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  • Samhain - What's it about??

    Hail Ho Guy's.

    Merry we meet

    As Samhain approaches, in the world of Paganism and Witchcraft the 31st Oct is a very special time. Depending on tradition it is known by various names and celebrated in different ways, but what does it mean to you? To start off this
    thread, here's my take on what it means. Please all chime in if you do things differently, remember there are no right or wrong ways to celebrate, and diversity is to be encouraged.

    Samhain (Halloween) - Written and compiled by George Knowles

    Samhain is one of the greater Sabbats of the Witches' calendar and in the Northern Hemisphere is celebrated on the night of 31st October (in the Southern Hemisphere the equivalent Sabbat is Beltane 30th April). Samhain is the third
    and last of three autumnal harvests, the first was at Lammas (1st August), when in tribute to the waning Sun, the "Corn King" was sacrificed and his spirit returned to the ground for its period of rest. The second harvest was at Mabon
    (22nd September), when as the Sun grew weaker; the "Lord of the Harvest" was sacrificed and waits to be reborn in the New Year of the Goddess.

    Now as we complete the third and final harvest, Samhain marks the change from summer into winter. Traditionally it is time to bring in the animals from their summer grazing and to stock up their winter feed supplies. A cull would be made
    and animals slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for winter. As the animals died so the people could survive, so too does the "King of the Hunt" die in a final act of sacrifice. As the summer sunlight fades and the darkness
    of winter approaches, we celebrate the "Feast of the Dead", a farewell tribute to the Sun God. While the Goddess mourns his death, she also begins her own descent into the underworld, there to search for him again.

    Samhain means "Summer's end", and is known by many different names: November Eve, All Hallows Eve, Hallowmas, Feast of Apples, Night of Spirits, Halloween and the Feast of the Dead. In the Gaelic languages of Ireland, Samhain is also known as "Oيche Shamhna", in Scotland "Oidhche Shamhna" and in Wales "Nos Calan Gaeaf". Depending on where you come from, Samhain also has many pronunciations, like in Ireland it is pronounced "sow-in", in Scotland "sav-en" and in Wales "sow-een".

    Samhain is one of the most popular and wide spread pagan festivals in the Celtic calendar and is traditionally regarded as the "Celtic New Year". In modern times it is a night of fun and celebration, of glowing Jack O'Lanterns, trick or
    treating and dressing up in costumes as Wicked Witches. It is also a night for divination, for attending séances, tarot card readings and scrying with mirrors. For the occult minded, it is a night of power, when the veil between the unseen
    world and ours is at its thinnest, a night when the spirits of the departed are free to roam.

    When Christianity arrived in the British Isles they tried to eradicate popular pagan practices by replacing them with their own customs, and so Samhain as celebrated on the night of 31st October was renamed "All Hallows Eve", which
    later became shortened to "Halloween". The following day 1st November was named "All Saint's Day", on which day they would celebrate the spirits of Heaven and pray for those they sent to Hell. On the eve of All Saint's Day (All Hallows
    Eve) they developed the custom of banging pots and pans together so the lost souls in Hell would know they were not forgotten.

    Down through the ages Samhain has always been considered an auspicious time for divination, for contacting ancestors and other departed souls. It was customary therefore to place lights along roadways to help guide spirits out for the dark, and to leave open a door or window with a candle or other light burning to lead them back from whence they had left. This was the beginning of the ever popular Jack O'Lantern custom of today, in which lights or candles are placed in
    pumpkins so the wind will not extinguished them. These are now used to decorate homes and to frighten off mischievous souls who may have lost their way.

    Another old custom was to leave out food offerings on their doorsteps, a welcome invitation to the spirits of family members, ancestors, friends, pets and other loved ones to cross the threshold of their home and revisit. After all the hard work of collecting in the harvest, it was also a time for family reunions, when in the warmth and dimly lit smoky rooms of the home, wood and peat for the fire was stacked up high by the hearth, and members of the family all came together to celebrate a winter feast. During the feast bards re-told stories about those long gone, traditional songs would be sung, poetry recited and dances performed in honour of the ancestors.

    Bonfires play a large part in the festival of Samhain. On the night of Samhain each household would extinguish their hearth-fires and then wait for the druids to light the village bonfire, symbolising a new light for the New Year. Most
    often two fires would be lit side by side, and during the evening's celebrations, villagers would light torches from the common flame and re-light their own hearth fires. Later, they would parade and dance around the village and lead their animals between the fires in a ritual act of purification.

    In Scotland, a child born on the night of Samhain was considered to be gifted with "an dà shealladh" (the Two Sights), which is more commonly known today as "second sight" or the ability of clairvoyance. At Samhain however, it was common for many people to practice the art of divination, females in particular would seek to identify future husbands, and determine if marriage would succeed or fail. Methods differed widely, but seasonal foods such as apples and nuts from the harvest were frequently used. An apple could be peeled in one long strip and tossed over the shoulder to determine the initial letter of a future spouse's name. Nuts would be placed on a heated hearth and their movements closely watched; if the nuts stayed together so would the couple, but if they rolled apart the marriage would fail.

