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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Samhain

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Bad Nasty Entitlement Fairy

First of all, I am never going to meditate on compassion again.

Well, that's not true. I totally will. I just need to keep in mind that I'm a Witch and the moment I decide I want to know more about something, I need to plan that it's not going to show up in a pretty new book put out by my favorite authors. It will come in the package of angry persons, moments ripe for impatience, hurtful words, and seemingly futile attempts to heal through listening and sharing. IT WILL MANIFEST, PEOPLE. AND IT WILL USUALLY MANIFEST VIA PEOPLE.

People are the ultimate compassion-testers and the closer you are to them, the more they will test and tempt you to throw away all compassion. Along with several handfuls of your hair. I don't know why that is and I'm not asking why right now (TAKE NOTE, UNIVERSE! I AM OFFICIALLY NOT ASKING "WHY?"!) Basically, it's easier to have compassion for the homeless person sleeping on the subway than the co-worker making snarky remarks about company policies. It's much easier to have compassion for people making mistakes a world away than people making mistakes right next to you. If it were, Boyfriend would have compassion for me when I overload the dishwasher. ("And leave food out on the counter. And leave the lights on when you leave for work. And...." he compassionately added.)

Anyway...the Lesson in Compassion Fairy arrived at my apartment door recently, along with Lessons From Bad Nasty Entitlement Fairy. Both of those Fairies make tough guests. I love them for existing. I hate them when I'm dealing with them--much like Bikram Yoga and roach traps.

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  • Ilyssa Silfen
    Ilyssa Silfen says #
    I've been dealing with both the Bad Nasty Entitlement Fairy and the Compassion Fairy quite a bit these past few weeks, and so this
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Weber, Wonderful post. So relevant...and I feel badly for what you guys went through with Superstorm Sandy. Thanks again!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Face To Face with Neglected Ancestors

And they are kind of cranky.  Let me give you the backstory, if I may.

About once a month, a small group of us get together for some trance work.  Sometimes we hold trance postures, sometimes we dance.  We crank up the "tunes" and turn off the lights.  Some of us cover our eyes.  We have a separate room where we can sit it out for a bit--or write what's coming in for us.  Then we can choose to return or not.  When we are all in the separate room and sitting quietly for a bit, someone will ask if we've all returned and we do a self-check to make sure we're fully present.

Fairly standard for this sort of thing.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
When the young leave us

Last night, like so many others, I tuned into the stillness and silence of the chilling autumn to honor those who have passed into the Otherworld. Every year my coven hosts an intimate dumb supper at my home. This year we had seventeen people crammed into my small urban duplex. The potluck dishes were everywhere; the counters, all the tables, and even on the piano. It struck me as interesting that so many people took the time to come out to something that did not feature a flashy ritual or a raging social party. Many came with a sincere interest in giving thinks to the Mighty Dead. Others probably came with a secret desire to chance a whisper from a deceased loved one during the time of silence the supper brings. In any case, the reverence at the event was permeable.

Dumb SupperOur dumb supper altar to the dead

I originally intended to connect with my grandpa who passed over the summer. But when the silence came and we began to eat our meals, a different presence came over me. Instead of feeling the many beautiful elderly people I've had in my life, I felt the memory of those youth we've lost recently and not so recently. As strange as it sounds, the candles on the ancestor altar in front of these people's photos seemed to glow bright than the others. Intrigued, I dropped down into a deep stillness and listened.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

October 30, 2011.The night before Samhain, and I was getting into bed: exhausted, restless and ungrounded. Thinking about the next day was stressing me out even further. I realized I was starting to dislike Halloween in the same the way many devout Christians dislike the “holiday season” of Christmas. Yup: Halloween was starting to interfere with my Samhain.

Hallowe’en has always been my favorite holiday. But these days Halloween has become hectic and hyper-commercial. Throughout late October, I was so busy I could barely stop for breath: taking my kids to parties, decorating the house, and preparing my altar. I was also reading Tarot cards at a local haunted house, which meant that I was spending my weekends listening to screaming teenagers and a constant loop of ghastly sound effects. On top of work and family responsibilities, Hallowe’en was getting to be pretty tiring, even before Samhain Eve itself rolled around.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Simple Samhain Rites

I love this time of year. Where I live, here in upstate New York, the summer’s heat has given way to autumn’s chill, the leaves are shifting into colorful hues of yellow, orange, and red, and the farmer’s markets are filled with pumpkins ready to be carved.

