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The Sabbats

Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)

Written and compiled by George Knowles

Samhain

(Halloween)

Samhain is one of the greater Sabbats of the Witches’ calendar and in the Northern Hemisphere is celebrated on the night of 31st October (in the Southern Hemisphere the equivalent Sabbat is Beltane 30th April). Samhain is the third and last of three autumnal harvests, the first was at Lammas (1st August), when in tribute to the waning Sun, the “Corn King” was sacrificed and his spirit returned to the ground for its period of rest. The second harvest was at Mabon (22nd September), when as the Sun grew weaker; the “Lord of the Harvest” was sacrificed and waits to be reborn in the New Year of the Goddess. 

Now as we complete the third and final harvest, Samhain marks the change from summer into winter. Traditionally it is time to bring in the animals from their summer grazing and to stock up their winter feed supplies. A cull would be made and animals slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for winter. As the animals died so the people could survive, so too does the “King of the Hunt” die in a final act of sacrifice. As the summer sunlight fades and the darkness of winter approaches, we celebrate the “Feast of the Dead”, a farewell tribute to the Sun God. While the Goddess mourns his death, she also begins her own descent into the underworld, there to search for him again. 

Samhain means “Summer’s end”, and is known by many different names: November Eve, All Hallows Eve, Hallowmas, Feast of Apples, Night of Spirits, Halloween and the Feast of the Dead. In the Gaelic languages of Ireland, Samhain is also known as “Oíche Shamhna”, in Scotland “Oidhche Shamhna” and in Wales “Nos Calan Gaeaf”. Depending on where you come from, Samhain also has many pronunciations, like in Ireland it is pronounced “sow-in”, in Scotland “sav-en” and in Wales “sow-een”. 

Samhain is one of the most popular and wide spread pagan festivals in the Celtic calendar and is traditionally regarded as the “Celtic New Year”. In modern times it is a night of fun and celebration, of glowing Jack O’Lanterns, trick or treating and dressing up in costumes as Wicked Witches. It is also a night for divination, for attending séances, tarot card readings and scrying with mirrors. For the occult minded, it is a night of power, when the veil between the unseen world and ours is at its thinnest, a night when the spirits of the departed are free to roam. 

When Christianity arrived in the British Isles they tried to eradicate popular pagan practices by replacing them with their own customs, and so Samhain as celebrated on the night of 31st October was renamed “All Hallows Eve”, which later became shortened to “Halloween”. The following day 1st November was named “All Saint’s Day”, on which day they would celebrate the spirits of Heaven and pray for those they sent to Hell. On the eve of All Saint’s Day (All Hallows Eve) they developed the custom of banging pots and pans together so the lost souls in Hell would know they were not forgotten. 

Down through the ages Samhain has always been considered an auspicious time for divination, for contacting ancestors and other departed souls. It was customary therefore to place lights along roadways to help guide spirits out for the dark, and to leave open a door or window with a candle or other light burning to lead them back from whence they had left. This was the beginning of the ever popular Jack O’Lantern custom of today, in which lights or candles are placed in pumpkins so the wind will not extinguished them. These are now used to decorate homes and to frighten off mischievous souls who may have lost their way. 

Another old custom was to leave out food offerings on their doorsteps, a welcome invitation to the spirits of family members, ancestors, friends, pets and other loved ones to cross the threshold of their home and revisit. After all the hard work of collecting in the harvest, it was also a time for family reunions, when in the warmth and dimly lit smoky rooms of the home, wood and peat for the fire was stacked up high by the hearth, and members of the family all came together to celebrate a winter feast. During the feast bards re-told stories about those long gone, traditional songs would be sung, poetry recited and dances performed in honour of the ancestors. 

Bonfires play a large part in the festival of Samhain. On the night of Samhain each household would extinguish their hearth-fires and then wait for the druids to light the village bonfire, symbolising a new light for the New Year. Most often two fires would be lit side by side, and during the evening’s celebrations, villagers would light torches from the common flame and re-light their own hearth fires. Later, they would parade and dance around the village and lead their animals between the fires in a ritual act of purification. 

In Scotland, a child born on the night of Samhain was considered to be gifted with “an dà shealladh” (the Two Sights), which is more commonly known today as “second sight” or the ability of clairvoyance. At Samhain however, it was common for many people to practice the art of divination, females in particular would seek to identify future husbands, and determine if marriage would succeed or fail. Methods differed widely, but seasonal foods such as apples and nuts from the harvest were frequently used. An apple could be peeled in one long strip and tossed over the shoulder to determine the initial letter of a future spouse’s name. Nuts would be placed on a heated hearth and their movements closely watched; if the nuts stayed together so would the couple, but if they rolled apart the marriage would fail. 

Candles also play an important part in Samhain celebrations, and are often used to decorate the home creating the right mood for the occasion with their hypnotic glow. Ever since fire was discovered, the naked flame has been regarded as sacred, and in ancient times lighted touches were used to invoke the Goddess and Gods. Similarly today the naked flame of lighted candles are used to aid divination, to commune with deities and more particularly at this time, to connect with ancestors and other departed souls. 

To our ancestors winter was a time of famine and hardship, more so for the old and feeble when many failed to survive the following winter months. Samhain at the start of the winter season and the beginning of the Celtic New Year was therefore a poignant time to honour those who had died before them. To pagans and witches alike Samhain is a celebration in honour of our ancestors, much as they honoured us in the days before we were born. As the wheel of life continues to turn so will they honour us again, for time will come when we too cross the divide and take up our own place beside them. 

In more recent times the association of death with Samhain has been maligned to include the assumption of evil, and today is often portrayed as a night when malignant forces combine to create all manner of baneful harm. Such could not be further from the truth, for while it may be possible for negative forces to cross the divide, it is not in any way a night of evil or hostile intent. Even though the holiday has changed over the years, its intent is still clear – it is a celebration of respect for the dead and of a new beginning to come. It is a holiday that commemorates both life and death, and recognizes the need to exist in harmony with the past, present and future.

Sources:

A Witches Bible  -  by Stewart and Janet Farrar

Halloween (A Pagan Festival to Trick or Treat) - by Mark Oxbrow

Microsoft® Encarta® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Plus to many websites to mention

Written and compiled on the 20th October 2008 © George Knowles

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Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

Sabbats and Festivals:

 

The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)

 

Rituals contributed by Crone:

 

Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon

 

Tools:

 

Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat

 

Trees:

 

In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder

 

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Rocks and Stones:

 

Stones - History, Myths and Lore

 

Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:

 

Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom and Inspiration:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /

 

Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:

 

Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark

 

Old Masters of Academia:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

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Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)

 

Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /  Amber KAnna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman Spare /  Biddy Early /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristina Oakley Harrington Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Isaac Bonewits Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” /  Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJoseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen /  Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceMargaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillPaddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip HeseltonRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Robert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  

 

 

Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)

 

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