HekseCast

Join the Circle

Samhain

The weak sun sets upon the landscape, the working day has been done. All the last crops have been gathered, ready for the coming winter. The animals are moving up from the pastures to the sheds and stables for warmth and security as Jack Frost begins to reclaim the landscape.
Samhain is seen by many as the beginning of winter, a theory which is said to originate in the Celtic times when it would symbolise the end of the harvest where you would reap what you have sown throughout the year, and bring the animals in for over the winter time.

Going back to when the locals relied on the agricultural landscape, there were many folklore tales of what could happen to the wheat or crops if they weren’t gathered before Samhain eve on the 31st October. Some say that the harvest which was left after this time would be ruined by the faeries’ destructive nature- blasting every growing plant with their breath, blighting any nuts and berries which remain on the hedgerows. So anything that was not gathered by this time was deemed lost to that year and not to be used for any purpose.

Samhain is seen as one of the ancient fire festivals, and a bonfire would be lit to celebrate the turning of the wheel toward winter. The reasoning behind burning the bonfire goes back in part to the original meaning of the word ‘bonfire’ which is ‘Bone-fire’ or a fire where bones are burned. The local community would gather at the local bonfire area to burn crops and animals as part of a ritual to honour the lives of the animals and the bounty of the harvest, but also to give to their gods and goddesses as thanks for a great harvest season, or perhaps as a payment for a better harvest the next year.

The celebrations of this time of year were great, the people who attended would wear fantastic costumes and dance around the fire, telling stories and honouring the cycle of life through their stories or small plays. Honouring the dead at this time was, and still is, a great part of the celebrations. The costumes which were worn could have been in order to honour these spirits in their passing on to the next place, but also worn to scare off any malevolent spirits who may choose to interfere with the next year’s crops or the goings-on of the community.

The veil between the living and the otherworld is seen as particularly thin during the weeks before and after Samhain, but specifically on the night itself. This veil thinning can help diviners see the future in the tools they used. Many would ‘read the bones’ which means exactly what it says- the diviner would have a set of bones which they would use for divination purposes to help people with questions about their futures. As well as divination, there was also a chance with the local shaman or druids that they could commune with the spirits which were passing over from this world to the next over the seasonal celebration.

The essence of Samhain is remembrance, unity and the passing of the dead into the otherworld. It’s a great time to look back over the year at things we’ve done, said or started, and see if the next year can be any better. This ‘moving on’ from issues or situations could be the original inspiration behind the New Year resolutions- unfortunately, many people don’t end up keeping their New Year resolutions from January, but perhaps people may be able to keep them if combined with a ceremony like Samhain.

It’s the time to start settling down ready for the winter- make sure the heating works, or that you have enough logs for the fire over the winter. To ensure no drafts will disturb you over the next few months. It’s also about getting used to a new routine, as in many parts of the world the clocks will change by going back one hour near to the end of October- so the nights will be darker earlier. This also means that if children go trick or treating, it would be going dark (if not completely dark) by 4pm in the UK- so they need not go out so late doing this.

The origins of Trick or Treating are said to be ancient- going back to the Celtic times. Many would dress up for Samhain celebrations and festivities, but the act of trick or treating is to welcome whoever comes to your door, no matter how they look, as they may be a God in disguise. It’s said to date back to the Middle-Ages when children and poor adults would dress up and do a dance or perform a song in exchange for food or money. Nowadays, it is heavily commercialised and though some may make their own costumes, many can be bought cheaply from shops. The expected treat wouldn’t be a pastry or something wholesome either anymore, it’s expected that trick or treaters would get a bucket full of sweets and chocolate by the end of the night.

Any homes that do not have sweets or treats to give will still give a silver coin too, just to stave off the threat of a trick. This could also be tied into the tradition later in the year of wassailing or singing Christmas carols around a town or village in exchange for donations. Previously, it may have been for the community, but now it commonly goes to charities. The dressing up is not just a guise, but is also seen as dressing as a ghoul or ghost- the chances of meeting a ‘real’ spirit or ghost during Samhain is increased compared to the rest of the year, so being a convincing ghoul could help if coming across a particularly evil spirit.

The songs and prayers were often in exchange for something called a ‘Soul cake’. These would often contain spices associated with the season, including nutmeg and cinnamon, and would be decorated however the individual wished. The most common representation of a soul cake now is one that’s sectioned off into four quarters with raisins over the top. A light, spiced treat for people at this time of year to enjoy on their walk around the community.

It is souling that is thought to have given rise to guising, or trick-or-treating as we know it by now, and it may have travelled to America in the late 19th or early 20th century by Irish and British travellers. It is said that the version of trick or treating we have today was a skew on the original form of guising, where you would perform songs or prayers on behalf of the dead in exchange for treats, and has been replaced by the more consumer-led version coming over from the United States in response to a different culture- it’s said that the practice of trick or treating didn’t become popular or heard of until the 1980s in the UK.

It can be difficult for children nowadays to go trick or treating safely- many of the older children will skip the whole process and instead start vandalising areas, using ‘silly string’ on windows and also throwing eggs and flour at windows, cars and even passers-by. This can make it scary for the younger children, who in the UK seem to prefer going out when it’s still slightly light outside. Another issue is the vast size of some estates and areas to walk around. You will end up with a full bag of treats, but it may take you a good few hours to get around the whole area!

