Samhain: Reconnecting to the Path

FS_Bewitched_Paper9Samhain approaches.  Do you feel it in the air?

As one of four Fire Festivals, this is one of the most important celebrations of the year for modern pagans and one I particularly enjoy.

Samhain’s original purpose was to celebrate the final harvest of the year and prepare for the hard days of winter, for our ancestors farmed the land and lived from its bounty. They had no science, no technology. Everything they had came from the land on which they made their homes; their lives depended on what they could hunt or gather and so they lived with, and by, the seasons. In their tribal culture, they had to make the best use of what nature provided during the growing season and store sufficient to ensure their tribe’s survival through the winter ahead.

Samhain was celebrated around October 31, when the last harvest had been gathered and the food had been safely stored. The last of the grain harvest would be put aside for animal feed. Cattle would be culled and only those best suited to surviving the lean months would be kept until spring. For the poorer farmers, it was a question of how much livestock they could afford to feed over the winter months. The meat from the cull would be salted and cured to keep the families fed until the land began to produce food once again.

Everyone, high born or low, was involved in this work. But at the end of all their labours, they would feast. This was a way of celebrating their work’s end and of giving thanks to the gods and goddesses of the land who had provided their food.

It may seem odd that the end of summer should be celebrated as the most important of the ancient festivals. But to our ancestors, all things began in darkness; the Celtic day began at dusk and so it is logical that their counting of the year would begin at the onset of darkness too.

Samhain was not just a time of gratitude and thankfulness to Gods for their generosity but also a time to ask for their protection through the winter to come. For just as Samhain marks the end of one season, it also heralds the beginning of the new and to our Celtic forefathers, Samhain was the New Year, or the turning of the Wheel. One of their many gods would straddle this time nexus, looking back over the passing year and looking forward to the days ahead.

It was in that spirit of reflection and remembrance that their simple harvest festival of thanks and feasting took on another role, that of honouring their beloved dead and inviting them, for one night of revelry, to join them again in the physical world.  These were superstitious folk, who believed that by doing this, the restless earth bound souls of their departed would be able to rest and not trouble them in the year to come.

This custom lives on in Hallowe’en with its themes of ghosts; is echoed by All Saints Day in honour of the Saints of Christianity celebrated on November 1st and echoes once more in Latin America on El Dia de los Muertos; the Day of the Dead. On this day families decorate the graves of their dear departed with flowers, sweets and other gifts. And so, the two themes most evident in modern Hallowe’en celebrations ~ of remembering the dead and divining the future ~ are inextricably linked to these first pagan customs.  The bonfires now associated with November 5th, also hark back to the Samhain festival, which is always celebrated with fire.

In your own ritual, you may like to honour this tradition by naming and celebrating your own departed loved ones, then ‘return to the light’ by welcoming in any newborns who have come into your life during the past year as well as giving thanks for new friends and opportunities.

In this way, your Samhain festival will be a very special reminder of the endless cycle of death and renewal, the mystery of one and the bright joyfulness of the other.

And so we meet at old Samhain
The season’s wheel must turn again
And merry maids and merrier men
Will celebrate its turning!

We eat the fruit and plant the seed,
We carve the ‘neeps and drink the mead,
On meat and roasted roots we’ll feed
All while the logs are burning!

Spirits of old, come gather near,
Loved ones passed we still hold dear,
Gather all, be of good cheer,
The night is swiftly turning!

We bid farewell to summer’s light,
Hecate guide us through the night,
And in our hearts, forever bright,
Lugh’s flame is gently burning!

Freespirit © 2005

Brightest Blessings for Samhain x

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Blessed Imbolc

Merry Meet

The MaidenHere in the western hemisphere, Wiccans and Pagans of all paths will celebrate the turning of the year this weekend.  As the Crone becomes the Maiden once again, we welcome the coming of spring and all its promise.

We celebrate Imbolc as a time of birth and rebirth, as do our Christian friends who  celebrate Candlemas.

Whatever our spiritual paths, surely we can all feel the changing of the season – an underlying energy, an undenial hum of anticipation from the very earth Herself, as Her first shoots appear with the warming of the sun.

The first snowdrops show their faces to the world, along with crocuses and soon daffodils will follow.

The birds are flirting and all around we hear the chatter and chitter of the preparations for life.

In fact, Imbolc can be taken to mean ‘In the belly’, a literal reference to the ewes who already carry the lambs they will birth in the spring.

In the wider sense everything is pregnant with possibility in the spring – the Earth and all Her children, you and me included.  For we have nurtured our dreams and imaginings through the darkest days and nights of winter and now, as surely as spring comes we can bring those dreams forth.

What dreams will you bring into reality? What secret imaginings, what lost loves rekindled, what flights of fancy will you birth?

Think about it my friends, for there is magic in the air!

Mitakuye Oyasin – We Are All Related

Freespirit x

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Bewitched Digital Embellishment Pack

In this bumper embellishment pack you will receive 29 beautiful embellishments in in transparent .png format, all featuring a funky Halloween theme.

