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Samhain, All Hallow's Eve, Halloween: A History

What does Halloween mean to you?  Do you still get excited about dressing up?  Do you decorate your home and/or workplace/space?  When your doorbell rings do you grin from ear to ear when you open the door and see all of the children dressed up as pirates & princesses and monsters & mummies?  But where did these customs, practices and traditions come from?  Why do we participate in this macabre holiday every year?  Where did it originate?  Halloween or All Hallows Eve or, as the Pagan/Wiccan community refer to it; Samhain (pronounced Sow-wen) celebrates Nature's cycle of death and renewal, a time when the Celts acknowledged the beginning and ending of all things in life and nature. Samhain marked the end of harvest and the beginning of the New Celtic Year.  But how did it start…

It is believed that the borders between the world of the living and the dead is thinner on this night - also known as 'Ancestor night' - so souls of the dead can enter the land of the living. Spirits roam free to revisit their earthly homes. The Celts looked to their ancestors to bring them guidance for the coming year and hoped to commune with the spirits at Samhain.  Samhain is considered a celebration of life over death, and a time to remember those who have left the world of the living. Candles would be lit at the graves of loved ones. In Mexicofamily members light many candles around the graves of their loved ones and lay out special feast foods for the spirits, and remain there all night.  This is El Dia de Los Muertos and is commonly celebrated on November 2nd.

Halloween
originates from the ancient Celts' celebrations and is based on their 'Feast of Samhain'. The Catholic Church attempted to replace the Pagan festival with All Saints' or All Hallows' day, followed by All Souls' Day, on November 2nd.
The eve became known as: All Saints' Eve, All Hallows' Eve, or Hallowe'en. All Saints' Day is said to be the day when souls walked the Earth. In early Christian tradition souls were released from purgatory on All Hallow's Eve for 48 hours.

In order to protect themselves from any roaming evil spirits the Celts would appease them by offering them treats. The custom of wearing costumes on Halloween is thought to derive from the Celts disguising themselves at Samhain, so the spirits would think that they belonged to their own company. They could then communicate with the spirit world, known as 'souling'. 

 

Traditions & Beliefs

 

Samhain is considered a time to eliminate weaknesses - our Celtic ancestors slaughtered weak animals that were not likely to survive the winter and their meat was salted and stored for the dark months, this has evolved into the custom of writing your own weaknesses onto a piece of paper then burning them.
It was customary at Samhain to leave an empty chair and a plate of food for any dead guests, so that they would not be offended.  At the stroke of
midnight
- believed to be the hour the dead visited - all remained silent in respect.
The custom of trick-or-treating may have originated from an old Irish custom of going door-to-door to collect bread, cheese, nuts and apples in preparation for the feasting at Samhain.  When a candle flame flickers on Halloween night it is being touched by the spirits of dead ancestors.  Those born on All Hallows Eve are believed to have the gift of second sight.  If you catch a falling leaf on Samhain before it touches the ground it will bring you good luck and health for the coming winter.

 

Rituals & Games

Stones with a personal mark were thrown into the fire. These had to be retrieved from the ashes to ensure luck for the coming year, if your stone was missing or damaged it was considered a sign of forthcoming bad luck.  Also known as 'Nutcrack Night', because it was a popular custom at Samhain to throw nuts on the fire - if a nut burned brightly it meant that the thrower would be alive in twelve months time, and if it flared up brightly it meant marriage within twelve months.
To see if a relationship will last, place two hazelnuts side by side and burn them over a fire. If they stay together as they burn then the couple will last, but if the nuts burst apart the relationship will break up.  Baked cakes were offered up for the souls of the dead. All the family would eat the festival Soul cakes - known as 'barnbrack' cakes in
Ireland
- which often contained lucky or unlucky tokens: a coin for fortune, a button for remaining unwed, a ring for marriage, a wishbone for your heart's desire, and a pea for poverty.  The Ivy Leaf prediction: everyone in the house places a perfect ivy leaf into a cup of water and then leaves them undisturbed overnight. In the morning if a leaf is still perfect and has not developed any spotting, this predicts that the person who placed the leaf in the cup will enjoy 12 months health until the following Halloween. If not...
In
Scotland the fishermen would wade into the sea at Samhain and pour out a bowl of ale into the waves for the 'Shoney' - a sea serpent-like being, to ensure a good catch for the coming year.  At Balmoral on Halloween night, during Queen Victoria's time a bonfire was lit and an effigy of an old woman called the Shandy Dann was indicted with witchcraft, and then thrown onto the fire.  At the Forest of Pendle in North Lancashire
, at Samhain a ceremony called the 'Lating the Witches' took place. Locals believed witches gathered here on this auspicious night, so lit candles were carried over the hills between 11 p.m and midnight - lighting the witches or 'lating' them. If a candle stayed lit then the witches' power was broken, but if it went out - blown out by a witch - bad luck may follow.
If any animals were suffering ill health on All Hallows Eve, then the farmer would spit on them to try to ward off any evil spirits that may take them.
  On the morning of November 1st a silver coin was thrown through the front door of the house. The coin had to remain where it had fallen in order to bring financial luck.

