Archive for the Samhain Category

Samhain 2012

Posted in Circle, Ritual, Samhain with tags , , , on November 1, 2012 by theredlass

We did pretty good despite rain, cold, wind, smoke and a little confusion! The ritual took place at midnight in our new altar space with a huge fire roaring and providing a nice warmth for everyone. We had a freeze warning out for this area so we were kinda moving through the ritual fast as we could.

We setup up 4 altars, one for the Chthonic Deities, one for the Glorious Dead, one for the Ancestors, and one for Pets & Familiars. After the wordy part of the ritual everyone was given the chance to pray and make offerings at each altar, as well as look into a scyring mirror and attempt to see anything. No pressure, just to try.

Right after we did our offerings, just as we set up for meditation, a series of high, excited yips went through the year. We realized that there were coyotes in the field closest to us, scavenging about for their Samhain meal. It was a moment of sincere excitement and you could feel the group energy rising rapidly. Coyotes seemed an apt sign, as their nature makes them conveyors of death in the form of scavengers.

http://www.whats-your-sign.com/animal-symbolism-coyote.html

Once we came inside and got everything from the ritual all cleaned up, we set about the task of mead making. We came to a decision a while ago. We made a big, 5 gallon tub of plain honey mead last night, taking turns stirring it and adding honey and water. But for the secondary fermentation, we will split up the mead into 5, 1 gallon jugs, and everyone will get the chance to experiment with flavors and spice mixtures. We will also, most likely, start another batch of mead. *grins* I think I’ve started a trend.

So far the flavor concepts we have are:
-Peach, Almond and Candied Ginger
-Apple, Cinnamon
-Pear and Clove
-Pomegranante
-Raspberry, Strawberry, Blackberry

We talked about what exactly it is we want to do in our newly formed circle, why are we making this decision, and how. We each chose  book to read for the next two months, and went over what the curriculum will look like. All in all a very satisfying night. I think we finished around 3 am.

Ritual Space

Posted in Circle, Ritual, Samhain with tags , , on October 10, 2012 by theredlass

As Samhain draws closer, my group has begun setting up our ritual space in my back yard. Being that we are going to be starting out lessons after this Samhain, we decided on having two ritual spots. Since I have the bigger back yard, more out in the country, I offered to host the Sabbats. They are kind of bigger ceremonies and celebrations, and I have the room to make it more of a fete. Moon Ceremonies (not just full moon) are being hosted by a fellow member who’s yard is smaller but more intimate.

Would anyone be interested in seeing pictures once everything is up and running?

On that note, I am setting things up for the classes so that they happen every two weeks. I wanted to do them every full moon and Sabbat, but the full moons are falling very close to the Sabbats in 2013, sometimes within the same week, so that would make thing a little overly hectic and problematic for everyone. So whenever we get together, we will celebrate whatever phase the moon is in (because hey the full moon isn’t the only important one) and have our lessons.

Eyeball twitch

Posted in Samhain on October 3, 2012 by theredlass

So I will start out by saying that I do not advocate pushing your religion on others, no matter what religion you are. I want everyone to know that I did tread this path with extreme trepidation and care so as not to interfere with a families faith.

So I was babysitting today when the two oldest girls came home from school with their homework. I like talking to these two, their nice girls, smart, and easy going. The younger of the two (about 10) has to do a report on Halloween (3 pages) and where it comes from, so she check out a book from the library about Halloween and brought it home for reference.

She and I started talking about Halloween (modern incarnation) a just gabbing about why it was our favorite holiday ever when I asked her if she knew where Halloween originated. She brightened up and said “Yeah it was a Celtic festival to their god Samhain. He was a, like, death god.”

*eyeball twitch*

Me: Well…not exactly. I mean it is Celtic in origin, but Samhain isn’t a god, it’s old Gaelic for summers end.

Her: Are you sure? I mean I got it from a school book and everything.

Me: Can I see the book please?

Her: okay sure. *brings me book*

Me: *flip immediately to the publishing date* Okay this book was written in the early 80s hun. The information is seriously out of date. And, don’t take this the wrong way, but when people write books like this for kids your age, they have a tendency to over simplify.

Her: So…it’s wrong.