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  • Deborah Blake
    Deborah Blake says #
    Thanks! It's a great idea...and then you get to eat it, too!
  • Hunter Liguore
    Hunter Liguore says #
    Insightful... love cooking those ancestor dishes!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Leaves of Samhain

  Over the years I have noticed a natural rhythm, an ebb and flow of activity and attendance to annual celebrations of the Wheel of the Year. Many seem to skip Imbolc, perhaps it the weather or perhaps we're still shaking off the winter hibernation. Still some confess not really being sure how to celebrate Imbolc, regardless, we usually seem to warm up by Ostara and are always in full swing for the Maypole Dance at Beltane. We cruise along through the wheel at a steady even pace until Samhain when we turn up the juice full throttle for everyone's favorite holiday. 

   It's really no surprise the Samhain is arguably the most popular of the Sabbats, it perhaps one of the most fun and memorable social events of our childhood. It is not a far stretch to assume the positive experiences of dressing up like our favorite hero or villain and canvassing the neighborhood collecting candy found a comfortable place to nest in the psyche of our young minds. It can be a dream come true for many who grow up, come to Paganism and discover one of their favorite childhood holidays has deep cultural and spiritual roots which complements their religious beliefs and practices.

   I had a good childhood, great parents and a close, strong family ties. My childhood experiences have always had a significant influence on my personal spiritual beliefs and practices. The most significant influence was from my Grandmother, from whom I learned how to cast my Circles and how to celebrate Samhain.

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  • Editor B
    Editor B says #
    A very moving account. Your grandma sounds awesome. Thank you for sharing.

My mind shifts at this time of year from the thick-blooded heat and lethargy of summer into a fervor of magical practice. In my part of the United States, we tend to have lingering heat even into October and November, but it is tempered by the crispness of evening air. When the darker days come, I feel energized, renewed, and eager to work magic and tap into the current of enchantment which emerges when summer has been left behind. And while the greenery of the floral world retreats, a different kind of stirring seems to happen below the soil. The Dead are waking up.

It seems everyone has a festival of the dead in autumn. Of course, Halloween is probably the dominant cultural paradigm for those of us living in the United States and Canada, but Hispanic folks have Dia de (los) Muertos, people of Asian ancestry have holidays like the Ghost Festival or the Chung Yeung Festival, and Catholics have All Souls’ Day. While some cultures do not seat their ancestral reverences in autumn, so many do that working with the dead during the cooling months comes naturally to a lot of folks, myself included.

Developing an ancestral practice is, in my opinion, important to those practicing spiritual systems centered on land, folklore, history, etc. It creates a sense of family and timelessness, while acknowledging the mortality that binds every living thing together. It keeps tradition alive, while allowing for new growth and understanding as descendants adapt their practices to the era in which they live. In many cases, I’ve heard people explain that they do not work with ancestors because their predecessors would not have approved of their lifestyle, or there might be a history of abuse or harm, or perhaps they simply are not close to their family in general. However, I would argue that honoring the Dead does not necessarily mean honoring blood relatives. That may be the simplest method—and often it proves rewarding even when some family relationships have a history of bitterness in them—but it is not the only method. Why not work with deceased teachers from within your tradition? Or even culture heroes, like Black Hawk in the hoodoo traditions (a teacher-ancestor) or Johnny Appleseed if you happen to be in the Ohio Valley area (a regional/land-based ancestor)? I am not here to tell anyone how to live their spiritual life or which ancestor(s) to work with, but I do want people to understand that the Dead go beyond blood-bonds and share other ties with the living, and they are eager to work with us, especially at this time of year.

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Reading is as necessary to my life as air and water. I read lots of different genres, but one that's captivated me the last several years, in part because of the genealogical research I've been doing, is history, American history in particular. I read history in order to understand humanity and the way we humans have organized ourselves, intentionally or not, into tribes, states, nations, even neighborhoods.

