Category: Witch Holidays


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Samhain, All Hallows eve, All Souls, Halloween, takes place on October 31 and is the most important festival in the Witches’ calendar. It is both the beginning and end of the Witches’ year, in a similar way to New Year’s Eve. It is the time when the Goddess takes on her robes of Crone and the God rides out on the Wild Hunt to collect the souls of the dead. In times past it would be the same time when the harvest ended, or nearly so, and thus marks the start of the resting season for the lad. It is a time when the veil between the worlds of life and death is at its thinnest, a time for remembering the dead, and a time for scrying.
Practice

There are three main themes for this Sabbat. The Goddess takes on the role of Wise One, so we practice divination and scrying to seek wisdom. The God leads out the Wild Hunt, so we face challenge and make a personal sacrifice if we fail. It is the end of the old year, the beginning of the new and a time when the veil between the worlds is thin, so we light a candle and set a place at the feast to welcome those we have loved who have gone before.
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Set aside some quiet time when you will be undisturbed, after Sunset on 31 October. Have ready a black candle and a white candle, and some food and drink if you do wish to do some divination you will need to have ready your tools of divination, whether tarot cards, runes or whatever. If you have undertaken a small challenge, you may wish to include some small reminder of it, whether you succeeded or failed.

When you are ready, settle down and call upon each of the four elements  Air, Earth, Fire and Water, asking each to be with you.

Next visualize the Goddess as Crone and the God as Hunter and ask them to join you.

Now light the black candle, which represents the passing year, and spend a short while thinking about what has happened in your life and the lives around you in the last twelve months. Give thanks to the Lord and Lady for the good things and successes. And consider what you may have learned from the failures and problems. Also remember anyone dear to you, whether human or pet, who has passed from this world in the past year.

Next light the white candle, which represents the New Year, and spend a short while thinking about the things you hope to achieve and see happen, and ask the Lord and Lady to give their blessings on these hopes.

If you wish to perform a divination, this is the time to do so, when both candles of the old and new are lit. Make sure you have a pencil (or pen) and paper at  hand to record any thought you have and any image you receive.

If you have undertaken a challenge, give thanks to the Lord and Lady for your success or state what your offering to the Lord of the Hunt will be.

Now you can put out the black candle and say a final farewell to the old year.

Give the food and drink to the Lord and Lady as an offering as thanks for being present at your ritual.

Thank the elements individually in the same sequence in which you invited them, for their presence. Then thank the Lord and Lady for their guidance.

Your ritual is over and all that remains is to enjoy your feast.

Feasting

To Eat

Seasonal foods at this time include many types of game – pheasant, partridge, pigeon, hare, and so on – also seafood such as oysters and scallops. Whilst these things were wild and therefore inexpensive for most of our ancestors, today they are somewhat expensive. However, seasonal vegetables include the cheap and widely available Brussels sprouts, cabbage, parsnips, peas and winter potatoes. Also, the last of the autumn harvest should be available, apples and pears in particular. Some feasting suggestions for this season are:

Potatoes cooked in their jackets, either plain or stuffed. Try scooping the insides out of the cooled potato, mash them and add beaten egg, lightly cooked vegetables, cheese, herbs and spices to make a variety of combinations.

Sausages. These would have been traditional and as they were intended, as a way of preserving meat through the winter would have been full of herbs and spices. Find a good-quality butcher’s where they make their own sausages and get a selection of the more interesting ones. Vegetarian sausages can also be found in many supermarkets and health stores.

Spare ribs, or pork belly strips grilled until really quite dark and served with traditional-style chutneys, those that include plums or are heavy on the onions.

Marrow stuffed with cheese(s), herbs, breadcrumbs and vegetables, served with spicy tomato sauce.

If you’re having a Jack o’Lantern, use the insides to make pumpkin soup or a pumpkin pie heavily laced with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Baked apples stuffed with sweet mincemeat, wrapped in pastry and baked in the oven.

Fortune cookies – whilst not Wiccan in origin, these allow adults an uncomplicated look at what the future might bring.

Think of foods which can be dressed up to fit the Halloween theme.

Cut courgettes (zucchini) lengthways with zigzag cuts and paint with tomato purée, roast and you have crocodile mouths.

Make mini pizzas and decorate with olive eyes, anchovy hair and sweet-corn teeth to make ghastly faces.

Look out for black pasta (made from squid ink) and other commercially prepared items for the season.

