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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Samhain

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Samhain

The witches' new year. Time when the fields lie empty and the year lies down. The gates of life swing open, the dead lean in. Our world's veil is at its thinnest; we peer through the lace to find that growing edge. We meet in Deep Time, everywhere and nowhere, to greet the triple goddess who is the circle of rebirth. Over one shoulder lean the ancestors; over the other, unborn future beings peer. 

Remember this: we are 4 billion years old. It's taken evolution all this time to produce us, and our action will express that genius. We're an unfinished animal, fighting metaphysical battles in the physical world; flesh and breath in confrontation with abstractions. This is the battle of the human epic. Modern stories of our powerful vision express a reclaimed, authentic future, a remedy. Exalt in the never-ending journey of change. Seed becomes fruit. Fruit becomes seed. The beloved dead surround us, calling us to use our lives while we can in the service of the bigger life. The unborn future crowds 'round, waiting. It's up to us. This chaos is a seedbed for the future. 

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

I am here to tell the tales
b2ap3_thumbnail_42929604_2192483650963845_6076038633914105856_o.jpgof eerie lights
and thinning veils,
of trickling streams
and singing trails,
of seeking hearts
and thrilling wails.
I’ve gathered sounds of
shadows deep,
of stones that weep
and trees that sleep,
where legends steep
and secrets keep.
Gather round
on bended knee,
with webs to weave
and paths to see,
the Samhain Muse
has tales for thee. 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Samhain Sans Coven

The coven has a sweet (but deep) little Rite of Samhain planned for this Saturday night—down on an island at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, if you can stand it—but it's looking like I probably won't be there.

Why not? Possible Covid exposure.

I'll spare you the story. In the end, it all comes down to a bunch of old guys who, being Trumpers, don't take precautions on principle. It's hard to believe anyone could get to be so old and still be so stupid.

Oh well. Years back, back before I knew anyone, back when I was still a Pagan Alone, come Samhain I'd go down to the woods, light the fire, and make the magic.

And it was always the real thing.

This year, it looks like I'll be going back to my roots. That's always a type of renewal. Besides, no matter how well-covened you are—as gods know I am—we're always all solitaires first. "Thou mayest not be a witch alone"? Not so, say I.

Mayest not? In fact, thou must.

Come sunset, on the Eve of November, I'll climb down the cliff—just like I did when I was in high school—light the fire, and make the magic.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Deer People Have Come

In the dream, the coven has gathered, ready to begin the Rite of Samhain.

Night has fallen. Turning, I see deer on the hillside: first two, then more, then many.

We have visitors, I say.

We watch them watching us. The Deer People have come to witness our sabbat.

As we watch, one by one, the deer take human form.

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Unsurprisingly, medieval Irish literature is filled with references to the Feast of Samhain.

But in the entire corpus, she—that is to say, Samhain herself—turns up in person only once.

(That Samhain is a woman should surprise no one: in Irish, the word is grammatically feminine. The male “Samhain the Druidic Lord of the Dead” is a figment of 19th century folkloric imagination.)

 

The epic known as the Destruction of the Red God's Hostel tells of the death of Conaire Mor, Connory the Great, the Skyclad King of Ireland. (The tale of how he came by such a surprising title I'll tell you some other time.) As is usual in such tales, his downfall is brought about by his progressive—if inadvertent—violation of his personal geasa, the sacred taboos laid down for him at the time of his king-making.

Our story so far: On, as it happens, the Eve of the Feast of Samhain, Conaire Mor and his companions are feasting in the Hostel of the Red God. Then, after sunset, a woman appears at the door and seeks admission.

As long as a weaver's beam, and as black, her two shins. She wore a very fleecy, striped mantle. Her beard reached to her knees, and her mouth was on one side of her head. She put one shoulder against the doorpost and cast a baleful eye on the king and the youths about him.

So the Book of the Dun Cow describes her.

Conaire Mor: Well then, woman: if you are a seer, what do you see for us?

