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 Sahmain

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PostSubject: Sahmain   Tue Sep 22, 2009 7:47 am

Samhain, the third of the Harvest Festivals, occurs when the Sun is aspected at 15 ° Scorpio. Traditionally, this has been celebrated on October 31st, but since the precession of the equinoxes this date now falls on or about Nov 5th most years. Since the October 31st date has been so popular for so long, there is a lot of Samhain energy associated with that date. So whether you choose to celebrate on Oct. 31st, or whether you choose the actual astrological date of Samhain, the energies will be there for you to tap into. Most groups now pick the nearest available weekend between these dates that best fits into their schedule.

In agricultural cultures, this was the last of the Harvests, when the gourds and pumpkins, and the last of the grains would be brought in. Whatever was left in the fields after this was considered "puka", or fairy blasted, and was certainly not considered fit to eat. For the fairies were said to go underground right after Samhain, and not show themselves again until the day after May Day. If a person was careless, they could find themselves in the land of Fairie! This was part of the tradition relating to costumes and masks at Samhain.

This is the time when the veils between the world of the living and the world of the dead is the thinnest. Our ancestors knew this, and so there was also the fear that the dead would return to haunt, or even possess, the bodies of the living, or drag them back to the Underworld. Masks and costumes prevented the dead, and the fairies, from knowing who was who, and those with vengeful deceased relatives could feel safe from harm. We wear masks so that our playful side can come out and take over without fear of ridicule. Some traditions wore a mask at every Sabbat to preserve secrecy, along with the traditional black hooded robe.

This would also be the time when the herds were "culled", which means that the farmer would have to decide which of his animals would most likely not survive the winter. These animals would be slaughtered, and the meat smoked and also used for the Feast. Reason being that if the animal would probably be too weak to live anyway, might as well eat it now, rather than waste fodder feeding it, and then have to kill it later, when it was tough and thin, or not be able to eat it at all if it suffered a long illness. Practicality was the most important survival trait. Thus it is that for us, this time of year is when we "cull" our habits, our possessions, and also our feelings. Getting rid of anything that we don't want to bring with us into the new year is what this is all about. Feelings of anger and resentment, bad habits that keep us from our desired goals, or even possessions can sometimes be holding us back from our spiritual goals. These are best evaluated and eliminated at this time of the year.

In several traditions, the Goddess rules half of the year, and the God rules the remainder. In some this is an equal 6 months and 6 months, in others, it sometimes differs with the growing season. In our tradition, Samhain is when the High Priestess gives the Staff of the Coven over to the High Priest, to ritually comemorate that it is now his time to "rule". Since it is now the "hunter" time of the year, he leads the circle, casts the circle, and we will evoke the God first during ritual. At Beltain, he will ritually hand the Staff back to the High Priestess to signify that her "rule" begins, and so on. Since our coven is based in South Florida, our agricultural year doesn't coincide with our traditional one, so we don't keep this tradition in it's strictest sense. These are the foundations on which our religion is built, but our real guide is whether or not it works for us as a group and as individuals, and only each person can judge that for herself.

The myth of Persephone going underground to Hades is a very popular Samhain Sabbat story. Actually, I have heard two similar versions. The first, is the matriarchal myth which told how Persephone loved all life, and was sad dened by the death of the things that she loved. Demeter, her mother, also was in charge of the Underworld, but she let Hades rule there without her, since she preferred the living world above. Persephone took pity on the souls who had no one to greet them and show them compassion, so she followed a hare down into a hole which became a cave and led her to the Underworld. There she met Hades, who fell in love with her. Eventually, she loved him as well, and so she stayed there. Demeter was distraught, and all the earth suffered her saddness, as she would allow nothing to grow until her daughter's return. Persephone, upon hearing this news, returned to her Mother, but as she had promised to love Hades, and the souls of the dead, so she returns to Hades for a few months each year. So goes what I believe to be a version of the original myth.

After the takeover of the matrifocal cultures by the patriarchal invaders, this myth was changed, as were many that featured our Goddesses prominently. Now the myth had Persephone kidnapped against her will, held captive in Hades, raped, and tricked into eating pomegranate seeds so that she would have to return and dwell there. This version can be read in most Greek mythology books, but I prefer the prior version, where Persephone chooses freely out of her compassion for all creatures and beings to become Queen of the Underworld for a certain number of months each year. The number of months differs from culture to culture and depends on their own climate, it corresponds to the number of winter months they experience. It usually varies from 3 to 6, and also corresponds to the number of pomegranate seeds that Persephone ate.

