“Reclaiming Samhain”

 

“A year of beauty. A year of plenty.
A year of planting. A year of harvest.
A year of forests. A year of healing.
A year of vision. A year of passion.
A year of rebirth.

This year may we renew the earth.
This year may we renew the earth.

Let it begin with each step we take.
And let it begin with each change we make.
And let it begin with each chain we break.
And let it begin every time we awake.”

– Starhawk, Reclaiming Samhain

How To Celebrate the Cycle of Life and Death

How To Celebrate the Cycle of Life and Death

By , About.com Guide

Samhain is a time like no other, in that we can watch as the earth literally dies for the season. Leaves fall from the trees, the crops have gone brown, and the land once more becomes a desolate place. However, at Samhain, when we take the time to remember the dead, we can take time to contemplate this endless cycle of life, death, and eventual rebirth.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varied

Here’s How:

  1. For this ritual, you’ll want to decorate your altar with symbols of life and death. You’ll want to have on hand a white candle and a black one, as well as black, red, and white ribbon in equal lengths (one set for each participant). Finally, you’ll need a few sprigs of rosemary.

    Perform this rite outside if at all possible. If you normally cast a circle, do so now.

  2. Say:

    Samhain is here, and it is a time of transitions. The winter approaches, and the summer dies. This is the time of the Dark Mother, a time of death and of dying. This is the night of our ancestors and of the Ancient Ones.

    Place the rosemary on the altar. If you are doing this as a group ceremony, pass it around the circle before placing on the altar. Say:

    Rosemary is for remembrance, and tonight we remember those who have lived and died before us, those who have crossed through the veil, those who are no longer with us. We will remember.

  3. Turn to the north, and say:

    The north is a place of cold, and the earth is silent and dark. Spirits of the earth, we welcome you, knowing you will envelope us in death.

    Turn to face the east, and say:

    The east is a land of new beginnings, the place where breath begins. Spirits of air, we call upon you, knowing you will be with us as we depart life.

  4. Face south, saying:

    The south is a land of sunlight and fire, and your flames guide us through the cycles of life. Spirits of fire, we welcome you, knowing you will transform us in death.

    Finally, turn to face the west, and say:

    The west is a place of underground rivers, and the sea is a never-ending, rolling tide. Spirits of water, we welcome you, knowing you will carry us through the ebbs and flows of our life. 

  5. Light the black candle, saying:

    The Wheel of the Year turns once more, and we cycle into darkness.

    Next, light the white candle, and say:

    At the end of that darkness comes light. And when it arrives, we will celebrate once more.

  6. Each person takes a set of ribbons — one white, one black, and one red. Say:

    White for life, black for death, red for rebirth. We bind these strands together remembering those we have lost.

    Each person should then braid or knot their three ribbons together. As you do so, focus on the memories of those you have lost in your life.

  7. While everyone is braiding or knotting, say:

    Please join me in chanting as you work your energy and love into your cords:

        As the corn will come from grain,     All that dies will rise again.     As the seeds grow from the earth,     We celebrate life, death and rebirth. 

    When everyone has finished braiding and chanting, take a moment to meditate on the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Is there someone you know who reminds you of a person you’ve lost? Have you ever looked into a baby’s eyes and seen your late grandfather looking back?

  8. Finally, ask everyone to take their knotted ribbons home with them and place them on their personal altar if they have one. That way, they can be reminded of their loved ones each time they pass by.

Tips:

  1. Rosemary is used in this rite because although it seems to go dormant over the winter, if you keep it in a pot you’ll get new growth in the spring. If there’s another plant you’d rather use, feel free.

What You Need

  • Ribbon in black, red and white
  • A white candle and a black one
  • Rosemary

Samhain Ancestor Meditation

Samhain Ancestor Meditation

Calling Upon the Ancient Ones

By , About.com Guide

 

When performing an ancestor meditation, people experience different things. You may find yourself meeting a specific person that you are aware of in your family history — maybe you’ve heard the stories about great-uncle Joe who went out west after the Civil War, and now you have the privilege of chatting with him, or perhaps you’ll meet the grandmother who passed away when you were a child. Some people, however, meet their ancestors as archetypes. In other words, it may not be a specific individual you meet, but rather a symbol — instead of adventurous great-uncle Joe, it may be a non-specific Civil War soldier or frontiersman. Either way, understand that meeting these individuals is a gift. Pay attention to what they say and do — it may be that they’re trying to give you a message.

Setting the Mood

 

Before you perform this meditation, it’s not a bad idea to spend some time with the tangible, physical aspects of your family. Bring out the old photo albums, read through wild Aunt Tillie’s diary from the Great Depression, get out your grandfather’s old pocket watch that almost sank with the Titanic. These are the material things that connect us to our family. They link us, magically and spiritually. Spend time with them, absorbing their energies and thinking of the things they’ve seen, the places they’ve been.

