Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Samhain and Halloween Blessings!

If you didn't know before I am Wiccan. Witches is the name given to the believers of Wiccan. Just like Catholics or Jews believe in Catholicism or Judaism. There are many misconceptions about our beliefs and practices. The Wiccan religion has gotten a bad rap for centuries. I'm not going to get up on my soap box but boy could I.

Here are a few misconceptions and explanation that I hope will clear a few things up:

Q: How can you tell the difference between a Good Witch and a Bad Witch?
A: There is no such thing as "Good" or "Bad" Witches. Witches just are.

Q: What can I do if a Witch casts an evil spell on me?
A: Witches don't cast evil spells. Witches do magick to affect their lives and the lives of others, but only with their expressed permission. To do any magick that affects the will of another would be in direct violation of The Wiccan Rede. Spells are more like focus prayer.

Q: Why do Witches ride on broomsticks?
A: In the olden times when the people's survival was more closely tied to the land, the practice of jumping through the fields on a broomstick was common. The Witch sitting on a broomstick was seen as a symbol of fertility and it was believed that the crop would grow as high as the Witch could jump.

Q: All Witches are females. Male Witches are called Warlocks.
A: Actually people of both sexes that practice Wicca are called Witches. The word warlock actually translates into "oath breaker". In the past this term was applied to male witches to be derogatory.

Q: Witches, Satanists, they're all Devil worshippers!
A: Actually neither Witches or Satanists worship the Devil. Witches live their lives by the Wiccan Rede and do not believe in Satan or the Devil.

Halloween or Samhain is our "New Year". Here is some information that I found to explain the holiday. This made it easier on me rather than type it all up myself.

You Call It Hallowe'en... We Call It Samhain
Author: Peg Aloi Posted: October 1st. 1996

Hallowe'en has its origins in the British Isles. While the modern tradition of trick or treat developed in the U. S., it too is based on folk customs brought to this country with Irish immigrants after 1840. Since ancient times in Ireland, Scotland, and England, October 31st has been celebrated as a feast for the dead, and also the day that marks the new year. Mexico observes a Day of the Dead on this day, as do other world cultures. In Scotland, the Gaelic word "Samhain" (pronounced "SAW-win" or "SAW-vane") means literally "summer's end."

This holiday is also known as All Hallows Eve ("hallow" means "sanctify") ; Hallowtide; Hallowmass; Hallows; The Day of the Dead; All Soul's Night; All Saints' Day (both on November 1st) .

For early Europeans, this time of the year marked the beginning of the cold, lean months to come; the flocks were brought in from the fields to live in sheds until spring. Some animals were slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for winter. The last gathering of crops was known as "Harvest Home, " celebrated with fairs and festivals.

In addition to its agriculture significance, the ancient Celts also saw Samhain as a very spiritual time. Because October 31 lies exactly between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, it is theorized that ancient peoples, with their reliance on astrology, thought it was a very potent time for magic and communion with spirits. The "veil between the worlds" of the living and the dead was said to be at its thinnest on this day; so the dead were invited to return to feast with their loved ones; welcomed in from the cold, much as the animals were brought inside. Ancient customs range from placing food out for dead ancestors, to performing rituals for communicating with those who had passed over.

Communion with the dead was thought to be the work of witches and sorcerers, although the common folk thought nothing of it. Because the rise of the Church led to growing suspicion of the pagan ways of country dwellers, Samhain also became associated with witches, black cats ("familiars" or animal friends) , bats (night creatures) , ghosts and other "spooky" things...the stereotype of the old hag riding the broomstick is simply a caricature; fairy tales have exploited this image for centuries.

Divination of the future was also commonly practiced at this magically-potent time; since it was also the Celtic New Year, people focused on their desires for the coming year. Certain traditions, such as bobbing for apples, roasting nuts in the fire, and baking cakes which contained tokens of luck, are actually ancient methods of telling fortunes.