Me: Not wrong per say. They got the Feast of Pamona right in a general sense. But their information about Samhain, which is pronounced Sow-in, is out of date. Would you like me to help you out with this?

Her: I don’t know. I mean like I want help but we have to have a book reference. And this is the only one they had that wasn’t like a fiction book.

Me: Let me see what I can do.

So basically, I need to help this girl (who’s library resources are LIMITED) get a hold of a book about the origins of Halloween that isn’t overtly pagan/wiccan directed. I have some of my own books, but they are all firmly pagan drenched and I don’t want to present anything to her that might get her or me in trouble with the parents. Any good ideas out there? Remember, Halloween origins, 8-10 age group, non-fiction, can not be pagan.

One day…tea will save the world

Posted in Mead, Samhain with tags , , on September 29, 2012 by theredlass

So I know I haven’t been posting here as often as I’d like. A lot of that has to do with me keeping up on my fair blog. but don’t let that fool you! I’ve been pretty active on the witchy front, especially lately. Something about this time of year really brings the witch out of all of us.

I got a really bad sinus infection a few weeks back, which, as always, turns into a persistent angry chest congestion that makes me wheeze and growl for two weeks. I tried everything to kill it, antibiotics, water, Mucinex DM (which held it off but felt like shit). Until finally I walked into this little booth I swear I have never noticed before called Standing Stone Herbs. They sell, duh, herbs. Culinary, medicinal, and teas. I saw this little package called Suzy’s Cold and Flu and figured it couldn’t do me any harm.

By the end of the weekend my cough was gone and I was feeling better by a ton!Ever since then I’ve been starting every day with a piping hot cuppa tea. I went back last weekend and bough another kind called “Witch’s Brew”, a yummy apple scented tea with deep fall reds and oranges in it. I’m likely going to be dropping a good $20 there before the end of season.

As far as our little group goes, we’ve been getting together whenever we can. It’s sporadic, but we usually manage about 2-4 times a month with all 5 of us and we’re discussing what we want to do for the upcoming Samhain. We even started making cloaks for ourselves!

Now I know the concept of cloaks carries with it a certain connotation in some circles, but to be honest, this is Ohio. Shit gets COLD come winter and if we’re going to be holding meetings, we need to be toasty. We bought a pattern as are hard at working putting it together. Everyone is picking their own colors and fabrics, but most of us are going double sided. I picked a lovely natural green shade (which is going to be Scotchguarded like a couch before buffalo wings) and then a black fleece side which will keep me toasty warm.

The funny part is when you combine that with the silver clasp I look like I’m in Slytherin house. 😉 Our dear sweet goth girl went with black on black. Laugh if you must but she’s one of the perkiest people I know and a wiz with rocks and stones. Our energy worker chose two lovely shades of blue (which fits her personality to a T). The last two members were working so we will have to work on their stuff later.

I know this may seem a little trivial, but this is the kind of stuff I miss doing with a group! Sometimes it’s hard to get yourself motivated without people to work with and sitting here, helping people cut patterns and working the sewing machine creates a sense of community. We decided we will be doing robes within the next month or so. Thankfully robes are simple as hell, but we can all add our own embellishments to them.

Let’s be honest, witches love our costumes.

We also decided to make a Samhain mead mixture! *squeel* I’m super excited! I’ve been wanting to do this again for a while but a 5 gallon batch isn’t cheap. But with all of us chipping in it should be fine.

Honoring the Dead

Posted in History, Ritual, Samhain, Spellcraft with tags , , on November 1, 2011 by theredlass

This is always a busy time of year for witchery, and in many ways it’s a bit like Christmas for us. We sometimes forget the ‘true meaning’ of Samhain in favor of just how popular we become during the October month. Frankly I’ve been to three parties, a ritual and a school sponsored thing in the last two weeks. I’m pooped!

But even through this I was determined to do something for the dead. The last year or so I’ve admittedly half assed things a bit. *sigh* I’M A BUSY WITCH DAMMIT!