As Persephone descends into the Underworld, she also becomes a symbol of the Crone, wise with her years, and willing to face death. As the Crone, we seek within to find our fears and to release them. We can send our fears to the Underworld with Her, there to have them transformed into strengths, and be reborn to us.

Our tradition teaches us that we will also be reborn, with those that we love, and that we will remember, and love them again. This is the promise of the Goddess, which is symbolized by the apple. When you slice the apple crosswise, a pentagram is revealed, the symbol of life. The Goddess's promise is that the seeds of rebirth are revealed in the fruit, even the fruit of death, as symbolized by the pomegranate. We say that the promise of a whole orchard is revealed in the pentagram of one apple.

Many Sabbat celebrations will include divination, as this is the best time of year to confer and speak with the spirits of the dead, and to honor your ancestors and other deceased family and friends. The "dumb supper" is a place setting set out at the feasting table with food for the spirits of the dead, so that they may join in the feasting. Where others may fear their dead, we honor them, knowing that we will join them, and be reborn with those we love. As the veils between the worlds are sheer, the dead can tell us what we wish to know. But use caution, remember - just because they're dead, doesn't mean they are now virtuous! If someone was a liar in life, death won't change that! I do not condone the use of ouija boards for those who are inexperienced; spirit possession is not just a cheap movie script. At the very least, you could simply attract a malicious spirit and not be able to get rid of it, and it can cause you trouble. Tarot cards, runes, I Ching, and other means of divination are safer than a ouija board as they do not request that a spirit come and make direct contact with you. Rather, your higher self speaks through your subconcious mind by using the symbols there. Divination of this sort can be extremely accurate at this time, to let you know what is in your immediate future.

Decorate with orange and black, also yellow, and deep russets and browns. Gourds are appropriate, especially carved pumpkins with candles in them! These originated as scary faces carved in gourds to frighten away any evil spirits in the vacinity, and were used with candles in them to light the way of carollers. Wassailing, or carolling, was once associated with most holidays. Groups of neighbors would go from house to house singing songs that were appropiate to the holiday in return for drinks and treats. This has now become the trick-or-treat associated with Halloween, and the Christmas carols associated with Christmas. However, once they were not divided, but done at the same time.

Foods for this season are apples and pomegranates, the fruits of life and death. Also pumpkin pie, apple cider, venison, and root vegetables such as carrots, yams, potatoes, and turnips. Of course, we are lucky in that we can usually buy any kind of food we prefer, rather than having to rely on what is available locally. It is still fun, however, to tie the Sabbat together with the proper foods and drinks for the season.

In recent years, there have been a number of pamphlets and books put out by various Christian organizations dealing with the origins of modern-day Halloween customs.

Being a Witch myself, and a student of the ancient Celts from whom we get this holiday, I have found these pamphlets woefully inaccurate and poorly researched. A typical example of this information is contained in the following quote from the pamphlet entitled "What's Wrong with Halloween?" by Russell K. Tardo.

The Druids believed that on October 31st, the last day of the year by the ancient Celtic calandar, the lord of death gathered together the souls of the dead who had been made to enter bodies of animals, and decided what forms they should take the following year. Cats were held sacred because it was believed that they were once human beings ... We see that this holiday has its origin, basis and root in the occultic Druid celebration of the dead. Only they called it 'Samhain', who was the lord of the dead (a big demon) (1)

When these books and pamphlets cite sources at all, they usually list the Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Americana, and the World Book Encyclopedia. The Britannica and the Americana make no mention of cats, but do, indeed list Samhain as the Lord of Death, contrary to Celtic scholars, and list no references. The World Book mentions the cats, and calls Samhain the Lord of Death, and lists as its sources several children's books (hardly what one could consider scholarly texts, and, of course, themselves citing no references).

In an effort to correct some of this erroneous information, I have researched the religious life of the ancient Celtic peoples and the survivals of that religious life in modern times. Listed below are some of the most commonly asked questions concerning the origins and customs of Halloween. Following the questions is a lengthy bibliography where the curious reader can go to learn more about this holiday than space in this small pamphlet permits.

1. Where does Halloween come from?

Our modern celebration of Halloween is a descendent of the ancient Celtic festival called Samhain. The word is pronounced sow-in, with sow rhyming with "cow".

