Questions & Answers Regarding The Old Religion

The following is an excerpt from “Witchcraft: The Old Religion”

by Dr. L. L. Martello.

Questions and Answers.

Q. What is the  best way for one who  is interested in the Old  Religion to     make contact  with a genuine  coven?

A. Subscribe to  all of the  Pagan and     Witchcraft publications. It’s easier to get into a  Pagan grove which often     acts  as a backdoor  to the Craft,  since many are  Wicca-oriented in their     worship  and rituals.  Fill out  a Coven-Craft  application form  issued by     WICA. To obtain yours, enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope.      WICA’s address is Suite 1B, 153 West 80 Street; New York 10024.

Q. What are the major  feast-days of Witches? Could you tell me  more about     the origins of Halloween?

A. Most Anglo-American covens celebrate the following      holy days. The four major ones  are Oimelc or Candlemas on February  2; May     Eve, Beltane, or Walpurgisnacht on April 30; Lammas on July 31 or August 1;     and of course Halloween or Samhain on  October 31. The four minor Holy Days     are the two solstices: Yule, around December 22; and Midsummer, around June     21 or 22. The other  two are the equinoxes: March 20-21 for  spring and the     fall  equinox on September 22  or 23.  The following  will help to give you     some idea of the origins of Halloween:

November Eve, All Hallows’  Eve, the Gaelic fire festival  of Samhain,     now generally called Halloween, represents the summer’s end, when the Earth     Goddess turns  over her reign to the Horned God of the Hunt, the transition     from life to death, from an agrarian time to one of hunting, from summer to     winter,  from warmth  to  coldness, from  light to  darkness.  It has  been     Christianized into All Saints’ Day,  a time when the souls of  the departed     wander the land and in some cases where the souls of the living temporarily     join  their spirit brethren, a time for mediumship, remembrance of departed     loved ones,  and celebration (as  opposed to  mourning) of the  dead.   The     Roman Goddess of fruits and seeds, Pomona, was worshipped on  this day. The     stored fruits and seeds of the  summer were then opened for the celebrants.     Apples and  nuts were the  main fruits.  This was also  the autumn  harvest     festival of the Druids.

They believed in the transmigration of souls     and taught that  Saman, the Lord of Death, summoned  those wicked souls who     were   condemned to  occupy the bodies  of animals in  the preceding twelve     months. The accused believed that they  could propitiate Saman by gifts and     incantations, thus lessening if  not eliminating their sentences. This  was     also the time when the Druids lit huge bonfires in honor  of Baal, a custom     continued in Britain and Wales until recent times.    In Ireland October 31     was called Oidhche Shamhna, or Vigil of Saman.  In his Collectanea de Rebus     Hibernicis,  Villancey says  that in  Ireland  the peasants  assembled with     clubs  and sticks, “going from house to house, collecting money, breadcake,     butter, cheese, eggs, etc., for the feast, repeating verses in honor of the     solemnity,  demanding  preparations for  the festival  in  the name  of St.     Columb Kill, desiring them to lay aside the  fatted calf and to bring forth     the black sheep. The good women  are employed in making the griddlecake and     candles; these  last are sent from house to  house in the vicinity, and are     lighted up on the (Saman) next day, before which they pray, or are supposed     to pray, for the  departed soul of  the donor. Every  house abounds in  the     best viands they can afford: apples and nuts are devoured in abundance; the     nutshells are burnt, and from the  ashes many strange things are  foretold;     cabbages are  torn up by the  root; hemp-seed is  sown by the  maidens, and     they believe that if they look back they will see the apparition of the man     intended for their future spouse; they hang a smock before the fire, on the     close of the feast, and sit up all  night, concealed in the corner of  the     room, convinced  that his apparition will  come down the   chimney and turn     the smock; they throw a ball of yarn  out of the window, and wind it on the     reel within, convinced that  if they repeat the Pater Noster backwards, and     look  at the  ball of yarn  without, they  will then  also see his  sith or     apparition; they  dip for apples in a  tub of water, and  endeavor to bring     one up in the mouth; they suspend a cord with a cross-stick, with apples     at one point, and candles lighted at the other, and endeavor to catch the     apple,  while  it is  in a  circular  motion, in the mouth.”

Vallancey concludes that these practices are the  remnants of Druidism and will never     be eradicated while  the name of  Saman remains. In  this brief passage  we     will see  the origins of many  modern Halloween practices, such  a trick or     treat, the Jack-o-Lantern, and apple bobbing.

