“I don’t think I’ll ever do that supper ritual again!” my friend, Amanda said.
“What happened?” I asked.
“We invited the spirits of our dead friends and family members to the ritual supper, and they did NOT leave! Over the next days, I felt really depressed. I later learned that my friend, Alex, was hovering near me. I was being haunted,” Amanda said.
This is a real problem if one fails to do the appropriate precautions for a specific Samhain dinner, titled a “Dumb Supper.” The word dumb refers to “unable to speak.”
We (my coven) will soon hold our annual Dumb Supper. This is a ritual meal eaten without talking or even making a peep.
You invite your deceased loved ones by setting a place for them at the table. It is so nice to visit with departed friends and family members. Sometimes, you can hear them, and sometimes they show signs that they are present. For example, one of my coven mates told me she saw a sign swing back and forth waving “Hi.” It really moved her heart.
Be sure to “kick out” departed friends and family members after the celebration is done. You do not want them hanging around. After you have shared your time with them, make sure they go back to the Land of the Dead where they belong.
I have heard of situations when a departed family member desperately tried to express his sorrow and attempts to apologize. Unfortunately, the living family member felt depressed or even scared.
Here is an example of language to send the spirits away: “Thank you for participating during our supper. We now send our departed family members and departed friends back to the Summerlands. We now Close the Veil. So Mote It Be.”
* * * * * *
Ever wonder what you should and shouldn’t do during Samhain? Here are some quick tips for this Sabbat. This is just a partial list.
Honor your departed friends and family.
Samhain is my favorite Sabbat. We honor those who have crossed the Veil with offerings and recalling memories of them when they were alive.
When you make offerings and bring up memories of your loved ones who have crossed over to the Summerlands, you bring them alive again in your own heart and others’ hearts.
Some things you can do are simple. You could fix their favorite meal or drink. Give them a toast with that drink with good energy and love.
The most important thing … Have fun!
This is a joyful time where we get to get to visit with our departed loved ones. Do you think that they want you to be sad? No. Our departed loved ones want us to be happy.
When you see or hear your departed loved ones, allow a smile to rise to your face. And, it’s also okay to have tears of joy when being reunited with departed loved ones.
Don’t get upset with the Mundanes.
Don’t fret over the general society’s way of celebrating Samhain. Yes, they have taken and distorted some things from us, Pagans. Be kind. They don’t know any better. Instead, enjoy the festivities. You don’t have to be a downer to the Mundanes. Hand out candy. And have some fun.
Don’t do your ritual on the October 31st .
There will be too many distractions with answering the door and handing out goodies to the little ones in the evening. This is the reason why many witches celebrate on either the weekend before or after October 31st.
Don’t forget the Ancestor Altar.
Having an Ancestor Altar is really fun, and it’s a must for Samhain. Decorate your altar with pictures of passed loved ones and include your departed pets! Witches love their animals. And yes, they go to the Summerlands, too.
Just imagine … those of us who have had a lot of pets over the years, we’re going to get mobbed with love when our numerous pets greet us in the Summerlands!
These are just some of the do’s and the don’ts.
Consider asking others about their experiences. We can learn from each other.
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I don’t generally write reviews on books I’ve read…but this time i feel lead to. This book spoke volumes to me, as if the author knew exactly where I’m coming from and what I’m struggling with. It’s not often a book can make me cry, but this one did by making me see the many blocks I’ve put up in my life. I knew they were there, but I’ve gotten skilled at pretending they’re not. Thank you for helping me see I’m not some freak because of circumstances throughout my life that have caused the blocks, and that i need to stop hiding from or burying them and face them one step at a time. – Crystal Sparks
This book is a must have for all of those starting out on the spiritual path of Wicca and for all of those who are just looking for some light and love in their life. MoonWater SilverClaw uses her knowledge of Wicca and her personal experiences to not only teach the Law of Attraction in a clear manner but to help you use the Law of Attraction to better your life.
