Tag Archives: Samhain

Hallow Magic for the High Days

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Most ADF rituals emphasize worship over magical workings, or so I’ve heard. It doesn’t have to be so… why not have it all? The Druid-style rituals I piece together tend to be short and sweet, so there’s plenty of room to add a little magic. Here are some ideas I’ve had for High Day themed magical workings that are aligned with the Triple Hallows. Most of these ideas are for outdoor rituals. For some of these, you may want to have a crafting session ahead of time, then have participants bring their finished work to the ritual, ready to give it that final “oomph” of energy before activating in the Hallow.

In the following workings, I use the word “intent” a lot. What I mean by this is the goal of your magic, and the act of thinking about it and letting the energy of it flow into what your are crafting or doing. Your intent can be for increase (like for prosperity, wisdom, love, for a few examples), or your intent could be something you want to release to the universe (like negativity, bad vibes… things that hold you back) for the Kindreds to transform it into something better or make use of somewhere else.

As a general guideline, do “releasing” work in the waning part of the year (Lughnasadh to Yule) or during a waning moon, and “increasing” work in the waxing part of the year (Imbolc to Midsummer) or waxing moon. Whatever your intent, you can often change it’s nature by perspective and wording, to flow with the season. For example; if you want to do prosperity magic, but it’s a waning season/moon phase, make it a “poverty banishing” working instead.

FIRE
These are items that are fashioned to be burned in the Fire Hallow.

  • PRAYER LEAF: Hand out big Sassafras leaves (or other big leaves) and markers for participants to inscribe their intent through words symbols or pictures. This one is ideal for any High Day. I like to use it for Samhain, and with bay leaves on Imbolc. (For indoor rituals, use slips of flash paper instead; to avoid having a room filled with smoke.)
  • SUN SYMBOLS: Hand out thin straight sticks or wheat stalks and sun-colored yarn/raffia for participants to make rustic “god‘s eyes”, weaving with the energy and intent of their goal. This one is ideal for Summer Solstice.
  • HARVEST FIGURES: Hand out string, sticks, corn husks, raffia, and/or other dried plant materials for participants to shape and tie into human or animal form, representing a goal or intention completed. This one is ideal for Harvest holidays. I like to use it for the Autumn Equinox.

“At this time we shall infuse our ______ with the energies of our intentions.
When you are ready, you may come to the Fire and burn them.”
After all have done this, say:
“Our intentions have been released to the Sky, to the Kindreds,
and to the passing of the seasons. It is done.” ALL: “So be it!”

WELL
These are items that are fashioned to be placed in the Well Hallow. Consider using a flowing stream for your Well Hallow.

  • PRAYER BOATS: Hand out paper and markers/crayons for participants to make origami boats and inscribe their intent on them through words, symbols and/or pictures. I like this one for Lughnasadh/Freyfaxi.
  • FLOWERS: Let participants choose from a basket of flowers, the one that represents their intent, or make paper flowers. This one is ideal for Beltane.
  • PRAYER SLIPS: Hand out pens and strips of water soluble paper for participants to inscribe their intent. This is another good one for Imbolc.

“At this time we shall infuse our _____ with the energies of our intentions.
When you are ready, you may come to the Well and set them afloat.”
After all have done this, say:
“Our intentions have been released to the Waters, to the Kindreds,
and to the passing of the seasons. It is done.” ALL: “So be it!”

TREE
These are items that are fashioned to be hung from the branches of the Tree Hallow.

