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Samhain in the Shadow of Halloween
Article ID: 10234
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Lady Abigail [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: November 6th. 2005
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I love this time of year. There is something magickal in the changing as the Wheel turns. The Goddess of Seasons delicately waves her wand across the land and, little by little, fall begins.
We see it in the explosions of bright and fiery colors. As the reds, oranges, pinks, purples, and golds decorate the hillsides, the leaves glisten within the heavy dews and sparkle with the frost as they darken and fall upon the ground.
You can hear it in the evening as the wind softly blows the branches of the trees to release a melody from the Goddess’ own wind chimes. There is a mystical sensation felt as the air becomes crisp and we notice that first sweet aroma of smoke flowing on the breeze. Autumn is here; that season of the year between summer and winter, lasting from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice.
As children, we felt the magick all around us. We simply understood it was there. Then, for reasons not clear, perhaps time or circumstance, many lost their way. Yet, when Autumn begins her dance, the mystical feelings we held as children seem to once again emerge and rekindle that spark within us all.
Other cultures and countries celebrate the seasonal changing by many differing names and customs. Recent studies have shown that Samhain, aka Halloween, is becoming a favored holiday of children, and even adults, in the United States.
The celebration of Samhain as Halloween in America has grown to the point that it is now the second biggest holiday, surpassing the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and even Easter/Ostara. Christmas/Yule holds a slight lead as the biggest and most celebrated holiday, perhaps due to the marketing and financial profits made in commerce.
Today, Witches and Pagans proudly celebrate this holiday, many openly. But, it was only a few short years ago that open celebrations were not possible. The gatherings and celebrations had to be hidden within the shadows of Halloween. Even Halloween was frowned upon in many areas, considered a worship of some evil force.
I remember how excited I was to hear that school’s fall break would also be over Halloween. That meant I would be able to spend the holiday with my Great Grandmother. I was so excited, I could not keep my thoughts on any of the class work. I kept watching the clock, hoping to speed up time so the bell would ring and I could go home. I knew my Great Grandmother would be waiting for me and we would be leaving for her house to spend the week.
It seemed as if that bell would never ring. When it finally did, I was out the door and nearly flying down the hall. There she was, like an image standing out of time. It was the 60’s and this tiny women seemed out of place to others. She was dressed in a high-button, white shirt with a small, cameo collar-pin and a long, dark blue skirt that just brushed above the tops of her shoes. Her hair was neatly pulled back in a braided twist. The air about her was filled with the slightest fragrance of amber, lavender, and rose. I noticed the teachers and some of the parents noticing her, but I didn’t care; this was “my” Great Grandmother and I got to go home with her.
Waiting in the car was one of my aunts; she was driving. As we started off, she asked if I was excited about spending this High Holy Day with my Great Grandmother. I squealed with delight, I was so happy. I couldn’t speak to other children about the holiday. It would have been dangerous to the sisters and my Great Grandmother. She had already been told that if she talked about her beliefs, or tried to teach me her silly superstitions, I would no longer be allowed to stay with her or would be forbidden to see her at all.
I really didn’t understand it as Samhain until much later in life. I knew it was a time of great celebration and my Great Grandmother would be getting together with the sisters. Each one I considered my aunt, even though they were not of blood relation. They were her Coven; each living separate lives in different areas, each a Witch of great knowledge and understanding, but all extremely careful of those that, even then, would have had hate-filled and horrific reactions to their being Witches.
It was the day of Halloween, our day of preparation, for the night would be filled with merriment and magick. After breakfast, my Great Grandmother began melting down beeswax for the making and dipping of candles. The wonderful aroma filled the house. To this day, I favor beeswax candles above all others for magickal work.
I was allowed to put some paper decorations my Great Grandmother had gotten around the house. Soon, the aunts began to arrive; everyone helping in the work for the Great Sabbath. There was the dipping of candles and mixing of herbs, teas, and brews. Then there was cooking and readying for the feast. The feast would be held as in day passed; at the dawning of the eve, when the sun began to lower from sight (sunset) .
One of the hens had to be dressed and cooked, corn and nuts were to be roasted, bread baked, and then there was the making of pies. This was something I not only looked forward to, but saw as my special part of the holiday because I was the one who got to go out and pick the best pumpkin in the garden. It would be used for carving and pie.