Through simple guided meditations and tips on living a happy healthy life this book takes you on a journey that will teach you how to love yourself, better your self image, and rid yourself of the negative energies that prevent you from reaching your goals.
This book covers many wonderful topics that will teach you basic magical practices as well as the theory and idea of “like attracts like” From setting up an alter to casting a circle and how to perform and find the magick that you are seeing in your life this book has so much to offer.
MoonWater SilverClaw is truly an inspirational writer for a newer generation of Wiccans and those seeking to use the natural energies of the earth to make changes in their life. Her writing style speaks from the heart because she has been where the reader is, she has used these techniques and steps to better her own life and now she is helping the reader use the Law of Attraction to better theirs – Amazon Customer
This is an absolute gem for the witch with issues. Rituals for things like self-esteem are something i have never seen before. Moonwater’s writing is engrossing and draws the reader in. I am a witch with PTSD M.S. and other issues and this book made me feel hopeful and capable. – t’air
Ms. SilverClaw has written a book that is really great for the beginner wanting to learn about Wiccan or wants to start practicing the art of Wicca. I found this book wonderful, easy to read, and extremely helpful and informative. It covers everything from what Wicca is, the history of Wicca and how Wicca became misassociated with evil, along with how Wicca can help/save people’s lives. Ms. SilverClaw also discusses practicing Wicca either in a Coven or Solo, and all the things you need in order to have in order to perform your ceremony, and she explains what each item means. She explains how to create spells and gives examples to use, and explains the pitfalls of creating certain types of spells. Ms. SilverClaw has truly created a book that is a cast all net the seems to cover everything that I needed to know to begin practicing Wicca. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is searching for their first book on the topic and wants to start practicing the art of Wicca or is just curious about the topic. This is truly a Must Have book. – Tamra L. Shipman
Many Wiccans say that Samhain is their favorite holiday. It’s the start of the Wiccan New Year. We have the chance to be reunited with departed loved ones because the Veil between the worlds is at its thinnest at this time. We invite our deceased loved ones into our circles and celebrate the New Year with them. Dressing in costume is a total bonus!
This is a time when we can let down our witches’ locks and enjoy precious moments with family and friends. We play games and revel in much feasting and festivities.
You can celebrate Samhain with one or more of the following:
A “Dumb Supper”
The use of the word “dumb” is based on a traditional definition referring to “unable to speak.” No one speaks during this meal. The deceased are invited to this meal, and they do not speak, either. A place is set for the deceased at the table. During this meal, you may often have the thought of deceased loved one pop into your mind. Some people even report smelling perfume that a departed loved one used to wear.
Divination is really popular on and around Samhain. I truly enjoy doing a reading for the coming year.
Here’s the process: Go through your tarot deck and pull out the major arcana (cards) from the rest of the deck. Shuffle these particular cards. Keep shuffling the cards until you feel good that they’re appropriated mixed.
Place the cards face down and then fan them out. Pass your hand above the cards, reach out with your feelings. Pick up a card that “calls to you.” Place this card face up on the table to your left. Then continue picking cards and put them down in sequence—left to right. Continue doing this process until you have all of the cards face up on the table.
Each card from the first to the last represents the coming year. You’re viewing all of the full moons and Sabbats in order of occurrence during the year.
Consider viewing your favorite Wiccan calendar. Basically, compare the cards to the full moons and Sabbats that you see in the calendar. The first card goes with the first moon and so on. Read the card, and you will know what is foretold for that day. There will be one last card and that represents the whole year .
A Remembrance Party
During this form of party, you gather with friends and family to remember the good times that occurred with departed loved ones. (By the way, this works well when combined with the dumb supper.) Make an ancestor altar by placing pictures of departed loved ones and/or items belonging to them. Additionally, remember to honor your pets that have passed away.
Tears streaming down my face, I had no idea if anything would ever be okay again. I had just heard that my dear friend and neighbor had been shot dead at his workplace.
This devastated me. It seemed that the world had fallen apart around me. This was one of many hurdles that I faced this year.
