Posts Tagged ‘witchcraft’

Halloween plans?

2009/10/17

Probably, if you intend on celebrating Halloween, you are making your plans.  What costume to wear, which party to go to, how you are going to get home, that sort of thing.  But there is another way of celebrating this strange pagan holiday, one which is much older than costume parties, Trick or Treating, and drunken brawls.

This is a good time to remember those who have passed on, the parents, grandparents, old friend, trusted advisor.  All about us, here in the Northern Hemisphere,  Autumn is taking hold, and the Life Force is withdrawing from the land.  So it is natural to think of the dead at this time of year, to remember them to others, to refresh our own memories, by reading letters, looking at pictures, listening to music.  Tell your children about your grandma, or uncle, and the things that you remember them doing.

And celebrate the fact that Nature is balanced, that there is some force which counter acts the incredible drive of the Life Force.  Because, without Death, there would be no room for new life, nothing for living things to eat, no change to make way for new, and possibly better, adaptations, mutations.

To many ancient people, this was the end of the year, when every thing hibernated, or became dormant, or just plain died, leaving behind eggs, or seeds, to great the next Spring.  This was a time of conservation of resources, because the long climb to when there will be food around is just beginning, with many months to survive.  After Halloween, people stayed indoors, and spent the few hours of light working on handicrafts, and thinking about the people that they loved, living and dead.

If you don’t feel inclined to go out drinking, or attending some huge costume party, remember that there are other ways of celebrating this ancient and strange (to us) holiday.

Candy, costumes, ghosts, and goblins

2009/10/09

The stores are bulging with candy to hand out on the upcoming pagan celebration at the end of the month.  This is probably the weirdest, most convoluted, mixed-up celebration in America, a day when we send our children out to do the exact opposite of what we normally tell them, a day when we want to be haunted, a day that everyone seems inclined to recognize.  What is this ‘all hallowed saints day eve’ celebration, any way?

Halloween, or All Hallowed Saints Day Eve, is the residue of one of the most spiritual of the ancient celebrations, or sabbats, on the witchcraft calendar.  As with other pagan holidays, what we know today is the Christian church’s attempt to bring the ancient celebration into the religious framework of the  church.  Christmas is another one, and some calendars still mark Candlemas on February 2nd.  These are celebrations which pre-date Christianity by thousands of years, and which are deeply ingrained in the psyche of people of Western European descent.

On the Wheel of the Year, early November is a time when Death is recognized and celebrated.  This sounds strange to us today, because Death has been ignored, hidden, and denied for most of modern history, but to ancient peoples, Death was as immediate, everyday, and essential as Life.  Without Death, Life cannot continue, for Life feeds on Death, and Death makes room for new Life.  Death was viewed as a doorway into another realm, not as an ending.  Death was not associated with any kind of judgment, nor with reward or punishment.  When people died, they became part of a spiritual realm, still able to influence the realm of the living, but removed from it.

Because the dead were considered to be still aware of the living, and able to influence events in the realm of the living, the living recognized the dead, venerated them, worshiped them.  The dead were remembered by the living, through rituals, story telling, the passing on of family heirlooms and treasures.  Because Death is all around us during the late Autumn, that was the time to remember and to cherish the dead.  It was commonly believed that the veil, or curtain, between the realm of the dead and the realm of the living was partially pulled back during that time, as the Life Force ebbed from the land.

Even today, the Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico, a deeply ritualistic, formalized remembering of the ancestors.  In spite of the Christian church insisting that there was NO spirit realm, that the dead were unaware of the passage of time between their death and the Day of Judgment, many peoples in Western and Northern Europe clung to their ancient customs, afraid of offending their forebears by ignoring them.  This was the most spiritual time of the year, when many people experienced communion with dead persons, or at least, felt the presence of loved ones who had passed on.

In order for the Christian church to bring a celebration into the church, it had to designate a reason for it, a justification for the celebration.  With the Yule Tide, it was the fiction that Christ had been born on the day of the celebration of the return of the Sun, just after the Winter Solstice.  With the celebration in witchcraft of those who had passed on, an aspect of Life that we call Death, a catchall was created.  The holy day of November first is the celebration of the lives of any person who was considered a saint, even if they had never been sanctified by the church.  This all-inclusive category allowed family members to venerate loved ones, under the pretense that the loved one was ‘as a saint.’

That is the reason for the holy day, or holiday.  That is why ghosts are a part of the celebration.  But the spin that the Christian church put on the whole affair had nothing to do with the original celebration, or sabbat, and does not reflect its intent.  It was probably one of the most peaceful, loving, contemplative sabbats, of the eight on the Wheel.  People were already conserving their resources, knowing that there were many months to go before food would be easily found, and the weather often was cold and bleak.  Harvest celebrations, themselves a recognition of the importance of Death in life, had been held just a few weeks before, so people were not anxious to see each other, as they would be by the time of the Yule.  There was no evil associated with this time, no fear of the unknown.  We have created those things in modern times, perhaps out of our frustration at not being able to observe what was probably one of the oldest annual celebrations on the Wheel of the Year.

May Day, May Day!

