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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Samhain

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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A Samhain Tale: Hecate and the Crossroads of Choice

At Samhain, when the veil between the worlds is thin and the mysteries of the sacred dark permeate the mundane world, Hecate calls to us. Never before has Her voice been so loud, so urgent. She speaks to us not only in our dreams and ritual magic, but also in the stark language of wildly erratic weather patterns, dying oceans and barren lands, and in the cold despair and hungry hopes of our own warm, beating heart.

It`s not easy to heed Her call. She raises our own spectral fears about the fate of our human society and planet home. Environmentally, socially, politically and spiritually, we are destroying the fabric of our physical and social world. We have reached a critical tipping point, and if we continue on this trajectory, things are not going to end well.

But how do we change? How do we shift from denial, apathy and despair into a place of hope and inspiration? How do we turn this destructive momentum into an evolutionary, birthing moment? And what is our personal part in weaving a better world into being?

“Come to my crossroads,” Hecate whispers on the wind, “Come and you will find the answers you seek.”

Take a deep breath, summon up your courage and say, “Yes, Hecate, I am coming. Guide me to your crossroads.”

In the world between the worlds, where the mysteries lie in wait, you will find Hecate. She appears before you in Her Crone form, with a thick mane of moonlight silver hair and intense, amethyst eyes that shine bright with Her ageless presence. She wears a cloak of midnight black that shimmers as She moves, as if brushed with starlight. An aura of light surrounds Her, a way-showing beacon in the enveloping darkness to guide travelers to Her crossroads. Her arms open wide to welcome you, casting a circle of illumination that draws you into its center. 

With a sweep of Her hands, two roads appear before you.

To the left is a neglected path, overgrown with the luscious fecundity of the wild realm.  Memories arise within you of the feral innocence of childhood with its simple pleasures of play and wonder in your dance with the outer world. And beneath this, older, ancestral memories percolate, of a time when humanity lived in loving, sensual communion with the powers and mysteries of the Mother Earth.  

To the right is a paved-over surface that obscures any trace of the living land under an unforgiving, tar black sheen. This path exudes a deadness that lays bare the tear in our human psyche from the natural world and our true, beautiful essence, and echoes with the keening pain of our battered souls and broken hearts.

“Behold the crossroads of these Great Turning times, where humanity faces a critical, precarious juncture in its spiritual evolution,” Hecate says, “Before you are two ways of living and dreaming.”

“One path holds the good dream of humanity where you walk the Earth in accordance with my life-centered ways and your best nature of love, generosity and communion with others. The second path holds the bad dream where your worst instincts of dominion, fear and greed lay barren the wild realm and the heart of your human society. It is this second path, reeking devastation on the living world, that rules humankind.

“Both of these paths exist inside of you and in your greater society. Humanity is neither good nor bad, but some complex weaving that includes the best and worst of your nature.”

With another sweep of Her hands, the two paths merge into one.

“This is my middle path,” Hecate says,” it holds the opposing paths of the good and bad dream of humanity. A mirror path exists inside of you that contains the joy and sorrow, and beauty and wounding of your life story.

“To transform yourself and your world, you must walk this middle path. To travel its ways is to accept and take responsibility for all that you are and all that you have experienced, and from this greater awareness choose whether the good or bad dream of humanity will hold sway in the core of your being. You must choose whether love or fear will rule you.

“Love is the way forward for you and your human kin — love that can hold and heal the sorrow and wounding that burden your soul and the world soul — love that chooses generosity over greed, and communion over dominion  — love that can turn the destructive momentum that threatens this world into a positive new beginning.

“This love is my way, the way of the sacred feminine, that is awakening within you and leading you home to your Deep Self and a better world.”

As Hecate speaks, the light that emanates from Her being shines brighter and brighter. This wondrous luminosity is the very love that She speaks of, offering a beacon of guidance and hope in these turbulent, Great Turning times. Hecate, the sacred feminine, all life on this stunning Earth, your life, are woven of this love. 

Hecate turns to you, taking your hands and squeezing them tight.

“Time is running out. Do not turn away,” She says, “By your choices, and those of your human kin, will your destiny and that of your Earth home be decided.”

She folds Her arms inward, drawing Her brilliant light back into Her body until She is gone, and you find yourself alone under a star-studded sky. Your hands still tingle from Her touch and the responsibility She has bequeathed to you shines strong and bright within you.

After the crossroads vision is done, the real magic begins. With your every thought, every word, every action, you choose which path your lives serves, and the kind of a world you want to create. Never have the stakes been higher; life as we know it hangs in the balance. To change this world, you must start with yourself.

Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Tarot for the Ancestor Altar

There are many traditions for the celebration of Samhain, or secular Halloween. One of my favorites is the creation of an Ancestor Altar. That is, a special altar that honors your ancestors, and assists them in communicating with you during this time of the thinning veil.

The ancestor altar is present in many cultural traditions. In some cultures, offerings of food, tobacco and libations are left for the ancestors upon the altar. In others, the altar is a place for photographs and special mementos of our loved ones in spirit.

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You’re invited to a Samhain ritual

You’re invited to a Samhain ritual. It will be held via teleseminar (group phone-call). Simply dial your phone, and you’re in. No other equipment needed. Attendance is free.

 

Dial-in number and other details for this one-hour ceremony are in my upcoming newsletter. Subscribe for free: https://outlawbunny.com/newsletter/ 

 

Samhain is a major holiday for many Pagans. The holiday has various aspects. Here are a few: 

* It is similar to the Mexican Day of the Dead, in that it is a time to honor and visit with ancestors.

* It is a harvest festival.

* Many Pagans celebrate the New Year at this time, instead of on January 1.

 

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