So What About Those Jack-O-Lanterns?
Other old traditions have survived to this day; lanterns carved out of pumpkins and turnips were used to provide light on a night when huge bonfires were lit, and all households let their fires go out so they could be rekindled from this new fire; this was believed to be good luck for all households. The name "Jack-O-Lantern" means "Jack of the Lantern, " and comes from an old Irish tale. Jack was a man who could enter neither heaven nor hell and was condemned to wander through the night with only a candle in a turnip for light. Or so goes the legend...

But such folk names were commonly given to nature spirits, like the "Jack in the Green, " or to plants believed to possess magical properties, like "John O' Dreams, " or "Jack in the Pulpit." Irish fairy lore is full of such references. Since candles placed in hollowed-out pumpkins or turnips (commonly grown for food and abundant at this time of year) would produce flickering flames, especially on cold nights in October, this phenomenon may have led to the association of spirits with the lanterns; and this in turn may have led to the tradition of carving scary faces on them. It is an old legend that candle flames which flicker on Samhain night are being touched by the spirits of dead ancestors, or "ghosts."

Okay, What about the Candy?"
Trick or treat" as it is practiced in the U. S. is a complex custom believed to derive from several Samhain traditions, as well as being unique to this country. Since Irish immigrants were predominantly Catholic, they were more likely to observe All Soul's Day. But Ireland's folk traditions die hard, and the old ways of Samhain were remembered. The old tradition of going door to door asking for donations of money or food for the New Year's feast, was carried over to the U. S. from the British Isles. Hogmanay was celebrated January 1st in rural Scotland, and there are records of a "trick or treat" type of custom; curses would be invoked on those who did not give generously; while those who did give from their hearts were blessed and praised. Hence, the notion of "trick or treat" was born (although this greeting was not commonly used until the 1930's in the U. S.) . The wearing of costumes is an ancient practice; villagers would dress as ghosts, to escort the spirits of the dead to the outskirts of the town, at the end of the night's celebration.

By the 1920's, "trick or treat" became a way of letting off steam for those urban poor living in crowded conditions. Innocent acts of vandalism (soaping windows, etc.) gave way to violent, cruel acts. Organizations like the Boy Scouts tried to organize ways for this holiday to become safe and fun; they started the practice of encouraging "good" children to visit shops and homes asking for treats, so as to prevent criminal acts. These "beggar's nights" became very popular and have evolved to what we know as Hallowe'en today.

What Do Modern Witches Do at Hallowe'en?
It is an important holiday for us. Witches are diverse, and practice a variety of traditions. Many of us use this time to practice forms of divination (such as tarot or runes) . Many Witches also perform rituals to honor the dead; and may invite their deceased loved ones to visit for a time, if they choose. This is not a "seance" in the usual sense of the word; Witches extend an invitation, rather than summoning the dead, and we believe the world of the dead is very close to this one. So on Samhain, and again on Beltane (May 1st) , when the veil between the worlds is thin, we attempt to travel between those worlds. This is done through meditation, visualization, and astral projection. Because Witches acknowledge human existence as part of a cycle of life, death and rebirth, Samhain is a time to reflect on our mortality, and to confront our fears of dying.

Some Witches look on Samhain as a time to prepare for the long, dark months of winter, a time of introspection and drawing inward. They may bid goodbye to the summer with one last celebratory rite. They may have harvest feasts, with vegetables and fruits they have grown, or home-brewed cider or mead. They may give thanks for what they have, projecting for abundance through the winter. Still others may celebrate with costume parties, enjoying treats and good times with friends. There are as many ways of observing Samhain as there are Witches in the world!

True believers
Witchcraft is the practice of a nature-based or folk belief system, art or religion. Not all witches follow the same belief system. Some practice what is called the "Old Religion," which has its roots in pagan traditions and beliefs, following seasonal agricultural cycles (i.e. the harvests). Many witches believe in multiple gods and goddesses (polytheism). Witches may practice as solitaries, or in covens. Some witches trace their practice across several generations. Some consider witchcraft a religion; others practice witchcraft as a magical art.

