31 outubro 2011

DarknessSounds #04 presents: Halloween / Samhain / Dia das Bruxas

Halloween / Samhain / Dia das Bruxas
Various other names for this Greater Sabbat are Third Harvest, Samana, Day of the Dead, Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), Vigil of Saman, Shadowfest (Strega), and Samhuinn. Also known as All Hallow's Eve, (that day actually falls on November 7th), and Martinmas (that is celebrated November 11th), Samhain is now generally considered the Witch's New Year. 

Samhain is the third and final harvest, the harvest of meat. The Old King is dead, and the Crone Goddess mourns him greatly during the next six weeks.

The sun is at its lowest point on the horizon as measured by the ancient standing stones of Britain and Ireland, the reason the Celts chose this sabbat rather than Yule as their new year. To the ancient Celts, this holiday divided the year into two seasons, Winter and Summer. Samhain is the day on which the Celtic New Year and winter begin together, so it is a time for both beginnings and endings. It is a time to study the Dark Mysteries and honor the Dark Mother and the Dark Father, symbolized by the Crone and her aged Consort.

It is also the day we honor our dead. Now, while the veil between the worlds is thinnest, those who have died in the past year and those who are to be reincarnated pass through. The doors of the sidhe-mounds are open, and neither human nor faery need any magickal passwords to come and go. Our ancestors, the blessed dead, are more accessible, more approachable during the time of the dying of the land. Samhain is a day to commune with the dead and a celebration of the eternal cycle of reincarnation.

 Originally the "Feast of the Dead" was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the "wandering dead". Today a lot of practitioners still carry out that tradition. Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Extra chairs were set to the table and around the hearth for the unseen guest. Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them. Turnips were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this was a night of magic and chaos. The Wee Folke became very active, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. Traveling after dark was was not advised. People dressed in white (like ghosts), wore disguises made of straw, or dressed as the opposite gender in order to fool the Nature spirits. 

This was the time that the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits. Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones were marked with peoples names. Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person's fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.

Symbolism of Samhain:

Third Harvest, the Dark Mysteries, Rebirth through Death. 

Symbols of Samhain:

Gourds, Apples, Black Cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, Besoms. 

Herbs of Samhain:

Mugwort, Allspice, Broom, Catnip, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Oak leaves, Sage and Straw. 

Foods of Samhain:

Turnips, Apples, Gourds, Nuts, Mulled Wines, Beef, Pork, Poultry. 

Incense of Samhain:

Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg. 

Colors of Samhain:

Black, Orange, White, Silver, Gold. 

Stones of Samhain:

All Black Stones, preferably jet or obsidian.

Divination at Halloween  

Samhain was a significant time for divination, perhaps even more so than May or Midsummer’s Eve, because this was the chief of the three Spirit Nights. Divination customs and games frequently featured apples and nuts from the recent harvest, and candles played an important part in adding atmosphere to the mysteries. In Scotland, a child born at Samhain was said to be gifted with an ½ shealladh, “The Two Sights” commonly known as “second sight,” or clairvoyance. 

Apple Magic

At the heart of the Celtic Otherworld grows an apple tree whose fruit has magical properties. Old sagas tell of heroes crossing the western sea to find this wondrous country, known in Ireland as Emhain Abhlach, (Evan Avlach) and in Britain, Avalon. At Samhain, the apple harvest is in, and old hearthside games, such as apple-bobbing, called apple-dookin’ in Scotland, reflect the journey across water to obtain the magic apple. 

Dookin' for Apples 

Place a large tub, preferably wooden, on the floor, and half fill it with water. Tumble in plenty of apples, and have one person stir them around vigorously with a long wooden spoon or rod of hazel, ash or any other sacred tree. 

Each player takes their turn kneeling on the floor, trying to capture the apples with their teeth as they go bobbing around. Each gets three tries before the next person has a go. Best to wear old clothes for this one, and have a roaring fire nearby so you can dry off while eating your prize!