  • CLOOTIES (prayer flags): Pass around a basket of various colors of thin natural fabric cut in strips (or participants may bring their own; the magic is especially powerful when it is cloth torn from one’s own clothing). Participants choose color and pattern of cloth based on their intent and infuse them with the energy of their intent with touch and prayer. Each dip their cloth in the Well and tie to the tree. Ideal for any warm weather High Day.
  • TREE ORNAMENTS: Hand out toast, peanut butter, birdseed, string, and cookie cutters. Participants cut shapes from the toast, spread on peanut butter, and sprinkle on birdseed (all with intent!) then poke a string through for hanging. This one is a good one for Winter Solstice.
  • WISHING EGGS/SPHERES: Hand out papier-mâché eggs (with 2 holes poked in one end), paints, markers, and string. Participants use paint and markers to inscribe their intent through words, symbols and/or pictures on the eggs, then hang them on a tree or shrub with string.  Do this one for the Spring Equinox.

“At this time we shall infuse our ______ with the energies of our intentions.
When you are ready, you may come to the Tree and tie them.”
After all are tied, say:
“Our intentions have been released to the Land, to the Kindreds,
and to the passing of the seasons. It is done.” ALL: “So be it!”

My Samhain Playlist

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1. Before All Hallows Eve – Caiseal Mór (The Well of Yearning)

2. The Gates – Reclaiming & Friends (Let it Begin Now: Music from the Spiral Dance)

3. Pass Through the Portal – Abigail Spinner McBride (Family of Fire)

4. Let the Fire Begin – Mary Jane (Eve)

5. No End to the Circle: Goddess Invocation – Reclaiming & Friends (Let it Begin Now: Music from the Spiral Dance)

6. Demeter’s Song – Reclaiming & Friends (Let it Begin Now: Music from the Spiral Dance)

7. Ancestor Chant – Sharon Knight & T. Thorn Coyle (Songs for the Waning Year)

8. Men of Erin – The Elders (American Wake)

9. All Soul’s Night  – Loreena McKennitt (The Visit)

10. Lyke-Wake Dirge – Pentangle (Basket of Light)

11. Samhain Eve – Damh the Bard (The Hills They Are Hollow)

12. Alison Cross – Malinky (Last Leaves)

13. Fires at Midnight  – Blackmore’s Night (Fires at Midnight)

14. Dante’s Prayer – Loreena McKennitt (The Book of Secrets)

15. Breaths – Sweet Honey In The Rock (Good News)

16. The Unquiet Grave – Solas (Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers)

17. So Spricht Das Leben (So Sayeth Life) – The Mediaeval Baebes (Worldes Blysse)

18. Samhain Night  – Jenna Greene (Wild Earth Child)

19. In The Wind – Lord Huron (Lonesome Dreams)

20. Tam Lin (Child 39) – Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer (Child Ballads)

21. When We Are Gone – Reclaiming (Second Chants)

22. Farewell, Farewell – Fairport Convention (The Best of Sandy Denny)

23. The Parting Glass  – The Wailin’ Jennys (40 Days)

24. Beloved – Mumford & Sons (Delta)

25. May it Be – Voces8 (Enya/Lord of the Rings)

26. Dance in the Graveyards – Delta Rae (Carry the Fire)

You can listen to them all on one playlist here.

Samhain Playlist - Ozark Pagan Mamma

Salt Dough Samhain Skulls

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One of the easiest, yet meaningful, salt dough crafts is making salt dough skulls, in honor of your ancestors and beloved dead, for your Samhain altar.
Mix up a batch of salt dough, or use the last lump of salt dough left over from another project. You may wish to personalize a salt dough skull for a specific ancestor blending in scented oil, dried herbs, or flower petals that remind you of that person. To shape each individual skull:

1. Roll kneaded dough into a ball shape. Flatten the bottom by tapping on the counter top or table. Shape the dough into an oval at the front, so that the front of the skull is facing out, not up (like a picture in a desk frame, as opposed to a picture laying on the table). Push in the lower sides of the face with your thumbs, to create cheek hollows. (If you like, hollow out a cavity in the bottom of the skull to keep a small ancestor memento.)

