Well, it’s Halloween folks, the most popular of the Sabbats, especially with non-witchy muggles, when ghosts, ghouls and witches all look normal wandering round the streets. The supermarkets are lined with pumpkins and costumes, decorations and sweets, all ready for trick-or-treat time. You can almost smell Samhain coming, as the mornings get darker, damper and chillier, the trees are golden as the sap sinks back to Earth and any breeze sends the leaves drifting in the air. Even the geese are heading off to warmer places as winter approaches.
This is the celebration of the Celtic New Year. The Celts begun their year as the Earth went to sleep and the nights lengthened, and their day began at sunset, because out of the darkness always comes the light!!
Following the Celtic tradition, this is the quietest and most contemplative of the Sabbats to witches. Samhain brings to us the importance of the circle of life, when one year ends and the next begins. It’s time to reflect on the old and letting go, and start thinking about a new journey beginning, what seeds are hidden inside ready to germinate in the Spring, what should be left behind and what new idea should be set in motion!
The circle is being renewed at Samhain, as the earth goes to sleep to gain strength to begin the life circle again in the spring. All is dormant now and winter will cleanse the earth in readiness for new life. As with life, the inevitable lesson is death at the end of it, when the soul then leaves the body it has been part of in this lifetime, to return to the Summerland to account for what it has learned. It can then enter a new body to continue with its lessons until it can evolve. In the Witch’s world, there is no heaven or hell – no place for the good people to go knowing the bad are somewhere different; we all go to the same place to account for the life just led and if we have led a good life and learnt what we needed to, then we can move on to the next lesson. If we have learnt nothing, then we have to go back and do it all over again!!
Samhain is the Feast of the Dead, when the spirit world can cross the great divide and visit if they so choose to do, hence why the children put on scary masks and ghostly clothing and visit neighbouring homes offering “Trick or treat”. Pumpkin faces are made as grizzly as possible and lit to keep bad spirits away, as they too get to come back for a visit! In Mexico, they take the party to the graves of their lost relatives, decorating the graveyard with candles and have a feast with their deceased relative’s favourite food and drink!
This is also the night when the future can be foretold, so time to cast stones, read cards or scry in a crystal ball; any divination will be heightened on this most “spiritual” of nights. It may be a busy night for the kids but witches should spend the night in quiet contemplation, looking back on the year gone by and our achievements, and try and find out, using the divination of choice, what the year ahead has in store.
Honouring our Ancestors with the kids…
Samhain is the Night of the Dead, and it is those we’ve lost that should be remembered amid the fun. After dusk, set up a mini altar and light candles to each family member that has gone from your life. Friends are our chosen family and they too can be remembered. Tell stories to the children about the antics they got up to and light candles in front of photos on your family altar or mantlepiece with a toast to their memory.
If having dinner before venturing out, you may want to set an extra place for any guest who may return to join you. Even cook their favourite dish or have a toast with their favourite tipple. Death is a part of our natural cycle and should be discussed so that the children have nothing to fear about it. We always wrote letters and burned them on our fire to send them up to the heavens so my son could say things to his dad he couldn’t say on a daily basis.
Let the children remember their pets too, and place dog food outside for their departed pets, and maybe some creature passing can have a hearty feast in their honour.
Ancestral Candle ceremony…
Here is a deeper ritual that older family or friends can join in with on Samhain before divination…
Prepare the remembrance area with a main black candle and lots of tea lights or small white candles, some matches and a heatproof container or tray filled with salt, sand or soil. You can do this alone or with others too…
Place one candle in the centre and get your matches ready, with everyone attending sitting round the table. Now, switch off all the lights and let your eyes adjust to the dark. Feel and embrace the darkness. Then say
“We invite our lost loved ones to sit and be with us tonight…so please join us”
Once ready, strike a match and light the central candle, at the same time, saying something like
“We welcome our departed loved ones into our home on this night, and honour your presence amongst us”
Taking it in turns, each person should light a tea light or candle from the central black candle, and place it in the salt on the tray to remember someone who has passed over i.e.“ I remember my cuddly old dad and his warm smile, who never told me off, no matter what I had done” or “I remember my lovely old Nan and her black handbag full of coins, her jam tarts and that great holiday we had when I was 14 and the stuff we got up to”…you get my drift. Keep going for as long as it all takes, and until the darkness is filled with a tray of bright lights and the air full of fun-filled memories! Thank your visitors for joining you at the end and let the lights burn down themselves.
The seeds of love…
The Celts replaced life with life, hence planting a tree at a graveside, so you can follow this little charm and give back to the Earth in the name of your cherished loved ones. You will need:
A small dish and a votive candle and glass, a pack of your favourite seeds and a pouch to carry them.