Oíche Shamhna (Irish), All Soul’s Day (Catholic), Festival of the Dead (Japanese Buddhism), Dia de los Muertos (Mexican), Calan Gaeaf (Welsh), Allantide (Cornish), Halloween (American)

October 31st-November 1st

            You stand before the fields as the blood of livestock is poured into the ground as recompense for an excellent harvest. Bonfires blaze high into the darkening sky, the warmth emanating from them fighting off the chill growing in the air. Cow, sheep and pig are being butchered, their meat hangs packed with salt and drying to preserve it for the cold months ahead. Their furs are given to the women to make cloaks and the bones and horns to the druids for their own purposes. The moon hangs low in the sky, for it is early yet, and the dust from the fields has turned it a ripe shade of orange-red. Tangible now more than ever, is a sense that one is being watched over from the close knit trees and shadows. You can feel it in the air, even smell it in a strange way. There is a familiar presence all around the villiage. Everyone works with great speed and diligence, not from fear, but from excitement. Tonight is for celebration. Tonight is Samhain!

Samhain is well defined as the Celtic New Year, the time when the dark tide of the year overtakes and drowns out the light. We move into the time before life, when souls who have died in the past year are remembered and honored, even invited to join in the celebration. Ancestor worship goes back to Paleolithic times, when people believed that their familial dead watched over them and protected them from the Otherworld. Even today, Shinto shrines in Japan mark the names of anyone in their province and marks them so that in death they will become an ujigami (氏神), a family god which will ensure the families good standing and prosperity. Many people from various faiths have claimed to see their recently dead visit them within days after their passing, assuring them that everything is alright or even warning them of impending trouble.

Huge bonfires would be lit outside the village walls and the livestock would be driven between them to cleanse and purify them. All the other fires in the clan were extinguished and everyone came to lit their hearths from the great purifying bonfires. There is a strong family significance here wherein the people are bound together through ritual and purification. Broken pots would be returned to the earth from whence they came and offerings would be left to ward off wicked or malicious spirits. And yes, people believed in wicked spirits, for if someone was wicked in life it only made sense that they would be wicked in death until they moved on through the veil.

Samhain is believed to be the time of year during which the veil between this world and the next, the Otherworld, is at its thinnest. Spirits from the recently deceased to the gods themselves have an easier time getting through to communicate. This is a time when divination is very prolific. The ancient Druids would read the entrails of slaughtered livestock to determine future events such as war, kingship, and harvest. This practice, minus the ritual slaughter, has survived into modern day from scrying to apple divination.

This was also the time of the year when trade and warfare ceased. Troops and (as well as any other travlers) returned to their home villages rather than be caught out in the fierce winter. Many tales, (especially in the Ulster cycle of Celtic mythos), start during these gatherings such as Echtra Nerai, Cath Maige Tuireadh and The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn. It was a good time to tell stories of heroic escapades and brave battles fought in the defense of their lands. Songs, poetry and food flowed freely and great feasts were held.

Today, Samhain remains one of, if not the biggest festivals for witches, wiccans and pagans. So much of the holiday is historically and symbolically significant to our faith that it’s hard not to be attracted to its celebration and traditions. Many groups have their biggest turn outs both on this night and on its’ opposite festival, Beltane.

Personally, for me Samhain is a chance to have a gathering of my friends. Most are not pagan, but in this particular instance it isn’t significant. This gathering is more about what Samhain meant to the common people, a chance to gather, feast and celebrate before it became difficult to get together during the snowy months. I provide the main course and everyone brings something to share from cakes to chips to alcohol. We watch scary movies, talk, tell stories and just in general have a really good time. I usually hold the party a week before Halloween to avoid clashing with Beggar’s Night.

Samhain itself I celebrate on the traditional October 31st. Though my ritual differs from year to year, I typically make a plate of goodies, everything from honey spice cakes to baked apples and a healthy glass of rum or red wine. I decorate the plate with flowers and incense and a candle and place it outside on my porch so that the dead traveling through can have sustenance on their journey.

I also open my home to any kindly or honorable spirits for the night, in case they require rest or are exhausted from their travels. There are requirements of course. My house must not be left in disrepair and my family may not be accosted in any way or the invitation will be revoked just as quickly as I would kick any rude guest from my home! Otherwise, the spirits are allowed to come and go as they please, using my house as a way station for the night. They must be on their way by morning, after all guests should not overstay their welcome, and I do a house cleansing the following day to be sure that any lazy or lounging spirits have dispersed.