2. What does "Samhain" mean?

The Irish-English Dictionary published by the Irish Texts Society defines the word as follows:

Samhain, All Hallowtide, the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, signaling the close of harvest and the initiation of the winter season, lasting till May, during which troops were quartered. Fairies were imagined as particularly active at this season. From it, the half-year is reckoned. Also called Feile Moing finne (Snow Goddess).(2)

The Scottish Gaelic Dictionary defines it as:

Hallowtide. The Feast of All Souls. Sam + Fuin = end of summer. (3)

Contrary to the information published by many organizations, there is no archaeological or literary evidence to indicate that Samhain was a deity. Eliade's Encyclopedia of Religion states as follows:

The Eve and day of Samhain were characterized as a time when the barriers between the human and supernatural worlds were broken... Not a festival honoring any particular Celtic deity, Samhain acknowledged the entire spectrum of nonhuman forces that roamed the earth during that period.(4)

The Celtic Gods of the dead were Gwynn ap Nudd for the British and Arawn for the Welsh. The Irish did not have a "lord of death" as such.

3. Why was the end of summer of significance to the Celts?

The Celts were a pastoral people as opposed to an agricultural people. The end of summer was significant to them because it meant the time of year when the structure of their lives changed radically. The cattle were brought down from the summer pastures in the hills and the people were gathered into the houses for the long winter nights of story- telling and handicrafts.

4. What does it have to do with a festival of the dead?

The Celts believed that when people died, they went to a land of eternal youth and happiness called Tir nan Og. They did not have the concept of heaven and hell that the Christian church later brought into the land. The dead were sometimes believed to be dwelling with the Fairy Folk, who lived in the numerous mounds, or sidhe, (pronounced "shee" or "sh-thee") that dotted the Irish and Scottish countryside. Samhain was the new year to the Celts. In the Celtic belief system, turning points, such as the time between one day and the next, the meeting of sea and shore, or the turning of one year into the next were seen as magickal times. The turning of the year was the most potent of these times. This was the time when the "veil between the worlds" was at its thinnest, and the living could communicate with their beloved dead in Tir nan Og.

5. What about the aspects of "evil" that we associate with the night today?

The Celts did not have demons and devils in their belief system. The fairies, however, were often considered hostile and dangerous to humans because they were seen as being resentful of man taking over their land. On this night, they would sometimes trick humans into becoming lost in the fairy mounds, where they would be trapped forever. After the coming of the Christians to the Celtic lands, certain of the folk saw the fairies as those angels who had sided neither with God or with Lucifer in their dispute, and thus were condemned to walk the earth until judgment day. (5) In addition to the fairies, many humans were abroad on this night, causing mischief. Since this night belonged neither to one year or the other, Celtic folk believed that chaos reigned, and the people would engage in "horseplay and practical jokes" (6) This also served as a final outlet for high spirits before the gloom of winter set in.

6. What about "trick or treat"?

During the course of these hijinks, many of the people would imitate the fairies and go from house to house begging for treats. Failure to supply the treats would usually result in practical jokes being visited on the owner of the house. Since the fairies were abroad on this night, an offering of food or milk was frequently left for them on the steps of the house, so the homeowner could gain the blessing of the "good folk" for the coming year. Many of the households would also leave out a "dumb supper" for the spirits of the departed.(9) The folks who were abroad in the night imitating the fairies would sometimes carry turnips carved to represent faces. This is the origin of our modern Jack-o-lantern.

7. Was there any special significance of cats to the Celts?

According to Katherine Briggs in Nine Lives: Cats in Folklore, the Celts associated cats with the Cailleach Bheur, or Blue Hag of Winter. She was a nature goddess, who herded the deer as her cattle. The touch of her staff drove the leaves off the trees and brought snow and harsh weather.(7) Dr. Anne Ross addresses the use of divine animals in her book Pagan Celtic Britain and has this to say about cats:

Cats do not play a large role in Celtic mythology ... the evidence for the cat as an important cult animal in Celtic mythology is slight (8)

She cites as supporting evidence, the lack of archaeological artifacts and literary references in surviving works of mythology.



Posts: 210 8. Was this also a religious festival?

Yes. Celtic religion was very closely tied to the Earth. Their great legends are concerned with momentous happenings which took place around the time of Samhain. Many of the great battles and legends of kings and heroes center on this night. Many of the legends concern the promotion of fertility of the earth and the insurance of the continuance of the lives of the people through the dark winter season.