If you do manage to capture an apple, you might want to keep it for a divination ritual, such as this one: 

The Apple and the Mirror

Before the stroke of midnight, sit in front of a mirror in a room lit only by one candle or the moon. Go into the silence, and ask a question. Cut the apple into nine pieces. With your back to the mirror, eat eight of the pieces, then throw the ninth over your left shoulder. Turn your head to look over the same shoulder, and you will see and in image or symbol in the mirror that will tell you your answer.

(When you look in the mirror, let your focus go "soft," and allow the patterns made by the moon or candlelight and shadows to suggest forms, symbols and other dreamlike images that speak to your intuition.) 

Dreaming Stones

Go to a boundary stream and with closed eyes, take from the water three stones between middle finger and thumb, saying these words as each is gathered:              


         I will lift the stone

           As Mary lifted it for her Son,

           For substance, virtue, and strength;

           May this stone be in my hand
           Till I reach my journey’s end. 

(Scots Gaelic)

          Togaidh mise chlach,

          Mar a thog Moire da Mac,

          Air bhr�gh, air bhuaidh, ‘s air neart;
          Gun robh a chlachsa am dh�rn,
          Gus an ruig mi mo cheann uidhe.

Carry them home carefully and place them under your pillow. That night, ask for a dream that will give you guidance or a solution to a problem, and the stones will bring it for you.

The Story of Jack-O-Lantern

 Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a man named Jack.
Jack was a handsome man, big and strong, equal in prowess both in battle and in bed. He had many friends, and many a young lass pined after him.
It so happened once, when Jack was in the midst of a battle, laying low the foes of his tribe, that he suddenly saw a wondrous vision. A woman, beautiful beyond his wildest dreams, dark of hair and eye, and with skin as pale as virgin snow, riding a flaming chariot, spear in hand, and a raven on each shoulder.
As the chariot drew close, the woman spoke to Jack.
"Come with me," she said, "for I love Thee, and would have Thee with me for all time."
But Jack was frightened, for he recognized the woman for what She was. "I don't want to go with Thee," he answered in a shaking voice, "I know Thee - Thou art the Morrighan, the Chooser of the Slain, and I am not ready to die."
Bright sparked the eyes of the Goddess in pride and anger, and She wheeled her chariot and was gone from Jack's vision.
But as he stood there, frozen in awe, an enemy warrior struck him a great sword blow across the face. Jack did not die from his wound, but his face was forever ruined, and the lasses that pined after him before, now ran from him in fear. And so Jack did not marry.

Time passed. Jack learned the art of a harper, and became known across the land for his beautiful melodies, for though he could not sing, his hands were skilled and gentle on the strings, and his lilting tunes brought both joy and sadness to the heart.
It so happened once, that when Jack was travelling, he stopped at an Inn on the crossroads. He was served his dinner by a beautiful middle-aged woman, full of figure, with dark, all-knowing eyes, and raven tresses braided in a crown around her pale face.
When Jack got into his wagon, and was ready to travel on, this same woman, wearing a dark cloak, stepped from the shadow of a nearest tree.
"Do not travel further, Jack," she said in a husky voice, "Come with me instead, for I love Thee, and I would have Thee with me for all time."
But Jack was frightened, for he recognized the woman for what She was. "I don't want to go with Thee," he answered in a shaking voice, "I know Thee - Thou art the Morrighan, the Fantom Queen, and I am not ready to die."
Bright sparked the eyes of the Goddess in pride and anger, and She whirled around, her dark cloak flaring around her like the wing of a raven, and disappeared into the shadow.
Jack continued on, but not half a mile along the road his horses spooked and ran wild, his wagon overturned, and he was gravely wounded when he fell out and was caught under the wheel. He did not die, but he lost his arm, and could play his harp no more after that.