Pumpkin Carving

The tradition of face-carved pumpkin lanterns is thought to be derived from the Celts' placing of ancestors' skulls outside their doors at this time. Others see it as originating from using lanterns to ward off any evil spirits, which may be wandering through the thin veil into the living world on this All Hallows Eve.
The lit pumpkins also symbolize that in the darkness of winter the light continues within the seeds, tubers and bulbs dormant under the earth - they are still full of life and glowing like the candles within the pumpkins.  The name Jack O'Lantern derives from an old Irish tale of a villain who after he died could not enter heaven or hell - a damned soul. So he was condemned to wander the land with only a candle to see his way (some say it was a hot ember from the devil), which he placed inside a gouged out vegetable to act as a lantern. Others believe Jack-O-Lantern was a mischievous spirit who carried a light at night and lures night travelers into bogs or marshes, which were the dwelling places of fairies.
The Jack O' Lantern used to be made from a turnip, but Irish emigrants to
America adopted the plentiful pumpkin since it is much easier to carve. In the Isle of Man they still carve turnips to make lanterns and call the night 'Hop To Naa', not Hallowe’en, or Trick or Treating.

Samhain Divination

Samhain was a time for divination and magic, the Druids would foretell the future on this powerful night.  Many of the customs were performed by young people divining for their future husbands and wives - apples often figured; their connection with fertility is widely recognized: An old belief is that by peeling an apple on Hallowe'en and keeping the peel in one piece, and then throwing it over your shoulder you will discover the initials of a future lover.  By candlelight go alone to a mirror and eat an apple before it, whilst combing your hair. Your future love will be seen in the glass over your shoulder.  Ducking or bobbing for apples was a marriage divination. The first person to bite an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year. 'Dookin’ for apples' is thought to have originated from a Druidical rite associated with water.  Young girls would stick apple pips to the outside of her cheek, with each one standing for her sweethearts. The last pip that stayed stuck was her true love.  Blindfolded girls would go into the fields and pull up the first cabbage they could find. If their cabbage had lots of earth attached to its roots then their future sweetheart would have plenty of money. If they later ate the cabbage it would also reveal their future love's character - bitter or sweet!  In Ireland a popular Halloween game was when a blindfolded person would sit at a table on which were placed several saucers. They choose one by touch, after they have been shuffled about the table. The contents of the saucer foretell the person's fate for the following year: water means the person will travel, a coin or salt indicates future wealth, earth/clay means someone known to the player will die next year; a bean predicts poverty and a ring meant marriage.

In closing…

Samhain or Samhuin stands between the worlds of the living and dead and outside of ordinary time. It's the day that past memories meet the hopes of the future. The veil between us and the spirit world is at its thinnest tonight and we remember our ancestors, recent and from the distant past. It is death that gives life its purpose and decay that fertilizes new growth.  It is a time to plant the seeds of new projects, allowing them to germinate over the winter months. It is also considered the time to end old projects and to generally take stock of one's life.  Samhain allows you to come to terms with your past year and leave all mistakes and regrets behind you, in order to move on. Look forward to what the future holds.  Use the magic of this time to say good-bye to a bad habit or addiction, an old relationship, or anything else negative in your life - Samhain is the night to leave it all behind.

 

For more on this Sabbat and others Llewellyn's Sabbats Almanac 2009-2010 is a good place to start.  If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me via email! Blessed Be this Samhain to one and all!

***Coming next time: Dia De Los Muertos, the holiday and the Tarot Deck!

 


Online Tarot Readings!