9. How was the religious festival observed?

Unfortunately, we know very little about that. W.G. Wood-Martin, in his book, Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland, states:

There is comparatively little trace of the religion of the Druids now discoverable, save in the folklore of the peasantry, and the references relative to it that occur in ancient and authentic Irish manuscripts are, as far as present appearances go, meager and insufficient to support anything like a sound theory for full development of the ancient religion.(10)

The Druids were the priests of the Celtic peoples. They passed on their teachings by oral tradition instead of committing them to writing, so when they perished, most of their religious teachings were lost. We do know that this festival was characterized as one of the four great "Fire Festivals" of the Celts. Legends tell us that on this night, all the hearth fires in Ireland were extinguished, and then re-lit from the central fire of the Druids at Tlachtga, 12 miles from the royal hill of Tara. This fire was kindled from "need fire" which had been generated by the friction of rubbing two sticks together, as opposed to more conventional methods (such as the flint- and-steel method) common in those days.(11) The extinguishing of the fires symbolized the "dark half" of the year, and the re-kindling from the Druidic fires was symbolic of the returning life hoped for, and brought about through the ministrations of the priesthood.

10. What about sacrifices?

Animals were certainly killed at this time of year. This was the time to "cull" from the herds those animals which were not desired for breeding purposes for the next year. Most certainly, some of these would have been done in a ritual manner for the use of the priesthood.

11. Were humans sacrificed?

Scholars are sharply divided on this account, with about half believing that it took place and half doubting its veracity. Caesar and Tacitus certainly tell tales of the human sacrifices of the Celts, but Nora Chadwick points out in her book The Celts that:

It is not without interest that the Romans themselves had abolished human sacrifice not long before Caesar's time, and references to the practice among various barbarian peoples have certain overtones of self-righteousness. There is little direct archaeological evidence relevant to Celtic sacrifice. (12)

Indeed, there is little reference to this practice in Celtic literature. The only surviving story echoes the tale of the Minotaur in Greek legend: the Fomorians, a race of evil giants said to inhabit portions of Ireland before the coming of the Tuatha de Danaan (or "people of the Goddess Danu"), demanded the sacrifice of 2/3 of the corn, milk, and first born children of the Fir Bolg, or human inhabitants of Ireland. The de Danaan ended this practice in the second battle of Moy Tura, which incidentally, took place on Samhain. It should be noted, however, that this story appears in only one (relatively modern) manuscript from Irish literature, and that manuscript, the "Dinnsenchus", is known to be a collection of fables. According to P.W. Joyce in Vol. 2 of his Social History of Ancient Ireland,

Scattered everywhere through our ancient literature, both secular and ecclesiastical, we find abundant descriptions and details of the rites and superstitions of the pagan Irish; and in no place - with this single exception - do we find a word or hint pointing to human sacrifice to pagan gods or idols. (13)

12. What other practices were associated with this season?

Folk tradition tells us of many divination practices associated with Samhain. Among the most common were divinations dealing with marriage, weather, and the coming fortunes for the year. These were performed via such methods as ducking for apples and apple peeling. Ducking for apples was a marriage divination. The first person to bite an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year. Apple peeling was a divination to see how long your life would be. The longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be. (14) In Scotland, people would place stones in the ashes of the hearth before retiring for the night. Anyone whose stone had been disturbed during the night was said to be destined to die during the coming year.

13. How did these ancient Celtic practices come to America?

When the potato crop in Ireland failed, many of the Irish people, modern descendants of the Celts, immigrated to America, bringing with them their folk practices, which were remnants of the Celtic festival observances.

14. We in America view this as a harvest festival. Did the Celts also view it as such?

Yes. The Celts had 3 harvests. Aug 1, or Lammas, was the first harvest, when the first fruits were offered to the Gods in thanks. The Fall equinox was the true harvest. This was when the bulk of the crops would be brought in. Samhain was the final harvest of the year. Anything left on the vines or in the fields after this date was considered blasted by the fairies ("pu'ka") and unfit for human consumption.

15. Does anyone today celebrate Samhain as a religious observance?

Yes. many followers of various pagan religions, such as Druidism and Wicca, observe this day as a religious festival. They view it as a memorial day for their dead friends and family, much as the world does the national Memorial Day holiday in May. It is still a night to practice various forms of divination concerning future events. It is also considered a time to wrap up old projects, take stock of one's life, and initiate new projects for the coming year. As the winter season is approaching, it is a good time to do studying on research projects, and also a good time to begin hand work such as sewing, leather working, woodworking, etc., for Yule gifts later in the year. And while "satanist" are using this holiday as their own, this is certainly not the only example of a holiday (or even religious symbols) being "borrowed" from an older religion by a newer one.