But the year was about more than grief. It was about new growth. I planted seeds of hope. About a year ago, I started a new book, Goddess Has Your Back. How ironic: I lived through a number of situations in which I needed for Goddess to have my back.
In my new book I address building yourself up and creating a new, empowered viewpoint about yourself and others. Further I provide empowering rituals for all the seasons and Esbats of the year.
In the next few days, I’ll know more about the actual date of release.
I’m feeling grateful that my work will be available for others, and wish that it helps you grow and have your bountiful harvest in your own life.
Taking Care of Yourself through the Seasons
Throughout my year of ups and downs, there has been one constant. With my coven, I have done a number of rituals and meditations. I suggest that you actually make a plan to do a ritual at least once a month.
Now it’s your turn. What are you tending in “your garden” and what is going to be part of your own harvest?
Be good to yourself.
For more of Moonwater SilverClaw, consider some of her books:
Before we move too far into the future, let’s pause a moment to talk about Halloween. Not the spiritual vigil of Samhain or seasonal harvest celebrations. Let’s discuss the wholly secular, American and Canadian holiday of Halloween, complete with candy, costumes and PVC pumpkins.
It’s fair to say that Halloween has a somewhat uneasy place in the family of North American holidays. On the one hand, we, as Pagans, fully embrace the festivities. It is the one calendar event that openly clings to its Pagan origins. When else can you buy a pentacle in TJ Maxx? But, on the other hand, the celebration mocks its own spiritual roots, something that we hold very dear.
We aren’t alone in our unsettled attempts to navigate through the Halloween season. American religious and community leaders repeatedly attempt to ban the holiday. Why? The list is endless including concerns over the overindulgence in candy, the potential dangers of trick-or-treating, the increased popularity of over-sexualized or violently graphic costumes and, of course, its Pagan origins. But the majority of folks really just want an excuse to party. Halloween provides a unique canvas that can only be topped by the decadent bacchanalia that is Mardi Gras. (The Atlantic, 10-30-12)
More recently, the Halloween debate has been getting larger – much larger. Over the past two decades, our secular holiday has been spreading across the globe, seizing the imaginations of youth cultures on every continent. The holiday has hitched a ride with missionaries, English language teachers and ex-pats. It’s being promoted by imported American cultural commodities like internationally-based Theme Parks, McDonald’s stores, Coca Colaproducts and Hollywood movies. And, of course, the ever-increasing accessibility to the internet only fuels the proverbial fire.
In some regions, Halloween has been readily incorporated into long-established fall cultural traditions. In the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland, Halloween finds itself at its ancestral birthplace. Today, the newly-imported version has mixed with surviving local customs associated with, among others, Guy Fawkes Day. As noted by English writer, Chris Bitcher:
“Trick or treat has now actually become a bona fide tradition in the UK ….Fireworks were our autumnal treat of choice and for a good little while we fought off any competitor to it. But then we gave that up and decided to embrace both.” (Your Canterbury)
Across the globe in China, Hong Kong and Japan, people have been enthusiastically adopting the holiday. Lisa Morton, award-winning writer of Trick or Treat: The History of Halloween, and noted Halloween authority, attributes this acceptance to the presence of two Disney Theme Parks (Tokyo and Hong Kong), Hollywood horror movies and a fascination with American pop-culture. During my own discussion with her, Lisa added, “In Japan, there is a love of festivals and affection for costuming or “cosplay,” which is associated with anime and manga.” In mainland China, Halloween is slowly replacing Yue Laan or “ Hungry Ghost Festivals,” during which people appease and entertain ancestral ghosts. To fuel and solidify this cultural shift, China will be getting its very own “Haunted Mansion” at Shanghai Disneylandin 2015.
On the contrary, in continental Europe, Halloween has been receiving a less than welcome reception. In Oct 2012, the Polish Archbishop Andzej Dzięga, was quoted on Polskie Radio, as saying, “This kind of fun, tempting children [with] candy, poses the real possibility of great spiritual damage, even destroying spiritual life.” He warned against the “promotion of paganism” and a “culture of death.” In 2003, CNN.com reported that France’s Catholics are trying everything to fend off a Halloween celebration they say is an “ungodly U.S. import.”