I walked in the garden, up and down the rows, seeking out just the right one. It had to be big, really big. It had to be very orange. It had to be perfect. This was a great honor to pick the pumpkin that would be not only for pie, but the guardian of the feast. The Jack-o-Lantern.
It took some help to get the pumpkin onto the back porch so it could be carved. But, once there, I got to draw out the face and helped with cutting and cleaning out the stringy seeds and pulp. From this slimy mess of seeds and pulp, we would roast pumpkin seeds and bake wonderful pies and cookies.
But, I think the best things I received from helping carve the pumpkin were the stories told by everyone. Not ghost stories about haunted houses, but true stories of their lives so many years ago, when they were young and learning their craft within herbs, candle making, and arts of magick.
The evening drew to a close; the cool, night air was still and you could hear the night sounds from all around. The table was readied with a banquet of foods and my pumpkin placed in the center of it all. I helped my Great Grandmother set the place of honor for the Goddess and God to join us in the feast. The candles were lit around the room, all but one; the candle for honoring the Goddess and God.
Blessings were given and the remaining candle was lit. At that moment, a soft, south breeze blew across the room and all the other candles went out at the same time. A tingle ran across me, but no fear. I knew this was a good sign and that the Lady and Lord had joined us in our celebration. Everyone began to laugh and the candles were relit. There were no more winds blowing in the room, just talk of what the night would bring.
When all was cleaned from the dinner and we were well into the darkness of the night, everyone readied to go to the sacred place. I had been there many times before with my Great Grandmother, sometimes with the sisters, sometimes not.
The path was worn, so it was easy to follow it through the field, past the woods, and into a clearing where the night sky could be seen without the invasion of the town lights. It was also a place where outworlders (those not of a magickal heart) were unlikely to wander and see, especially at that time of night when most people would be sleeping.
Everyone helped make the fire; the wood had been gathered earlier in preparation for the night. I picked up some dry leaves that had fallen from the big, oak to help start the fire. The big, black pot with the three, long legs was placed on the fire to boil.
My Great Grandmother and I would make a big pile of dry leaves to put the blankets on. Everyone would sit to rest for awhile as we enjoyed roasted nuts, tea, and cookies. I would lay my head in my Great Grandmother’s lap, watching the stars and listening to the stories told, long into the night. They were wonderful stories about times past and magick of old.
Soon, I would feel my Great Grandmother’s hand on my cheek as she said, “Wake up, my little one. It’s time to go home.” The ground was damp from the night’s dew and the ashes of the fire were nearly gone. I could see the glow of the sun on the horizon and hear the birds singing their morning songs. All was packed up and ready to go when I was awakened. My only disappointment was that I could never stay awake for the entire night. But, that would come, in time.
There was not one tradition within this family of Witches; they were all simply Witches with a mixing of their personal histories and spiritual wisdoms bringing them together. They proudly shared their knowledge, guidance, and passages, as well as magick and rites. They were a sisterhood, what we, today, call a coven.
I learned that this sacred night was a time to give honor to those who had passed before, give invocation, pray, and seek wisdom and spiritual guidance. It was, and is, a time to renew traditions lost and reclaim sacred things. It continues to be a time of offerings and thankfulness for all we have and for the portals yet to be opened. For as we stand between the worlds, let us not forget those who gave so much that we can now be out of the shadows.
Samhain (pronounced sow-en) is, for Witches and Pagans, a High Holy Day, a great Sabbath. It is an honored day shown in the turning of the Great Wheel. Samhain is celebrated on October 31st -Nov 1st. It marks the end of Summer and the beginning of Winter. The name may be changed, but whether you call it Samhain, Halloween, Day of the Dead, Shadow Feast, All Hallows Eve, Old Hallowmas, All Souls Day, Last Harvest, etc., Samhain is a day of celebration. The Goddess offers a sad farewell to the God. We know that He will once again be reborn of the Goddess and the cycle will continue. In this time of reflection, may we remember and honor the Ancients who have gone on before us.
Have a blessed and magickal Samhain.
By; Lady Abigail
High Priestess Ravensgrove Coven
Copyright © 10202005
Copyright: Copyright © 10202005
High Priestess Ravensgrove Coven
Location: Greenfield, Indiana
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