You can perform this ritual anywhere, but if you can do it outside at night it’s even more powerful. Decorate your altar (or if you’re outside, use a flat stone or tree stump) with the symbols of your ancestors — the photos, journals, war medals, watches, jewelry, etc. No candles are necessary for this meditation, but if you’d like to light one, do so. You may also want to burn some Samhain spirit incense.

Claiming Your Birthright

 

Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Think about who you are, and what you are made of, and know that everything within you is the sum of all your ancestors. From thousands of years ago, generations of people have come together over the centuries to create the person you are now. Think about your own strengths — and weaknesses — and remember that they came from somewhere. This is a time to honor the ancestors who formed you.

Recite your genealogy — aloud if you like — as far back as you can go. As you say each name, describe the person and their life. An example might go something like this:

I am the daughter of James, who fought in Vietnam and returned to tell the tale. James was the son of Eldon and Maggie, who met on the battlefields of France, as she nursed him back to health.    Eldon was the son of Alice, who sailed aboard Titanic and survived. Alice was the daughter of Patrick and Molly, who farmed the soil of Ireland, who raised horses and tatted lace to feed the children…

 

and so forth. Go back as far as you like, elaborating in as much detail as you choose. Once you can go back no further, end with “those whose blood runs in me, whose names I do not yet know”.

If you happened to meet a certain ancestor, or their archetype, during your meditation, take a moment to thank them for stopping by. Take note of any information they may have given you — even if it doesn’t make sense just now, it may later on when you give it some more thought. Think about all the people you come from, whose genes are part of you. Some were great people — some, not so much, but the point is, they all belong to you. They all have helped shape and create you. Appreciate them for what they were, with no expectations or apologies, and know that they are watching over you.

How To Honor the Ancestors at Samhain

How To Honor the Ancestors at Samhain

By , About.com Guide

For many modern Pagans and Wiccans, there has been a resurgence of interest in our family histories. We want to know where we came from and whose blood runs through our veins. Although ancestor worship has traditionally been found more in Africa and Asia, many Pagans with European heritage are beginning to feel the call of their ancestry. This rite can be performed either by itself, or on the third night of Samhain.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varied

Here’s How:

  1. First, decorate your altar table — you may have already gotten it set up during the End of Harvest rite or for the Ritual for Animals. Decorate your altar with family photos and heirlooms. If you have a family tree chart, place that on there as well. Add postcards, flags, and other symbols of the country your ancestors came from. If you’re lucky enough to live near where your family members are buried, make a grave rubbing and add that as well. In this case, a cluttered altar is perfectly acceptable — after all, each of us is a blend of many different people and cultures.
  2. Have a meal standing by to eat with the ritual. Include lots of dark bread, apples, fall vegetables, and a jug of cider or wine. Set your dinner table, with a place for each family member, and one extra plate for the ancestors. You may want to bake some Soul Cakes.

    If your family has household guardians, include statues or masks of them on your altar. Finally, if a relative has died this year, place a candle for them on the altar. Light candles for other relatives, and as you do so, say the person’s name aloud. It’s a good idea to use tealights for this, particularly if you have a lot of relatives to honor.

     

  3. Once all the candles have been lit, the entire family should circle the altar. The oldest adult present leads the ritual. Say:

    This is the night when the gateway between our world and the spirit world is thinnest. Tonight is a night to call out those who came before us. Tonight we honor our ancestors. Spirits of our ancestors, we call to you, and we welcome you to join us for this night. We know you watch over us always, protecting us and guiding us, and tonight we thank you. We invite you to join us and share our meal.

  4. The oldest family member then serves everyone else a helping of whatever dishes have been prepared, except for the wine or cider. A serving of each food goes on the ancestors’ plate before the other family members recieve it. During the meal, share stories of ancestors who are no longer among the living — this is the time to remember Grandpa’s war stories he told you as a child, tell about  when Aunt Millie used salt instead of sugar in the cake, or reminisce about summers spent at the family homestead in the mountains.
  5. When everyone has finished eating, clear away all the dishes, except for the ancestors’ plate. Pour the cider or wine in a cup, and pass it around the circle (it should end at the ancestor’s place). As each person recieves the cup, they recite their genealogy, like so:

    I am Susan, daughter of Joyce, the daughter of Malcolm, son of Jonathan…

    and so forth. Feel free to add in place names if you like, but be sure to include at least one generation that is deceased. For younger family members, you may wish to have them only recite back to their grandparents, just because otherwise they can get confused.

  6. Go back as many generations as you can, or (in the case of people who have done a lot of genealogy research) as many as you can remember. You may be able to trace your family back to William the Conqueror, but that doesn’t mean you have it memorized. After each person recites their ancestry, they drink from the cider cup and pass it to the next person.
  7. A quick note here — many people are adopted. If you are one them, you are fortunate enough to be able to choose whether you wish to honor your adoptive family, your biological family, or a combination of the two. If you don’t know the names of your birth parents or their ancestry, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Daughter of a family unknown.” It’s entirely up to you. The spirits of your ancestors know who you are, even if you don’t know them yet.
  8. After the cup has made its way around the table, place it in front of the ancestors’ plate. This time, a younger person in the family takes over, saying:

    This is the cup of remembrance. We remember all of you. You are dead but never forgotten, and you live on within us. 