2. Use the end of a wooden spoon to create eye sockets.

3. Cut slits (or a triangle) with a butter knife for the nose.

4. For the teeth, cut three horizontal lines below the nose.

5. Finish the teeth with vertical cuts.

Set your salt dough skulls on wax paper and let dry completely. Turn over every day for even drying. This make take several days or a week or so, depending on size of skull, heat, and humidity. When completely dry, they can be painted and decorated, if desired. This same shaping method can be used with fondant to make sugar skulls.

Salt Dough Samhain Skulls - Ozark Pagan Mamma

KIDS’ ACTIVITIES FOR SAMHAIN / WINTERNIGHTS

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EXPLANATION & INFORMATION

STORIES

  • “When the Wind Stops” by Charlotte Zolotow (for ages 4-8) Use this book to introduce the concept of rebirth/continuance of life.

CRAFTS

  • Make skull necklaces/bracelets- look for skull beads in import shops and craft stores, or make your own.
  • Make a Silver Branch: find a fallen tree branch- not too big or small- a good size to hang on a wall close to your home (or personal) altar, perhaps the size of a long wand. Paint it silver with craft paint and let dry. Attach silk apple blossoms and silver or gold bells. You can use the silver branch to mark the beginning of rituals, or as a purification tool (the sound of the bells drives away malevolent spirits away). The Silver Branch is a symbol of the Celtic Otherworld, the Isle of Apples.
  • Make an Ancestor Doll in the likeness of one of the ancestors for the ancestor altar. Use his/her favorite colors. If the ancestor had a favorite flower, attach one to the doll. If you have a scrap of fabric or an accessory that belonged to that her/him, use that too. You can also scent the doll with the ancestor’s favorite scent. One easy doll making method is the yarn doll. Kids old enough to use a knife could make an apple head ancestor doll (start well in advance of the holiday).

ACTIVITIES

  • Learn about your ancestors, visit graves and make grave stone rubbings.
  • Commit to memory the names of your direct ancestors, back as far as you can.
  • Find a hidden charm in barmbrack or colcannon.
  • Watch movies or video clips that explain the Origin of Halloween: The Halloween Tree, and also some short “bet you didn’t know” Halloween clips from the history channel website.

Kids' Activities for Samhain/Winternights

The High Days of the Celtic Year

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Many of us who were introduced to Paganism through some form of Wicca received an explanation of the generally accepted eight holidays most commonly observed by the majority of the Pagan community. Depending on your teacher, your group’s style, or the books you read, the background of these holidays may have been explained in depth or very little. Many Wiccan “how-to” books barely mention a specific deity name, and some groups I’ve done ritual with simply skim over deity invocations and the like.When I decided to explore Celtic Paganism in depth and learn more about the character of the deities and take part in the older traditions, many of these holidays developed a greater meaning for me. If you are new to all this, may it be the same for you in time…

For the ancient Celts, the year was divided into two seasons; these were gam, which meant winter -the dark half of the year, and sam, which was summer -the light half of the year.

At the beginning of the cycle is Samhain – it marks the end of the sam season and the beginning of the gam season. Taking place at the eve of November it is considered both a beginning and an end- the Celtic “New Year” and a time of remembrance of the ancestors. At the opposite of Samhain is Bealtaine at the eve of May ushering in the sam of the year.

The light and dark halves of the year, the sam and the gam, are further divided in two. These divisions are Imbolc at the beginning of February and Lughnasadh at the beginning of August.

I will talk more about these as each season approaches.

In the Celtic way of thinking, a day begins on the previous night- the eve. Everything begins in darkness. This is so true… think about the darkness of the womb, the blackness of space, the rich deep darkness of the soil.

Celtic feast days would traditionally last seven days- three days before, and three days after. Few people can take that much time to celebrate anything anymore. But if you think about it, this kind of gives some lee-way to planning a ritual. There has been at least two calendar changes since the Celtic feast days were established- after the Roman invasion, it was to the Julian calendar, then in the mid-18th century to the Gregorian calendar, which put everything 11 days before the “old reckoning”.

