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"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

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Saturday, October 31, 2009


Samahin. All Hallows Eve. Hallowe'en. Halloween.

While little (and not so little) people are out extorting candy from strangers (On the one night a year Mum and Dad aren't telling them NOT to take candy from strangers, and isn't that a mixed message?)(And if you don't think it's extortion, think about it - "Give me a treat or I'll play a prank on you" is exactly that - extortion), more than a few pagans are spending the evening in an entirely different fashion.

Samhain (pronounced "sawin") is sometimes called the Witches' New Year. It's thought to be the time of year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, and so best suited for speaking with our dead, with those who passed on in the previous year. On Samhain, our living God dies, and until he is born again on Yule the Goddess and all the world mourns him. Poor Goddess, carrying her child alone for the next two months - throughout eternity she must suffer this loss before she can know her joy once more. Don't worry if you don't get it - it's a cyclic thing, a nature thing, and a deeply, weirdly Pagan thing.

Some will have large meetings, solemnly chant and circle the fire, call upon the gods of old. Some will dance wildly around bonfires, drumming, singing, shrieking, leaping the flames, looking for all the world like the imps and devils we were once purported to be. Some will just hand out candy and let the night pass, and some will put out the lights, draw the blinds, and pretend not to be home. A few (Pagan and non) will look for and find trouble. Most will feast, drink, and hold the dumb supper - the meal placed out for the those who've gone through the veil - whether alone or in numbers. These days, none who are truly Pagan will sacrifice anything more than a glass of wine and/or a plate of food to the fire, the earth, the old gods.

This year I will have a house-load of folks hanging about - Mum, my friends A, Kit (sans kids), Gypsy (also minus children), K and her husband and daughter, and Someone. I've spent the last month cleaning room after room, and re-cleaning, and finally feel that the house is shaping up to be a home again and not a pen, a sty, or a storage bin. I have a few pumpkins to carve, one each for me, Mum, Someone, and Bird. In past years, I've had them for everyone, but things are tighter this year...so everyone else is bringing their own. They don't seem to mind, though.

Last week, I roasted several small pumpkins and made pumpkin puree - enough for three cakes, so I'm set for the holidays. I also roasted the seeds, because yum!

We'll carve pumpkins, the lot of us, and nosh the snacks I've put out. I'll roast the seeds and may even share them. At dusk, we'll light the jack-o-lanterns and take the kids out for their bit of begging. T will come pick up the Evil Genius and take him to his neck of the woods for another round of candy-garnering, then keep him overnight for some father-son bonding.

If the night is fine, we'll fire up the outdoor fireplace and sit out on the drive reminiscing about the past, about family and friends long gone but not forgotten. I may or may not mull some cider and have some cups to ladle out portions for the adults trailing the kids who will start coming around soon. Heh - come and drink my Witch's Brew - you won't fly or turn into a newt, but it'll take the chill off. I may or may not have a bit of whisky or rum to add medicinal value to the drink.

I will make a special dinner for Samhain night. I don't have anything traditional - this year it's shepherd's pie, corn bread, and pumpkin spice cake with cinnamon spice buttercream icing. I try to make something that my ancestors or anyone I've lost in the previous year would like to eat. The first portion of each item is carefully plated and placed at the head of the table or on the altar. Wine will be served, and a chalice-full placed with the laden plate.

Later tonight, after we've eaten, handed out candy, taken the kids out for some socially sanctioned begging, we'll take the plate of food and the glass of wine down to the woods and leave the contents for our ancestors. We may or may not name them. We may or may not sing a song for them. We will honor them, wish them well, and remember. We will ask their blessing in the coming year. It will be short, but heartfelt - we don't need a lot of ritual, these days, just a few quiet minutes with our Gods.

It's an odd hodgepodge of a night - some modern traditions that were founded in the old, and some straight from the days (and nights) when our people could be openly themselves, could worship the gods of field and wood, or river and rock, without fear of censure or death.

Blessed be those who have gone before; blessed be those who live now; blessed be those who will follow after. The wheel turns once more, and blessed are we who turn with it. Blessed be.

This year I honor: Aunt D, who passed this spring; Rich Shafer, a friend and staunch supporter of the racing world; my grandfather, who passed many years ago but whom I still miss


Janie at Sounding Forth said...

I love your writing! Enjoy your day (and night!)!

cinner said...

It all sounds very interesting to me. Have a wonderful time. It is nice doing your own traditions, Enjoy.

Momlady said...

And we'll remember young Katie, too.

Susan said...

I'm a weirdo about Halloween. I hate the extortion part and I hate the parts that worship evil. But...I'm always fascinated by your descriptions of Samhain and the way you celebrate - there's NO evil there. I actually think I prefer your rituals. Beautiful.

foolery said...

I thought about you on that night, Miss K -- I do love your rituals and find them very beautiful, comforting, and sensible.

I also love candy and ritual sanctioned begging. I am nothing if not a candy whore. : )