I just love Halloween, or Samhain as I say, its such fun and for those of us who follow the old path, a very sacred time too.

You can probably tell how much fun I had designing these embellishments – I really let my imagination go wild with, because we’re all children inside, right?
Included in the pack is a bat, two owls, three cats, two gremlins and two witches.  There are also five decorated brads, three pumpkins, two toadstools, a witches hat and a broomstick.  There are two overlays, one is a darkly gothic purple rose border and the other a spooky graveyard silhouette.

The three transparent shapes can be filled with colour or texture (in your own preferred program), used as masks for photos or left as they are to add a touch of drama to your page.   I have added a picture of the shapes filled with papers from the Bewitched Paper Pack – please note the shapes will be black and the fills are not included in this pack.

Go wild with these embellishments.  Use them to decorate your Halloween party invitations.  Print several black cats, cut them out and hang them in your window.  Make a poster to put on your door to wish Trick or Treaters happy Halloween!  Decorate your layouts in your album of all your Fright Night monsters – large or small!

This is a digital download, for use with a suitable computer program.

No physical product will be sent.

Kits may be used in your artwork and printed as often as you wish.

Kits are for use in scrapbooking, card making and other arts and crafts.

These products may be used in digital form in scrapbooks, card making and other arts using suitable computer programs which are able to utilise .jpg and transparent .png files.

Brightest Blessings and Happy Haunting! FS x

Bewitched Digital Paper Pack

In this paper pack you will receive ten beautiful papers, patterned and/or textured in .jpg format, 8” x 8”, 300dpi

I just love Halloween, or Samhain as I call it, its such fun and for those of us who follow the old path, a very sacred time too.

I let my imagination go wild with this fun pack, because we’re all children inside, right?  So there’s some real spooky backgrounds as well as some to set off the fun embies that I’ve made to go with this paper pack.

Go wild with this paper pack – use it for your Trick or Treat party invitations as well as in your scrapbooking layouts of all your Fright Night monsters – large or small!

This is a digital download, for use with a suitable computer program.

No physical product will be sent.

Kits may be used in your artwork and printed as often as you wish.

Kits are for use in scrapbooking, card making and other arts and crafts.

These products may be used in digital form in scrapbooks, card making and other arts using suitable computer programs which are able to utilise .jpg and transparent .png files.

Brightest Blessings and Happy Haunting! FS x

Oestara

Oestara – around 20-22nd March is the celebration of the Spring Equinox and Midspring, the second of the three spring holidays.  Oestara is about growth.

At Oestara, the seed that stirred at Imbolc pushes its head above ground. You can begin to feel spring; crocuses and daffodils are out; the cherry trees in blossom. The air smells of wet earth and flowers; earth and air begin to warm. You can make your Oestara ritual part of this burgeoning spring, celebrating Earth’s fertility and the fertility in your own life.

Oestara is a time of balance between light and dark. Night and day equally divide the 24 hours now; the dark half of the year gives way to the light. You can perform rituals to ask for balance in your life, and to honour both dark and light.

It’s a time to start new things or to consolidate beginnings.  You can plant new seeds now.  As the first inspiration began at Imbolc, now is the time to nurture that inspiration. Symbolic associations for Oestara include the element air, the direction east and the time of dawn.

Oestara belongs to the Maiden and her Young God. Other gods and goddesses concerned with Spring Equinox include the Greek wine-god Dionysus and his Roman counterpart Bacchus; the Greeks held Dionysia at Spring Equinox, when the new wine made the previous harvest was first drunk.  On the day before the equinox, the Greeks and Romans honoured the goddess Athena and her counterpart Minerva, revered for her wisdom.

Get out in nature; walk in the park; notice which plants are sprouting, budding, blooming, or still  in the grips of winter.  Feel the air; smell the scents of Oestara.  Clear a space in your garden for flowers, herbs or vegetables.  It’s early to begin planting in earnest but you can certainly clear the ground or start seeds indoors.  Pick up litter and help the earth rejuvenate.

Ritually eggs are a symbol of fertility, figured in pagan spring worship long before their appropriation by the Christian Easter.  Blown eggs with patterns drawn in dye, are used by many people as amulets for fertility, prosperity and protection.

Raise energy in ritual for goals, charge your decorated eggs with that energy, then peel and eat the eggs, taking in the things you want to manifest.  You can also do this with chocolate eggs!

Magic may be performed to give back to the earth the energy which we readily accept from her.  Rabbits provide an obvious symbol of animal fecundity, but their popularity at Easter dates back to earlier celebrations with the Hare. Meditate on the Moon-Hare, the animal the early German tribes and the Aztecs saw on the face of the moon, and see what comes to you about literal or creative fertility in your own life.  Meditate on the Yin-Yang symbol for balance in your life, or that of the Earth and the global family.

Do a ritual for the passing of the year’s dark half.  Consider what you wish to release with the passing of winter.  Write these issues on pieces of paper, then burn them in a cauldron or cooking pot; know that you are releasing their negativity and inviting new growth into your life.  Use any colours that relate to spring; green, yellow and pink would all be suitable.

