I’m all kinds of excited today!
As you know, Halloween is just around the corner. And we all know what Halloween’s about, right? That’s right: CANDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Uh, sorry, is my inner child showing?
This is not why I’m excited. I’m excited because today I have one super special guest. My friend and fellow Indie Eclective member, Heather Marie Adkins, is not only a brilliantly talented writer, she also happens to be a practicing Witch. So rather than the usual Halloween hocus pocus (heh), I thought I’d get the low-down on one of my favorite holidays from the sexiest Witch around. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you HEATHER!
A Witch’s Sabbat
Or, Dancing Naked in the Moonlight
We’re mere days from Halloween. Are you excited? I certainly am. But it’s probably for different reasons. You may not know anything about my reasons. You got a moment? ‘Cuz I’d love to tell you.
I’m a Witch. The dancing-naked-in-the-moonlight kind of witch. My skin isn’t green and the only wart I ever had was on my big toe. I only cackle if you make me laugh and I can’t hex you because it’s against my religion. Literally.
Do you know anything about real witchcraft? It’s okay—most people don’t. I suppose that’s why the goddess saw fit to put outspoken Witchy ladies such as myself on her fertile earth.
Allow me to enlighten you.
Today’s modern witchcraft is based on the folkloric earth practices of ancient times. Thousands of years ago, tribal nomadic communities began practicing what archaeologists today believe to be sympathetic magic. These communities left cave art everywhere depicting (among other things) successful hunts. It’s believed these people thought by drawing the pictures on the cave walls, they were making the images a reality. At its basest form, thus began witchcraft.
It melted in later years to fertility rituals. Folk peasants would send young virgins flitting through the veggie patches astride brooms to ensure a healthy crop. Did you know the idea of a husband carrying his new bride over the threshold is a pagan ritual? Yep. It’s supposed to ensure a happy marriage. Women hundreds of years ago would put a mandrake doll beneath their birthing pallet to help with pain. In some cultures today, people still perform certain gestures to protect themselves from the evil eye—an “X” on their forehead or even… wait for it… the sign of the cross. Yep, that’s magic too.
All of the above instances mark the roots of modern witchcraft. It’s more showy now—incense, candles, cauldrons, activated charcoal. Times change and therefore so do the practices. What I do in ritual today may seem archaic a hundred years from now.
I can hear you thinking, “When is this witch going to get to the point about Halloween?”
Modern witches celebrate what we call “Sabbats”: holidays in which there are themes of celebration. We do ritual, throw parties, and dance nekked (some of us more than others and certainly depending on the amount of ritual wine involved). There are eight Sabbats during a calendar year.
Feb 2 – Imbolc
May 1 – Beltane
Aug 1 – Lughnassadh
Oct 31 – Samhain
Oh, you saw Halloween on the list? But it’s got some weird name?
That’s right. Halloween has not always been “Halloween”.
Samhain marks the New Year on the ancient Celtic calendar (you know, the one with the trees). In Celtic tradition, the year was split into only two seasons, instead of four: Summer and Winter. Samhain celebrates the end of summer and beginning of winter. We may venerate the modern New Year with balls dropping and champagne popping, but for witches at Samhain, it is a time for reflection and remembrance.
In ancient times, the end of October marked the harvest of meat. Days were growing shorter, colder. There was no such thing as a furnace back then and winters were brutal. Farmers without the money to build a shelter for their livestock were forced to butcher what they could eat or put down what they couldn’t—the sick and weakly wouldn’t make it through the winter anyway. They would often save one or two healthy specimens who would live inside with them for the winter months.
Because of this, the October full moon is called the Blood Moon. At Samhain, we celebrate our ancestors, who braved the weather and the odds to survive and bequeath us our legacy. We remember them. We revere them. And we are thankful for the gifts and blessings with which we are bestowed.
Not only reflection and ancestor remembrance, but witches also celebrate the dead at Samhain. The veil between this world and the next is thinnest on this evening—the Tarot is spread and the Runes are cast as people try to divine what is in store for the coming year. Letters to those we have lost are read out loud in the hopes they may hear; stories about our dearly departed are shared. The bravest of witches may even try to contact their deceased relatives one last time.
In it’s incarnation as the Celtic New Year, Samhain is a time to shed the inhibitions and negativity of the past year and purify oneself for the next. It is a time of Pagan New Years resolutions; of setting goals and putting the power of one’s own magick behind keeping those goals. A witch may empower a black candle with all the things she wants to release—a job lay-off, the death of a loved one, losing a house, gaining an excess of debt. Push it all into the candle, light it, and let it burn down, seeing those things disappear into the universe and out of one’s life.
There are several ways in which Samhain may be celebrated each year.
- A lighted black candle (called a Spirit Candle) in the living room window—to guide the dead to the Otherworld
- A Dumb Supper—“Dumb” refers to the fact the supper is held entirely in silence, in the hopes that the loved one(s) in which you are attempting to contact will come sit with you. It is most often performed as close tomidnight as possible on Samhain night.
- Carve pumpkins in a variety of Pagan-y symbols (instead of the typical Pumpkin face), then charm them to frighten away evil, negativity, or bad luck and spirits.
- “Sacrifice” a loaf of bread in honor of the ancestors
- Visit and tend to loved ones’ graves. Erect an altar in their honor at home, to hold pictures and candles; maybe even an item that once belonged to them.
Samhain is a holiday of many names: Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Hallow E’en, Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos), All Saints Day, Hallowmas…while the festivals themselves vary, the main point is clear. At this time of year, we all honor (remember, dress-up as, etc.) the dead and the Divine.
So the next time you think of Halloween and all it stands for: ghosts, ghoulies, witches, and the dead… now you know why :)
I wrote this newsletter on Samhain last October if you want to check it out for more information!
Heather Marie Adkins is an independent fiction novelist and avid bibliophile with the library to prove it. She writes across genres and began self-publishing her work in June of 2011—much to the chagrin of her mother. Heather has five published books and two more coming out this year. She loves to garden, cook, and travel, and would give anything to live in a cottage inIreland. She currently resides inKentuckywith the love of her life and 15 pets.
Find me online!
Check out my paranormal romance novels:
The Temple (ebook)
A girl with supernatural powers against a supernatural foe she doesn’t believe exists.
A half-fairy, half-human girl who must unite with the fairies she has long denied to save the humans she loves.
Thanks so much, Heather, for that truly fantastic post!