Merry Meet one and all!  On Saturday November 14, 2009 I am hosting an on-line reading event.  I will be booking readings for this day in advance.  Time slots will vary based upon the length of your reading.  This could be a great early Yule gift for yourself or, perhaps, for the one you love!  If you are on Facebook you may visit my page: Ceridwyn's Online Tarot Readings!  Become a fan and get regular updates.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions!

Bring clarity to the Holiday Mayhem! Are you on the right path? See what the cards have in store for you!

Rates:
Full hour: $40.00
Half hour: $25.00
15 Minutes: $15.00

Rates are payable through PayPal (edelmore@cox.net is the correct email to use for payment) and need to...be posted 48 hours prior to the event so that your time slot can be confirmed.

Blessed Be one and all!


The Suits in the Minor Arcana of the Tarot; Part 4: The Pentacles

This is the final installment of my Suits of the Minor Arcana.  Please feel free to email me with any questions that you might have.

Pentacles

 

Society, as a whole, has a very materialistic strangle-hold over itself.  Let’s be honest, we all want what can’t or don’t have.  This is true with in the Tarot.  The wants, needs and desires are illustrated to us through the Pentacles.  They represent what we want or need.  Quite a few Tarot scholars feel that the Pentacles should come last in the order of the Minors.  The reason being is that they are the result of the other three suits elementally manifesting themselves into something tangible or material.  This is actually a great way to look at a reading.  In other words, the emotion (Cups), thought (Swords), and spirit/creativity (Wands) found throughout the reading logically culminate in the manifestation of physical reality.  A few of the key physical issues in the Pentacles are financial concerns, health issues and the homestead.  However, the Pentacles go deeper than the superficial material meanings commonly associated to them.  The Pentacles serve as a taproot if you will, into the richer meanings of the Tarot deck.  If you were to take out the Pentacles and line them up in order and simply look at them there is a story here.  The Ace, like the other Aces in the other suits of the Minor Arcana depicts a right hand gently holding a Pentacle over a bountiful homestead.  Generally this signifies a new beginning with regards to a job, more money, a new baby or marriage; the beginning of a new journey.  As you move through the suit, there are the trials and tribulations of juggling life’s surprises, reaching an initial level of mastery on a basic level, making the decision to hang onto what little you have and then suffering consequences for decisions made (or not made).  But then as you continue to move forward on your journey you realize that there are people out there who will help when help is needed as well as you being able to see who needs assistance and offering it to others in need.  As we continue to look at the cards within this suit we see a constant growth occurring and hard work.  The hard work culminates with prosperity, security, happiness.  The deeper meanings that these cards illustrate are: faith & charity, bounty, generosity & reciprocity, appreciation, responsibility and a well-grounded nature.  The color correspondence for this suit is green, representative of physical growth or money.  The seasonal association is spring, again significant of new growth, new direction and a new journey.  Elementally this suit is connected to the earth (the material and tangible) and with the realm of home and hearth.  The gender that is connected to the Pentacles is female and the direction is the east.  Depending upon the deck you are using the Pentacles can also be referred to as Discs or Coins and its correspondence to common playing cards are the diamonds.    As a final word I will leave you with this: Nature is filled with gifts of grace.  We as humans have to ability to enhance these gifts by properly sowing our seeds in fertile soils and diligently tending to them, therefore “reaping what we sow”.

 

Oscar Wilde: “Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot.  In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.”

 

For those of you who would like to explore a different deck try the Universal Goddess Tarot.  It is a beatiful deck that taps in the power of the Goddess.

 

 


The Suits in the Minor Arcana of the Tarot; Part 3: The Cups

Part 3: The Cups

CUPS

This is the suit for me that always blows my mind.  The elemental association is water and water is indicative of movement, change and impermanence.  The Cups also represent emotion; love, sadness, hatred, and all that lies in between.  In classical mythology, the Goddess Psyche was representative of the Human Soul whose form was that of a beautiful woman.  Psyche was loved and adored by Eros, who was the God of Love and is often depicted as Cupid.  The Tarot cross-references this myth by illustrating the magnitude of emotion experienced by Psyche (The Soul) while enveloped by the support of Eros (Love).  This is emblematically important: what fills the Cup is emotion, in this case love, but it can be any emotion depending upon the Querrent and what the nature of the other cards in the spread are, but the Cups represent our human soul.  As I stated previously, the elemental correspondence is water, and while water is usually fluid it can take on other forms as well: steamy, icy or frigid, taking the form of what ever the prevailing emotion is.  The Zodiacs that represent the Cups are Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces and people who are born under these signs tend to have heightened emotions.  The Cups are female and righteously so, as women tend to be more connected to their emotions.  Directionally the Cups are in the west and they are associated with autumn.  Cups can mean a multitude of things when they come up in a reading, keeping in mind that our soul is capable of tremendous expression, at times leaving us feeling over-whelmed or feeling as though we are seated upon a throne at infinite heights…but the water can always change its direction, just as our own human emotions can…and do!