It’s also beneficial to do a thorough cleaning both on the mundane and spiritual levels on November 1st,or earlier depending upon your climate. The house needs to feel fresh and well stabilized before you have to close everything up for the winter. Nothing makes a home feel stuffy and uncomfortable like clutter so take this opportunity to clean out your rooms and spiritually clear out the bad air.

Dinner for the Dead

-Dinner for the dead is a tradition taken from the Mexican holiday Dios de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. During this time, families visit their ancestors graves and bring food to the site, celebrating with a small picnic and enjoying a few hours with their dearly departed. We prepare a plate of dried lavender, whisky, and homemade bread or pan de muerto, for the dead to enjoy and add candles and incense so that they can find it in the darkness.

Offering Chant
I call to the wandering dead.
To those who walk the night roads on their way to the Otherworld.
I call thee to come forward on this night,
and be known by those who would see you.
On this night I give you offerings of food and drink,
to give you strength in your passing.
I open my house to the spirits who may bring blessings,
good fortune,
good health,
and kindness into my home,
that they may rest on their journey.
And as the sun rises and dawns light burst forth,
I pray that you find your way home to the land of milk and honey.

Necromancy Bottle

-A necromancy bottle can also be called a spirit bottle or a grounding bottle. It’s intention is to help aid ancestors and spirits in grounding themselves in this world. It makes it easier for them to manifest and make people aware of their presence. The bottle includes items that symbolize death and the spiritual. It has to be cleansed and washed with sacred salt and water and purified using sage. I used clay to create a simple skull topper to apply once it has been filled and waxed shut. Methods vary, but I will be using the following:

(from bottom to top)

            Graveyard Dirt– has to be procured with an offering of coins for the dead.

Snakeskin-is symbolic of knowledge and wisdom, as well as rebirth and healing.

Marshmallow Root-commonly used in voodoo to attract benevolent spirits

Birch bark-traditionally associated with Tir na nOg, the Celtic land of the dead and

Kosher Salt-is used to purify an area and in this case it’s made to prevent any negative energies from making their way through. the Otherworld.

Incantation
I call upon Persephone
She who dwelled in the underworld and returned to the light.
*eat six pomegranate seeds*
I call upon Hecate

She who dwells at the crossroads.
*drink a shot*
I call upon the ancestors of my family
Who have become the gods of yesteryear.
*raise sword*
Aid me in my workings on this night
That I may build a better connection with you through this ritual.
*light the black candle*
I call my ancestors to the world.
To those who would aid me and show me how to honor their memory.
I bring offerings to you on this night to show my dedication to your presence.
*offer drink and food*

I also want to give credit to the Witch of the Forrest Grove for providing so much inspiration.  http://networkedblogs.com/pbrhw

Don’t Waste That Pumpkin! (pictures forthcoming)

Posted in Cooking, Fun and interesting, Herbals Oils, Salves, Samhain with tags , , on October 26, 2011 by theredlass

As Samhain passes us by and the dark half of the year closes in, many people begin storing up what they need for the long winter. For the every day person, this means everything from stocking cabinets with canned foods to making sure you have salt for the sidewalk and snow boots. For the witch, this can mean a little bit more.

When Irish immigrants turned up on the shores of America, they brought with them many of the old legends and traditions that comprised the Celtic culture after the Christianization of much of Europe. One of these was carving a lantern out of a turnip in order to provide a light to frighten off wicked and mischievous spirits from ones hearth. The turnip was quickly dropped, however, in favor of the easier to carve pumpkin. This traditions has lasted through the centuries till you can hardly see a house during the fall that does not have pumpkins and Jack O’Lanterns decorating the porch and yard.

But has the ability of the pumpkin been overlooked? Where does your pumpkin usually end up once it’s been carved and the 31st of October passes into November? In the trash or in the road, smashed to bits. Oh what a waste of such a virile and generous gourd. In truth, the modern pumpkin has many uses, from oils to salves, decoctions to poultices, the ripe orange rind offers a litany of useful products to the patient witch at work.

