2016 5:55 pm
The Samhain rituals I follow change a little from year to year. I don't like to have a set of mandatory words or actions that might prevent me from exploring new possiblities in meaning. However, I do include the traditional Samhain rituals of sharing a feast (even if I am alone) and some form of divination. Since it is best that you write/say your own words in performing rituals, I will only include an outline here.
Prepare your house or room Use black and orange candles, pumpkins (carved or not) and other traditional "Halloween" items if you wish (most are actually traditional for Samhain). Prepare a table for the Feast of the Dead. It should be covered with a black table cloth and set with black dishes (black paper plates will do just fine). Place a chair at the head of the table, drapped in black cloth, to represent the spirit. The spirit's place is set with a plate with a white votive candle on it. Set places for each of the dead that you hope will join you., and place black votive candles on their plates. Plates for the living (in my soitary ritual, just one) are empty, of course, awaiting the feast food to be served.
Food preparation My feast is usually very simple: bread, fruit, nuts, and juice or wine. If you've invited living guests, it is common to make the feast potluck. However, since the actual feast will take place in silence, try not to have too many things that would have to be passed or requested.
Light the candles and turn out the lights
Call the quarters (ask the Guardians of the Watchtowers to witness and protect your circle).
Cast a circle (use whatever method you've been taught).
Invite the deities There are certain Goddesses that I always invite to my rituals. It seems especially important to invite them on Samhain, as I will want to thank them for their help during the past year, and of course, ask that they continue to help me in the coming year. If the departed loved ones were especially close to any deities, I invite them as well.
Feast of the Dead Light the candles on the plates of the dead and the spirit. The feast should take place in silence so that you can think about your departed friends and relatives. Think of their passing and your hopes for their joyous return. If someone is recently departed, try to put aside your sadness and think of that soul as well and happy in the presence of the Goddess.
Speak in silence an invitation to these loved ones, asking them to join in your feast. Use your own words for this. You know these individuals and can speak to them in a way to which they are likely to respond.
Sit at your table and eat the food you have brought to it. Feel the presence of those who have joined you and rejoice in their presence. Allow them to speak to you of whatever they want to communicate. Take as long as you wish at the table, listening to those you have invited and speaking to them in silence.
When the feast is over, thank your spirit guests for coming, bid them farewell, extinguish the candles on the plates, and leave the table.
Banishings and Resolutions Now is the time to bring out one of those lists! Before Samhain, write a list of things from the last year that you want to banish: bad habits and addictions, unkind feelings toward others, unkind feelings toward yourself .... anything you do not want to carry over to the New Year. Light a black candle and burn the list, asking the Goddess and God to help you get rid of these and all negative things in your life. If you prefer, you can put about 1/4 cup of alcohol in a cauldron, light it, and burn the paper there. Speak to the deities (you can speak aloud now) about your sincere wish to remove these things from your life. Use a banishing chant, if you wish.
Now you should speak to the deities about those things you want to bring into your life in the New Year. I do these things rather informally, but there are many poems and prose pieces in books that you might want to use. Asking the deities for future rewards must be accompanied by resolutions as to how you will accomplish your goals. They will help you if you are sincere in your efforts to help yourself.
Divination Because the two worlds are so close at Samhain, it is the perfect time for divination. I prefer to use a cauldron of water for scrying, since the cauldron seems to fit the mood of Samhain (not to mention Halloween tradition). You may prefer Tarot cards, a pendalum, or runes....whatever method works best for you. Obviously, the goal of this divination is to see what lies ahead in the next year. Meditation All of my rituals include some form of meditation. This is when I ask my personal Goddesses to guide me, advise me, and generally keep me on the right path. I also use this time to thank them in a more personal way than by reciting a poem of thanksgiving. At Samhain, I thank them for all their gifts in the last year and ask them to continue helping me in the New Year.
Sometimes this part of the ritual takes the form of a shamanic journey in which I am taken to a far away place (sometimes familiar, sometimes not) and where I may be given signs that will help me know what I should do (either in general or in specific situations). Take as long with your meditation as you need.
Thank the Deities Give thanks to the deities you have invited by offering them food. I usually say something like "all things come from the Earth and to the Earth they must return." Whatever food and drink I offer (usually bread and wine), I eat a little and save the rest to place or pour on the Earth later.
Subject: Re: Samhain - October 31st Wed Aug 24, 2016 5:58 pm
Samhain Ritual Edain McCoy
For this ritual you will need to have on hand photos of your deceasesd loved ones or items of theirs if possible. Also and unlit candle, matches, and if you wish to do divinations or spirit contact after the ritual, you'll need those items on hand also.