Lord Byron: Life’s enchanted cup sparkles near the brim.

 

The Tarot can be an insightful tool.  For those of you who would like to pursue it further I would suggest the Albano-Waite deck.  This deck uses the same original art work but Frankie Albano uses a brighter color scheme and the card depictions truly jump out at you.

 


Samhain...your traditions and rituals wanted!!!

Hello and Blessed be one and all.  I will be putting out a post for October 31, 2009 about Samahin (pronounced Sow-wen), All Hallow's Eve, or as we refer to it here in the US HALLOWEEN!!!  I would love to include reader's views, experiences and rituals on how YOU celebrate this Sabbat...whether you hand out candy to smaill trick-or-treaters or cast a sacred circle sky-clad....I would like to know so I can include your traditions within my blog.

Check out these two books for further information on Samahin and all other Sabbats!

Sabbats: A Witch's Approach to Living the Old Ways

Llewellyn's Sabbats Almanac: Samhain 2009 to Mabon 2010

BLESSED BE!!!


The Suits of the Minor Arcana in the Tarot; Part 2: Wands

Part 2: Wands

 

WANDS

Wands are representative of creativity.  It has been said that if Wands had a personality they would be the Muse, or cheerleaders.  Wands are all about that creative spark, a Divine spark even, and our Spirit.  They are enthusiasm in its purist form.  The entomology of “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek word “enthousiasmos” which means to be inspired.  It is also derived from “entheos” which means “inspired or possessed by God”.  This is evident throughout the entire suit.  For example, in the Rider-Waite desk, the VI of wands shows a figure on a horse looking victorious. The figure is sitting upright and looking triumphantly into the distance, or the future.  All of the wands represented in this card, as well as all of the others in the suit have green leaves shooting out which is representative of growth, change and new beginnings.  The very first card in the suit is a single wand being held by a single hand mysteriously emerging from a cloud and sets the tone for the entire suit; the possibilities are out there for you to grow. The Wands are meant to show the Querrent what their creativity is and where it lies with respect to the other suits.  Elementally, the Wands correspond with fire, which makes sense, as most of us need to “light a fire under our ass” when it comes to moving forward creatively.  Wands are the initiators and put us on a path to spur us into action.  Seasonally, it is the Summer time that corresponds with this suit and the color is yellow.  Again, this makes a great deal of sense, as Summer time is a time to try new things and be carefree…the sun is shining, the birds are singing, flowers are in full bloom and it is time to embark a new adventure, be it travel, business, or merely painting your home a new color.  The Zodiacs associated with Wands are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius.  Because of the qualities that these signs possess stagnation is impossible.  The wands are pure potential, genius, or even epiphany.  They are the original ideas that get you “fired up” and the creative juices flowing.

Norman Vincent Peale: Enthusiasm releases the drive to carry you over obstacles and add significance to all you do.

 

If you are interested in learning more try out the Universal Waite Deck.  It is the original Rider Waite deck, but the coloring is much more viberant.


The Suits of the Minor Arcana in the Tarot Deck: Part 1: The Swords

Within the Tarot there are four suits of the Minor Arcana; Swords, Wands, Cups & Pentacles.  Typically that is what they are known as. 

 

Sometimes the Swords are referred to as Blades or Athame’s.  Athame refers to the magickal knife a Witch keeps on her altar and is used only in rituals.  Wands can be Rods or Staves, Cups; Chalices or Goblets and Pentacles can be Discs or Coins.  It all depends on what deck you use and what the artist of that deck had in mind when creating it. 

 

There are so many decks out there, now that Tarot has become (relatively) mainstream.  I am going use the more “traditional” terms.  Each suit has a corresponding direction, gender and season, as well as corresponding astrological signs.  They also have colors associated with them as well.  So during a reading all of these things need to be taken into consideration when looking at the cards and what they are conveying to the Querrent.