2009/04/30

Strange as it may seem, the expression ‘May Day’ is not a call in distress.  Instead, it is a referenece to an ancient holiday, or sabbat, called Beltane, the first of May.  In the witchcraft belief system, on this day, the marriage between the Goddess and the God is consumated.  This is a time when the Life Force is pouring through the world, seeking to couple with itself.  Fertility, vigor, growth, these are the qualities celebrated at this time.

May Day has been celebrated in many parts of Europe up into the last century, with the May Pole dance, where young women would wind colored ribbons around a giant pole by dancing in a pattern that wove in and out.  Sexuality was celebrated openly, which inspired the saying “Hurray, hurray for the first of May.  Outdoor intercourse starts today!”  Of course, intercourse has been going on outdoors for some time prior to this date, but, for humans, the weather generally becomes more conducive to such activities at about this time.

In the witchcraft belief system, the Goddess and the God travel through their life cycles each year, being born at the Winter Solstice, growing through the winter, until they are betrothed at the Vernal Equinox, then the marriage is consumated at Beltane.  Both deities mature, the God becoming first the Green God, symbolizing the energy of growth, and then the Dark Hunter, the Goddess becoming the Mother, and then the Crone.  Both of them die at Samhain, in early November.

The Christian church suppressed these beliefs, and supplanted them with static images of the male and female aspects, devoid of sexuality.  So the role models for the different stages of our lives disappeared, leaving us groping for understanding of the feelings that we experience in the different phases of our lives.  This is especially true for males, whose sexual awakening became tainted with the evil of lust.  There was no place in the Christian mythos for the rutty, faithless young god of witchcraft, nor a way of expressing the power of the Green God.  The Dark Hunter, the force of Death in the cycle of Life, was completely excised, turning Death into an evil to be feared, instead of a gateway to new beginnings.

Thousands of years of rituals and passed-on beliefs were turned out, replaced with something alien.  Even though we think of the Christian beliefs as ‘natural’, they have been imposed upon a backdrop of witchcraft tradition.  This leads to confusion, uncertainty, as we instinctively feel what has been celebrated for thousands of years, yet we frame those feelings in beliefs which have only existed for a comparetively short time.

Beltane was one of the major sabbats, along with the Yule Tide; Eoster, at the spring Equinox; and Samhain, in early November.  Beltane falls at a time when there is little work to be done in the fields, there are no crops to harvest, so people had time to celebrate.  What they celebrated was the sexual act that brings about Life.

You can keep Christmas, I’ll celebrate the Yule!

2008/12/02

Many folks don’t realize this, but Christmas is a distorted echo of an ancient pagan, or witchcraft, celebration of the Winter Solstice.  The Yule, or YuleTide, was begun on or about December 25th, which is the first day that it is always possible, no matter which day the solstice falls upon, to measure the shortening of a shadow cast at noon.  The celebration lasted weeks, or even months, as the primitive people of Western Europe gathered together to face their greatest enemy, the winter.  The evergreen tree was a symbol of Life carrying on through the Death of winter.  Candles were symbols of the Sun, which made life possible.

In a time when nothing was taken for granted, and gods peopled the heavens and earth, the idea that the Sun could just keep going South was not uncommon.  To believe that the world could end up in eternal night gave great cause for celebration when it was determined that the Sun was coming back.  Because people had lots of spare time during the months of Autumn, they could make handycrafts, which they shared with each other when they gathered for YuleTide.  An animal would be slaughtered, the thinning of the stock to ensure that some survived the winter, and a feast would be held.

Thus, the traditions of the Yule have been passed down, but the celebration has been distorted by Greed.  In order to get people out shopping, buying the things that they can no longer make, decorations go up early, special occasions are held, and people are encouraged to spend money on their loved ones.  A countdown to the day is held, and the anticipation builds, aided by commercials.  When the day finally arrives, it is a let down.  Soon, people are unhappy with the whole thing, and decide to take down the festive lights.

Killing a tree every year was never part of the Yule celebration, only decorating one outdoors.  For one thing, there was no room in the huts that families shared for a tree, and the idea of killing an evergreen at that time of year was like heresy.  Gift giving was not a given, (ha ha) but no one was expecting anything.  An article that someone has worked on for hours has that persons energy in it, and it has power emotionally.  Simply handing out gifts would have diminished the impact that gifts had, I believe.

because the celebration of the Yule was so deeply ingrained in the native population of Western Europe, the Christian church gave up trying to stop the celebration, and incorporated it into the Christian calander.  Because the populous believed that the Sun was reborn at the solstice, the church held that the Son was born at that time.  (This in spite of it being generally believed by scholars at the time that Christ was born during the Spring or Summer.)  The emphasis was placed on the religious meaning of the Christian celebration, and the Yule was not mentioned.

To me, Christmas has come to represent the worst of American culture, with Greed being the major offender, followed by Materialism.  People have been lead to believe that the celebration goes on before the fact, not after, so that they will buy more.  I embrace the Yule, because it does not have the materialistic trappings, and it spans the time when it is first noticeable that the days are getting longer.  That is the promise of another Spring, and Life returning.  That, to me, is the Reason For The Season.