On Samhain place the votive candle in the centre of the small dish and scatter the seeds round the candle. Light the candle, thinking about the person (you can use the candle from the tray above if you have followed that) and say something simple like “miss you dad” or “Gone but not forgotten nan” and let the candle burn with the seeds in the dish overnight until the flame goes out.
The next day, gather the seeds and put into the pouch and decide where you are going to scatter your seeds of remembrance…whether around a family grave, a favourite place or a part of your own garden…like a fairy or herb garden. Now scatter on the Earth, whilst saying a simple charm x3 like “forever in my heart” or “Love you always”
Hopefully, your seeds will germinate next year and grow into a beautiful natural healing section of garden…lovely!
A Samhain ramble…
Halloween is a great time to visit a cemetery, whether a well-known one in your area with old vintage graves, or one that contains your own relatives. Leave a single flower on a grave, war memorial or at a sacred place…honour the dead in some way at this time, whether they are known to you personally or not!
So, what am I doing this Samhain…wait for the rant…
I recently returned from a trip to Salem, a place where I really thought as a witch I should visit, but was more than a little disappointed to find that the world knows about the Salem Witch trails yet not a witch in sight…that Witchcraft was merely a scapegoat to things going wrong, and just 22 people died! It was more fear of the Devil in their staunch Puritan Christian community, yet the town attracts thousands to honour them and buy tourist tatt!
Here is Scotland, there were 5 main Witch hunts…1590-91, 1597, 1628-31, 1649-50 and 1661-62., led by the ‘Kirk’ party. Responsible for finding witches and ‘pricking’ them for the Devil’s mark, ‘Witch-prickers ’were Ministers of the church, their Bible stating “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”! The most famous locals were Rev Allan Logan of Torryburn and Rev Walter Bruce of Inverkeithing in Fife! In 1649, there were over 300 executed just in Fife, Edinburgh and Borders! These men of the church stripped, pricked and tortured women into confession and were paid 20 shillings per guilty witch…nice!! The guilty women were then either drowned or hanged then burned, but a favourite in Scotland was the barrel. After days or months of torture, they were dressed in a rough hemp coat, rolled in tar, put in a barrel and burned! They may have not always recorded the poor women’s name but the bill was always recorded and charged to the family or community in £,s,d…here’s one example from Kirkcaldy… and to put it in proportion, the average labourer would earn about £15 per year
Barrel 14s Coal £3,6s,8d Rope 6s, Hemp coat 3s,6d, to make coat 8s,
Executioner expenses 16s,4d, Executioner for their pains £8,6s
On my travels, I found a concrete marker in a private area of land in Dornoch. My nose made me follow the story and discovered this was a marker for the last witch burned in a tar barrel…Janet Horne in 1727. In the “Lowlands’ of Scotland, there were estimated 4000+ trials and at least 2500 executions including 12 in Aberdour, 7 from Burntisland and over 45 in nearby Inverkeithing, mostly women, certainly not all witches, but included Catholics, widows, healers, and anybody practising local ‘folk’ magick, & those not following the staunch Presbyterian ways! That is a lot in a population of around 650,000!! Time this gobby, outspoken witch, who overcame her minor skirmishes with the Church and Council, did something to mark these tragic events! It was only my trip to Salem that brought back how bad things were here in Scotland, yet this grim history remains largely unacknowledged.
What I CAN do…
I used to display a list of the names of those witches killed in Aberdour during the Witch trials for all to see, and for me to acknowledge those who sacrificed their lives so I had the freedom to do what I do. It is time to bring back & acknowledge all those who lost their lives in the name of Witchcraft. For those who became victim and died due to the cruelty of the time, we will have an Altar of Light. I also want to begin a cauldron memorial. A Gaelic Cairn blessing “Cuiridh ma clach air du charn” means “I will put a stone on your stone”. Scotland was Europe’s biggest persecutor of witches, yet these Scots have no stone, no mark for respect, no grave for flowers and I think it is time they bloody well did!! When climbing a mountain in Scotland, you take a stone from the bottom and place it at the top. Let’s start a ‘Cairn in a Cauldron’ (well, just till we can get a site for it). Bring a stone to add to our cauldron & light a candle. I think our Waste to Woodland scheme has just found its purpose…!! OH YES!!
New Moon: Wed 7 Nov @ 16.02 hrs Full Moon: Fri 23 Nov @ 05.40 hrs
New Moon: Fri 7 Dec @ 07.21 hrs Full Moon: Sat 22 Dec @ 17.49 hrs
The Green Witch