    Take some time to meditate on the value of family, how fortunate we are to be able to know the connections of kin and clan, and the value of heritage. If your family has a tradition of music or folktales, share those as a way to wrap up the ritual. Otherwise, allow the candles to burn out on their own. Leave the plate and cup on the altar overnight.

Tips:

  1. If you didn’t do a separate ritual for animals, you can add photos and candles for deceased pets to your family altar.
  2. If you like, you may wish to follow this ritual with a Seance.

What You Need

  • Items to represent your family members
  • A meal to eat
  • A cup of cider or wine to drink
  • Candles

Samhain Spirit Incense

Samhain Spirit Incense

By Patti Wigington, About.com Guide

 

This recipe is for loose incense, but you can adapt it for stick or cone recipes. As you mix and blend your incense, focus on the goal of your work. Do you wish to contact the spirit of a long-dead ancestor? Are you hoping to bring some visions your way in a dream?  Focus your intent as you blend your ingredients.

You’ll need:

 

  • 2 parts Cinnamon
  • 1 part ground cloves
  • 1 part Dragon’s Blood resin
  • 1 part Hyssop
  • 1 part Patchouli
  • 2 parts Rosemary
  • 1 part Sage
  • A dash of sea salt

 

Add your ingredients to your mixing bowl one at a time. Measure carefully, and if the leaves or blossoms need to be crushed, use your mortar and pestle to do so. As you blend the herbs together, state your intent. You may find it helpful to charge your incense with an incantation. For example, if you were going to use your incense during a seance, you could use this:

The veil has thinned, the moon is bright and I blend this magic on Samhain night. Celebrating life and death and rebirth with these herbs I’ve harvested from the earth. I send my intent by smoke in the air and call on those whose blood I share. I ask my ancestors to guide and watch over me, As I will, so it shall be.

 

Store your incense in a tightly sealed jar. Make sure you label it with its intent and name, as well as the date you created it. Use within three months, so that it remains charged and fresh.

“Two Samhain Rituals”

 

“To all the ancient ones from their houses, the  Old Ones from above and below. In this time the Gods of the Earth touch our  feet, bare upon the ground. Spirits of the Air whisper in our hair and chill our  bodies, and from the dark portions watch and wait the Faery Folk that they may  join the circle and leave their track upon the ground. It is the time of the  waning year. Winter is upon us. The corn is golden in the winnow heaps. Rains  will soon wash sleep into the life-bringing Earth. We are not without fear, we  are not without sorrow…Before us are all the signs of Death: the ear of corn  is no more green and life is not in it. The Earth is cold and no more will  grasses spring jubilant. The Sun but glances upon his sister, the earth….. It  is so….Even now….But here also are the signs of life, the eternal promise  given to our people. In the death of the corn there is the seed–which is both  food for the season of Death and the Beacon which will signal green-growing time  and life returning. In the cold of the Earth there is but sleep wherein She will  awaken refreshed and renewed, her journey into the Dark Lands ended. And where  the Sun journeys he gains new vigor and potency; that in the spring, his  blessings shall come ever young!”


–  Two Samhain  Rituals, Compost Coveners

Bring Out Your Dead: Celebrate and Grieve at Samhain

Bring Out Your Dead: Celebrate and Grieve at Samhain

by Freya Ray

Sometimes it seems the past is this great labyrinthine thing, infecting, affecting, even overshadowing the present. When you’re “doing your work,” it’s easy to get stuck in process hell, reliving the painful events of your past. If, on the other hand, you’re busily pretending your past is no longer affecting you, the serpentine tentacles of old behaviors and fears reach out from your subconscious, pushing you to recreate your pain until it can finally be healed.

Quite frankly, both of these extremes suck.

We all have pasts, we all have old pain that needs to be healed. We have all lost friends, loved ones, cherished places and times. We have all had things that brought us joy that are no longer part of our lives. All of us.

Bring out your dead!

There is a middle ground. I don’t mean “therapy light,” or giving lip service to your “issues.” I mean truly honoring and grieving the things you have lost, in their time, and then moving on.

There is a saying that I’m going to mangle, something to the effect that the deeper our pain, the deeper it carves the channels for our joy. Samhain is not the time of year that encourages you to continue in a shallow, placid existence. Samhain is not big on denial or avoidance. Samhain is the time of the dead. The time when the doors between the worlds open.

This is not a trivial moment! It is a spectacular opportunity to bring out your dead. Bring them out! Celebrate their lives, their passings. Honor the good and the bad of what there was. Grieve, rage, and celebrate. All together.