When you are ready too begin you should cast your circle as usual and invite your deities. Say:
Blessed be the season of Samhain. The time of the wise Crone Goddess. The night of the death of the God. The night to celebrate the nearness of the spirit world.
Spend a few moments standing quietly inside your circle allowing your thoughts to dwell on the meaning of this SAbbat. Move to the photos or items of your passed over loved ones and stand before them. Say:
Dearest loved ones, tonight the passing of our God makes a veil which separates us thin. Come now to my circleside and join the celebration.[/
Light the remaining candle on your altar to light the way for the spirits. Spend a few moments sensing their presence. Now address each one individually. say things to them you wish to say, and then fall silent to try to feel their response.
When you feel the time is right, take up both the God and Goddess candles. Say: [/i]
Tonight the Goddess and God belong to separate worlds, divided by the thin veil which separates the world of the living from the land of the dead.
Blow out the God candle to signify his death, and replace both candles on the altar as far apart as possible. Say:
Blessed be the Crone Goddess, sorrowfulin her mourning, Blessed be the Aged God, beloved of the Summerland.
Now you may do what ever other working you'd like. Close the circle however you wish
Subject: Re: Samhain - October 31st Wed Aug 24, 2016 6:02 pm
Solitary Samhain Ritual Author: Erica Frank
Tools needed: A knife (must be sharp) Apples or Grapes (pref. room temperature or warm) Pomegranate (pref. chilled) God and Goddess Candles on the altar Small serving dishes
Call elements, Cast your circle. Invoke deities by saying:
"Gaia, who nurtures all life, send your son Pan, Lord of the fields and flocks. May he join me in celebration and revelry."
Light the God Candle and say: "Pan, master of beasts and rough, primal forces--enter this circle; share your wild abandon! Bring to us joys and lusts; bring the last kiss of summer before the cold of winter. Join me, Pan! IO EVOE!
Face Altar Saying: "Ouranous, who rules the heavens, send your daughter Hekate, She who guards against the terrors of the night. May she join me in celebration and reflection."
Light Goddess candle and say: "Hekate, queen of night and the restless spirits--enter this circle, share your peace and wisdom. Bring calm and endurance; bring guidance through the winter until the days grow warm. Join me, Hekate! IO EVOE!"
Cycling of the year: Take the blade, and grapes [or apple]. Cut into fruit (apples or grapes); place on a plate, and offer it upwards & then hold it in front of you. "I eat this last fruit of summer. May I be filled with the warmth that has ripened this fruit on the vine [or tree]. May I taste the sweetness of life in the sun."
Eat, and pause to think about the end of summer. Place knife on altar. Say:
"Summer ends. Winter begins. The fields lie fallow, and the beast sleep in their homes. The Lord passes the mantle of guidance to the Lady as the nights grow cold and long."
Take blade & pomegranate. Cut into it, place on plate; offer it upwards, then hold it in front of you.
"I eat this first fruit of winter. May I feel the chill that ripened this fruit in the rind. May I taste the richness of life hidden away."
Eat, and pause to think of what winter will bring.
Worship & prayers:
Say: "Hekate Apotropaios, averter of evil--control the wrath of the dead, whose spirits cry out for vengeance, and who may lash out at anyone they can reach. Protect the living from their rage. Hekate Chthonia, lady of the underworld--you have dominion over the hostile spirits who wander; guide them to their resting places, and seal the gates between the worlds. Hekate Phosphoros, light-bringer--bring us light and guidance as we stand in this doorway, this transition between peace and war. Let your torches show us the truths hidden in the shadows; lead us out of this darkness."
Remembrance & contemplation: "I now remember and honor those who have died this past year."
Face altar, and mention someone who has passed in the last year that you will miss. This does not need to be someone you know personally. If you have incense, light a stick and wave it in a circle, or put another pinch on the charcoal for each person you mention. (Or light a candle.) If you have a token of the person (an item of theirs, or a photo), place it on the altar.Continue until you've had the chance to remember as many people as you care to. Pause. Simple Feast--cakes & wine, or whatever you want. Thank and release the Gods and Goddesses:
"Pan, lord of the fields in summer, thank you for your presence, for sharing your joy in life. Before you depart to your winter realms, I drink deep in your honor" [raise cup, drink, spill some in libation bowl, set it down & raise hands over head]... "Hail Pan! Hail & farewell!"
