The History of Samhain and it’s Relation to Halloween

The History of Samhain and it’s Relation to Halloween

My journey exploring Wicca and Paganism began sometime at the beginning of last year. The snow was still on the ground and I was in emotional turmoil. I began checking out every book I could on the subject out of pure curiosity to distract myself and ended up partaking in celebrating some of the Sabbats (although not very well planned out and I hope to get better as time goes on.) I still celebrate Christian holiday’s but I honor the Sabbats as well. As many of you know, Samhain is coming up quickly and some consider this to be the most important Sabbat. It was actually in reading about Yule and Samhain that opened my curiosity to the Pagan way of life. These were holiday’s that were honored and celebrated well before Christianity was an organized religion. Christian’s took dates very near if not exactly the same as Pagan holidays and spun them in their favor. There is a stigma and belief that these Pagan holidays are associated with the Devil and evil. Those of us who are aware of the history can find some humor in that notion because it is completely the opposite. For that, I wanted to do a piece on the history of Samhain and how it has evolved into modern day Halloween.

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THE HISTORY OF SAMHAIN

Samhain, pronounced Sow-en has been dated back more than 2,000 years  to the ancient Celtics. It has been a misconception for some time that Samhain started as celebration of the God of the Dead, however Samhain translates to “summer’s end”. They believed this was the end of summer and the beginning of the new year. Samhain Eve began at sunset of October 31st and November 1st began the new year and start of winter. This is because the Celtics followed a lunar calendar. Historically the celebration commenced on October 31st and carried into November 1st.

HOW THEY CELEBRATED 

At dusk on October 31st local villages began the formal ceremonies to celebrate Samhain, which usually commenced with lighting a large bonfire. These fires were considered sacred and were given sacrifice in the form of crops and animals to give thanks for the previous years crops and herds. These were also considered cleansing fires. To burn the old and make way for the new. The celebration continued with costumes and dancing around the fire. There were three main reasons that the ancient Celts wore costumes during their Samhain rituals:

  1. To honor the dead who were permitted to rise from the other world and be reincarnated or set free.
  2. Hide from malevolent spirits and escape being tricked by them
  3. To honor the Celtic Gods and Goddesses

Many times they did divination of a sort. The methods used in ancient times vary much from today. They would read tea leaves, rocks, or twigs. Some believe the first tarot cards were crafted during this era around Samhain. There is no evidence to support this but it is a legend that has passed down through the years.

After the celebration was finished the villagers would take clubs to catch on fire from the sacred bonfire and bring it back to their homes to light their hearths. They kept the same fire burning for months throughout the winter. Then they would place food and drink on their door steps to appease mischievous spirits who might try to play tricks on members of the household.

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SAMHAIN BECOMES HALLOWEEN 

Christianity cropped up in 800 AD and with it the Church in England tried to bring Christianity into old Celtic festivals and rituals, Samhain being one of them (check the similarity between other Pagan Holidays such as Ostara and Easter, etc.). Pope Boniface IV claimed October 31st as “All Hallow’s Eve” and November 1st as “All Saints Day”. This is when the evolution of Halloween begins. The rituals varied but many are similar to how we celebrate the commercialized version of Halloween and they began at this time. Peasants would attend the festivals in the streets on Samhain and beg for food in return they would pray for the giver’s family to be free of trickery from the spirits. Families passed out “soul cakes” to the poor in return for these prayers. The church encouraged passing out soul cakes rather than leaving food out for the spirits as was done in earlier times.

The costume aspect of Halloween comes from the original Celtic practice of dressing up. People believed that the veil between the other world and our world became thin enough for spirits and ghosts to walk among us. Costumes were used to confuse spirits as to who was a mortal and who was a ghost. They believed it prevented them from trickery. In much later years after English Settlers carried different aspects of different parts of Samhain to America, the costume tradition stuck and eventually became a commercialized part of the holiday. The commercialization of it really began in the late 1800’s. Communities decided to start throwing parties and festivals that were appropriate for children and adults. It was encouraged to remove any sort of grotesque context from the festivities and rather focus on games and food. Between 1920 and 1950 the centuries old practice of “trick or treating” came back to life. Similar to beggars asking for soul cakes, children dressed up in costumes and asked for treats.

By the time the 1990s arrived American’s were spending upward of $6.9 billion on the holiday on candy, decor, and pumpkin patches.