But originally, the holidays were not dates on a calendar, but changed from year to year in accordance with actual seasonal indicators like cycles of certain animals and plants, and subtle changes in weather patterns. (For example; Bealtaine was when the Hawthorne was in bloom.)

About the Equinoxes and Solstices

And so you may have noticed that the Celtic High Days, or Feast Days totaled four. There is less information to go on as to how the ancient Celts celebrated the solstices and equinoxes. Monuments like Newgrange and Stonehenge that were designed to align with the rising of the solstice sun were built before the Celts arrived on the scene, but may well have been used by them. However, it is evident that it wasn’t until later times that Celtic peoples started celebrating the solstices and equinoxes, and this seems to have been from Norse influence.

Traditional Samhain Games

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Earlier I wrote briefly about the importance of apples on Samhain and mentioned the classic game of bobbing for apples, of how the game is symbolic of journeying over the waves to the Otherworld, the Isle of Apples.  Well, here is another apple game…

Snap Apple (also known as Hanch Apple)
In the older version of this game (which was played outside), two sticks were tied together to form an equal armed cross and was hung from the middle (horizontally) on a string from the branch of a tree or from a barn rafter or barn door.  Apples were pushed into two ends of the stick and candles were pushed into the other two stick ends and lit.  The cross was set spinning and the player tried to take a bite of an apple without getting a mouth full of hot wax and fire!  Whereas apple bobbing was ordeal by water, this was ordeal by fire. 
In the modern version of this game, marshmallows dipped in sticky peanut butter are used instead of candles, so the risk is getting messy, not getting burned.
Another version of this game, one in which I remember playing as a kid, is simply trying (with hands behind one’s back) to take a bite of apple that’s suspended from a string.

Here are a couple more Samhain games that involved fire:
Jack’s-Alive
A lit taper is passed around the room from player to player, while these words are recited:
“Jack’s alive and likely to live.  If he dies in your hand, you’ve a forfeit to give.”
The object of the game is to not be the person holding the taper when the flame goes out.  The forfeit was usually to sing a song or recite a poem.
Another, perhaps older, version of this game is “The Priest’s Cat”.  It is played with a branch that has a glowing ember on the end from the bonfire.  As it was passes around, these words were chanted:
“About wi’ that, about wi’ that.  Keep alive the priest’s cat.”
As with the other game, the object was to not be the person holding the stick when the ember stopped glowing.

Snap Dragon
This game is a Christmas tradition in England, but in played at Halloween in the U.S.  Heat a large flat metal plate until very warm, but not hot enough to burn when you touch it and place it on a heat proof surface in the middle of a table.  Place 4 or 5 snapdragon (or regular) raisins on the plate per player.  Other dried fruits and almonds can be used as well.  Pour brandy over it and set it aflame.
Players snatch out as many raisins as they dare out of the blue flames and pop them into their mouths.
There’s a chant that goes along with the game, though it refers to the game being played at Christmas, not Halloween (the game was also sometimes played with a plum pudding in the center of the bowl/plate at Christmas):

“Here he comes with flaming bowl,
Don’t he mean to take his toll,
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
Take care you don’t take too much,
Be not greedy in your clutch,
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
With his blue and lapping tongue
Many of you will be stung,
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
For he snaps at all that comes
Snatching at his feast of plums,
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
But Old Christmas makes him come,
Though he looks so fee! fa! fum!
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
Don’t ‘ee fear him but be bold —
Out he goes his flames are cold,
Snip! Snap! Dragon!”
-Robert Chambers’ Book of Days
  
Snapdragon Raisins
2 ¼ cups seedless raisins
2 tablespoons finely sliced ginger
1 ½ cups brandy

Layer raisins and ginger in a sterilized jar and pour in brandy, covering the top.  Pack down the raisins and ginger, pressing out any air.  Seal tightly and store in a cool dark place.  They are best if left set a couple of weeks, and should stay good for about a year.  Use in baking, as a dessert topping, and for playing snapdragon.