Traditional Wicca is a modern witchcraft religion, based on the teachings of Gerald Gardner, which is built around the principle of a coven, or group. Other forms of Wicca include eclectic and solitary Wiccans, who may follow a mixture of varying pagan beliefs. Many formulate their own personal rituals as solitary practitioners.

The basic tenet of Wicca is the Wiccan Rede: "if it harm none, do as you will."

You can see the original article here

I also found some really great poems that are rather cute.

Twas the Evening of Samhainby Cather Steincamp

'Twas the evening of Samhain, and all through the place
were pagans preparing the ritual space.
The candles were set in the corners with care,
in hopes that the Watchtowers soon would be there.
We all had our robes on (as is habitual)
and had just settled down and were starting our ritual
when out on the porch there arose such a chorus
that we went to the door, and waiting there for us
were children in costumes of various kinds
with visions of chocolate bright in their minds.

In all of our workings, we'd almost forgot,
but we had purchased candy (we'd purchased a LOT),
And so, as they flocked from all over the street,
they all got some chocolate or something else sweet.
We didn't think twice of delaying our rite,
Kids just don't have this much fun every night.
For hours they came, with the time-honored schtick
of giving a choice: a treat or a trick.

As is proper, the parents were there for the games,
Watching the children and calling their names.
"On Vader, On Leia,
On Dexter and DeeDee,
On Xena, on Buffy,
Casper and Tweety!
To the block of apartments
on the neighboring road;
You'll get so much candy,
you'll have to be TOWED!"

The volume of children eventually dropped,
and as it grew darker, it finally stopped.
But as we prepared to return to our rite,
One child more stepped out of the night.

She couldn't have been more than twelve or thirteen.
Her hair was deep red, and her robe, forest green
with a simple gold cord tying off at the waist.
She'd a staff in her hand and a smile on her face.
No make-up, nor mask, or accompanying kitsch,
so we asked who she was; she replied "I'm a witch.
And no, I don't fly through the sky on my broom;
I only use that thing for cleaning my room.
My magical powers aren't really that neat,
but I won't threaten tricks; I'll just ask for a treat."

We found it refreshing, so we gave incense cones,
A candle, a crystal, a few other stones,
And the rest of the candy (which might fill a van).
She turned to her father (a man dressed as Pan)
and laughed, "Yes, I know, Dad, it's past time for bed,"
and started to leave, but she first turned and said
"I'm sorry for further delaying your rite.
Blessed Samhain to all, and a magical night."

Copyright (c) 1999 by Cather Steincamp

Samhain Night

The night is coming the veil is thin.
Hear their voices within the winds.
Light the fires and chant out loud,
Feel them walk within the crowd.
The summer is gone and winter draws near,
The veil will open, welcome them without fear.
Our loved ones past will soon be among our place,
See the veil thinning and you will see their face.
Embrace the night and let your magic be known,
The truth that is here will soon be shown.
Enjoy this time celebrate the worlds within your rites,
The veil is once again thinning, it is again Samhain Night.

Starrfire Price October 2003

Some witchy humor!