For the worlds are mingling on All Hallows Eve. The worlds are closer, all this month.

Feel the presence of those who have gone, and take this moment to celebrate their passage through your life.

Celebrate.

Grieve.

It is all one; both are the path to truth and beauty. You must explore both of these extremes to be at peace with your past.

To be at peace with what has gone.

Your dead need not be physically dead. They can be dead to you, the relationship shattered. They can be an active part of your life, but some aspect of your relationship is no longer possible. When you think of what you have lost, it may be your innocence, or your childhood home, your first love, your soulmate you’ve never met, the eighties, dependence or independence, being part of a family or a lost pet.

No matter. We have all lost things that were precious.

We move through our lives, full of “I’m fine” and “No big deal.” Or we relive it over and over, complaining about it to anyone who will listen, paying therapists to be our guaranteed audience.

Three things must happen: grieving, celebrating and moving on.

Leave out one of this magical trinity, and it loses its power. You must admit the feelings of pain and loss to get them out of your body. Unshed tears form a wall around your heart like a moat. I can see them when I look at people’s auras. They stay there until you move them out of your body, flowing toward release on your tears.

Celebration cannot be neglected. If you don’t honor the good things brought to your life by something gone, you cannot understand the pain. You cannot embrace the experience as a gift, a lesson. You disempower yourself if you choose to ignore the gifts of any experience in your life. “Poor me, that sucked” is a weak stance. “Yes, that hurt, what a pain in the ass that I had to go through that loss, and yes at the same time I am grateful for the gifts the experience has brought me” is a powerful stance.

“It was my experience, you cannot take it from me. You cannot convince me that I am a lesser person for having lost that thing I cherished. I made no mistakes. I chose my path, as the best path for my growth.”

And then moving on. That’s why we have the seasons, the cyclic energies of the planet. The larger forces that surround us are here to aid us in releasing that which no longer serves us. The energies will be building, coming to a peak. October 31 is a beautiful night for ritual, for honoring, grieving and releasing that which is gone. That which is dead.

Bring out your dead.

Bring them out! Create an altar honoring those who are gone. Put pictures or mementos of your ancestors on it. Arrange photos of family or friends who have passed. Draw representations of things you have lost — pictures of your feelings about hope vanished, possibility eradicated, love lost, opportunities gone. Bring it all up, let it all out. Put it all there, together, where you can see it.

When you’re done crying…

Stand there and love it. Love it! Love them all, all the things you’ve let go of. Love yourself for being a living, breathing being standing there loving what’s gone. Love the gifts of memory that allow you to cherish beings who no longer have physical form. Love all of life, which teaches us with pain as well as joy.

Love. Decorate your altar with offerings. Choose items from your heritage to honor your ancestors, or borrow freely if you resonate more with another culture. Burn sage, offer pollen or cornmeal, put out cups of whiskey or tea, light a cigar, give chocolate or rice or sweet cakes or honey, arrange fresh flowers.

Allow this altar to be a part of your life for a few days, bringing the lost into your consciousness.

When it is time, let it go. Burn offerings or painful reminders. Burn your drawings of your pain. Send prayers of gratitude and good wishes for the departed off wherever prayers go. Send your ex your blessings.

Release, release, release.

When your tears are done, when the time of grieving and celebrating the past is done, let it go. Dismantle your altar, putting photos back where they belong, giving the offerings to the earth, getting rid of that which no longer serves you.

Release, release, release.

Then bring your attention back to you. Still standing, you. Still breathing, you. Still loving. Take your attention and your power back inside your own body, and embrace this moment. This one moment, when all power is yours. When all choice is yours.

And move forward with the living.

Freya Ray is a professional psychic, shaman, writer, and teacher. For full information on her practice and a writings archive, check out www.freyaray.com

Speaking Out About Halloween

Speaking Out About Halloween

by Dana Corby

Halloween: the time of year that just about everyone associates with Witches, along with ghosts, goblins, and other scary “supernatural” beings. But I’ve been a witch for more than twenty years and I can tell you there is nothing either scary or supernatural about us. And there is nothing more to fear on Halloween night than on any other night of the year.

Each year as October approaches, self styled experts flood the media with dire warnings about the supposed physical and spiritual dangers of celebrating Halloween. They trot out the same tired old rumors of poisons and razor blades in trick or treatcandy. They hint that your neighbors are probably child molesters. Lately they’ve been making the astonishing claim that Witches put curses on the treats they distribute, so that the children who eat them will be “possessed by demons.”

There is no truth to any of it, there never has been!

Witches are actually rather ordinary folks; not a wiggly nose among us. We have jobs and families, we vote and pay taxes, and we want most of the same things you do: Peace, prosperity, a good world to leave our children. Unlike most people, though, we spend part of each autumn faced with open religious discrimination, based on needless ignorance and fear.