A Family Samhain Ritual

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 A note on timing:  If you have your Samhain ritual on Oct. 31st, you will need to take into account your children’s desire to trick-or-treat. Trick-or-treating can last up into the night, giving your ritual a late start, not to mention that your kids may not be able to stay up late enough to attend. I’ve known many people who are resentful of trick-or-treating, thinking of it as a “secular” celebration of the holiday. But I see the Halloween trick-or-treat as very much a pat of the Samhain tradition. I’ve also known of people who send one parent out with the kids to trick-or-treat while the other parent has ritual. I’ve done this before, and although it seems like an ideal solution, it separates the family on what should be a family holiday. So if your kids are still at the age for trick-or-treating, you might want to have your Samhain ritual the day before or the day after “Halloween”. Keep in mind the old Samhain was a three day event, and originally, it wasn’t a date on a calendar. So many Pagans get hung up on celebrating on the “right” day. Consider though, that there has been two calendar changes- after the Roman invasion, it was to the Julian calendar, then in the mid-18th century to the Gregorian calendar, which put everything 11 days before the old reckoning. Also, the Celtic festival dates changed from year to year, in accordance to actual harvest times, and other seasonal indicators which vary for different places.

*This ritual does not specify who is to say/do what in most instances.  This is for you to decide among your family.

Preparation:  Prepare the Samhain feast, set the table, including a place setting for the Beloved Dead and a bowl of apples, and finish setting up the ancestor altar.  Open windows a little in each room, if practical.  Have ready a candle to light for your Samhain fire if not using a fireplace.  In this ritual, everyone will be going from a shrine/hearth area to a dining area.  These two areas should be close together, so that someone can keep an eye on the hearthfire and/or candles.   (It is traditional to kindle the fire of Samhain at dusk.)

  • Sain the house and family members with juniper smoke.  All gather around the family hearth or ancestor shrine.
  • Ring bell (or silver branch) to signal beginning of ritual.
  • Light the Samhain candle (or fire in fireplace), signaling the beginning of the season.
  • Offer a portion of the Samhain feast for the deities (into the fire of the fireplace, or on a dish on the household shrine) and recite a Samhain Invocation (inspired by/adapted from- Caitlin Matthews’ Samhain Threshold Invocation) :

“Grandmother Cailleach, Grandfather Cernunnos,
We honor and welcome you at the season of Samhain.
May you bless us with health, joy, and prosperity in the winter days ahead.
From the depths to the heights, from the heights to the depths,
as a blessing on the hearth of every home.”

  • Prepare an offering for the Sidhe and place in a windowsill.  This can be a wordless action, or say something simple like, “Fair folk, we honor you with food and drink.”
  • Prepare a portion of the Samhain feast (including an apple) for the Beloved Dead and place on ancestor shrine (or designated table setting).  You may choose to say something like “Ancestors and Beloved Dead, we honor you with food and drink as you cross the veil to visit us on this night.”

[All proceed to the dining area and sit at the table.]

  • The Apple:  “Behold, the fuit of the Otherworld, of immortality.” Cut an apple in half horizontally to reveal the star at the center. Pass an apple half to everyone at the table.  Everyone eats their apple. “As we have eaten of the fruit of life, so our ancestors live in our memories.” Participants share stories and memories of the Beloved Dead and Ancestors.
  • Ancestor Feast: Serve a feast of ancestral foods.  (Optional- explain the importance and symbolism of each dish before passing it around the table.)
  • Hidden Charms: Serve Fuarag and/or Barm Brack.
  • Parting Blessings

“We thank the Fair Folk for dwelling in peace among us.
We thank the Ancestors and spirits of our Beloved Dead,
for coming among us in peace and blessing our rite.
Ancient Grandmother and Grandfather, we thank you for your presence.
May you receive the Beloved Dead and give them strength to come to rebirth.
As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be.
With the ebb, with the flow, blessed be.”