    Candles also play an important part in Samhain celebrations, and are often used to decorate the home creating the right mood for the occasion with their hypnotic glow. Ever since fire was discovered, the naked flame has been regarded as sacred, and in ancient times lighted touches were used to invoke the Goddess and Gods. Similarly today the naked flame of lighted candles are used to aid divination, to commune with deities and more particularly at this time, to connect with ancestors and other departed souls.

    To our ancestors winter was a time of famine and hardship, more so for the old and feeble when many failed to survive the following winter months. Samhain at the start of the winter season and the beginning of the Celtic New Year was
    therefore a poignant time to honour those who had died before them. To pagans and witches alike Samhain is a celebration in honour of our ancestors, much as they honoured us in the days before we were born. As the wheel of life continues to turn so will they honour us again, for time will come when we too cross the divide and take up our own place beside them.

    In more recent times the association of death with Samhain has been maligned to include the assumption of evil, and today is often portrayed as a night when malignant forces combine to create all manner of baneful harm. Such could not be further from the truth, for while it may be possible for negative forces to cross the divide, it is not in any way a night of evil or hostile intent. Even though the holiday has changed over the years, its intent is still clear – it is a celebration of respect for the dead and of a new beginning to come. It is a holiday that commemorates both life and death, and recognizes the need to exist in harmony with the past, present and future.

    Sources:

    A Witches Bible - by Stewart and Janet Farrar
    Halloween (A Pagan Festival to Trick or Treat) - by Mark Oxbrow
    Microsoft® Encarta® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights
    reserved.
    Plus to many websites to mention.

    Best Wishes.

    Merry we part.

    George Knowles (Man in Black).
    E-mail - [email protected]
    or - [email protected]
    Website - http://www.controverscial.com

    Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.

  • #2
    "To our ancestors winter was a time of famine and hardship, more so for the old and feeble when many failed to survive the following winter months. Samhain at the start of the winter season and the beginning of the Celtic New Year was
    therefore a poignant time to honour those who had died before them. To pagans and witches alike Samhain is a celebration in honour of our ancestors, much as they honoured us in the days before we were born. As the wheel of life continues to turn so will they honour us again, for time will come when we too cross the divide and take up our own place beside them."

    I liked this whole article.

    But that paragraph struck a chord with me. I live in a very poor area where people do live off of their gardens because there isn't enough money for the grocery store, or they live in rundown houses heated by kerosene which costs $4 a gallon--sucking up grocery money--in my area, people DO die in the winter. I still remember Miss Ethington, a 90-something year old woman who was found in the summer dead in her car after it skidded off the road and was covered by snow and bracken two years ago. I remember an old couple who froze to death in their own house just last year, and I know people who have lost their homes and moved into smaller places with bigger families, just to survive. When the ice storm of Feb. 09 hit, the entire neighborhood came together to make sure people had food and warmth during the powerless times--most of us struggle with very old houses that are falling down around our ears, including myself and my roommate, so heaters are often broken, half-assed, or just no longer serviceable. When we bought a space heater that was $30 out of pocket that could have been milk, flour, cornmeal, etc. Eggs fortunately are easy to come by because of a Bantam chicken farm up the road. We cook everything because a treat like McDonald's only happens once or twice a month when the winter gets going--and McDonald's won't feed a family for two weeks.

    Poverty is very real, very tangible. It isn't just for our ancestors. When we plan during the harvest season, we are putting back because we know the winter will be harsh. It's a fight to feed ourselves and warm the house, a fight to make rent, a fight to make sure the car works in the snow and ice long enough to get you there and back again. We have a bucket of taters dug up from the garden and rows and rows of jarred green beans and tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and preserves. We measure the coming winter by natural hints, such as the color of the wooly worms--which unfortunately for us have been all black this year, meaning it's going to be cold. I've been knitting warm things for everybody. Everyone gets a set of fingerless mittens, a 'boggan hat, and an extra long scarf before winter hits.

    The reason I went into all of this is because of what has been going on with "class warfare" here lately. A lot of rich folks have been claiming that class warfare doesn't exist, but I'd like to see them come spend a winter in the mountains, and face what we do. I'd like to see them tour the shantytowns around the coal mines and visit the falling-down houses filled with families trying to survive in those little towns you pass on the interstate without blinking twice. I'd like to see them come out on Christmas day and see the kids get stockings filled with popcorn balls, Sugar Daddies, and oranges because that's all there is.

    I'm sorry for babbling. Halloween means much more to us than that article up there. It means life or death, literally. This tradition of saving, of putting back for the survival of your family and those around you, is by no means gone. It is still around, and it is still vital. I really hope to impress this into whomever reads this post. Poverty is not gone, and people still die in the winter because there just isn't enough. It isn't just for our ancestors. We still fight the good fight.

    Happy Halloween. Don't forget your neighbors.
    Last edited by Heliotrope; October 20th, 2011, 11:51 AM.
    ---

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    • #3
      Hail Ho Heliotrope.

      Merry we meet

      Good to see you again Ma'am :-) I haven't been around for some time, so good to see some old friends are still here. Thank you for your passionate response. As stated in the last sentence of my article: "It is a holiday that commemorates both life and death, and recognizes the need to exist in harmony with the past, present and future."

      Best Wishes.

      Merry we part.

      George Knowles (Man in Black).
      E-mail - [email protected]
      or - [email protected]
      Website - http://www.controverscial.com

      Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.
       

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