Witchcraft, also known as Wicca, is a modern revival of the pre-Christian religions of western Europe. We are pagans, that is, we see divinity in nature rather than in a transcendent spiritual realm or an omnipotent being. We speak of our deity as the Goddess or Mother Nature, although to most of us the godhead is dual – both Goddess and God. As such, our beliefs lie outside mainstream Judeo-Christian concepts.

This does not mean however, that Witches are in any way opposed to Christianity. Like most religions throughout history, we grant that different faiths are right for different people. We oppose only the mistaken belief of some individual Christians that since they posses the only “real” religion, constitutional freedoms of religion do not apply to the rest of us. On the rare occasions that Witches find themselves in conflict with Christians, we see it as a civil rights matter, not a religious dispute. We are not interested in arguing “my Gods better than your God.”

Wicca’s ethic laws are at least as stringent as those of other faiths: Our law says “Harm none,” and that means not our neighbor, not our neighbor’s dog, and certainly not out neighbor’s child. It prohibits not only physical harm but such intangibles as violation of another’s free will. And it means ourselves, as well; a Witch should cultivate both bodily and mental health.

This outlook on morality, because it does not rely on obedience to specific commandments, covers much more behavior: Rather than worrying about sinning, we try to foresee the results of our actions so as to take the wisest course. While we may not share Christianity’s beliefs in heaven and hell, we do believe that all actions have consequences, and that whatever good or evil we do will find it’s way back to us. Our ethos comes from within rather than being imposed from outside or above. It is based on personal honor and responsibility, and by these principals we live and hope to live again on our beloved Mother Earth.

As worshippers of nature, Witches celebrate a wheel of eight Sabbats or sacred days: Ancient festivals marking the round of the seasons. The Christian calendar, as even some Christian writers have noted, borrows heavily from Paganism. This is no doubt because until very recently people of every faith shared the same experience of the land and the passing seasons.

We share Yule, for instance, which is the old name of both the winter solstice and Christmas. Easter, derived from the celebration of the Spring Equinox, is even named after the Saxon fertility Goddess Eostre. And though Protestantism abandoned them long ago, both Imbolc (Lady Day) and Lammas (August Eve) have been retained in the Catholic year, as has All Hallows Eve…Halloween

To witches, Halloween is a religious holiday much like Thanksgiving, a time to feast in praise of nature’s bounty. It is also our New Year’s day, time to let go of the old and look forward into the future. The old name for this festival is Samhain, pronounced approximately “Sow-un.” This is a Celtic (Irish, Scottish) word meaning “summer’s end.” Some writers have claimed that Samhain is the name of a Celtic death god, but Celtic scholars consider this a fabrication. In fact, Samhain is to this day the name in parts of Ireland and Scotland for the month of November.

Samhain is the last of three harvest festivals. August has Lammas, the grain harvest; In September was Mabon, Autumn Equinox and the apple harvest; and on the eve of November is Samhain, the cattle harvest.

The idea of a cattle harvest is strange today. But in ancient times, it was essential. Though the Celts counted their wealth in cattle, they could not keep whole herds alive through the winter. Rather than let all of them starve, they kept the best animals for breeding stock, the rest were blessed, thanked, and butchered. This was not some occult “blood sacrifice” but practical animal husbandry, done with respect – essentially “pagan kosher.”

Every community held it’s own Samhain feat, and the people stuffed themselves with all the autumn goodies they would not see for another year, especially that great seasonal luxury, meat. They stored up food for the winter not in a refrigerator, but as fat on their own bodies. (We of course do have refrigerators. Our feasts come mostly from the super market.)

With the dying of the cattle and the seeming dying of the year, it was appropriate also to remember the communities’ human dead. The religious side of the feast of Samhain has always included recalling by name our loved ones who have passed over during the year, with prayers for their safe passage. This is the origin of the secular Halloween’s “spooks”: The spirits of all the beloved dead gathering around one last time for our farewells. For us this formal letting-go is an important aspect of the grief process.

Pagans in general, and Witches especially, do not share the horror of death which pervades mainstream culture. Because we are a joyful people , we hope to avoid death as long as is practical, but we do not particularly fear it. Witches see it as a transition, an alternate reality, which in it’s own manner serves life. Because we love life, Witches are healers and gardeners and artists, cooks and craftspeople and teachers of lore. Because we value balance, Witches honor Death at Samhain.

The part of Halloween that makes it Halloween to most Americans is of course, “trick or treat.” Interestingly, this custom, though ancient, is preserved much more faithfully in North America than in the old countries. Large numbers of Irish and Scots emigrated here just before the old ways began dying out in the British Isles, in the period between Queen Victoria and World War 1. By then the celebration was far different than it had once been.

The house to house begging processions that we now call trick or treat were not originally part of Halloween at all. From the Middle Ages right up through he renaissance such processions were a major part of Advent and Christmas; like most Yule customs, the true origin is lost in Pagan antiquity. Along with other Yule merriment, the processions were suppressed during the Protestant Reformation. But the people would not give them up, and took them underground by simply moving them to Halloween.