  • Ring bell (or silver branch) to signify end of ritual.
  • Gather in the family room for divination games and traditional Samhain stories.

A Family Samhain Ritual

apples

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I can think of no other fruit as rich in symbolism as the apple.  The apple tree is the oldest cultivated tree in Europe.  In Celtic mythology, the Otherworld, Avalon, is the Isle of Apples.  It is the land of the Sidhe, but also, the Land of the Dead.  So apples are a symbol of the afterlife, of youth and rebirth.  So important was the apple that cutting down an apple tree was a crime punishable by death in ancient Irish law.

The Samhain game of apple bobbing reflects this symbolism…  The player is to plunge her/his head into water -the water symbolizes the voyage over the waves to the Otherworld, also, the waters of the womb.  The player attempts to grab an apple using only her/his teeth.  Of course, the reward is the apple itself, fruit of immortality.

Many of the tales say that the Isle of Apples was ruled by women.  If you cut an apple in half horizontally, you will see that the seeds form a five pointed star – a pentagram, which many believe was a goddess symbol in ancient times.  In the ancient lore of the Otherworld, the Silver Bough is cut from a magical apple tree, where silver apple shaped bells played beautiful music, which could lull people into a trance state.  It was believed that druids could make contact with the Otherworld under the trance of this silver apple bough.  Norse mythology shares much of the same meaning for the apple as the Celtic tales.  The Norse deities were fed an apple every evening by Idunna, the goddess of spring and youth who nurtures an apple orchard in Asgard.

The apple is an essential sacred food of Samhain, used both as offering to the ancestors, and eaten to honor, commemorate and commune with them.

crafting some costume stuff

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Papier-mâché Caps 
large balloon
flour paste*
newspaper
Blow up the balloon to the size of your head.  Tear newspaper into narrow strips and dip in them into the paste.  Gently squeegee off the excess paste with your fingers and mold onto the balloon in the shape of a cap.  Build up several layers (3 to 5) and let dry for a day or two, then pop the balloon.  Now you have the basis of many kinds of hat that are based on a cap shape.  You can glue on cardboard mouse ears or papier-mâché horns.  You can make the hat a beanie or glue on a cardboard brim for a bowler or derby hat.  Paint it and add trim.

*Flour Paste: two parts flour and three parts water.  For a batch that will last through a couple hours work, mix 1 cup flour with 1 ½ cups water.  The mixture should be thick as soupy.  Some recipes say to add oil of cloves or peppermint as a preservative, but you can add a couple spoons of salt instead to help keep the mixture from growing mold.

Papier-mâché Masks
aluminum foil
flour paste
newspaper
You make this mask using a face as the mold.  Tear off a piece of aluminum foil at least twice as long as the subject’s face and fold it in half. Use the subject’s face as a mold by gently pressing the double layer of foil over it.  Wad up newspaper and place it inside the curved section of the foil mold and lay it on your work surface- this will help it hold it‘s shape when you layer of the papier-mâché.  Gently layer strips of newspaper dipped in flour paste as for the papier-mâché caps.  Be careful not to press down too hard, or the mask will lose it’s shape.  Build up four or five layers and let dry.  Cut out eye holes, nose holes, and holes on the sides to add string to tie it on.  Paint and decorate how you like.

Homemade Face Make Up
1 teaspoon cornstarch 
½ teaspoon cold cream
food coloring

Stir together starch and cold cream until well blended then add food coloring.
Add a few drops of water, if mixture is too thick. 

Goop (or Monster Slime)
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup water
Food coloring (optional)
Mix together ingredients.  Store in an airtight container.  Aside from being just good and squishy tactile play-stuff, this can also be used as monster makeup; tinted red and spread out on the skin, it can look like raw flesh wounds, tinted yellow-green it can look like pus or mucus.

Edible Fake Blood
corn syrup or honey
cocoa powder
red food coloring

Mix ingredients in a bowl, experimenting with quantities until you have a realistic looking fake blood.