Ancestor Night, Celtic New Year
The chilled breeze that flutters the red, orange and yellow leaves, nibbles at the skin, raising goose-bumps. Samhain is upon us. Expect the unexpected if you celebrate this holiday -the Celtic New Year- on All Hallows Eve.
Pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne – means “End of Summer”, and is the third and final Harvest. The dark winter half of the year commences on this Sabbat.
It is generally celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st or at the cross-quarter. It is one of the two “spirit-nights” of the year, the other being Beltane.
It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the “thin veil” between the worlds is lifted. It is the time of the year when traveling between the physical and the spirit world is made easier, and communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, as well as them contacting us; for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands. Look for psychic dreams on the astrological Samhain (date of the cross-quarter); your intuition will be in top form should you do readings at ritual. This power gets stronger with the passing of each year.
It is a time to study the Dark Mysteries and honor the Dark Mother and the Dark Father, symbolized by the Crone and her aged Consort. This is the sabbat for wearing your witchy black. Clean the house, including the hearth, from top to bottom; the garden also needs to be prepared for the winter by this date. Lay new fires. Cleanse divination tools (cards, crystals, runes, pendulums) and rededicate them to the Goddess. For the last of the Harvest Festivals, put apples, nuts, acorns, and squashes on the altar, and add pictures of the family members you are missing. Using freshly harvested hazel nuts, make wreaths with nine nuts (three times three) to protect your house from fire and lightning. Offer thanks to the river gods or the god of the sea, and remember to honor the goddess Hecate.
Originally the “Feast of the Dead” was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the “wandering dead”. Today a lot of practitioners still carry out that tradition. Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Extra chairs were set to the table and around the hearth for the unseen guests. Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them. Turnips and pumpkins were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, and pumpkin lanterns were placed upon tables, tree stumps, boulders, and wooden fence posts, watching over and marking the boundaries, for this was a night of magic and chaos. The glowing faces will float in the darkness, scaring away all malintent. Traveling after dark was not advised, as it was believed that the Wee Folke became very active, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. People dressed in white (like ghosts), wore disguises made of straw, or dressed as the opposite gender in order to fool the Nature spirits.
This was the time that the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. The cauldron, a symbol of life, was sometimes used as a serving platter. It contained a limitless supply of food for all those with a righteous heart. Any persons placing themselves or their personal desires before that of the natural world would not only find an empty cauldron, but the cauldron would reflect back to them the pain and suffering of all humanity.
When cut on bias, apples display the pentagram they hold inside. The apple trees in the world of the Goddess are said to bear fruit all year long. Apples hang on strings from branches for a game much like bobbing for apples. Retrieving an apple from a low hanging branch by suing only one’s mouth foretold of an exceptional year of wisdom and spiritual growth.
Bonfires were built. Firewood from nine downed trees are previously selected, cut, split, seasoned, and stacked in a bonfire heap waiting to be set ablaze. They were originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year and stones were marked with peoples names. Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person’s fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.
Some say that the roots that remained from the final harvest represented that which was manifested over the past year, the earthly attachment from which everything grew. All good and ill grows from the seeds of action sown by our deeds. To produce new growth and avoid repeating the past, the roots must be dug up and burned in the ritual bonfire. The flames would consume any negativity, and the smoke would carry prayers to the Goddess. But others believed that any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits.
As darkness descends, each Witch in their own time makes their way to the altar of the ancestors, lights a white votive candle, and says a prayer for their recent and long departed. Ancestore can be anyone the heart is drawn to, blood-related or not. Their wisdom is ours to sample and learn from. Wisdom is stored in a Jungian collective, a spiritual cauldron of consciousness, where each generation may access the wisdom of the ages. Rebirth is the transfer of that wisdom to the newly born.
Soon, everyone gathers in a circle. They chant and walk the circumference of the meadow three times sunwise. The entire festival community participates in the circle-casting ritual. If a single individual was left out for any reason, the circle was not properly cast.
The bonfire is lit. Flames rush from the bottom to the top, each one trying to be the first and extend the highest into the darkness above. Knotted cords are tossed into the fire and named aloud by their bearer for the malady of deficiency they magically contain- “lack of money, joblessness, back pain”, and so on. Loose herbs and sachets specifically mixed for this moment are also burned with a prayer for something better to come. The death rattle is passed from person to person with prayers for the elimination and cessation of all negativity. A burning torch, representing fires of change and prayers for new beginnings, follows after the death rattle.
The priestess and priest who organized the gathering, and who conduct the ritual, have fasted for several days preceding the ritual. They assemble an offering plate and serve it with a blessing at the seat left empty to honor the dead. They fill their own plates, the remaining folks fill theirs, and the feast is held in silence.
Divination will be practiced around the fire. People will use scrying mirrors, tarot cards, and stones tossed in circles of ash. The music will start, the games will begin, and the festival will celebrate the New Year until dawn.
Various other names for this Greater Sabbat are Third Harvest, Samana, Day of the Dead, Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), Vigil of Saman, Shadowfest (Strega), and Samhuinn. Also known as All Hallow’s Eve, and Martinmas (that is celebrated November 11th), Samhain is now generally considered the Witch’s New Year.
Symbolism of Samhain: Third Harvest, the Dark Mysteries, Rebirth through Death.
Symbols of Samhain: Gourds, Apples, Black Cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, Besoms, Corn, Straw dolls.
Herbs of Samhain: Mugwort, Allspice, Broom, Catnip, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Oak leaves, Sage and Straw.