In the island of Lewis the     name Shamhna, or Saman, was called Shony.  One writer  in disgust described     “an  ancient  custom  here to  sacrifice  to  a sea-god,  called  Shony, at     Hallowtide.”  The supposed Christian inhabitants would gather at the Church     of  St. Mulvay, each  family bringing provisions and  malt which was brewed     into ale. They chose  one of themselves to wander into the  sea at night up     to his waist. He  then poured out a cup  of ale calling upon Shony to bless     his people for the coming year.   “At his return,” this writer says, “they     all went to church,  where there was a  candle burning upon the  altar; and     then standing silent for a little time, one of them gave a signal, at     which the  candle was  put out,  and immediately  all of  them went to  the     fields, where they fell a-drinking ale, and spent the rest  of the night in     dancing  and singing.   The ministers in  Lewis told me  they spent several     years  before  they  could persuade  the  vulgar  natives  to abandon  this     ridiculous piece of superstition.”

The name Saman shows evidence of      Druidism in the Irish. Another  word, the name of a drink,  is “lambswool.”     It is made from bruising roasted apples and mixing it with ale or milk.     The  Gentlemen’s  Magazine  for  May,  1784,  says,  “this  is  a  constant     ingredient at a  merrymaking on  Holy Eve.” Vallancey  shrewdly traced  its     etymological origin when he said, “The  first day of November was dedicated     to the angel presiding over fruits, seeds, etc., and was therefore named La     Mas  Ubhal, that is,  the day  of the  apple fruit, and  being pronounced     Lamasool, the English  have corrupted  the name to  Lambs-wool.” The  angel     referred to of course is the Roman Goddess Pomona.

Q. Are these Holy Days the same throughout the world?

A. No. However, there are many universal similarities between all the pagan     religions. Names, dates and days vary according to national origin.     For instance, one of the Holy Days still celebrated by many Italian and     some Sicilian  traditions is the Lupercalia,  on February 15. It  has since     been Christianized into  St. Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14.  Let me quote from     the WICA  Newsletter:  Ancient Roman  festival  honoring Lupercus,  God  of     Fertility. It was  called dies  februatus meaning ‘day  of expiation.’  The     Lupercal–‘wolf’s grotto’–a cave on the western slope of Palatine Hill.     Near it was the ficus ruminalis, the fig tree under which Romulus and Remus     were  found and  nursed by a  she-wolf.   The Lupercai  who celebrated this     yearly festival  were made up of the Fabian who belonged to the Sabines and     the Quintilian Lupercai, the Latins. Later in honor to Julius Caesar, there     was added the Julian  Brotherhood. They sacrificed a goat.  Young neophytes     were brought in. The  High Priest touched their  foreheads with the  bloody     knife. Then another priest wiped away the blood with wool dipped into milk.     The feast began with the celebrants clothed only in goat skins and carrying     (really hiding) thongs made from the same goat hides.  They ran up and down     the  streets  of the  city striking  anyone who  passed  them.   Women came     forward to  be hit  by the  goat-thongs, believing  it  enhanced their  own     fertility. This was also a symbolic purification of the land and of the     persons touched. This was on   of the last Pagan rites to be given up     before  Christianity   completely  dominated  the  country.   It  is  still     celebrated today but in modern form, without the goat or  any other kind of     sacrifice, but  all wearing  skins  and goat  horns  in a  special  streghe     ritual.”

Q. What are some of the Christian holy days that are based upon or borrowed     from ancient Pagan Religions?

A. You’ll  find many of them discussed in this book. However, briefly, here     are some  of them. December 25 in  ancient times was the  day celebrated in     honor of  the sun, deified  in such figures  as Mithra, Osiris,  Horus, and     Adonis. It was also the  feast day of Bacchus, Krishna, Sakia,  and others.     The legends of these Gods were the same as those attributed to Jesus Christ     by  the early  Church.  Pope Julius  I  in A.D.  337 made  December  25 the     official day to celebrate Jesus’s birth, following older traditions who      honored their founders on that date. It was also the ancient celebration of     the  winter  solstice.  There  is absolutely  no  record  in  the  Bible or     elsewhere  of when Jesus  Christ was born.      All of us  are still paying     tribute to the ancient Gods  and Goddesses by the names of our  days of the     week.