You might be a Redneck Pagan if...
If you think a goblet is a young turkey....
If you think Drawing Down the Moon means demolishing the outhouse....
If you call your coven mates "Bud" and "Sis"....
If you think a Great Rite is turning onto County Road 13....
If your Quarter candles smell like kerosene....
If you pronounce "Athame" as "Athaym" and "Samhain" as "Sammon" or "Sam-hayn"....
If your idea of the "Goddess" is the Coors Swedish Bikini Ski Team....
If your Bard plays the banjo....
If your 'Long Lost Friend really IS....
If your lawn is decorated with at least one, preferably two or more, plastic pink flamingos, whom you regard as your familiars....
If your Wand of Power is a cattle prod....
If your ceremonial belt has your name on the back and a belt buckle bigger than your head....
If you call the Quarters by invoking "Billy, Joe, Jim and Bob"....
If you call the Gods by hollerin' "Hey y'all, watch me!"....
If your favorite robe has the logo of a manufacturer of major farm equipment on the back....
If you've ever harvested ritual herbs with a weed wacker....
If your ritual staff is a double barrel shotgun....
If your ritual garments include any one of the following: plaid flannels, long johns, a pistol belt, or cowboy boots....
If you've ever blessed chewing tobacco or snuff....
If your ritual wine is Maddog 20/20, Night Train or White Lady 21....
If your altar-cloth is a rebel flag....
If you use junk cars to mark the four corners of your circle....
If your Eternal Flame just happens to be under a still....
If you use an engine block for an altar....
If, when drawing down the moon, you say, "Ya'll come on down, ya hear?"....
If your pickup truck has an Athame rack....
If your crystal ball is made of polystyrene (i.e., a bowling ball)....
If your High Priestess has a spittoon on her altar....
You might be a Redneck Pagan!

Do witches stay home on weekends? No. They go away for a spell

How do you make a witch scratch? Take away her "W"

When a witch lands, where does she park? In a broom closet.

What happens to a fast witch on a slow broom? She flies off the handle.

What happens when a flying witch breaks the sound barrier? You hear the broom boom.

Which story do all little witches love to hear at bedtime?" Ghoul Deluxe and the Three Scares."

How does a witch tell time? She looks at her witch watch.

Why don't witches like to ride their brooms when they're angry? They're afraid of flying off the handle!

What do witches use on their hair? Scare spray

Why did the witches' team lose the baseball game? Their bats flew away

What would you find on a haunted beach? A sand witch.

What did the bat say to the witch's hat? You go on ahead. I'll hang around for a while.

What does the Coven's softball team do on Halloween? They practice pitchcraft.

What is a witch's favorite subject in school? Spelling!

Of course no post about Samhaim is complete without Lorenna McKennitt and All Souls Night...sing along if you know it and if not the lyrics are posted below so you have no excuse.

ALL SOULS NIGHT by Loreena McKennitt

Bonfires dot the rolling hills
Figures dance around and around
To drums that pulse out echoes of darkness
Moving to the pagan sound.

Somewhere in a hidden memory
Images float before my eyes
Of fragrant nights of straw and of bonfires
And dancing till the next sunrise.

I can see lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night
Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All Souls Night.

Figures of cornstalks bend in the shadows
Held up tall as the flames leap high
The green knight holds the holly bush
To mark where the old year passes by.

I can see lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night
Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All Souls Night.

Bonfires dot the rolling hillsides
Figures dance around and around
To drums that pulse out echoes of darkness
And moving to the pagan sound.

Standing on the bridge that crosses
The river that goes out to the sea
The wind is full of a thousand voices
They pass by the bridge and me.

I can see lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night
Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All Souls Night.

I can see lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night
Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All Souls Night.

Final Thought....I think she says it best Patti Wigington

"Samhain Blessings to You and Yours!

On this night, the veil between this world and the next grows thin. The spirits of those who came before us are near, and they hear us when we call upon them. All part of the endless cycle, life and death walk hand in hand, side by side. Without one, we cannot have the other. As light begins to fade, we embrace the dark part of the year, knowing that without the darkness, the light is meaningless. Take time to reflect on what this new year means to you, and what it meant to those we call the Ancient Ones. May your ancestors look upon you proudly as you honor them tonight. Have a magical Samhain, everyone."

1 comment:

Sharon said...

Happy Samhain! You know it's funny, but I have a lot of pictures in that YouTube from my first trip to Ireland. A lot of them were from inside Bunratty Castle down by Limerick. I miss Ireland *sigh*.

Abundant blessings for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!