More recently, in Russia, the war over Halloween rages on. ABC Online reports that one Russian Education Ministry official called the holiday, a destructive influence “on young people’s morals and mental health.” The Moscow city schools banned Halloween celebrations claiming that they were concerned about, “rituals of Satanically-oriented religious sects and… the promotion of the cult of death.” In the same article, an unamedRussian psychologist warned:
“Halloween poses a great danger to children and their mental health, suggesting it could make young people more likely to commit suicide.”(ABC Online)
Despite this heavily Christian rhetoric, the resistance is not entirely about religion. In our discussion, Lisa explained that, “While it is difficult to fully separate the expression of nationalism from religious tradition, many European countries, like France and Slovenia, have strong anti-American undercurrents.” Religious fervor may, in fact, be serving nationalist interests. Lisa said, in the end, she “believes the protests are far more about nationalism than religion.”
This is expressed in an article by Paul Wood, an Englishman living in Bucharest:
Just as the North American grey squirrel has made the red squirrel almost extinct so has the North American Hallowe’en taken over with extraordinary swiftness, extinguishing older, weaker traditions. This too is life, I suppose, but it is part of the process by which the whole world is becoming plastic. (Romania Insider)
Despite the rejection, Halloween is still growing, albeit very slowly, deep within European youth cultures. In Italy, Halloween is called La Notte delle Streghe or “Night of the Witches.” In Romania, home of the Carpathian Mountains, the local economy is profiting from world’s fascination with Count Dracula. What a better way to spend Halloween than in Transylvania on a “real Dracula Halloween tour” complete with a four-course dinner and prizes!
Now, let’s move into the Southern Hemisphere where Halloween faces a new obstacle. Simply put, the harvest-based holiday does not apply. In this part of the world, October 31st marks the middle of Spring, not Fall. Over the summer, I was reminded of this fact when wishing an Australian friend, “Joyous Lughnasah.” She responded with an equally joyful, “Happy Imbolc.”
In the Southern Hemisphere, traditional festivals continue to be celebrated in accordance with appropriate seasonal shifts with no noticeable attempt to transplant Halloween to May. However, youth cultures have been showing a small amount of interest in an October-based Halloween celebration, particularly in the English-speaking countries of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. If for no other reason, the Northern holiday offers a chance to party and dabble in the macabre – even if it’s completely devoid of its seasonal aspects.
What about the Americas? As noted above, the countries in the Southern Hemisphere do not recognize Halloween chiefly due to geographical complications. However, the closer you get to the U.S., the more our secular Halloween has influenced local October traditions. In Costa Rica, for example, locals “have taken this “foreign” holiday and used it to revive an ancient Costa Rican custom: Dia de la Mascarada Tradicional Costarricense or Masquerade Day,” reports the Costa Rican News.
Closer to home, in Mexico, the famous and mystical celebration of Dias de los Muertos is, now, often called Dias de las Brujas or “Day of the Witches.” Halloween practices have been woven in to this largely religious holiday. As expected, there has been backlash from Mexican nationalists and religious leaders. However, Mexico is just too close to the U.S. to prevent the blending of two very similar October holidays. And that continues to happen in both directions.
Just as Halloween has infiltrated Mexican culture, elements of Dias de los Muertos are now showing up within U.S. Halloween celebrations. In an interview, Lisa Morton explained:
Last year I saw my first piece of major Dias de los Muertos American retailing – the Russell Stover candy company released several themed candy bars… That’s probably a sign that Dias de los Muertos is starting to be accepted into the American mainstream. It’s certainly very popular in those areas of the U.S. with large Latino populations. More people seem to be joining in large-scale Dias de los Muertos celebrations in America every year.
There are some areas of the world in which Halloween has yet to find a home for reasons already listed. These areas include the Islamic Middle East, the heavily Christian areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Israel, India and parts of South East Asia. I’ll go out on a limb and add Antarctica to that list – just to complete the geography lesson.
