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Ah, Halloween. The enchanted time when all the witches, ghosties, and creatures of the night are encouraged to come out and play. It has always been a magical time of year for me personally, ever since I was a tot. I can readily tell you what I dressed up for on this beloved holiday, since I was four. (4 years: Mickey Mouse.) Halloween has enjoyed quite the resurrection, and it is the perfect occasion to throw a theme party. Since I am the original theme party gal, I can happily throw some suggestions your way to make yours unique, and anything but run of the mill.
I awoke this morning to the smell of crisp fall air coming in my window. It rained a little last night and I can smell that, too. Today we gather for the first of several Samhain rituals this year as my circle is spending this season visiting other communities to learn more about how others experience the holidays. It feels a little early for Samhain, but honestly, this holiday always comes rushing forth. I never feel quite prepared. This is my favorite time of year and there are always more fun things I'd like to do before the year ends.
One of my favorite parts of being a pagan is the way our holidays provide rhythm and movement to my life. No matter what I'm doing with my work or my relationships, those six weeks always pass by the same and suddenly, another holiday is upon us. Despite more than two decades living like this, I have to admit that they sneak up on me more often than I'd like. Even as I build my livelihood out of my spiritual life, it is still so easy to get caught up in the mundane things going on that I don't notice the signs of season's change all around me....
The Mothers and Fathers reckoned the Horned One as god of animal life generally—what, in History of Religions lingo, is known as a “Master of Animals”—but for all that, he is rarely ascribed a sacred bird of his own. Birds, of course, are given mostly to the Sky Powers: raptors to Thunder, water-birds to Sun and Moon, etc. It's fascinating that these embodiers of the animal god's being should be given to other gods, as if they somehow constitute his yearning for them, as Earth's quartz yearns to the Moon. But to Himself the lore alots the merest avian handful: corvids, perhaps the peacock (see below), the robin (as Promethean bringer-of-fire) and, of course, the cock.
Everyone knows that the rooster—I suppose one really must say “cock” here—is the Devil's bird, (“Men call me the Devil,” he is reputed to have told Scots witch Isobel Gowdie, “but they know not what they mean”), and better it be if it's black. It's a staple of Southern (American) folklore that to invoke the Devil you sacrifice a black cock at a crossroads. Why a cock? Standard etiology would have it that the cock, being preeminently the bird that proclaims the coming of light, is the sworn enemy of the Prince of Darkness, Enemy of Light. But, as one might expect, matters are considerably more complex than that.
The domestic chicken originated in Southeast Asia and, it would seem, first came to the British Isles with the Romans (Yeates 166). Nonetheless, one finds the cock's head associated with the Horned One on the coinage of the Dobunni, the Keltic tribe that in later days morphed into the Hwicce, the “Tribe of Witches.” The rooster has a reputation as the most virile and pugnacious of birds, a fitting emblem for the father and protector of the people, the Pater Hwicciorum (Yeates 165-9). (Interestingly, though, the use of “cock” for “penis” derives, not from the name of the bird, but from the sense of “water-tap.”)
Continuing the story of my personal journey on my heathen path, I had to confront an entity that answered to a name of Satan-- I won't write the actual name here. This thing was dark, cold, and evil; it was definitely not an angel, fallen or not, nor any kind of light-bringer, so although it answered to Satan, it was not Lucifer.
One Saturday when I was chatting with the Native American chaplain who sponsors our Wiccan circle at San Quentin, he handed me a book. He’d received it from the Jewish chaplain who’d been our previous sponsor. Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality, by