Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times for October 2021
Bright Blessings and Happy Fall!!!!!
I write this two days before fall Equinox, knowing you will read it after it occurs, and we are headed to Samhain, final harvest. In years past, I have written on many things from historic and modern observances to how to prep the garden for winter in ways that benefit wildlife. This year, I have something different on my mind I’d like to focus on.
Before I delve into that topic more, I will write about some of the history of Samhain, however.
What is Samhain?
Samhain is a Pre-Christian Pagan holiday that was observed by the Irish, Scottish, and Manx people. Today Celtic Neo-Pagans and Wiccans observe Samhain as a final harvest and the veneration of the dead. In Pre Christian times as well as today, it was believed Samhain, roughly the first part of November was a time when the world of the dead came into closer contact with the world of the living, as the partition that came between them thinned. It was also believed this happened at Beltaine, May 1.
Beltaine is the beginning of the Summer, or growing season, and Samhain marks the end of that, and the beginning of Winter. The months between Samhain have decreased sunlight, and rationing of harvested food was done cautiously. Still, Samhain was a time of celebration, as the last of the crops had been finally harvested, and they would have finished up slaughtering meats for the wintertime. The livestock would be moved from the Summer grazing grounds to places they prepared to protect them from the elements in winter, and gatherings, religious observances, and feasts were had! Not only this, but bonfires and divination happened as well!
To purge of evil and bless with sacred flames and smoke, bonfires were lit at Samhain. Sometimes, it was a single blessed fire, and others, it was two blessed fires the people and livestock passed between to burn off evil, and bestow blessing for safety for the winter months. At Beltaine, the twin bonfire procession was repeated to remove any bad spirits or energy Winter would deposit on the people or their animals, and the fires were started with something from each household to contribute oftentimes. Then a flame from the great fire was taken into each home to bless the homes with the communal sacred fire.
Different divination practices were observed in Pre-Christian times at Samhain as well, and it sounds like a lot of fun. Individual charms or items were baked into breads or cakes, and the people’s fortune was told based on what charm they got in their piece of the baked good. Apples were peeled, the peeling was thrown over the shoulder, and the shape the peeling landed in was said to divine the first initial of the first name of the person this individual was to marry. Egg whites were placed in water and the shape they fell into was believed to tell how many children you would have. A special bread was baked, and after eating it, there was belief you would dream about who your future spouse would be. A more somber form of divination was for each individual to place a set of stones around the bonfire, and everybody ran around it. Afterwards, the stones were checked, and it was believed that if they got disturbed, it indicated who may not survive the winter.
Blessing and Warding
Like on Beltaine, the fires blessed the people and animals and drove out bad spirits, however, individuals had other practices to help safeguard. First, people avoided going out at night unless it could be helped out of belief the spirits or the Sidhe, or fairies would carry them off. They would turn their clothing inside out or carry a piece of iron or some salt to avoid being kidnapped, but they would also dress in disguises to confuse the dead and the Sidhe. They believed if they were mistaken for a spirit or member of the Sidhe, they would be literally left to go about their business. Disguising like this is where today’s tradition of dressing up in costumes for trick or treating comes from!
Carving our jack o lanterns is another of today’s practices that has roots in Pre-Christian Samhain observances. However, they didn’t carve pumpkins, but they hollowed out turnips, carving faces from them, and placing a candle within to ward off bad spirits.
To further please the Sidhe, a portion of the harvest or food or drink was set out for them, asking them to bless the people with prosperity and not to harm them. This would ensure the Sidhe helped deliver the people and their animals from the cold, storms, possible disasters, and diseases Winter brought.
Samhain and Thanksgiving
In America, our Thanksgiving holiday takes place almost a month after Samhain, and the thankful feasting and communal gatherings happens then. No guising is repeated, as that is saved for Halloween. I, personally, believe that the feasting and giving thanks for the bounty of the harvest we observe at Thanksgiving comes from Samhain, and nobody can tell me otherwise. The ancient people took stock of all they had for Winter, and thanked the gods for a bountiful harvest and slaughter. In some places, an animal was ritually sacrificed, the blood sprinkled on the home to ward off evil, and the meat was used in a feast. This was carried over after Christianization as St. Martin’s Day held on November 11.