To Drink

Strong red wine is suitable to honor the Goddess and the God at this season. You can even dress it up a bit by adding a small amount of brandy and some sugar.

Apples are very appropriate at several of the Sabbats and if you cut one across the core you will see a pentacle revealed in the middle.

If this is a family event, make non-alcoholic ‘cocktails’ or fruit juice and fizzy drinks. Adding some bright food coloring will make these into devilish enough drinks to suit even the most ghoulish child (watch out for these allergic to food colorings, though!) Food coloring can also be added to milk drinks, so try milk blended with a banana an a scoop of ice cream, colored vivid red, as the vampire’s drink of blood.

Harvest Moonshine

This is a rich heady blend of fruit and honey and is served at many of the Sabbats. It is well worth following the traditional recipe, as it has a much better flavor than the quick method. You can either make it in bulk or start off several batches throughout the course of the year. The quick version is tasty but lacks the well-rounded flavor of the original and is quite expensive.

Harvest Moonshine: Traditional Method

3 large oranges
2 lemons
3 large apples
3 cinnamon sticks
3 cardamoms
12 cloves
3 nutmegs
8 pints (20 cups) water
4-6 lb honey
1 oz fresh or wine yeast blended in ¼ pint tepid water

Take the rind, flesh and juice of the oranges and lemons, coarsely chop and discard the white pith. Chop the apples. Add, together with the cinnamon sticks, cardamoms, cloves and nutmegs, to 4 pints (10 cups) of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain* and add a further 4 pints of cold water. Then stir in the honey. Next add the yeast solution.

When it is thoroughly dissolved, place the fluid in a sterilized demi-john with a fermentation lock. Demi-johns can usually be found in second-hand shops and after thorough washing can be sterilized using the tablets sold to sterilize baby feeding bottles. If you haven’t got a fermentation lock, you can improvise by tying a plastic bag over the neck in such a way as to leave room for gas to expand but no air to enter.

Place in a warm dark place and leave for at least six months. After about six weeks you should see small bubbles rising to the surface; after about six months this activity should have ceased. If it has not stopped, wait a little longer.

When you are absolutely sure it has stopped fermenting, decant into sterile bottles with cork tops – the kinds sold with port or sherry in are usually ideal. Leave a further week to be sure no further fermentation starts. You’ll know if it does because the corks will lift or even pop!

Harvest Moonshine: Quick Method

At the point marked * in the traditional recipe, omit the extra water, add the honey, cool the liquid and add 2 bottles of vodka. Decant into cork-topped bottles and leave for one month, just to check no fermentation has started.

To Make Merry

Samhain is definitely party time for old and young alike. There are celebrations, both religious and secular around the world at this time; we celebrate Halloween, Guy Fawkes’ Night and All Hallows’ Eve, but you will find similar celebrations almost everywhere, reflecting the continuity of this feast of the dead.

One very contentious subject at this time of the year is trick or treating. A  simpler treat for children and the young at heart is bobbing for apples, either in water (cover the floor with plastic) or on the strings suspended in the doorway. A variant on this is to place wrapped sweets on the surface of a shallow bowl of flour and watch the whitened faces emerge. Encourage the participants to keep their hands behind their backs, but never tie them in case they need to free themselves in a hurry.

This is also a traditional time for scrying or divination of all kind, so if no one in your group is going to be offended, perhaps someone can read the Tarot or you can use another form of looking into the future.

Teenagers can try seeing if they can find the initial of their future partner by peeling an apple in one go and throwing the peel over their shoulder to see what shape it lands in.

Fancy dress is an excellent way of breaking the ice. Even the most self-conscious seem to be relaxed about dressing up as a vampire for Halloween. Younger guests love having their faces painted and can also be encouraged to make masks (use paper plates as your starting point) and other props.

For a really messy children’s party, play Guess the Body Parts. In a poorly lit room, with plenty of plastic or paper on the floor, all the guests close their eyes and take it in turns to dip their fingers into intestines (cold spaghetti), eyeballs (lychees (litches) or peeled grapes), teeth (dried corn or confectionery ‘dentures’), and brains (jelly (Jell-O)). Use your imagination and make sure there are plenty of damp cloths and towels around.

Older children and adults love horror stories, so try getting everyone to bring their own short story to the session. It’s quite often a good idea to do this in a gloomy room with a lighter area where anyone who becomes nervous can take refuge.

(*Aesobol’s note:  You can also use the actual cross quarter to celebrate Samhain, which this year, falls on November 7th)