What does all this mean for Pagans? First of all, in every article for or against Halloween, a discourse emerges surrounding the origins the holiday. In many of these reports, the author includes a reasonable account of Halloween’s Celtic origins and Samhain-based traditions. Modern Pagan language is, unwittingly, hitching a ride on Halloween’s broomstick.
With the growing public interest in Halloween, we may find ourselves more able to openly join in the global conversation and, at the same time, deal with our own reservations. Maybe we should embrace the evolving holiday, “seize the spotlight” and become the stewards of Halloween worldwide? After all, the U.S. media loves interviewing witches in October. Or, we could completely renounce the secular holiday and its derogatory effigies. We could join others in protest with slogans like “We’re a culture. Not a costume.”
Regardless of our personal feelings about the secular celebration, Halloween continues to gain popularity worldwide, year after year. As a result, every October when the veil thins, a brand-new door opens for us providing a unique opportunity for a teachable moment. Now, we can say that both the ancestors and the world are listening.
Note about Lisa Morton:Trickor Treat: A History of Halloween. This book is an historical and cultural survay of Halloween’s evolution from early Celtic traditions and lore through the ages and across the globe. It is a good read for history junkies, like myself, or students of comparative culture. Within her detailed work, Lisa did reach out to consult Wiccans, world-wide, and gave a decent nod to the modern-day Pagan spiritual celebrations of Samhain or Halloween.
A big thank you to Heather Greene, as she is our first guest blogger.
Heather Greene: (Miraselena) is a freelance writer and digital media marketing consultant living in the South Eastern, U.S. She has an advanced degree in Film Theory and History and a extensive background in commercial media and technology. She spent the first part of her career working at a major Madison Avenue Ad agency and its subsidiaries, as well as several other corporations. In 2001, she left it all behind to become a independent writer and has been doing that ever since.
In the Pagan world, Heather has served as Public Information Officer for Dogwood Local Council, the southern branch of Covenant of the Goddess. In November of 2012, she will become the National Public Information Officer for the organization. Additionally, she assists Lady Liberty League, as a media relations adviser and writer, for cases involving threats to religious freedom in southern public schools. Her reports have been published on-line and in Circle Magazine. She’s a Priestess with the Temple of the Rising Phoenix, which has been her spiritual home since 1997.
Heather’s other interesst fall into the realm of the creative. She has always “found peace while dabbling in the creative energy that always seems to encircle her life through music, dance, color and words.” Currently, she is entertaining the muse through her own writing and through music as a singer and songwriter. She finds “power and inspiration in all that is reflected in nature’s beauty, family and friends.”
Samhain is the final harvest Sabbat of the year. At this time the last crops are gathered and put into storage for the cold winter’s months. The god makes his ultimate sacrifice at this time. But fear not his sacrifice is a willing one, for he does this for his children. The god is symbolized by the last of the harvest. He (the god of the harvest) is cut down (sacrificed) at this time so that we may have food to last us through the winter. The “Johan Barleycorn” songs came from this.
At this time of the year, the cattle and pigs are culled keeping only the ones strong enough to weather the harsh winter months. The meat is then salted and cured so that the people would be able to survive the long winter.
Samhain is also known as the witches’ New Year. The Celts felt that this was the beginning of the year. The reason for this is they believed a new life started at death. You needed to die to be reborn into a new life. That is just what the god has done with his sacrifice. He now resides in the underworld awaiting birth at Yule.
Samhain is also the time to communicate with the dead, The Veil between the worlds is the thinnest at this time. The Veil is the doorway or curtain that separates the land of the living with the land of the dead. Contact between the two worlds is now easily accomplished. So contacting past loved ones is common on this Sabbat. The dead are honored at this time. An example of this in today’s modern society is Mexico’s day of the dead.
The Wheel turns to represent death at this Sabbat, only to continue turning at Yule, to the beginning, representing life and rebirth. The eternal cycle of reincarnation is celebrated during Samhain. The old god dies to be reborn at Yule.