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SAMHAIN TRADITIONS WE STILL FOLLOW 

  1. Black and orange is the color scheme. We associate these colors instantly with Halloween but they were originally much more important a part of Samhain and the Sabbats. Black represents the time of darkness after the death of the God. The waning light of October is represented by Orange and shows Yule is on the way.
  2. Jack-O-Lanters. The ancients that celebrated Samhain used to light candles and put them in hollowed out Gourds for the dead to follow the light as they walked the earth on Samhain.
  3. Tricks or Treats. It would now be frowned upon to give children or beggars home baked treats on Halloween but the idea originated with them as well as placing food outside the door to protect one from trickery.
  4. Costumes. Although much more commercialized and more geared towards children, there is no doubt that dressing up in robes and costumes on October 31st began more than 2000 years ago.

So there you have it. A brief but thorough explanation of how Halloween came to be. Today we celebrate it with trick or treating and watching slasher movies, but Pagans still honor it as a sacred holiday. Do I believe the veil thins on October 31st and our dead walk the earth? Not necessarily. But I do believe it’s a good time to focus on ancestral history, the turning of seasons, and honoring those who have died. That is for another blog. Coming up on the 2nd part Samhain blog series: altars, rituals, foods, and what modern day pagans really do on Halloween!

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Collaboration with Sarah Fawn Empey

Collaboration with Sarah Fawn Empey

I recently had the opportunity to do an interview for the wonderful, witchy, Sarah Fawn Empey. The universe and our blogs brought us together for this opportunity. She has a wonderful site with not only blog posts, but other witchy resources. To see the blog head here –> Interview with the witty witch

While you are there, click the home button and check out her services and posts!

I PROMISE to bring you a blog about the Full Blood Moon tomorrow. I have been caught up in listing real estate and my sobriety journey or else it would have published Monday. Keep coming back, there are a lot of fantastic, magickal happenings in the month of October…one being my 30th birthday 😉

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The Moon Journal You All Need + Info On Dark Moon in Cancer

The Moon Journal You All Need + Info On Dark Moon in Cancer

My dear friend got me this work book for my graduation gift and I have loved using it! Of course when I was active in my addiction again I didn’t really do more than skim through it because I was not spiritually in a good place. Now that my recovery and spiritual journey is at the forefront of my mind again I have found myself picking it up and re-reading it often. The passage about the dark moon coming up from July 21st – 22nd was so spot on for what I need in my life right now! They even provide a lovely ritual that you can do to banish what is no longer serving you and to manifest what you need in your life.  I would recommend anyone who follows moon phases to buy or download a copy of the Many Moons workbook. You can find it here: Many Moons

This moon is all about release so we can leave room for nourishment. I won’t get into the exact ritual the book recommends because I respect the author enough to recommend you purchase the book to receive the full benefit, but here is the spin I am doing on it.

Altar- ALL the amethysts and rose quartz crystals out in the center. I will be placing significant tarot cards for release and nourishment underneath the stones. I will also be doing the Biddy Tarot “Release and Let Go” seven card spread which goes as follows:

Here is the seven-card Tarot spread:

  • What am I feeling right now
  • Why am I feeling it so strong
  • How can I release this feeling
  • What is the feeling transforming into
  • How can I rise above
  • What is my new beginning
  • What have I learned

Source: Release and Let Go Tarot Spread

Also, some dark times have come and gone through my house while I was in relapse so I intend to sage the fuck out of it. Every corner, every inch with not only sage but Palo Santo and the smudge stick made from my sisters garden. I want to ensure all those little pesky negative energies are gone so my home can be warm and light again. At this time I will also put clear quartz at my open door as I am wafting the energies out to shield them from coming back in.

I feel like my recovery coming right at the dark moon is a sign. Between the date of recovery being 7/17/17 and this dark moon I feel like I spiritually have the tools to get through this. I am also taking the steps I need to make sure I am medically being taken care of. I have an evaluation for intensive outpatient this coming week.

Perhaps you don’t have as much darkness and troubles in your life right now, but everyone can do with a little releasing. Release your stress, anger, anxiety, whatever it is you are feeling, use this time to let it go.

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July’s Full Buck Moon

July’s Full Buck Moon

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The full moon will fall on July 8th or 9th  (depending where you live).

I particularly like the idea of this moon. It’s referred to as the buck moon because July is the time of year that all male deer have grown their antlers in. It’s also referred to as the blessing moon which is a beautiful thought. This is the full moon that falls right in the middle of the year and should be used to feel grateful for what you have instead of focusing on change or growth (something is generally a focus for full moons.) This time of year is about porch sitting, beach strolling, and long lazy days. It should only be fitting that you use this moon to sit back and reflect on your blessings.