First off, you need a large, orange pumpkin with as little spot on it as possible. As you begin to carve the top off and scoop it out, make sure to save the seeds, innards and meat of the pumpkin separately, as each is a valuable resource. You can choose to scrape the meat out bit by bit, which is necessary if you want to keep the pumpkin for decoration. But if you have plenty for you and your family to carve up, it won’t hurt to use one just for these recipes. Let’s start with the most basic:

Pumpkin Seed Oil
-2 cup pumpkin seeds
-cookie sheet
-olive oil
-1 pint mason jar
-strainer
-pot
-ceramic/ glass bowl
-stove/ oven
-paper towel
-mallet

INSTRUCTIONS
-Clean and pat dry the pumpkin seeds and lay them flat on the cookie sheet.
-Cook for 10 minutes or until thoroughly dry. DO NOT LET THEM BURN!
-Take out and allow to cook, then crack open using a mallet and paper towel.

-Gather the seeds and add them together until you have at least 1 cup of shelled pumpkin seeds.
-Fill pot with 4-6 cups of water (depending upon size of pot) and heat it to boiling on the stove.
-Reduce heat to a low simmer and place the bowl on top of the pot. The water should be close but not touching the bowl.
-Add in seeds and oil and stir liberally until all seeds are coated.
-Continue to stir once every 2 hours for the next 12-24 hours.
-Have jars ready and dry.
-Place strainer over bowl and make sure it is stead.
-Using mitts to handle, slowly pour contents of bowl into strainer, letting the oil drip through into bowl.
-Allow too cool for a few minutes, then use cheesecloth to press down and squeeze any remaining oil from the seeds. This takes pressure and time but it’s worth it as you don’t want to waste oil.
-It may take several straining to filter out the seeds entirely, so just go back and forth between the two bowls until it’s fairly clear.

USES
-Pumpkin seeds are said to have a unique effect on prostate cancer and contain fatty acids that help with blood vessels, nerves and tissue. Feel free to enjoy with bread, salads, and (my person favorite) mix the leftover seeds and a little oil with hummus and goat cheese for crackers!

And of course the joy doesn’t stop there. You can also melt down beeswax in a double boiler (1 oz of beeswax per cup of oil) and add in the oil to make a splendid pumpkin salve that works for as an anti-inflammatory aid and helps with dry skin during the winter months.

Pumpkin Infusion
-6 cups water
-2 cups pumpkin meat cubed
-1/4th cup honey
-bowl
-pot
-stove
-strainer

INSTRUCTIONS
-Heat water to a boil and add in pumpkin chunks.
-Let simmer for 4 hours
-Strain pumpkin chunks and set aside for blending (See Pumpkin Poultice recipe).
-Add honey to mixture while mixture is still hot and stir till dissolved.
-Pour into storage container and refrigerate for later.

USES
-Pumpkins, as you can tell by the orange color, are high in beta carotene, which helps with eye sight. It also contains potassium and is very good for your heart.
-Pumpkins also produce Vitamin A, which helps with heart disease and cancers. It can also help regulate in insulin in your body.
-If you want to make an Infusion into a Decoction, reduce the amount of water to 4 cups and boil for 4 hours instead of simmer. You can also add some of the blended pumpkin meat back into the Decoction while it’s still hot for an extra kick.

Pumpkin Poultice
-1 cups pumpkin innards
-1 cup pumpkin meat boiled until soft

INSTRUCTIONS
-Scoop innards from pumpkin and remove seeds. SAVE THOSE SEEDS! (Seed Pumpkin Seed Oil)
-Put the pumpkin innards in a food processor.
-Take the meat of the pumpkin and chop it up into small cubes.
-Cook the cubes in water like potatoes until they soften enough to process.
-Strain the pumpkin into a bowl. SAVE THAT WATER! (See Pumpkin Infusion)
-Blend the innards and meat together until it forms a smooth, thick paste.
-Save in mason jars and refrigerate until needed.
-When needed, heat till warm and place between cheesecloth and apply to affected area.

USES
-This poultice can be used warm to help relieve swelling or an abscess after it has burst.
-Pumpkin can also be combined to help ease a sunburn when used as a cold infusion or mixed with other herbal oils to help relieve dry skin or achiness.

So before you throw out those gorgeous gourds, take a moment and try out some of these simple recipes. Your body and family will thank you for it!