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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
North Country Samhain

On Halloween weekend writer, witch, and ceremonial magician Frater Barrabbas hosted a gathering of Traditionals and friends at his home here in SE Minnesota. I swear, I’ve never seen so many stangs and black cloaks in one place before.

It’s been a warm, golden autumn here in Lake Country. We drove out to Barrabbas’ on Saturday afternoon (I’d spent the night before with my group here in Minneapolis, dancing with Old Hornie around a 150-year old white oak in a river meadow down by the Mississippi) through a landscape newly naked. The cottonwoods, birches, and maples had only recently shed their gold, leaving behind the oaks’ brown and russet, and the smoky green of Northland pines and cedars.

Barrabbas’ land is bounded by woods, a lake, and a cauldron bog. We found there a crowd of almost 40, some from as far away as Illinois and Georgia, subtly fueled by our host’s lively batches of homebrew: the rich, spicy Oktoberfest was especially beguiling.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Thirteen Nights of Samhain

Halloween is over and gone. The last of the soul candles have burnt out; the candy (thank Goddess) is all handed out; the squirrels have reduced the jack o' lanterns on the doorstep to piles of orange shreds. (“May squirrels eat his/her face” is one of my favorite curses, but obviously nothing to toss around lightly. Shudder.) But this, after all, is Paganistan. Don't go putting up those Yule lights quite yet. Around here, Samhain is just beginning.

Americans tend to do their celebrating in advance (Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends December 24th), but that's not the witch's way. Tony Kelly of the Pagan Movement in Britain and Ireland always used to say that the firedays aren't neat, tidy little dates on a calendar; they're extended tides of intensive change during the year. Like Yule, they all have their thirtnights, their witch's dozen of days.

Today's the Fifth of November. (“Remember, remember the Fifth of November: gunpowder, treason, and...what? There must be some reason to remember the season, but whatever it is, I forgot,” says the Kipper family.) Guy Fawkes' Day fell out of favor in America back around the Revolution, but did you ever wonder why Election Day is the first Tuesday in November? Back in the day, Election Day was a bonfire holiday. The harvest is in, but the winter weather hasn't closed in yet, so the tribe gets together to do its necessary politicking. The more things change....

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    If ever I entertained any doubts about why I do this, Susan (and occasionally I do), you've settled them all. Thanks. I'm sure Ton
  • susan
    susan says #
    Thanks for this entry! My Samhain was filled with stress, a major event, and no time for personal reflection. I read this and real

Samhain 1985.

We'd gathered early outside the Whittier Park building in Minneapolis to start setting up for the big community Samhain ritual.

But the building was dark, and the door was locked.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    To quote my namesake Teddy Roosevelt, speak softly but carry a big stick.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Down by the Mississippi, there's a circle under the cottonwoods where the witches used to dance.

Technically, the riverflats belonged to the Army Corps of Engineers, but by night those woods belonged to the gayboys. And the witches.

It was the old cruising beach. In Minneapolis the Mississippi Valley is a green vein of wildness pulsing through the heart of the city. You had to negotiate a steep path down the side of the bluff to get to the flats. The police left it alone. By day you could swim there naked, with the glass towers of downtown hovering above the treeline. By night you'd hear the quiet encounters, the moans of ecstasy, and every now and then, the sound of drums and chanting.

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