This moon is also the calm before the storm. Just around the corner are the fall and winter Sabbats and many moon cycles that should be utilized for growth, recovery, change, etc.

So take this time to count your blessings. On full moon’s I usually banish the things I want to be rid of but during the blessing moon I am going to do the opposite. Instead of burning and banishing the negative, I am quite literally going to count my blessings.

On white paper with a white candle and palo santo burning, write down all the things you are grateful for. These can be blessings new and old. You can even write the blessings you would like to collect in the future. Take a moment to speak to your higher power (the universe, the God, the Goddess…whoever) and take extra care to give extra thanks for the many things you are blessed with.

If you have been in a rut and you can’t find your blessings at the ready try meditating and lighting a light blue candle. Light blue calms and relaxes. If you have been too stressed to notice your blessings, this can help keep your space Zen and chill enough for you to catch back up to the positive vibes that are surrounding you.

Blessed be!

Litha – Midsummer-Summer Solstice

Litha – Midsummer-Summer Solstice

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Happy Summer Solstice! This is my first full year celebrating the Sabbats so I am learning as I go. I wasn’t paying attention and booked tickets to go to the baseball game tonight so I won’t be able to celebrate Litha in true witchy fashion, but I will do a little something before I head to the City.

Litha, also referred to as midsummer or summer solstice is associated with the holiday of the feast of John the Baptist and is the longest day of the year. During summer solstice, Earth is positioned in such a way that the North Pole is leaning the most towards the Sun. The summer solstice puts the Sun God in the most powerful position, therefore fire plays a large role in this Sabbat. This is why traditionally when people celebrate Midsummer they light large fires and dance around it.  Additionally, this is a time of fertility for men as opposed to Imbolc, Ostara, and Beltane which promotes fertility for women.

Incense and Flowers for Midsummer 

  • St. John’s Wort
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Sunflower
  • Fir
  • Rowan
  • Mistleto
  • Oak

Ways to Acknowledge Midsummer 

  • Wear flowers in your hair or make a flower crown
  • Bonfire ritual
  • Any outdoor picnic or feast
  • Lithia prayer

Random Historical Facts about Midsummer 

Around the same time Stonehenge was being constructed in England, two great pyramids and then the Sphinx were built on Egyptian sands. If you stood at the Sphinx on the summer solstice and gazed toward the two pyramids, you’d see the sun set exactly between them.

SOURCEEverything You Need To Know About Midsummer

Recipes for Litha

Buttermilk Scones for Litha from Hearth & Home Witchery

3 cups Flour
1/3 cup Sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
3/4 teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 cup Buttermilk
3/4 cup Currants
1 teaspoon Grated Orange Rind
1 Tablespoon Heavy Cream
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Use an ungreased baking sheet. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir well with a fork to mix and fold air into batter. Add the butter and cut into the flour mixture, using a pastry blender or two knives, or work in, using your fingertips, until the mixture looks like fresh bread crumbs. Add the buttermilk, currants and orange rind. Mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Gather the
dough into a ball and press so it holds together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 12 times. Pat the dough into a circle 1/2-inch thick.

Glaze: In a small bowl combine the cream, cinnamon and sugar; stir to blend. Brush the dough with the glaze. Cut the dough into 18 pie-shaped pieces. Place the scones 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the tops are browned. Serve hot with Orange Honey Butter (recipe follows).

Honey-Lavender Biscotti  from Hearth & Home Witchery

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to the middle position. Lightly grease three baking sheets (lining the baking sheet with parchment paper prevents sticking and makes cleanup much easier). In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk sugar and eggs to a light lemon color; stir in honey, vanilla extract, orange zest, and lavender blossoms. Sprinkle dry ingredients over the egg mixture; fold in until the dough is just combines. To shape the dough into a log, lightly sprinkle flour on the work surface, on top of the dough, and on your hands. Use just enough flour to form the logs and to prevent sticking; you don’t want the logs to be covered with flour. Divide dough into six equal pieces. With your hands, pat and shape each piece into a loaf approximately 3 inches wide, 7 inches long, and 3/4-inch high. Place two rolls onto each prepared baking sheet with 3 to 4 inches of space between them. Bake 25 minutes or until dough pops back up when lightly pressed with a finger. (After dough has baked 10 minutes, reverse cookie sheets from front to back and move from the top rack to the bottom one. Repeat this again after another 10 minutes). You can’t judge the cooking by the color. The biscotti shouldn’t change color during the second baking, so poke them to tell if they’re done. They should feel dry and offer some resistance. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Reduce oven to 275 degrees F. Using a long serrated knife, cut logs diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices. Turn the slices over, onto their sides; return slices, on baking sheets, to oven. Bake another 15 minutes. NOTE:  Do not crowd the biscotti slices on the baking sheet for their second baking as they need the hot air to circulate to enable them to crisp up evenly. Remember biscotti will continue to crisp up, as they cool, so do not be tempted to over bake. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire racks. Store biscotti in an airtight container. They will keep well for a few weeks. Yields about 54 biscotti.