Woman: Indeed, I see that neither hide nor hair of you will escape from this house, save what the birds bear off in their claws.

Conaire Mor: That is an ill fortune indeed; nor do you usually prophesy for us. Woman, what is your name?

Woman: Cailb [she-dog].

Conaire Mor: That is a name with nothing to spare.

Woman: Indeed, I have many names.

Conaire Mor: What are they?

Woman: Easily told.

She then recites a list of 32 “names,” none of which is an actual woman's name. (Interesting as it would be to know the meaning of the 32 Names of Samhain, such a task far outstrips my knowledge of Old Irish vocabulary, alas.) The first of the list, though, is Samhain.

(The Book of the Dun Cow specifies that she recites this list in one breath, while standing on one foot, in the doorway of the house. Clearly, powerful magic is at work here.)

Conaire asks the woman what she wants, and she demands guest-room for the night.

Conaire Mor: It is geis to me to admit a lone woman to the house after nightfall.

Woman: Geis or no, I will not leave until I am given hospitality.

Conaire offers to send her an ox, a salted pig, and all the leftovers of the night's feast if only she will go elsewhere, but the woman refuses.

Woman: Indeed, if the king cannot spare a meal and a bed to one woman in his house, then let the kingship be taken from him and given to a man of honor instead.

Caught in a bind between competing demands, his personal geasa and the laws of hospitality, Conaire relents and admits the woman, but (as The Book of the Dun Cow says) “a great fear came over the host.”

And, indeed, every one of her prophecies comes true.

 

The personification of holidays as visiting guests is a long-standing trope of Indo-European poetics, spanning the entire Indo-European-speaking diaspora, and there can be little doubt that this is exactly what we see here.

What, then, does this tale tell us about Samhain the Feast?

Easily told.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
13 Samhain Superstitions

Boy, for a non-believer, I sure do have a lot of superstitions about Samhain; I suppose that any Time that marks an End-Beginning will acquire its due share. Many seem to be of a sympathetic magical nature, on the premise of As you begin, so will you continue. Some are just plain weird.

Forthwith:

 

The rent should be paid.

All bills need to be paid.

The gas tank should be full.

You should have some money in your pocket.

The house should be clean.

There should be a fire on the hearth.

All garbage should be taken out of the house before sunset. (Otherwise, you'll just be dealing with old garbage all year.)

The back door needs to be closed and locked by sundown on Samhain Eve, and needs to stay that way at least until sunrise the next morning.

You need to have these things in the house: bread, salt, potatoes, onions, garlic. (Actually, you should always have these things in the house, anyway; but at Samhain, it's particularly important.)

There should be more food on the table than can be eaten. (This for abundance through the year to come.)

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

Two Octobers ago my last grandmother died, my last living grandparent. As the leaves turn to red and gold once more, I wake thinking of her each morning. I wake thinking of my maternal grandmother too, who died five years ago, in springtime as the iris bloomed. I dream of my husband's grandfather, he stands shoulder to shoulder with my oldest son, white hair flashing as he compares their heights and laughs.

We've just returned from a two week long trip to Florida and have arrived back in Missouri to a life in full b2ap3_thumbnail_73311891_2462875420591332_173510902027386880_o.jpgswing, parties to attend and plan, new products to develop for our shop, old requests waiting for our attention. But, the leaves will only be this color for a moment. The air will only be this sweet and pleasant for a moment. The sun will only glint across the cedar branches in this way that brings my soul to life right now, the colors of the day so sharp and vivid, clear and bright to my eyes, that it is almost like stepping into another reality. We have only this moment to join hands and slip off into the woods beneath the early morning sun, stepping past pools of slowly dripping water, over sharp and uncertain stones, soft green moss, and carpets of fallen leaves. It is only this moment in which we will hear the hawk's cry ring out across the trees. Only now in which we will turn over leaves and discover shining mushrooms, gleaming in the October sun.

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