I also read to try to understand the lives, the circumstances, and the motivations of my ancestors. As Samhain approaches I reflect upon the lives of some of my ancestors. For instance, my maternal grandfather's grandfather, William H. Van Tine, (pictured here) served in the Pennsylvania 58th Infantry and was killed in April 1863 in a battle in New Bern, NC, so I've been reading some Civil War history. Another ancestor, my grandmother's grandfather, The Rev. Alpha Gilruth Kynett, was, among other things, a founder of the Anti-Saloon League. His brother Harry, a medical doctor, served on the U.S. Sanitary Commission in the state of Iowa. The Sanitary Commission was a private relief organization created during the Civil War to care for sick and wounded soldiers, the precursor to the Veterans' Administration.1

Pvt. William H. Van Tine

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  • Hunter Liguore
    Hunter Liguore says #
    Really appreciated the historical elements to this piece. This line in particular should be chiseled and hung somewhere: "We honor

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
'Devil's Night'

Some slightly more modern history and a slight indulgence: witches always end up in the news around this time of year. Suddenly every news paper or local news station wants to do a 'did you know there are real witches?!' story.

It all gets a bit tiresome.

I originally wrote this poem for my annual Halloween cards (a habit that has been lost to my gypsy ways and busyness). My father reminded me that he associated 'Devil's Night' with much more unpleasant memories: 1960s Michigan it was often a time of angry destruction. If you've seen the original Crow movie, they use it in a similar way -- an excuse for serious mayhem.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
And so it begins

I've written before here about how, in our household, Samhain starts early.  For us it begins at the end of September, during the week when we've repeatedly lost beloved pets and on the day when, two years ago, I pledged my service to the Wild Hunt.  This year, that day was marked with an inadvertent bloodletting when the Hunt, not satisfied with the efforts I had made thus far on their behalf, aided me in slicing open the knuckle of my right index finger almost to the bone with a pair of sewing shears.  (Followed, of course, with a expensive trip to the emergency room and several weeks of limited ability to do anything--including typing and crafting--with that hand.  The Hunt does not play.)  

It continued the following week when I made a trip to one of the city's oldest cemeteries (and bear in mind that here on the west coast, "oldest" means the 1800s, and the most ancient looking monuments, crumbling with apparent age, are not truly ancient at all but merely rain-damaged).  I brought with me home-brewed mead and bone meal, to feed the dead, and locally harvested apples for Sleipnir, Odin's giant eight-legged steed.  (Eight legs, by the way; have you ever thought about that?  Why does He--the horse, that is--have eight legs?  Spiders have eight legs.  So does a casket, when borne aloft by four mourners.  Sleipnir is, indisputably, a horse of death, a steed to carry one to the land of the dead--which, throughout the Norse myths, is exactly what He does.)  I discovered an area devoted to the Civil War dead, which startled me because it seemed the wrong coast for that, but the monument statue of a soldier in uniform and the plots of the military dead exuded an aura of welcome for me, a kinship with the "once human" contingent of the Hunt, with Odin's fallen heroes.  Here was succor and support, and so it was here that I marked the stones with my blood, freshly drawn from my finger (not the one with stitches!) using a lancet.  (The dead were especially interested in and enthusiastic about the mead, by the way!)

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  • Jolene
    Jolene says #
    Another excellent post! I'm looking forward to both our celebrations, and I'm thinking that splitting them up as we have this year
  • Soli
    Soli says #
    I found a small pomegranate at the store this weekend and bought it, so I should do something. Just no idea what. Some of it is be

 

O, yes, it is nearly Samhain. Oya is crashing north- and westward, Her winds clearing the path, driving the waters ahead of Her. And I am composing an invocation of the Morrighan and have purchased a perfect, fat pomegranate. It is so tempting to tear it open and taste the sweet wild seed-fruits, to quench my thirst as Persephone did and doom myself to a dual-life. 