16. Does this involve human or animal sacrifice?

Absolutely NOT! Hollywood to the contrary, blood sacrifice is not practiced by modern followers of Wicca or Druidism. There may be some people who THINK they are practicing Wicca by performing blood sacrificing, but this is NOT condoned by reputable practitioners of today's neo-Pagan religions

Samhain. All Hallows. All Hallow's Eve. Hallow E'en. Halloween. The most magical night of the year. Exactly opposite Beltane on the wheel of the year, Halloween is Beltane's dark twin. A night of glowing jack-o-- lanterns, bobbing for apples, tricks or treats, and dressing in costume. A night of ghost stories and seances, tarot card readings and scrying with mirrors. A night of power, when the veil that separates our world from the Otherworld is at its thinnest. A 'spirit night', as they say in Wales.

All Hallow's Eve is the eve of All Hallow's Day (November1st). And for once, even popular tradition remembers that the Eve is more important than the Day itself, the traditional celebration focusing on October 31st, beginning at sundown. And this seems only fitting for the great Celtic New Year's festival. Not that the holiday was Celtic only. In fact, it is startling how many ancient and unconnected cultures (the Egyptians and pre-Spanish Mexicans, for example) celebrated this as a festival of the dead. But the majority of our modern traditions can be traced to the British Isles.

The Celts called it Samhain, which means 'summer's end', according to their ancient two-fold division of the year, when summer ran from Beltane to Samhain and winter ran from Samhain to Beltane. (Some modern Covens echo this structure by letting the High Priest 'rule' the Coven beginning on Samhain, with rulership returned to the High Priestess at Beltane.) According to the later four-fold division of the year, Samhain is seen as 'autumn's end' and the beginning of winter. Samhain is pro- nounced (depending on where you're from) as 'sow-in' (in Ireland), or 'sow-een' (in Wales), or 'sav-en' (in Scotland), or (inevitably) 'sam-hane' (in the U.S., where we don't speak Gaelic).

Not only is Samhain the end of autumn; it is also, more importantly, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Celtic New Year's Eve, when the new year begins with the onset of the dark phase of the year, just as the new day begins at sundown. There are many representations of Celtic gods with two faces, and it surely must have been one of them who held sway over Samhain. Like his Greek counterpart Janus, he would straddle the threshold, one face turned toward the past in commemoration of those who died during the last year, and one face gazing hopefully toward the future, mystic eyes attempting to pierce the veil and divine what the coming year holds. These two themes, celebrating the dead and divining the future, are inexorably intertwined in Samhain, as they are likely to be in any New Year's celebration.

As a feast of the dead, it was believed the dead could, if they wished, return to the land of the living for this one night, to celebrate with their family, tribe, or clan. And so the great burial mounds of Ireland (sidhe mounds) were opened up, with lighted torches lining the walls, so the dead could find their way. Extra places were set at the table and food set out for any who had died that year. And there are many stories that tell of Irish heroes making raids on the Underworld while the gates of faery stood open, though all must return to their appointed places by cock-crow.

As a feast of divination, this was the night par excellence for peering into the future. The reason for this has to do with the Celtic view of time. In a culture that uses a linear concept of time, like our modern one, New Year's Eve is simply a milestone on a very long road that stretches in a straight line from birth to death. Thus, the New Year's festival is a part of time. The ancient Celtic view of time, however, is cyclical. And in this framework, New Year's Eve represents a point outside of time, when the natural order of the universe dissolves back into primordial chaos, preparatory to re-establishing itself in a new order. Thus, Samhain is a night that exists outside of time and hence it may be used to view any other point in time. At no other holiday is a tarot card reading, crystal reading, or tea-leaf reading so likely to succeed.

The Christian religion, with its emphasis on the 'historical' Christ and his act of redemption 2000 years ago, is forced into a linear view of time, where 'seeing the future' is an illogical proposition. In fact, from the Christian perspective, any attempt to do so is seen as inherently evil. This did not keep the medieval Church from co-opting Samhain's other motif, commemoration of the dead. To the Church, however, it could never be a feast for all the dead, but only the blessed dead, all those hallowed (made holy) by obedience to God - thus, All Hallow's, or Hallowmas, later All Saints and All Souls.