"Hekate, lady of night & magic, thank you for your presence, for extending your protection. Before you depart to take up your winter duties, I drink deep in your honor" [raise cup, drink, spill some in libation bowl, set it down & raise hands over head] "Hail Hekate! Hail & farewell!"
Subject: Re: Samhain - October 31st Wed Aug 24, 2016 6:03 pm
Ancestors hear my voice, know my heart, I think of you at the season's start, Descendant from your honorable tree, I am a proud member of your human family, Come to me from beyond the veil, Share the wisdom that you entail, Please bestow your gentle blessing, And accept these humble offering.
Subject: Re: Samhain - October 31st Wed Aug 24, 2016 6:06 pm
A Few Recipes
Here are a few recipes you might like to try, for your feast.
MULLED CIDER WITH SPICES 4-5 cups apple cider 3-4 cloves 2 sticks cinnamon
In a large saucepan, heat cider, but do not boil. Serve in a large cauldron.
PUMPKIN BREAD 2 cups pumpkin, canned or cooked 1 cup melted butter or margarine, lightly salted 3/4 cup water 4 eggs 3 2/3 cups flour 2 1/4 cups sugar 1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg 2 tsp. cinnamon 2 tsp. baking soda 1 cup raisins 1 cup walnuts, chopped
Blend pumpkin, butter, water, and eggs until mixed. Add flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and baking soda. Then add raisins and nuts. Form loaf in greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until top is golden brown.
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS Seeds of one pumpkin, washed 1 1/2 Tbl. vegetable oil Salt, to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread clean, dry pumpkin seeds on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Drizzle with vegetable oil and add salt to taste. Bake 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly browned.
SPICED HOT CHOCOLATE 3 ounces semi-sweet dark chocolate, grated 2 cups milk 1/2 tsp each cinnamon and cloves Dash vanilla extract
Slowly heat chocolate and milk in saucepan until chocolate has melted and blended in. Add cinnamon and cloves and stir. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and serve. Makes two servings.
Subject: Re: Samhain - October 31st Wed Aug 24, 2016 6:10 pm
A Samhain Poem by Lark
This beautiful poem written by Lark of the disbanded Tangled Moon Coven and is a perfect addition to your Samhain ritual. Lark kindly allowed us to reprint it here.
Hearken Now the Darkness Comes! Mists gather in the valleys and pour down the ancient riverbeds to the darkening sea. Gone the fires of autumn's glory, lost to the legions of cloud-swept days and chilling rains. Gone the wild geese flying southward, gone the last of summer's bounty. Mornings rimed with silver frost, evenings gathering gloom for sitting round the hearthfires glow.
Hearken now, the darkness comes! In the vale under the moor, the village speeds it's frantic pace. Thatcher's finish repairs on thick round roofs to hold out the snows of winter. Children bring in the last of the nuts and withered fruits from the woods. The wheat is threshed and winnowed on the chilly breeze. Woodsmoke rises from the hearthfires and axes ring in the clear air. Down from the moors come the cattle and sheep to the winter fields, come too the pigs from the forest glades. The smell of blood is thick in upon the air as those animals chosen for the slaughter are slain and cured against the winter's needs. The planting begun at Beltane is now the harvest.
Hearken now, the darkness comes! In the great forests that lie across the land, the leaves form a thick carpet upon the ground upon which treads the King Stag, velvet gone from his crown of horn, challenging all with his trumpeting cries. The bear and the fat squirrels seek their dens. The wolves stir in the cold, and their voices rise in songs to the moon. Now is the time of the Hunter. His shadow flies across the midnight sky, His horn sounds in the wind like thunder, His red-eyed hounds fly on before.
Hearken now, the darkness comes! She who stands guardian now is no longer the soft Maiden of spring, nor yet the fecund Mother full of the heat of summer. It is Cerridwen now, the Crone, the Hag, who stands without. In dreams and trance you see her, holding the cauldron into which all that live must go. Holding the cauldron that is Death. Gone too the young Lord of Spring, the Summer King. Now is the time of Herne the Hunter, wild master of the Winter's night. Harsh he is and full of fire, Lord of Death made manifest.
Hearken now, the darkness comes! And in the turning of the year, the walls of time and space become as air, until life and death are as one and departed souls walk again among the living. Here on this most sacred night, as the old year died and the new was born, around the fires the people gathered in celebration. There was wine and cider from the vines and groves, bread from the fields of winnowed wheat, and meat steaming from the slaughter. A great feast and celebration of life to take into the darknss.