One feature of modern Halloween, though, has always been a part of it: disguises…

The ancient Celts believed in fairies, as many modern Celts still do. And they believed that at Samhain the walls between our world and the realm of fairy grew thin, and that the fair folk could come over. The fairies were said to ride the mortal lands then stealing beautiful human children to raise as their own. So, mothers “uglified: their children for the night: dirtied their faces, ratted their hair, dressed them in rags – whatever might make the fairies overlook them. And the children, kids being kids even in the middle ages, thought this was a blast! Eventually, as usually happens with folk customs, the reason for it was forgotten: today any kind of costume can be worn, or none at all.

So, what should a modern parent do? Is it safe to send your children out trick-or-treating? Though not as safe as it used to be, the truth is that it’s fairly safe if you use some common sense.

Those horrifying tales of razor blades and drugs in candy have happily proven to be what is called an urban myth, like the sewer alligators and the ghost hitchhiker: You know someone who says they know someone it happened to, only no one actually does. Hospitals have offered free X-rays of Halloween treats for many years now, and have never found a foreign object. Only one case of Halloween poisoning has ever actually been substantiated by the authorities, and it proved  to have been done by the children’s own father after they came home. It seems they were insured better than they were loved.

Nor are your children likely to have any spells cast on them on Halloween or any other time. While there are a few “wanna-be-Satanists” around who might  like to cast spells on your kids, the truth is, they can’t. Magick has natural laws, just like any other physics and chemistry. One of those laws is that innocence is armor against evil. Another is that magick takes work. The kind of people attracted to “black magick” generally either are just showing off or think they’ve found a way to get what they want without work. Once they realize the enormous amount of effort it takes to violate the free will of even a child, they’re all through.

What the Witches on your children’s route are likely to do to them is make them mad: We tend to give out healthy stuff instead of candy. One Witch I know gives toothpaste!

But real dangers do exist. Every year trick-or-treaters are hit by cars on dark streets,  bitten by dogs, fall down stairs – any number of mishaps. Predatory humans, though mercifully few, are real. And excited, sugar high children are not careful. So the parents must be.

Make sure that your children’s costumes enable them to see and be seen; if you can’t talk them out of going in black as Dracula or a ninja (or despite all I’ve said here, as the “wicked witch.”) Make sure they carry a flashlight so they’re not invisible in the dark.

Arrange with your neighbors for a “safe house” on each block; make sure your children know where it is and forbid them to enter any other house on their route. This could be a great PTA project. Best of all, of course, is to go with them.

Ration the sweets once they’re brought home. A heavy sugar overdose can trigger hyperactivity, hypoglycemia or in rare cases, even diabetes. In any case it’s bad for their teeth and hard on tummies. But don’t worry about your neighborhood Witches, we’ll be busy celebrating Samhain!

Dana Corby publishes pamphlets and booklets through her publishing company Rantin’ Raven Press.

Dancing with the Dead

Dancing with the Dead

by Sylvana SilverWitch

I am dreaming, I am in a dark room, I am afraid – but I move through the doorway anyway. Suddenly I am on a freeway, on the center-line, cars speeding past me on both sides. The wind rushes in my ears, whipping my hair around; I feel dizzy, as if I’m going to fall into the path of the traffic.

I see my lover walking down the middle of the other side of the freeway, his long dark curls flying in the wind. He looks far away, but he’s not really. I scream at him, trying to be heard over the sound of the traffic. I scream and scream for him, but he is careening, on first one foot and then the other, dancing in front of the cars.

He looks so pale and beautiful in the moonlight. Some of the cars pass through him, as if he’s not real. I find I am screaming, “But you are real! I love you! Please come to me! Get out of the traffic! Please!” I hear the screech of tires on pavement, as a car swerves to miss him, and it sounds like a phone is ringing somewhere, far away. Oh shit!

Oh, no, it’s my phone. I strive to wake up, reaching for the telephone. It is one of my friends -why is she calling at this hour? “Honey? Are you awake?” She is quiet, not at all her usual self. I instantly sense that something is wrong.

“What’s wrong?” I ask – I am suddenly fully awake. “What’s wrong!” I have a sinking feeling in my chest; I know that something is terribly wrong, and I start to cry as she says, “I guess you haven’t heard….”

“Heard what!?” I am screaming at her while she is speaking ever so slowly and quietly.

“Heard about Bobby…. He was killed last night.”

The room disappears from around me, everything goes black and I fall away from the reality I have been in. I feel as if I am falling forever, down, down, down. Down into an abyss of pain. I come to some semblance of awareness a moment or two later. The only reason I know it is only a few minutes is because she is still on the phone repeating, “Are you there? Are you there? Are you all right? Hello? Hello!”