There are so many types of divination that are traditional to Hallowstide, it is possible to mention only a few. Girls were told to place hazel nuts along the front of the firegrate, each one to symbolize one of her suitors. She could then divine her future husband by chanting, 'If you love me, pop and fly; if you hate me, burn and die.' Several methods used the apple, that most popular of Halloween fruits. You should slice an apple through the equator (to reveal the five-pointed star within) and then eat it by candlelight before a mirror. Your future spouse will then appear over your shoulder. Or, peel an apple, making sure the peeling comes off in one long strand, reciting, 'I pare this apple round and round again; / My sweetheart's name to flourish on the plain: / I fling the unbroken paring o'er my head, / My sweetheart's letter on the ground to read.' Or, you might set a snail to crawl through the ashes of your hearth. The considerate little creature will then spell out the initial letter as it moves.

Perhaps the most famous icon of the holiday is the jack-o-lantern. Various authorities attribute it to either Scottish or Irish origin. However, it seems clear that it was used as a lantern by people who traveled the road this night, the scary face to frighten away spirits or faeries who might otherwise lead one astray. Set on porches and in windows, they cast the same spell of protection over the household. (The American pumpkin seems to have forever superseded the European gourd as the jack-o-lantern of choice.) Bobbing for apples may well represent the remnants of a Pagan 'baptism' rite called a 'seining', according to some writers. The water-filled tub is a latter-day Cauldron of Regeneration, into which the novice's head is immersed. The fact that the participant in this folk game was usually blindfolded with hands tied behind the back also puts one in mind of a traditional Craft initiation ceremony.

The custom of dressing in costume and 'trick-or-treating' is of Celtic origin with survivals particularly strong in Scotland. However, there are some important differences from the modern version. In the first place, the custom was not relegated to children, but was actively indulged in by adults as well. Also, the 'treat' which was required was often one of spirits (the liquid variety). This has recently been revived by college students who go 'trick-or-drinking'. And in ancient times, the roving bands would sing seasonal carols from house to house, making the tradition very similar to Yuletide wassailing. In fact, the custom known as 'caroling', now connected exclusively with mid-winter, was once practiced at all the major holidays. Finally, in Scotland at least, the tradition of dressing in costume consisted almost exclusively of cross-dressing (i.e., men dressing as women, and women as men). It seems as though ancient societies provided an opportunity for people to 'try on' the role of the opposite gender for one night of the year. (Although in Scotland, this is admittedly less dramatic - but more confusing - since men were in the habit of wearing skirt-like kilts anyway. Oh well...)

To Witches, Halloween is one of the four High Holidays, or Greater Sabbats, or cross-quarter days. Because it is the most important holiday of the year, it is sometimes called 'THE Great Sabbat.' It is an ironic fact that the newer, self-created Covens tend to use the older name of the holiday, Samhain, which they have discovered through modern research. While the older hereditary and traditional Covens often use the newer name, Halloween, which has been handed down through oral tradition within their Coven. (This is often holds true for the names of the other holidays, as well. One may often get an indication of a Coven's antiquity by noting what names it uses for the holidays.)

With such an important holiday, Witches often hold two distinct celebrations. First, a large Halloween party for non-Craft friends, often held on the previous weekend. And second, a Coven ritual held on Halloween night itself, late enough so as not to be interrupted by trick-or-treaters. If the rituals are performed properly, there is often the feeling of invisible friends taking part in the rites. Another date which may be utilized in planning celebrations is the actual cross-quarter day, or Old Halloween, or Halloween O.S. (Old Style). This occurs when the sun has reached 15 degrees Scorpio, an astrological 'power point' symbolized by the Eagle. This year (1988), the date is November 6th at 10:55 pm CST, with the celebration beginning at sunset. Interestingly, this date (Old Halloween) was also appropriated by the Church as the holiday of Martinmas.

Of all the Witchcraft holidays, Halloween is the only one that still boasts anything near to popular celebration. Even though it is typically relegated to children (and the young-at-heart) and observed as an evening affair only, many of its traditions are firmly rooted in Paganism. Interestingly, some schools have recently attempted to abolish Halloween parties on the grounds that it violates the separation of state and religion. Speaking as a Pagan, I would be saddened by the success of this move, but as a supporter of the concept of religion-free public education, I fear I must concede the point. Nonetheless, it seems only right that there SHOULD be one night of the year when our minds are turned toward thoughts of the supernatural. A night when both Pagans and non-Pagans may ponder the mysteries of the Otherworld and its inhabitants. And if you are one of them, may all your jack-o'lanterns burn bright on this All Hallow's Eve
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