Hearken now, the darkness comes! And as the earth moved onward into the darkness, the veil between the worlds grew thin, and strange beings walked upon the land. See now the pooka shake his tangled mane, the sidhe come forth from out the hollow hills, listen as the bean sidhe sings forth her terrible cry. And against this army of eldritch power, men did wield a greater weapon as fires sprang forth upon the hilltops and lit the standing stones and village greens. Dancing, swirling, leaping past the fires, the people held back the powers of the night with light and music until the dawn came once more.
Yet still the darkness comes! Turn and turn again the Earth did in its endless dance among the stars. Gone now the villages that lay beneath the downs and among the wolds. Gone the straight track and winding sheep path. Gone the King Stag and the shaggy bear. Yet still we hear an echo of that time and place as we sit to honor our blessed dead, as our children dress as monsters and play in the shadows. We hear the whisper of the Goddess in our hearts, and sometimes, late at night we hearken to the cry of the Hunt high in our crowded skies.
Hearken, for the darkness comes! And we, the spirit children of that ancient age, we remember. Though we labor not in the fields of waving grain, yet do we too now bring in our harvest. We gather to ourselves the fruits of our projects begun in the spring of the year and ready ourselves for a time of rest and introspection. We unburden ourselves with that which is no longer needful for our survival through the winter of the year.
We the children of this ancient age remember too our honored dead who speak to us again as the walls of this world grow thin. We pass the Cup of Remembrance as we think upon one who has gone before. We remember the good times and the bright things we treasure from their memories, and we allow them to fly free. We make our peace with She who waits for all.
We remember the fears of the darkness, and in our masquerade and games, we come to terms with Death and with change. For such is the meaning at the heart of the feast.
So prepare you now as the darkness comes. Ready the harvest of your hopes and dreams. Light the fires against ignorance and fear. For remember also, that the darkness is but one turn upon the Wheel, it is the darkness of the womb. And the Death we all must face is merely the doorway to the Life to come.
Subject: Re: Samhain - October 31st Wed Aug 24, 2016 6:40 pm
All Hallows Eve/Samhain/All Souls Night/Halloween
Halloween is a night of glowing jack-o-lanterns, bobbing for apples, tricks or treats, and dressing in costume.A night of ghost stories and séances, 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 Hallows Eve is the eve of All Hallows 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 ruler ship 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 pronounced (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 (sidh 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 Hallows, or Hallowmas, later All Saints and All Souls.
There are so many types of divination that are traditional to Hallows tide, it is possible to mention only a few. Girls were told to place hazel nuts along the front of the fire grate, 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 travelled 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. 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 Hallows Eve.
Subject: Re: Samhain - October 31st Sun Oct 30, 2016 11:17 am
Many people choose to use Samhain as a time of honoring their bloodline. Use this prayer to celebrate your ancestry at Samhain. You can incorporate it into a meditation or ritual, or simply offer it up as thanks to those who came before you.
Samhain Ancestor Prayer
This is the night when the gateway between our world and the spirit world is thinnest. Tonight is a night to call out those who came before. Tonight I honor my ancestors
Spirits of my fathers and mothers, I call to you,
and welcome you to join me for this night. You watch over me always, protecting and guiding me, and tonight I thank you. Your blood runs in my veins, your spirit is in my heart, your memories are in my soul.
With the gift of remembrance. I remember all of you. You are dead but never forgotten, and you live on within me, and within those who are yet to come.
Subject: Re: Samhain - October 31st Sun Oct 30, 2016 11:20 am
At Samhain, the earth is growing cold and dark. It is a time of death, of endings and beginnings. This prayer honors some of the deities associated with death and the underworld.
Prayer to the Gods of the Underworld
The harvest has ended, and the fields are bare. The earth has grown cold, and the land is empty. The gods of the death are lingering over us, keeping a watchful eye upon the living. They wait, patiently, for eternity is theirs.
Hail to you, Anubis! O jackal headed one, guardian of the realm of the dead. When my time comes, I hope you may deem me worthy.
Hail to you, Demeter! O mother of darkness, May your grief be abated when your daughter returns once more.
Hail to you, Hecate! O keeper of the gate, between this world and the underworld. I ask that when I cross over, you may guide me with wisdom.
Hail to you, Freya! O mistress of Folkvangr, guardian of those who fall in battle. Keep the souls of my ancestors with you.
Hail to you, O gods and goddesses, those of you who guard the underworld and guide the dead on their final journey. At this time of cold and dark, I honor you, and ask that you watch over me, and protect me when the day arrives that I take my final journey.