The lore surrounding Persephone's descent into the underworld has come down to us in some interesting ways. One is the abduction scenario--Hades rises from a great cleft in the Earth and pulls her into his black chariot. She leaves her mother Demeter behind, bereft at the disappearance of her only child. Persephone serves as Queen of the Underworld and in the course of her time below, she eats six seeds from a pomegranate. These doom her to a bi-coastal existence--six months above ground with Mummy, six below with her husband, the Dark King.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Two fascinating insights deepen our understanding of death and Samhain, which honors its sacred dimension.  In one of his essays on nature poet Gary Snyder made a point I have never forgotten. 

An ecosystem is a kind of mandala in which there are multiple relations that are all-powerful and instructive.  Each figure in the mandala – a little mouse or bird (or little god or demon figure) – has an important position and a role to play.  Though ecosystems can be described as hierarchical in terms of energy flow, from the standpoint of the whole all of its members are equal.

   . . . We are all guests at the feast, and we are also the meal!  All of biological nature can be seen as an enormous puja, a ceremony of offering and sharing.

As I was finishing a chapter in my forthcoming book, Faultlines, I encountered a compatible observation by Carl von Essen regarding what he called the “hunter’s trance.”  Von Essen wrote 

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At Asheville's Mother Grove Goddess Temple, there is a small chapel room. It is permanently set with a main altar in the North, three other directional altars and a niche (which is actually an unused doorway) that holds a tiered Ancestor altar.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Every year I keep a piece of paper on my home altar and after November 1st, I write down the names of people who die during the course of the year. And by people, I mean the beings that touch my life in ways profound and/or familial.

Generally they are the names of folks I know or the loved ones of folks I know. Sometimes they are people that I don’t actually know but whose lives have intersected with mine. For example, Wangari Maathai went on the Samhain list because of her amazing work and because of my deep admiration for her courage and strength.

Our little cat, Luka Jones, is on this year’s list, along with my father-in-law, my friend Donna’s husband, my cousin Wanda and so many, many more.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I thought I’d share this poem I wrote a couple of years ago. It was inspired by Pinkola Estes’ telling of the La Loba story–the woman who sings over the bones.

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

As the land begins her journey to the stark hardness of winter, I find myself turning from the softness of worked Earth and rainwater and leaning into the hardness that is to come.

There is surprising comfort in that–in the security of that rigidity as well as the sense of permanence in our impermanent world.

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This posting is for those of you who haven’t done an Ancestor altar before and are interested in participating in this particular form of veneration. I am making the assumption that you are living in such a way that creating this altar is something you are doing in the public area of your dwelling-place. I realize this is not true for everyone and that you may have a tiny altar on the shelf in your closet, just west of your snow boots.

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Early Fall is upon us, and the year’s Wheel turns from harvest into the darkening time leading to Samhain. This reminds us that one great distinction between modern NeoPaganism and most contemporary religions is our different relationship to death. For the monotheistic traditions death entered into the world as a consequence of sin. As I understand Buddhism, death is one of many forms taken by suffering, and suffering is evidence something is amiss with embodied existence. The secular modern ‘religion’ of scientism hopes someday to enable us to achieve immortality, perhaps as consciousness encased within a computer.

Today many of the deceased are painted to look as if they are still alive, ‘sleeping,’ and their bodies buried in ornate caskets with comfy cushions to protect them for as long as possible from finding physical oneness with the earth. We mourn the loss of loved ones but we mourn from within a different context than do those who see death as a misfortune.

We NeoPagans generally honor the powers of death with a Sabbat, Samhain. If two Sabbats are more symbolically important to our practice than any others, they are Beltane and Samhain. Separated by 6 months, they honor the two greatest themes of physical existence: life and death.

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  • Natalie Reed
    Natalie Reed says #
    Gus - couldn't agree more. Humans were built to eat meat, too much evidence to go into here, but in a nutshell, we wouldn't be hum
  • Amy Wolf
    Amy Wolf says #
    Hi Alan: Thanks. Congenital honesty, a flaw esp in wicca and online. Usually when there's an option of "username", that's what get
  • Theresa Wymer
    Theresa Wymer says #
    The arguments you brought up about farming are also maintained by Jainists, who do not plow for exactly that reason. Good articl

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