Use the energy of the time of year as you would the first quarter of the moon.  You can use the energy of this time of year to fuel any new project or goal. Meditate on beginnings, on the East, on air, on dawn.

Walk in Beauty – Freespirit



Samhain

Every year throughout October, we prepare for Hallowe’en. Some people love it, some try to ignore it, others loathe it but we all feel its presence. Like a dream in the collective unconscious it creeps into our awareness and will not budge until the last trick or treater has gone home and laid its ghosts to rest.

The first signs appear, of course, in the shops. Bats; broomsticks; spiders; cauldrons and pumpkins can be seen everywhere. Then the preparations infiltrate playgroups, nurseries and schools. Because children love Hallowe’en and for them, its all about Trick or Treat. For the young, the emphasis is on treats – dressing up and going around the neighbourhood with a goody bag, which will, with luck, come back bulging with goodies. For the older child it may turn to trickery, ranging from harmless pranks to more serious misdemeanours. People who fall pray to these tricks may be heard to mutter about American Ideas, believing it to be yet another notion from across the pond that has taken root in our culture.

But did it really begin there? Or does Hallowe’en draw on an altogether more ancient heritage?

The truth is, like most modern festivals, its roots probably go back to the mists of time before recorded histories began. All we can be reasonably certain of is that this celebration, to our pagan ancestors, was the most important festival of the year.

To our Celtic forefathers, Hallowe’en was known as Samhain. The word Samhain means more literally Summer’s End. To these farming folk, there were really only two seasons – summer and winter. And this concept became reflected in their spiritual beliefs as dark and light; bountiful and barren; active and inactive.

Its original purpose was to celebrate the final harvest of the year and prepare for the hard days of winter. For our ancestors farmed the land and lived from its bounty. They had no science, no technology. Everything they had came from the land on which they made their homes; their lives depended on what they could hunt, grow or gather and so they lived with, and by, the seasons. In their tribal culture, they had to make the best use of what nature provided during the growing season and store sufficient to ensure their tribe’s survival through the winter ahead.

Samhain was celebrated around about October 31, or when the last harvest was in and the food was safely stored. Cattle would be culled and only those best suited to surviving the lean months could be kept until spring. The meat from the cull would be salted and cured to keep the families fed. The final harvest from fruit and vegetables was gathered and carefully packed to ensure good keeping. The last of the grain harvest would be stored for cattle feed.

Everyone high born or low was involved in this work. But at the end of all their hard labours, they would feast. This was a way of celebrating both their work’s end and of giving thanks to the Deities of the land who had provided their food.

It may seem odd that the end of summer should be celebrated as the most important of the ancient festivals. But to our Celtic ancestors, all things began in darkness; the day began at dusk and so it is logical that their counting of the year would begin at the onset of darkness too.

And perhaps it seemed only right to thank the Gods for their provisions after the harvest while also petitioning them to protect them through the winter to come. For just as Samhain marks the end of one season, it also heralds the beginning of the new. And so to our Celtic forefathers, Samhain was the New Year, or the turning of the Wheel. One of their many gods would straddle this time nexus, looking back over the passing year and looking forward to the days ahead.

I think there were other, more pragmatic reasons for beginning the year as the days of darkness approached. If we look at the lifestyles of these people, they were run by the seasons and at the end of the harvesting period, the time of planning for the next year’s work must be done. It would be no good leaving it until our New Year, when the days were so short that little work could be done. In October, however, there was still some daylight to get outside and do essential repairs on the land; hedges to cut back; fences to mend; decisions to be made about spring planting. And I wonder if this is how our now diluted New Year’s Resolutions came about – essentially an in-depth planning strategy for the next year’s labours, begun immediately after the New Year Feast of Samhain.

There may have been an even stranger reason, to our modern way of thinking. During the summer, any fighting over boundaries would be done; many of the men folk would go to battle, leaving the youngsters and the women to care for the land. As the days began to grow shorter and darker, the men would finally come home, for the darker months decreed that any hostilities would cease and for a few months the men would be back with their families, safe in their simple homes. What better time to celebrate?

And in that spirit of reflection and remembrance, their simple harvest festival of thanks and feasting took on another role, that of honouring their beloved dead and inviting them, for one night of revelry, to join them again in the physical world. This custom lives on in Hallowe’en with its themes of ghosts; is echoed by All Saints Day in honour of the Saints of Christianity celebrated on November 1st and echoes once more in Latin America on El Dia de los Muertos; the Day of the Dead. On this day families decorate the graves of their dear departed with flowers, sweets and other gifts. And so, the two themes most evident in modern Hallowe’en celebrations ~ of remembering the dead and divining the future ~ are inextricably linked to these first pagan customs.

So the ancient worship of the land brought about through our reliance upon nature made way for the coming of more modern religious practises. Its sacred purpose has been re-written; but Samhain or Halloween, our ancient heritage is alive and well.