Time passed. Though Jack was never again a warrior or a harper, his family, his kin, cared kindly for him. But everyone grows old, and in time, his brothers got old, and his sisters got old, and the younger generation no longer cared for him as well as his own siblings.
It so happened once, that right after his last brother's death, Jack was crossing a small river at a ford. It was late Autumn, and he paused on the bank to take off his shoes and socks, and roll up his breaches before wading into the almost-freezing water. Then, when he looked up again, he noticed something strange. Where the bank he was on was still red and gold with Autumn leaves, the other bank was white with snow, which lay in a thick blanket, as if it had been there for weeks. Amidst the snows, behind the dark shapes of old, gnarled trees, he saw a village, half-hidden in the mist. Warm, golden light shined from the windows of the houses that seemed familiar and welcoming to him. In front of one the houses he thought he saw his dead brother wave and fade into the gathering gloom. He also noticed an old woman on the other side, crouched by the water, and covered in dark, shapeless rags. She seemed to be washing something in the river, and her arms were red up to the elbows, and where she touched the water, the river ran red as blood. To his horror, Jack noticed that what she was washing looked very much like his own best embroidered tunic that he was wearing for his brother's funeral. The old woman looked up, and her face was as white as snow and deeply lined, with grey wisps of hair framing it like a halo, and deeply sunken black eyes that seemed like the pits of the night.
"Cross the river, and come to me, Jack," she said in a harsh, raspy voice, "for I love Thee, and I would have Thee with me for all time."
But Jack was frightened, for he recognized the woman for what She was. "I don't want to go with Thee," he answered in a shaking voice, "I know Thee - Thou art the Morrigan, the Hag, the Washer at the Ford, and I am not ready to die."

Suddenly, where before there was an old woman, The Great Queen stood in all Her Otherworldly majesty, the dark rags magically transforming into the dark wings of a raven.
"Thou art a fool, Jack!" She raged, as her black tresses flew wildly around Her face, and her eyes flamed like stars at midnight. "Thrice thy time came, and thrice I offered thee my love, for I had chosen thee as a wife would choose a husband. Thou could have been a young warrior at my side. Thou could have woven songs of splendor at my feast. Thou could have lived with me in peace and with thy family about thee. And thrice you rejected me out of fear. Now I reject thee. Never more shall I come to thee. Never more shall I call to thee. But by my curse thou shalt live for as long as this candle burns."
She reached across the river - it seemed easy now, for She was more then human - and placed a candle on the ground at Jack's feet. Then she was gone, snow and the misty village disappearing with Her, leaving nothing but an Autumn forest behind.

At first, Jack was terrified. The candle was small - surely it would burn down and die within minutes, and Jack along with it. But as minutes passed, he felt great relief, for not a drop of wax rolled down the side of the candle, and it did not seem to be burning down at all.
Carefully guarding the flame of the candle, Jack went home.
Time passed. Year after year, rolling in unending cycles. Everyone whom Jack had known as a young man had long since passed away. No one was left who even knew who he was, and in his small village he was just treated as a crazy old man, a burden on everyone, and a helper to none, for while he lived on and on, he also got older and older, and weaker and weaker, and even his mind started giving out after awhile. After a very long time, all he knew was that he had to keep his candle burning, lest he die.

His house fell into ruin, his field went untended, and all that would grow there were some turnips that his neighbors planted for him out of kindness. One night, a lightening bolt struck his house, and it burned down. Jack then took one of the turnips from his field, carved it into a lantern, and put his candle there, so that it would be protected from the rain.
He left his village and started wondering about with his lantern, looking and calling to friends and family long gone. His body grew older and older, until even his flesh disappeared, leaving only a spirit without physical substance. He hardly even noticed, for even as a spirit he still could not pass to the Other World, wondering this one with his lantern, a sad and lonely ghost, forever cursed from his fate by his fear.

And that is why turnip lanterns - now pumpkin lanterns - are called Jack-o-lanterns, and that is why we light them on Samhain - to remember Jack and his great fear, and to light the way for all the lost souls wondering about in the darkness looking for the passage to the Otherworld.

Happy Halloween
Good  Celebration of the Samhain

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