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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

Midsummer

A time of long days and short nights, balancing the darker half of the year with illumination. Although many may celebrate this just at the very date of the solstice itself, the time leading up to it and leading away from it is also very potent for magic and general celebrations of the summer sun.

In times gone past, fires were it high up on hills to celebrate the midsummer time. Some of these survived until the 1800s, and antiquarians may also re-enact these celebrations to keep the old ways alive. Another aspect of the fires was the blessing of domestic and farmyard animals through the fire. It was thought that the fire would cleanse and bless the animals for the coming year and guard them against ailments which may hinder the production of milk and other useful items to small-town folk from the time.

Although the old celebrations seem to have been distilled into quaint occurrences to modern man who has moved out of the villages in the UK, in many European countries the celebrations still go on.

For example, in Sweden, the schools are out mid-June and many begin their five-week holiday. Midsummer’s Eve is celebrated in the countryside, as it always has been, and the towns and cities are suddenly left deserted.

However, the main roads out of the built-up areas are another story- packed full of people desperately trying to get to their celebrations in time, friends and family waiting among the natural landscape for them to join in the annual celebrations. The date for the midsummer celebrations is usually a Friday between the 19th and 25th June, and people begin the day by picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole. Whereas we here in the UK associate the maypole with May Day, it is a fertility symbol very much used within the midsummer celebrations in Sweden.

This maypole is raised in an open spot, and the traditional ring-dances begin to the delight of the children and some of the adults. The teenagers nowadays stay out of it and instead wait for the evening’s more riotous entertainment. The traditional activities revolve around the old Pagan rituals and games of strength, fun and fitness. These include many events you may see at your school’s sports day like the tug of war, and for the younger children the egg and spoon race, and of course the sack racing!
The menu includes different kinds of pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, soured cream and chives, which is often followed by a grilled dish of some kind like spare rib or salmon and the first strawberries of summer would be served for the dessert, usually in a cake or simply with cream.

Although such a tradition is not generally celebrated in many countries now, the Swedish midsummer celebrations are ancient and have been handed down from generation to generation for many years and it is such an important part of the Swedish culture. It brings great nostalgia to the young and the old, and many want to go dancing after all of the celebrations as their ancestors have before them. Legend has it that midsummer is a popular time for romance and for love- it is said that if seven different species of plants are picked and placed under their pillows.

At night, their future husbands will appear to them in a dream.
Regarding the origins of the festivities as they are today, it’s said the celebrations were to welcome the high point of summer and fertility into the communities who lived off the land. Although it was mainly celebrated in the countryside, the industrial workers of central Sweden were given a feast of pickled herring, beer and schnapps to celebrate. It wasn’t until the 1900s that the festival became one of the most important festivals in the Swedish year.

Since approximately 6 CE, bonfires have been lit around Europe. In Sweden, this was mostly in the southern part of the country. It is said that midsummer as the longest night is the best time to tell people’s futures. There was also a tradition for girls to eat salted porridge so their future husbands would bring them water in their dreams.

~Lotte

Sunday Spread 28.04.2019

This week’s tarot cards are from the fantastic Zombie Tarot deck. You can get these cards from many retailers, both online and offline. They add a bit of retro fun to a spread, as they feature an ever growing zombie outbreak in the face of the apocalypse. What better weapon to have against the undead hordes than a pack of tarot cards, featuring a box which looks like an old ammunition box?

So, onto this week’s ‘chosen three’ cards. You can see the image below of the cards. See which one resonates with you, and then be sure to read on for the reveal!

Image showing three card backs from the Zombie Tarot deck. They each have a dice above indicating number 1, 2 and 3.

These are the three cards from the Zombie Tarot. Once again, we seem to have a tie between the most chosen cards. So we will take them in numerical order as to the most popular. The two most chosen cards are number one and number two. Number three is a close contender, but there is a difference, thankfully.

So, we shall begin with revealing card number one below.


Number One – Five of Cups

Card Number One: The Five of Cups

This card is commonly seen when things have not gone your way, or if all seems lost at the moment. It could be the culmination of things not working out as you wished they had, or simply the loss of a great idea.

Focus now on what went wrong – but do not spend too long grieving this lost aspect, as the world will move along without you in it.

You may be stuck in the past, unable to move on, or simply let go. No one is suggesting you forget – just to let go and live. Learn from the mistakes, learn from what didn’t work out.

Remember to live in the present and not allow the past to drag you down.

Things are waiting for you; new, shiny things. But only once you have accepted what has happened and made steps to move on in life will you reap those rewards. Blessings may be hidden in disguise, but you are too caught up in your own sadness and grief to notice new opportunities.


The next card which was most popular is card number two.

Number Two – Six of Swords

Card Number Two: Six of Swords

Transition is afoot. It could be a rite of passage or a release of baggage from past dealings. Change is not to be feared, and this has long been in the works. You may be moving house, changing your job, or you may be moving country. You are leaving what was seen and considered as familiar and taking a step (or leap!) into the as yet unknown.

It may bring you sadness to take this much-needed step into the unknown and into new territories. However, you know in your heart of hearts that this is the right path on which you need to follow.

Stepping away from things which no longer serve you – be it a relationship, job, house or country – will benefit you in the long run. A lot of the time, we are sentimental beings, and we tend to choose to hold on to those things which may not actually serve us. However, a change is as good as a rest, and things will settle down once more.

It can be easy to dwell on things which once anchored you as you move into your new life. This card gives you permission or instruction to move forward without looking backwards. You made those choices because they needed to be made. Holding onto the past is not going to do anyone any good, especially you.

There is, however, nothing wrong with taking the time to reflect on what has come to pass. Events in our lives make us who we are. Taking the time to reflect and in turn let go of these feelings and aspects will help clear the way for new things to become settled and certain.

Through this inner reflection, decide what you want to hold onto in your new life moving forward. Do not take what no longer serves you, mentally or physically.


The final card is number three.

Number Three – Seven of Swords

Card Number Three: Seven of Swords

This is a card which symbolises some form of deception or trickery is afoot. It may be that you are sneaking around, doing things which you perhaps shouldn’t, whilst hoping beyond hope that these things do not see the light of day.

It’s also a possibility that you are the one being manipulated. You could be dancing to the tune of someone else’s beat, so to speak.

It is a very difficult game to play if you are deceiving others. If you are especially unlucky, it may be that you will be caught in the act, and your true self will be revealed.

You may be on the receiving end of this deception, trusting someone who you think is genuine and honest, but being stabbed in the back when you are not looking. This could be through any number of things – infidelity in a relationship, or just someone trying to gain and hold the upper hand in a situation of power.

The main thing to remember with this one is to listen to your gut. If something or someone seems too good to be true, then those things likely are. Instinct is a very strong tool, and this card is telling you to start using it.

It can also be symbolic of being able to use the ‘backdoor’ to get results that you want. Perhaps you are able to take a shortcut in whatever you are doing in order to get what you need, without going down the traditional routes.

You also need to keep an eye on any potential workloads. We can only do so much as humans, and the more we take on, the worse the end results are likely to be. If you have ‘bitten off more than you can chew’, as the saying goes, you may not be able to focus fully on the tasks you need to get done, and instead end up worrying about them.

This card can also be related to procrastination. Are you putting things off that you really should be getting on with? Are there tasks or assignments you should be doing, but the cleaning or watching a movie seems that bit more important at this moment in time? Cut the crap and get on with what you should be doing. You’ll thank yourself later!


An image of all three cards revealed

So which card did you resonate with? Let us know how your week goes in relation to this!

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