I reply, “Yes. I have to go now; I’ll talk to you later.” She argues, “Are you sure?” But I hang up. My dream flashes in my mind; I suddenly realize what it was about, and I apprehend that I am sobbing. I take a Valium and go back to bed and close my eyes, hoping to shut out the reality and the pain.

I dream again, except this time I am with him, I am sitting in my living room talking to Bobby, and he is telling me that he is not really dead. I am so relieved! I hug him and feel him solid and large in my arms. I know he is really alive; it must have been a bad dream.

He says that he is sorry that we won’t be together anymore, but it is and will be okay, and not to cry any more. I am upset, and he comforts me. I ask him how I will know that this is not just a dream, and he says he can tell me what happened and why. He tells me details about his accident, which was a freak one. I know that he is telling me the truth, and I tell him how much I love him and will miss him. He smiles and says he knows, him too. And he fades away. I call out to him to ask him to stay, but I hear him saying he’s got to go and he will talk with me again. Later….

Most of us have had people go from our lives, but the most cruel loss is the death of a family member, friend, lover or even a beloved pet.

When this happens, it can be extremely difficult to let go of the intensity of emotion that we have around it; it “haunts” us, and we are sad and depressed – sometimes for months or years.

It is important, in my opinion, to allow the normal changes to happen in life with as little energy “getting stuck” as is humanly possible, because keeping the energy flowing causes the least pain. If you do your best to first feel and then let go the emotions around the demise of someone close, it helps your healing process and theirs too. You must let them go and let go of any extra energy you may have connecting you to them; by energy, I mean sadness, anger, hurt, resentment, longing. All of these are strong emotions and are “energy” that can keep us connected to the dead. If you attempt to grasp or hold tight to them, it just damages you in the long run. It can be especially tough when you haven’t gotten along with the person for a long time, or when there are big unresolved issues between you.

One way to deal with your emotions when attempting to let go of a loved one, is to do a ceremony to say goodbye. It can be helpful in this process, to contact the dead to communicate whatever you need to express to them and they to you. You can voice whatever and say your last good-byes, while at the same time acknowledging that they are still alive, energetically. Especially if they appear very clearly to you, this has made me feel much better about the passing of my loved ones. Performing the ritual aids in the grieving and healing process, if in no other way than achieving closure.

Connecting with the dead always seems scary at first, but it doesn’t have to be, when you are in the right frame of mind.

Why would you want the spirits of those who have passed on to appear to you? You might have incomplete business with them, for example if a parent dies prior to you working your childhood stuff out with him or her. Maybe you have a question that can’t be answered by any living person, or maybe you wish to honor the dead, as at Samhain. These are all valid reasons. Just for the fun of it is not a good reason!

You might want to be cautious and have respect for the departed, as they do have some power over the earthly beings that have put energy into them. If nothing else, they can communicate with you on the astral plane and make your sleep difficult. If you were to screw around with them or convene the wrong ones, there’s no knowing what might happen. There are all kinds of dead, just as there all kinds of living people – some good, some not so good. Use discretion when doing these workings.

I have chiefly communicated with the departed because someone else requested it of me, but at times they have turned up and talked to me on their own, just because they can I guess. When I work for someone else summoning dead kin, it’s always interesting. I usually try to get the departed to tell me something really obscure about the person doing the seeking, so that they will know it’s “for real.” It is something that a lot of people get spooked about.

I have, in years past, done psychic work with law enforcement agencies to help locate missing people. Usually they had several of us psychics working on the same job, they wanted to check out our information for accuracy, I guess.

I went and sat down at the table in the office I was told I would work in. I felt a feeling of dread, like I didn’t want to be there, or like something bad was about to happen. A detective came in and informed me they would be taping the session; I agreed that it was a good idea. He set up the recording equipment and brought out a manila envelope. He said, “This is a missing person; we’d like to have an idea where to look for her, and any other important facts you can tell us.”

With that, he showed me a picture of a young dark-haired girl, maybe 11 or 12. I immediately got what I call a “charge” from the picture, and I told him I’d do my best.

He sat across the table and passed me the remainder of the contents of the envelope. There were various personal effects in it, including a report card, a drawing, a bracelet, a hair brush with hair and a number of pictures.

I immediately knew that the girl was dead, even though the policeman didn’t say so. I also knew that she had been abducted by a stranger, not a person known to her. I knew this because of the terror that I felt from her energy. I closed my eyes and I saw trees all around me, big tall trees. I was very cold, and wet, and alone. I was scared, but happy to make contact finally. (In this process, I often feel as if I am the person I am connecting with.)

I opened my eyes and told the policeman, “She’s dead.”

He jumped. “Are you sure? That was kinda quick, wasn’t it?”

I replied, “No. When I make a good connection, it often happens like this. But it is really strong right now, and I want to get details, so I will talk with my eyes closed and tell you what I see, okay?”

“Uh, okay.” He was unsure about me but didn’t know what to do except agree.