Foods of Samhain: Traditionally, pork was the most sacred of Celtic food, which was served on a platter holding center place. A cauldron of vegetable stew stands nearby. Cobs of corn, lettuce, nuts, warm bread, colorful fruits, beans, potatoes, peas, squash, tomatoes and melon are appropriate for this feast. Also turnips, apples, mulled wines.
Incense of Samhain: Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg.
Colors of Samhain: Black, Orange, White, Silver, Gold.
Stones of Samhain: All Black Stones, preferably jet or obsidian.
For a Samhain ritual go to Divine Muse’s Samhain Ritual
Eye-Opening Fried Cornmeal Mush Perfect for breakfast!
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup cold water
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 3/4 cups water in a pan
Bring the 2 3/4 cups of water to a boil. In bowl, combine the cornmeal, 1 cup water, salt, and sugar. Gradually add this mixture to the boiling water, stirring constantly. Cover and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Pour into a shallow loaf pan. Chill in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, turn out of pan onto a platter or flat countertop. Cut into 1/2 inch slices. Fry slowly in a very small amount of vegetable oil. Turn once. When browned, serve warm with butter and syrup or fresh fruit.
Makes 6 servings.
BeWitchy Vegan Apple Pancakes
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups soy milk
2 tbs. veg. oil or butter, melted
1 cup finely chopped apples, peeled and cored
1 cup fresh made applesauce
1 cup walnuts
In a large bowl sift flour, baking powder, baking soda together. Add the soy milk and the oil or butter. slightly mix. Add in extras as preferred: apple chunks, apple sauce, nuts, etc. Lightly oil skillet and heat over medium heat. Drop 2-3 spoonfulls of batter into skillet and cover. When the center begins to bubble, flip and cover.
For the pancakes to stay warm until all pancakes are made keep them in the oven at 200 degrees. When serving dot with butter, top with applesauce, apple chunks, syrup, and a dash of cinnamon. Can also roll them up into logs.
Makes 4 servings.
Gramms’ Baked Apples
1 cup brown sugar
Granola, walnuts (optional)
Cap off apples cutting above half line. Core and slightly scrape inside and save in a small bowl. Set apples on a baking pan and sprinkle brown sugar and honey inside, cover each one with their top and sprinkle rub brown sugar and honey over them. As much as desired. Place in oven at 300 degrees for 25 minutes or until apples are soft and juicy. To serve top with granola and or walnuts, if desired.
Makes 6 servings.
1 box family-favorite crackers
melted Onion or garlic powder
Caraway, celery, poppy, and sesame seeds
Brush the crackers lightly with butter/margarine. Sprinkle lightly with onion or garlic powder and ever so sparingly with dillweed. Top with combination seed mix. Bake on an un-greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 5 minutes or until crisp and hot.
3 average size potatoes, any kind
salt, pepper and garlic powder (optional)
Wash potatoes, cut in half and slice 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick slices. In a medium saucepan heat oil on medium-high heat. When hot add potato slices, 3 to 4 slices at a time -depend on size of pan. When start to brown on sides and lightly on top, flip. Remove from heat when top lightly browns. Place on tray with paper-towels to absorb extra oil. When potatoes are done, sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Makes 3 servings
Pumpkin Mush Cups
2 medium size pumpkins
salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic, basil, oregano, corn kernels, red or green diced peppers
Cut the pumpkins in half. Prick the skin a few times with a fork, apply some butter all over them and place on a cookie sheet, cut-side up. Bake in 350 degrees for approx. 30 minutes or until the meat is soft but the shell still holds. Let the pumpkin cool a bit, then scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Scoop out the pumpkin meat into a bowl and mash it, as if making mash-potatoes. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic, basil, oregano, or other preferred extra. Re-fill pumpkin halves and bake for approx. another 20 minutes. To serve, top with hot yummy corn kernels and/or peppers -if desired. You may sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon. Garnish with basil leaf.
Makes 4 servings.
Candied Squash Ring
2 acorn squashes
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soft butter
Cut acorn squashes crosswise in 1 inch slices. Discard seeds and ends. Arrange in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Combine brown sugar and butter, spread over squash. Bake, uncovered for another 15-20 minutes, basting occasionally.
Makes 6 servings.
Delicious Vegan Pumpkin Pie
1/2 cup unbleached flour
7 tbsp whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vegan sugar or granulated cane syrup
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp soy milk
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3-4 tbsp water
2 cups pumpkin (canned or fresh) If fresh, pre-cook and cool for preparation
1 cup rice milk
3/4 cu[ granulated cane syrup
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tbsp dark molasses (to taste)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
9 inch pie pan
In a medium bowl combine flours, salt, sugar and baking powder. In a small bowl mix oil and soy milk. Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients, mix with fork until the dough holds together forming a ball. Add some water if it gets too dry, gradually, until dough is ready to roll. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour. Lightly sprinkle flour over counter or table top and roll out dough with floured rolling pin. Form an 11 inch circle. Line the 9 inch pan with the dough and crimp the edges with your fingers, or a fork. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while filling is being prepared.
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl mix all ingredients until it is smooth and blunted. Pour mix into crust and smooth the top. Bake for 10 minutes \, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 45-50 minutes, until filling sets.
**For better results make 1 day ahead to allow the ingredients in the filling to set
Source: Celtic Connection, Llewellyn Worldwide, and a touch of me
original post: Jun 22, 2007