 

 

 

SWORDS

Swords are symbolic of the mind.  This can cover a wide scope of things; perception, observation, and the biggie for most of us; SELF-IMAGE!  This is, in my opinion the most intangible of the suits and sometimes can be perceived as the most negative.  We must remember that within the “gray matter” of our minds there are so many twists and turns in there that we made need to be pointed in the right direction.  Some deeper meanings in this suit to be on the look out for are forthrightness, confidence, clarity, and control, the ability to be analytical and to be decisive.  It is always good to remember that old saying of something being a double edged sword.  This is true with this suit.  There are two edges to the sword – positive & negative.  Just as we have the capacity to be inventive and problem solvers we also have the capacity to be self destructive.  The color association for Swords is indigo.  I feel that this is because indigo is a deep color, much like the suit it corresponds with.  There are many layers to the color, and to the suit.  Elementally Swords are connected with Air and aptly the directional association is North.  The gender for this suit is male and the associated zodiac’s are: Gemini, Libra & Aquarius.

 

 

 

Zen Proverb: Be the Master of your mind rather than mastered BY your mind.

 

 

 

The Original Rider Waite Tarot


Tarot - All Types of Decks

Erica 11-05-08 Today I write about the different tarot decks and my preferences.

 

Over the years I have had the opportunity to use and peruse a number of Tarot Decks. There was, of course, my first deck that was given to me.  This deck was the original Rider-Waite. I learned to read with this deck and there is a comfort I feel when I handle it. 

 

Then I saw another rendition of this deck by Frankie Albano. While the depictions on each card are the same as the classic Rider-Waite the colors were so much more vibrant and the drawing literally jumped out at me. Typically this is the deck I use when reading fro clients. Most people do not know the difference and they have seen the drawings of this deck so there is a comfort level for them as well. I have procured other decks over time.  They are all beautiful and all of them have a message that comes through in the reading. 

 

The Witch’s Tarot has beautiful paintings depicting both the Major and Minor Arcana, but the Courts are all the same in each suit with exception of color. The reason for this is that with this deck the Courts act as a qualifier for the card that preceded it. What that means is that the qualities of that Court’s suit are used to enhance the card put down first. Because of this, I use this deck strictly for personal divination. 

 

It is important as a reader to stretch yourself and use different decks. Where the Witch’s Tarot has complexity the African Tarot is child-like in its appearance. The deck itself is tiny, 2” x 2½”. The depictions on the cards are taken from the Rider-Waite the drawing are simple, the colors are vibrant and the deck has a comforting feel to it.  Due to its size it can be difficult to work with but a fun deck to have. 

 

What ever deck you use you should feel a connection to. This is paramount as it will be easier to read the insights and mysteries that the cards have. 

 

Next time: Tarot de Muerto (Tarot of the Dead)

Ceridwyn lives in Las Vegas, NV with her husband, 2 daughters, 2 cats, 2 dogs and 5 fish.  Ceridwyn is a Certified Tarot Reader through the American Tarot Association.  She can be contacted for readings via her Facebook page: Ceridwyn’s Online Readings.  She can also be reached via email at: ceridwynscircle@yahoo.com


Tarot - Welcome to Ceridwyn's Circle Blog

Ceridwyn’s Circle, offers great insights into the Tarot.

Erica 11-05-08

I have been reading the Tarot for many years. Each time I look at the cards I see and learn something new.

The Tarot is an unbelievable way to see if the path you are taking is the correct one or perhaps another route should be explored. We are all in control of our own destiny.  We make our own choices. This is called Free Will.

I learned this while studying the Tarot with a gifted Tarot Master in Connecticut. She told me that people come to you looking for answers, hope and direction. It needs to be said that the slightest change the Querrent makes can alter what the cards say.

What is a constant amazement to me is that the meanings of the cards can change depending on the position in the spread and whether the card is Dignified (upright) or Reversed (upside down). In the end, the cards are a tool to be used in conjunction with one’s own intuition. The process of Divination is to ask the Higher Power for guidance through the Tarot.

I live in Las Vegas, NV with my husband, 2 daughters, 2 cats, 2 dogs and 5 fish. I am a Certified Tarot Reader through he American Tarot Association. I can be contacted for readings via my Facebook page: Ceridwyn’s Online Readings. I can also be reached via email at: ceridwynscircle@yahoo.com

I look forward to hearing from you.