This is one of my favorite pies. Since blueberries and rhubarb are not is season at the same time one or the other fruit will have to be frozen. It’s awesome with vanilla ice cream.

SOURCE: (they have A TON of great recipes, these are just examples.) Litha Recipes

The Full Strawberry Moon

The Full Strawberry Moon

As life has become more routine I am getting back into doing my hippie/wiccan things. Just last week my boyfriend and I had a reiki/relax night. I did reiki on both of us and then we took turns massaging each other with reiki music playing, crystals and candles everywhere…it was lovely and much needed! Tonight is the Full Strawberry moon and I am going overboard with this one.

Here is what the night will consist of:

  • Making moon water with clear quartz
  • Charging crystals (per standard)
  • A moon journal (detailing what goals I have for the entire moon cycle) including a spell for each moon phase going forward until the next full moon
  • A list of items to banish
  • A prayer
  • A letter to the universe asking it to help me manifest my goals

I am very lucky to have a partner that not only tolerates my moon rituals but also participates.

I have not been glowing love and light lately and have allowed a lot of things from both our pasts negatively impact my mood. It has consumed me and torn me apart and I need to refocus my energy on LOA and our present and our future together.

When you have been hurt, its easy to put walls up. Or in the words of Julia Michaels “got hands like an ocean, push you out pull you back in.” It’s not an intentional behavior to put walls up and try to guard myself but it happens from time to time and I need to release that blockage. I am going to end here because I have a LOT of hand written work to do for tonight. I hope this moon brings you all that you hope for and manifest.

Blessed be!

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For the Love Of Stevie Nicks.

For the Love Of Stevie Nicks.

I have never been a girl that has been restricted to the confines of the generation I was born. I have never been a big fan of pop culture and present trends. I have always been described as an old soul. I shaved my barbie’s head on one side and dyed her hair red with kool-aid to make her look like Cyndi Lauper. I’ve always been attracted to the women that live on the edge.

I  mostly grew up with my bachelor dad who is a lover of classic rock and boozy nights and when you couple them together it was like a rock concert in our tiny two bedroom apartment. I grew up riding on the wings of Led Zeppelin, The Who, ACDC, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty and…..Fleetwood Mac. For whatever reason, Fleetwood Mac always had a hold over me. I always listened to their music but it wasn’t until my 20’s I really became fascinated with Stevie Nicks. It’s no surprise though. When I was in elementary school I got my first tarot deck and raided my dad’s herb garden to make potions. It’s only natural my heart would find its way to Stevie.

On hot summer days I throw on a swimsuit, leather head band and sit by my parent’s pool listening to Stevie over the loud speaker and vibe the fuck out. That is me totally in my element. I will tell anyone who will listen the story of how and why Stevie wrote “Landslide” and how she got the idea for the name of “Edge of Seventeen”.

This December I had the GREATEST pleasure of taking my dad to the Stevie Nicks and Pretenders concert in Seattle. I like the Pretenders but I couldn’t sit still through their performance knowing I was about to see STEVIE in person. The moment she waltzed out on stage with her shawl trailing behind her and the beat of “Gold and Braid” starting tears flooded my eyes. I was almost inconsolable. Even the memory has tears springing up in my eyes. It’s not just Stevie’s music that speaks to me it’s her life and her strength. Stevie has beaten addiction twice, overcome every broken heart, shot to success and still remained humble and beautiful inside. She embodies every feminist that refuses to fit themselves in the confines of what society deems normal. She made me feel OK with being a “misfit” that liked tarot cards and moon phases. Stevie made my journey to becoming a full blown witch blissful rather than shameful.

Stevie has been by my side metaphorically speaking through some of my darkest days. When I had no words and only tears, Stevie’s voice carried me. When I have felt nothing but joy I floated on the chords of her songs while twirling with delight. When  I was judged for being a Wiccan I pulled up pictures of Stevie amidst a bright crowd adorned in paisley and neon in her black top hat and moon necklace.

Stevie is a paradox. She is HUGE in life but small in stature. She is mystical yet logical. She is grace and she has an edginess. Stevie is a fucking queen.

Happy Birthday Stephanie Lynn. May all your wishes come true.