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31 October 2016 @ 09:37 pm
Happy Witches' New Year!  
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A happy and safe holiday to all who celebrate!

For the unawares, here is some information courtesy of About Dot Com. This holiday isn't just Halloween, it's also Hallows, and Samhain (and knowing we Pagans, a good dozen other names).

All About Hallows

The fields are bare, the leaves have fallen from the trees, and the skies are going gray and cold. It is the time of year when the earth has died and gone dormant. Every year on October 31, the Sabbat we call Samhain presents us with the opportunity to once more celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth. For many Pagan and Wiccan traditions, Samhain is a time to reconnect with our ancestors, and honor those who have died. This is the time when the veil between our world and the spirit realm is thin, so it's the perfect time of year to make contact with the dead.

History of Samhain

Myths and Misconceptions:
Contrary to a popular Internet-based (and Chick Tract-encouraged) rumor, Samhain was not the name of some ancient Celtic god of death, or of anything else, for that matter. Religious scholars agree that the word Samhain (pronounced "sow-en") comes from the Gaelic “Samhuin,” but they’re divided on whether it means the end or beginning of summer. After all, when summer is ending here on earth, it’s just beginning in the Underworld. Samhain actually refers to the daylight portion of the holiday, on November 1st.

All Hallow Mass:
Around the eighth century or so, the Catholic Church decided to use November 1st as All Saints Day. This was actually a pretty smart move on their part – the local pagans were already celebrating that day anyway, so it made sense to use it as a church holiday. All Saints’ became the festival to honor any saint who didn’t already have a day of his or her own. The mass which was said on All Saints’ was called Allhallowmas – the mass of all those who are hallowed. The night before naturally became known as All Hallows Eve, and eventually morphed into what we call Halloween.

Samhain for Modern Pagans

Sunset on Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The old year has passed, the harvest has been gathered, cattle and sheep have been brought in from the fields, and the leaves have fallen from the trees. The earth slowly begins to die around us. Samhain is known by most folks as Halloween, but for Pagans it's considered a sabbat to honor the ancestors who came before us. It's a good time to contact the spirit world with a seance, because it's the time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest.

This is a good time for us to look at wrapping up the old and preparing for the new in our lives. Think about the things you did in the last twelve months. Have you left anything unresolved? If so, now is the time to wrap things up. Once you’ve gotten all that unfinished stuff cleared away, and out of your life, then you can begin looking towards the next year.

If you want to celebrate Samhain in the Celtic tradition, spread the festivities out over three consecutive days. You can hold a ritual and feast each night. Be flexible, though, so you can work around trick-or-treating schedules!


The Samhain Altar

Samhain is the time of year when many Pagans 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 Gods. 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 sickle or 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.

Other Symbols of Samhain

• Mulled wine
• Dried leaves, acorns and nuts
• Dark breads
• Ears of corn
• A straw man
• Tools of divination or spirit communication
• Offerings to the ancestors
• Statuary of deities symbolizing death


Deities of Samhain

Death is rarely so apparent than it as at Samhain. The skies have gone gray, the earth is brittle and cold, and the fields have been picked of the last crops. Winter looms on the horizon, and as the Wheel of the Year turns once more, the boundary between our world and the spirit world becomes fragile and thin. In cultures all over the world, the spirit of Death has been honored at this time of the year. Here are just a few of the deities who represent death and the dying of the earth.

Anubis (Egyptian): This God with the head of a jackal is associated with mummification and death in ancient Egypt. Anubis is the one who decides whether or not one the deceased is worthy of entering the realm of the dead.
Demeter (Greek): Through Her daughter, Persephone, Demeter is linked strongly to the changing of the seasons and is often connected to the image of the Dark Mother and the dying of the fields. When Persephone was abducted by Hades, Demeter's grief caused the earth to die for six months, until Her daughter's return.
Freya (Norse): Although Freya is typically associated with fertility and abundance, She is also known as a Goddess of war and battle. Half of the men who died in battle joined Freya in Her hall, Folkvangr, and the other half joined Odin in Valhalla.
Hecate (Greek): Although Hecate was originally considered a Goddess of fertility and childbirth, over time she has come to be associated with the moon, cronehood, and the underworld. Sometimes referred to as the Goddess of the Witches, Hecate is also connected to ghosts and the spirit world. In some traditions of modern Paganism, She is believed to be the gatekeeper between graveyards and the mortal world.
Hel (Norse): This Goddess is the ruler of the underworld in Norse mythology. Her hall is called Éljúðnir, and is where mortals go who do not die in battle, but of natural causes or sickness.
Meng Po (Chinese): This Goddess appears as an old woman, and it is Her job to make sure that souls about to be reincarnated do not recall their previous time on earth. She brews a special herbal tea of forgetfulness, which is given to each soul before they return to the mortal realm.
Morrighan (Celtic): This warrior Goddess is associated with death in a way much like the Norse goddess Freya. The Morrighan is known as the washer at the ford, and it is She who determines which warriors walk off the battlefield, and which ones are carried away on their shields. She is represented in many legends by a trio of ravens, often seen as a symbol of death.
Osiris (Egyptian): In Egyptian mythology, Osiris is murdered by His brother Set before being resurrected by the magic of His lover, Isis. The death and dismemberment of Osiris is often associated with the threshing of the grain during the harvest season.
Whiro (Maori): This underworld God inspires people to do evil things. He typically appears as a lizard, and is the God of the dead.
Yama (Hindu): In the Hindu Vedic tradition, Yama was the first mortal to die and make his way to the next world, and so He was appointed king of the dead. He is also a lord of justice, and sometimes appears in an incarnation as Dharma.

Rituals and Ceremonies

Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Samhain, but typically the focus is on either honoring our ancestors, or the cycle of death and rebirth. This is the time of year when the gardens and fields are brown and dead. The nights are getting longer, there's a chill in the air, and winter is looming. We may choose to honor our ancestors, celebrating those who have died, and even try to communicate with them. Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying for Samhain -- and remember, any of them can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead.

Honoring the Ancestors
For some of us, Samhain is when we honor our ancestors who came before us. This can include both our biological and spiritual ancestors. If you’ve ever done genealogy research, or if you’ve had a loved one die in the past year, this is the perfect night to celebrate their memory. If we’re fortunate, they will return to communicate with us from beyond the veil, and offer advice, protection and guidance for the upcoming year. Many hold Dumb Suppers and/or erect an ancestor shrine.

Samhain Magic
For many Pagans, Samhain is a time to do magic that focuses on the spirit world. Learn how to properly conduct a seance, how to do some Samhain divination workings, and the way to figure out what a spirit guide is really up to!

Samhain Prayers
A Ritual to Celebrate the Harvest's End
Samhain Rite to Honor the Animals
Samhain Ceremony to Honor the Ancestors
Celebrate the Cycle of Life and Death
Samhain Ancestor Meditation
God and Goddess Ritual for Samhain
A Ritual to Celebrate the Harvest's End
Reader FAQ: Pagans and Halloween


From Rituals For Sacred Living by Jane Alexander:

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