English French Italian Spanish Planet Deity
Sunday Dimanche Domani Domingo Sun Mithra
Monday Lundi Lunedi Lunes Moon Diana
Tuesday Mardi Martedi Martes Mars Tiw
Wednesday Mercredi Mercoledi Miercoles Mercury Mercury
Thursday Jeudi Giovedi Jueves Jupiter Jove-Thor
Friday Vendredi Venerdi Viernes Venus Venus-Freya
Saturday Samedi Sabato Sabado Saturn Saturn

Two of the English  names come from Old Saxon rather  than Latin. Tiw’s Day     became Tuesday  in honor of the old Teutonic deity, Tiw or Tives. Wednesday     is named after the  old Teutonic Norse God  Wodan or Wotan. The Saxon  word     for  day  is  doeg.  In  olden  times the  days  were  called  Jove’s  Doeg     (Thursday), Mercury’s  Doeg (Wednesday), Mar’s <sic>  Doef <sic> (Tuesday),     etc.  Friday was the day when the  ancients paid tribute to Venus–the love     day. When  Christianity became dominant,  Friday was  no longer  considered     lucky–Jesus  was crucified on that day; also, the uninhibited sexual rites     dedicated to the love  Goddess Venus was considered a  great “sin.” Besides     the days of our week our months are also named after the ancient deities:

January: From Latin Januarius, honoring Janus, a Roman God. He presided     over the Gates of Heaven, which the Christians later assigned to St. Peter.     The Anglo-Saxons called it Aefter-Yule, and prior to that Wolf-monat.

February:  From Februus, another name  for the God  of purification Faunus,     thus fertility. The feast was held on February 15 (see  Lupercalia) and was     called Februa.

March:  After Mars, God  of War. Anglo-Saxons  called it     Hraed-monat,  rugged month, or Hlyd-monat, stormy month. A stormy March was     an omen of poor crops. A dry March indicated a rich harvest.

April: From Latin aperio “to open,” like buds. Anglo-Saxons called it Easter-monat, in honor of the Teutonic Goddess of the same name. She ruled spring and light. The Romans dedicated this month to  Venus, often referring to it as Mensis Veneris instead of Aprilis.

May: Named  after Maia  Majesta, ancient Roman Goddess of Spring. Considered Vulcan’s wife. Look up the folklore regarding the May Day celebrations, bonfires, and other rites  celebrated throughout Europe.

June: Named after the Roman Goddess Juno.     Called Sear-monat by Anglo-Saxons. Juno was Queen of Heaven and Guardian of     Marriage and ruled childbirth. June is still the most favored month for      marriage today.

July:  Originally called Quintilus, the fifth month. Old     Saxons  called it Maed-monat, “mead  month” the time to  gather honey for     the drink called mead.

August: Named after the Roman Emperor Augustus. Was once called Sixtilis, the sixth month.

September: Named  after the     Latin  number for seven,  that being the  month in the  old calender <sic>.     Saxons  called it  Gerst-monat,  barley month,  as  this crop  was  usually     gathered then.

October: From octo, the eighth  month in the old  calendar.     Saxons  named it  Wyn-monat,   “wine  month.”  This was  harvest time,  and     Bacchus and Dionysius and all the other ancient deities were honored.  See     Halloween  above.

November: From the  ninth month in  old Roman calendar.     Saxons called it Blot-monat,  “blood month.” This was  when the cattle  and     sheep were  slaughtered for food and  sacrifices.

December: Named after     the tenth month in  the old calendar. It was consecrated  to Saturn, and on     December 17  the great feast of Saturnalia  began, lasting several days. It     coincided  with the winter solstice  and the Yule  season. The Anglo-Saxons     called it Yule-monat, “midwinter month.” It coincided with the winter      solstice and the Yule season.

The Simple Facts About Samhain

The Simple Facts About Samhain

Shadowfest (Strega), Martinmas (Celtic/Scottish) Samhain, popularly known as Halloween, is the Witches’ New Year. This is the last of the three harvest Sabbats marking the end of the growing seasons. Celtic custom decreed that all crops must be gathered by sundown on October 31st. It is a time when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. Deceased ancestors and other friendly spirits are invited to join in Sabbat festivities and be reunited with loved ones. In Ireland it is still custom to leave candles in the windows and plates of food for the visiting spirits. Keep a fire lit or a candle burning all night to honour and welcome the dead. If clothes are left outside overnight, they will take on bewitching powers for all who wear them. Darkness increases and the Goddess reigns as the Crone, part of the three-in-one that also includes the Maiden and Mother. The God, the Dark Lord, passes into the underworld to become the seed of his own rebirth (which will occur again at Yule). Many Pagans prepare a Feast for the Dead on Samhain night, where they leave offerings of food and drink for the spirits. Divination is heightened this night. Jack-o-lanterns, gourds, cider, fall foliage can be used as altar decorations.