However you wish to spend your Samhain, Hallowe’en, or whatever you wish to call it, do it safely and keep it fun!

~ Lotte

Full Moon Tarot

This full moon feels particularly potent this time around. I’m not usually one to look into astrology and the like, but for some reason this time it resonates more with me!

So, as it is so potent, I felt the need to draw a tarot card for the energies surrounding at this time. What exactly is going on anyway?

I drew the card from my Rider-Waite deck before looking up the meaning behind or astrology drive behind this moon. Many people like to take stock of or use things like Mercury retrograde as an excuse for poor behaviour. After all, you can’t punish a planet, right?

From astrology’s point of view, this full moon is supposed to be affecting all kinds of relationships in your life. The need for love or affection will grow stronger, but alongside this, the feelings of jealousy or anger/intimidation are also likely to grow. I guess even if you don’t believe in this (like myself) you can still have the knowledge that you have been forewarned. I suppose it’s nice to be able to reflect on what is going on and step back, rather than let things fly out of control.

With this alignment of planets, etc, it may make those of us in relationships moodier, quicker to jump into arguments or fights. It may also have an effect on those who are single – you may feel like lowering your standards just so you are not alone. However, if you are in a healthy relationship, this can actually help to bring any frustrations to the surface and enable you to resolve them now rather than letting them simmer below the surface.

So what did the tarot cards say?

6 of Cups, upright, from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck

The card which appeared for this reading was the 6 of Cups in an upright position. This card takes you back to the happy memories of when you were younger. The connections you made there are ones which bring you joy and happiness.

This card showing up is interesting, based on what I have found out from astrology related to this full moon. This card is based around relationships, as is the moon this time around. So this card showing up, which indicates that there is an increased level of harmony at your disposal, is fitting. It’s showing that with a little patience, the issues which may arise can be handled with ease. Giving and receiving is in full flow, and you are willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt – after all, everyone has their off days.

This card encourages you to give into your playful side. Be childish. Do the things that make you happy. Play the games you used to. Visit the old haunts of your childhood or teenage years with the same people once again. Embrace living life to the full.

It can indicate children coming into your life too. Perhaps you or someone close to you is yet to find out they are expecting a child (or two! This can indicate twins!). It may also be showing you that you may soon be spending more time with children. Maybe now is the time to embark upon becoming a teacher or a nursery assistant. Children are open-minded, curious and usually have some kind of outlook to life we can all learn from. Keep an open mind, keep moving forward and enjoy the little things!

Harvest Time

Harvest is called by many who follow a pagan tradition Lammas or Lughnasadh.

The name for Lammas derives from the Anglo Saxon ‘hlaf-maesse’ meaning ‘loaf-mass’, and this festival is very much celebrated as a festival of bread, beer and other things associated with the grain. This is said to be the first of three harvests. Beginning with the grain at Lammas time, it then leads onto harvesting of fruit around the autumn equinox, finishing up with the ‘meat harvest’ at Samhain.

Der Sommer by Abel Grimmer, 1607

In areas where the grain is already ripe enough to be cut, the traditions may include the story of John Barleycorn when celebrating and honouring the death of the Corn King. 

There are usually many games played around this time of year to challenge the local community. Holding a competition for traditional games can help bring excitement and fun for the younger children and also fun with the adults who choose to join in! 

As the harvest of grain, altars may be decorated with wheat sheaves and also with the end product of grain production- bread and beer. Using ears of corn or ‘corn dollies’ you can also enact the ritual of the Corn King dying to be reborn through symbolism. Depending on the mood of the performance, it will give attendees of the ritual a chance to think of their own relationship with death.

Another tradition that may be carried out at this time of year is the burning of the ‘wickerman’- a great structure, usually given a specific shape to represent. People offer their gifts and blessings to the wickerman to help bring life into their ventures, to let go of things that may hinder them; whatever they feel they have to give to the wickerman.

If you don’t have the space for a wickerman, another great option is to have a fire instead. This could be a simple, small fire for yourself or a larger bonfire for a group or community. It’s also a great thing to have if you are camping, etc. There will be many camps and pagan festivals around this time for celebrating Lammas/Lughnasadh, so this could be the perfect time to host or take part in a fire celebration. 

Within Paganism, a large celebration is centred around the cycles of life and death. We see it through the transition from summer to winter and back again, as well as the celebration of the sun and moon as they cycle through their phases or lengths. Lammas is just another of these transitions that we mark through celebration. Of course, as our farming methods have become almost completely machine based, many people no longer have that link to the land. When these celebrations were marked, the whole community would be involved in the harvest, as well as the sowing. There were no machines to do the work for them – it was all done by hand. So the first and last grains were especially important as marking a passage of sacrifice. 

Harvest in Provence by Vincent van Gogh, 1888

Although the farming practices are no longer done by hand, it is still important to honour and mark the occasion. Farming and import methods are now worldwide to the point that people don’t have to eat seasonally any more. You can get strawberries all year round. You can always get the ingredients you want. Some may argue that this is removing the traditional flow of the year, but it does make more things available to more people in the long run.

Colours associated with this time of year are many shades of green, along with shades associated with the sun and grains- yellows, oranges and other colours you’d like to associate with the time of year. 

Page 1 of 10

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén