The third and final Harvest Holiday: the Harvest of root vegetables. The veil between the worlds is thin, Spirits and faeries are easily seen. Jack o' Lanterns and offerings of food help to avoid their tricks.
Common Samhain Traditions
These are some common traditions that many use as part of their Samhain celebrations.
The season starts on a somber note. Preparations have been made; supplies are put away, at the ready. Now comes the time when we seal ourselves indoors. All life retreats. The Earth pull in on itself and everything, everyone, rests, waits, slumbers.
This is a time of introspection and contemplation. The physical work of the year is done, we wait now for the Sun to return and warm the land, for life to resume. Till then, the work we do is soul work. We analyze ourselves, our faults, our virtues. This is a time of taking stock and planning, of rationing and rationalizing.
The days continue to lessen till we think we can no longer stand it; there is so much darkness. But, then comes the Solstice. The Sun is reborn and begins to claim its birth rite: the days lengthen, darkness is slowly pushed back. Hail the return of the Sun! Surely, as the Sun returned, so to shall life return to the land. Until then, we can only wait, and think.
This season corresponds to the Dark Moon and to the end of life.
A Witch's Book of Shadows
One of the most commonly utilized, and possibly most important, tools for any Witch is their Book of Shadows. There are still a lot of misconceptions about just what a Book of Shadows is, some still perpetuating the idea that the only valid Books are derived from ancient manuscripts, or that their Book is a copy of a Book that is hundreds of years old and the only true Book of Shadows. On both cases, the answer is no. There is no one true Book of Shadows, having “ancient” passages in Latin, Greek, or some other language that you can’t read doesn’t make your Book any better, and for the Craft’s sake: there are no hundreds of years old Books of Shadows around! (and no this isn’t because they were all destroyed in the “Burning Times,” leave that myth alone.)
A Book of Shadows is, quite simply, a magickal diary recording all information that that one Witch deems important and useful, or that they would like to reference again with ease. As such, each Book of Shadows is different. Even Books belonging to two members of the same coven, of a tradition that passes on a basic Book of Shadows, will be different. This is because each Witch will add to their book, and as we are all different people, what we deem worthwhile may be rubbish to someone else. So, no two books are the same. And that’s how it should be.
So what kinds of things commonly go into a Book of Shadows:
Years ago, when I first began to actively research Witchcraft, rather than relying entirely on intuition and common sense (which still both serve me well and I highly advise every Witch to consult,) I came across this statement, made in passing, that continues to influence my mindset and that I continue to find validation for:
“A Witch’s word must be as good as a signed contract.”
At first glance, it seems to be nothing more than some pseudo-Christian value, carried over into the New Age movement, that somehow got attached to the label of Witchcraft, but, hear me out: there is strong justification for this when it comes to your magick.
Here’s an example: say you made arrangements to meet a friend at 3pm, but you don’t show up until 3:30. She doesn’t mind, understands why you were late, after all you’re always late, and the two of you get on with your plans. No big deal, right? How could it possibly have any effect on your spellcrafting?
We continue with our example: so, some time has passed now, you’re in the middle of a prosperity spell, maybe rent is coming due but you can’t get the hours at work so this is truly a valid need. You light the candles, say the words, release the energy, and carry on with your life. And nothing happens. Not even a flicker. You sent out your request and the Universe sends it back to you, postage due.
The reasons for this are simple, it consistently not adhering to your word, not keeping your promises, you make it loud and clear to the Universe that you don’t actually mean what you say. You’ve created a pattern of energy that when you say one thing, something else happens. So when you cast that Circle and proclaim that you have the money to pay rent, the Universe/your Gods/etc. look back to these prior incidences (made manifest through this pattern of energy) and see that because you say that you have the money, the only possible outcome now is that you will not have the money.
Hate my example if you will, but the point remains: you are defined by your actions and words and magick and the mundane are not separate. Everything is connected, if it wasn’t your magick wouldn’t work in the first place. As such, there is no distinction made between you amongst your friends and you in front of a candle lit altar: you are the same person regardless. And consequences for actions taken under one “role” may easily bleed over into other areas of your life.
Walk your talk.
Your Path- None can Choose for You
The purpose of any religion is to foster some sort of explanation of the world around us and the Absolute Truth that permeates it all. What you do with that, though, is up to you and what makes the difference.
Paganism is just another explanation of why, how come, and what. And we all have different answers to those questions based upon our own personal experiences within this path.
Every action, every experience changes you and brings you greater insights into yourself and the world around; "as above, so below; as within, so without." As such, your path will be different from every other Wiccan/Pagan/Witch/magickal practitioner/whatever that you meet, and that is exactly as it should be.
You see, we could each do the same ritual on our own. I could find the entire ritual very moving and life changing, where as it could do nothing for you because your personal life experience has rendered the point of that ritual useless to you. Maybe you don't have those aspects of self that need to be confronted; perhaps the energies called forth didn't resonate with you, etc. We each come to this path bringing different life experiences and different expectations and we will each get something different out of it. This, too, is the same with any religion and is exactly as it should be. That's why it's called your path.
No one can offer you a tailored path. You have to do the work for yourself, you have to listen to that voice inside you and see where it guides you. Intuition is a great gift and ally. The path of the Witch is one of great personal change and responsibility; it requires strength, commitment, and humility. So, take a deep breath, hold your head up high, and know as you take those first few steps that though your path may ramble about, taking you to unexpected places, in the end, you are exactly where you belong: on your path.
The I Ching- The Book of Changes
The I-Ching is one of the oldest known forms of divination. It has been practiced in China for thousands of years. The name translates to "the Book of Changes" as this divination method foretells patterns of changes specific to that one moment in time.
The method is simple: hold 6 coins of a similar size in your hand (5 of these coins should be the same type, 1 should be different, e.g. 5 pennies and 1 dime,) these are then tossed into the air and let to fall as they may. The coins are then aligned vertically in relation to the distance they are from the caster (i.e. the coin farthest away is at the top, the coin closest is at the bottom, the coins in the middle are aligned accordingly.) Based upon which coins are heads up and which are tails, a corresponding symbol, called a hexagram, is selected from the book. The differing coin's position enhances the meaning, adding another phrase to the definition of the hexagram.
This method is easy to learn, and all one really needs to practice is a copy of the I-Ching and a few coins, though, traditionally, yarrow stalks were used. However, this practice has fallen out of favor as it is more complicated.
This is psychic taste. Perhaps you taste cookies when the spirit of your deceased grandma visits you,or maybe you can taste (not smell) the cigarette smoke from that great uncle that everyone just wondered about. What ever the case may be, that is Clairgustance.
This is psychic touch. This can be feeling the temperature change when a spirit is in a room or feeling the spirit touch your shoulder.
This is psychic hearing. This can be hearing the voice of your spirit guides offering you advice, or it can be hearing music when working with faeries and angels. It is hearing things that have no physical explanation and cannot be heard by the ears.
This is psychic sight, such as in prophetic visions or dreams. It is also seeing faeries, spirit guides, spirits, auras, et cetera.
This is psychically knowing things that you couldn't possibly know otherwise. For example, upon first meeting someone, you know very intimate details about them, without ever having been told, or knowing that you're not alone in a room, that there is some entity in the room with you.
This is psychic smell. If you work with faeries, perhaps you've smelled flowers or incense when neither was present: this indicates the presence of the Fey. Or, perhaps when alone, feeling lost and confused, you suddenly smell the perfume of your deceased grandmother who always knew just what to say to make you feel better. These are both perfect examples of Clairolfaction: smelling something when there is no physical explanation for it. Also, if there are other people around, you may be the only one who smells it. Of course, there are also a few medical conditions that can cause frequent occurrences of smelling things that aren't there (check with your health care provider if you have any concerns.)
The Moon can be a powerful ally for Witches. As an ever changing, cyclic being, Her energies can be used for any type of magickal goal one can think of. All that's required to successfully work with Her is a little bit of background information, then there's no limit to the ways you can utilize Her power in your magick.
The Lunar Cycle is divided into four phases, both astronomically and astrologically. The cycle “begins” with the New Moon, a tiny crescent gleaming in the sky just as the Sun sets, first appearing 1-3 days after the Dark Moon. This is the start of the First Quarter. At this time the Moon is referred to as a Waxing Crescent. The Moon waxes on (grows in size/light) until the Second Quarter, about a week later, when She’ll be half up lit up, a half circle (in the Northern Hemisphere: light on the right side, dark on the left, in the Southern Hemisphere: light on the left side, dark on the right*.) From now till the Full Moon, She is called a Waxing Gibbous.
The Full Moon occurs about 2 weeks after the New Moon and is the end of the 2nd Quarter and the beginning of the 3rd Quarter Moon. The 3rd Quarter lasts until the Moon is again only half lit up in the sky, this time in the opposite direction, though (in the Northern Hemisphere: light on the left side, dark on the right, in the Southern Hemisphere: light on the right side, dark on the left;) this is the Waning Gibbous. Then, on till the Dark Moon, is the 4th Quarter Moon, the Waning Crescent.
Each phases lasts about 1 week, with the entire Lunar Cycle comprising, roughly, 28 days.
Magickally, we find that the energy of the Moon varies during each phase and thus can be used for different magickal purposes.
New Moon- new beginnings, great time to get started on long-term magick or spells that are cast over a period of time
Waxing Moon- as the Moon grows, so too does the amount of energy available: growth, expansion, increase, prosperity, fertility
Full Moon-the time of greatest power, a time of culmination and fruition: useful for healing, wishes, divination (especially scrying,) and strengthening your relationship with the Moon
Waning Moon- a time for decreasing magick: banishings, cleansings, purification, endings, protection
Dark Moon- a time of introspection and reflection, rest and preparation, a time for inner work: meditation, soul retrieval, astral travel, divination, Spirit communication
Acknowledging the Moon in all of Her phases will not only strengthen your connection with Her, thus making Her power more readily available to you, but it can foster a greater sense of balance and connection with all the Natural World.
* The different hemispheres see the Moon opposite (and upside down!) from each other's perspectives. In the Northern half, the light moves across the Moon from right to left, in the Southern half if moves from left to right.