In pre- refrigeration days, of course people had ways of preserving foods through canning, drying, and packing in salt. However, upon harvests, feasting with some of the fresh bounty made up a lot of the celebrations, and that still happens today.
Today, almost none of us sacrifice an animal, have bonfires unless it’s with a group, or do warding of the house with animal’s blood, but we still observe this third and final harvest. Think of all you have accomplished or gained since last Samhain, and all the things you worked towards before doing this working I suggest. Be prepared, however, this thankfulness working I have created in no way thanks others or the powers that be.
Saoirse’s Thank YOU! Working
So often, we fail ourselves.
We fail to acknowledge the good things we do, instead cutting ourselves down, and being overly critical. It keeps us from feeling good about ourselves, and that holds us back from having the confidence to be the best we can be. This working will focus on what YOU have done right to get the positive outcomes you have since last Samhain. For some people, this is going to be a difficult working, and the harder it is to pat ourselves on the back for things we do right, the more we actually need to do it.
So, get pencil and paper and sit down.
Make a list of ten things you have done to meet goals this year. Not something somebody else did- something YOU did and had you not done those things, your goals would not have been met.
Now read and reread it until you believe what a great job you have done, and you feel proud of yourself. Hug the list to yourself, saturating it with the proud energy of thankfulness you have for yourself. When the energy in fully absorbed into it, sit it aside.
Now go out and get yourself a gift, and by that I mean something you either ingest or will use or wear quite a lot. Come home with it, and sit it on top of your list, then psychically focusing the energy shifting from the list into your gift for yourself. If it’s food or drink, eat or drink it once the energy is absorbed, if it’s something to wear or use, start using or wearing your gift. Upon ingestion, you will absorb your thankfulness and if it’s not something you ingest, but something you wear or use, the energy of a “job well done” and encouragement to keep doing well will fill you each time.
You deserve this. You have done well and will continue to do so. If you have never rewarded yourself for all the good things you do, now is the time to start. You might not buy yourself a gift each and every time, but keep in mind all the good you do, being proud of yourself each and every time. We can be our own worst enemies, tearing ourselves down, so we also need to be our very own best friends and number one advocates also.
About the Author:
Saoirse is a practicing witch, and initiated Wiccan of an Eclectic Tradition.
A recovered Catholic, she was raised to believe in heaven and hell, that there is only one god, and only one way to believe. As she approached her late 20’s, little things started to show her this was all wrong. She was most inspired by the saying “God is too big to fit into one religion” and after a heated exchange with the then associate pastor of the last Xtian church she attended, she finally realized she was in no way Xtian, and decided to move on to see where she could find her spiritual home.
Her homecoming to her Path was after many years of being called to The Old Ways and the Goddess, and happened in Phoenix, Arizona. She really did rise from her own ashes!
Upon returning to Ohio, she thought Chaos Magic was the answer, and soon discovered it was actually Wicca. She was blessed with a marvelous mentor, Lord Shadow, and started a Magical Discussion Group at local Metaphysical Shop Fly By Night. The group was later dubbed A Gathering of Paths. For a few years, this group met, discussed, did rituals, fellowship, and volunteering together, and even marched as a Pagan group with members of other groups at the local gay Pride Parade for eight years.
All the while, she continued studying with her mentor, and is still studying for Third Degree, making it to Second Degree thus far.
She is a gifted tarot reader, spellworker, teacher, and was even a resident Witch at a Westerville place dubbed The Parlor for a time.
Aside from her magical practice, she is a crocheter, beader, painter, and a good cook. She has been a clown and children’s entertainer, a Nursing Home Activities Professional, a Cavern Tour Guide, a Retail Cashier, and a reader in local shops. Her college degree is a BA in English Writing. She tried her hand at both singing and playing bagpipes, and…well…let’s just say her gifts lie elsewhere! She loves gardening, reading, antiques, time with friends and soul kin, and lots and lots of glorious color bedecking her small home!
On the encouragement of a loved one several years back, she searched for a publication to write for, and is right at home at PaganPagesOrg.
She is currently residing in Central Ohio with her husband, and furbabies.
Saoirse can be contacted at [email protected].