I went on, telling him about the trees and the ravine, and the water and the car. Then as I was describing the scene of the abduction and the man who was the perpetrator, the girl’s energy just started weirding out, and she started calling for her mother.

I realized she didn’t know she was dead. Oh no, this is not good, I thought. She thinks she’s still alive, and I’m helping to rescue her. I tried telepathically to explain to her what had happened, but apparently she had no context for death where she herself was the subject. Plus she was dazed and confused, not thinking straight. I knew I’d have to do some work on releasing her if I were to continue, but then I would be risking the connection.

I had to do something, so I opened my eyes. The cop jumped visibly this time when I opened my eyes and said, “I have to stop; she doesn’t know she’s dead.”

“What do you means she doesn’t know she’s dead?” He was almost yelling at me, and I had to bite my tongue.

How can you solicit and communicate with your dead? A ritual follows, especially for the summoning, communication and making amends with and letting go of dead loved ones.

First, choose a night that the moon is dark, preferably around Samhain or Imbolc, when the veils between the worlds are the thinnest. Find a place where you can be alone, where you won’t be disturbed. Assemble all of your tools and talismans; a list of things you might need follows this article.

Cast your circle, drawing the circle in the air and visualizing it to be a sphere, taking you outside of the mundane reality of the time and space that we all normally inhabit. Next, conjure the elementals, and-or the directions, whichever you prefer, asking for their aid and protection, and light the candles. Next, invoke the God and Goddess into the circle, lighting their respective candles. You might ask a particular god or goddess who is associated with the dead, like Rhiannon, to attend your circle. You might also like to invoke the aide of the fey, who are the traditional go-betweens connecting the realms of the living and the dead.

Light some incense that is associated with either the dead in general or the person you wish to speak with. For example, if it’s your grandmother who always wore lavender perfume, burn lavender. Put a picture of the person, if you have one, on the altar, or any of her or his possessions or clothing.

State your intention for all to hear and take notice. This is important. Then invoke the person you wish to communicate with. Saying something like: “I invoke you ; please draw near and converse with me; please attend and illuminate this space with your presence. Kindly appear and assist me in my time of need. Please come; please come!

Speak their name aloud several times, then sit down, close your eyes and wait. This is a very interesting part of the rite, because you must listen quietly. Spirits don’t always appear á là Hollywood, in a superficial display of smoke and lightening. It is sometimes more like someone speaking softly to you inside your head, or a feeling of someone being with you. Listen and be open to them appearing to you. Hear what they say; don’t dismiss it as imagination. You can ask them for a sign if you are really skeptical. Say what you will to them, and know that they have heard you.

When you are finished or when they are done talking to you, thank them, tell them how much you love and appreciate them and then…say goodbye and let them go! Know that if you ever really want or need to talk to them, you can and they will hear you.

Lastly, ground your energy through the earth, making sure there is no residual energy from any other beings left in you. Then pull some energy up from the earth, let it bathe your heart in cleansing, healing energy. Dismiss your gods and the elementals and close the circle.

Afterward, take a cleansing bath or eat a small meal in honor of your rite. This is a good time to clean out the departed persons room, give their belongings to a deserving charity, or put their pictures or effects away. Keep some special mementos, but use the energy to really let go of them, you will find it makes you feel much better.

Some people like to use a Ouija board to talk to discarnate beings, I don’t like the Ouija board – I believe anything can come through it, not just the spirit you are specifically invoking. So use it at your discretion. You could also try a seance, in which you gather a number of people around a table and invoke the dead to communicate through one of you. This works best if one person is the designated medium and has experience “channeling” the dead.

However, being a medium for the dead can be quite traumatic, and I don’t recommend doing it unless you have some training. I used to do this with some regularity, and even though I am trained in the psychic arts, it was very hard on me to maintain my own energy throughout.

It is a still and quiet night. The room is dark and hazy-looking to you, even though there is no mist. Everyone is seated around a large, old, round oak table. There are candles flickering in the mist. Everything begins to fade away from sight, everything except the table directly in front of you, a narrow tunnel of reality.

Then you get a chill down your spine. The hair on the back of your necks prickles with electricity. “The spirits have arrived,” says the high priestess. About that time you feel something brush up to you, into you, and then you are above your body and to the side, looking at yourself smiling at everyone.

The high priestess turns to you and addresses you as if she doesn’t know you, “Who comes there?” she asks. “Who is it who joins our circle of love and light?” You see your mouth move and hear words falling from it, but they are not your words. You recognize the energy a moment later as a departed friend of one of your circle-mates. You sigh and relax, and decide to travel around while you are out of your body. Hmmmm – where to go?

I am fully aware that in writing this I might be summoning up the people who have been long gone from my life, and I accept that possibility.

Items for a ritual for the dead

Anything that reminds you of the person

Black altar cloth

Black candles

Black mirror

Crystal ball

Elemental candles

Essential oil

Flowers

Incense

Jewelry

Music

Paper and pen

Personal belongings

Pictures

Red wine