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A Samhain Chant by Acbal

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Samhain --- The Festival of the Dead

Celebrated on the last day of October in the northen hemisphere and the first day of May in the southern, Samhain stands halfway between the autum equinox Modron and Yule. It is sometimes seen as the beginning of winter, but it is also the Festival of the Dead, when we remember and honor the ancestors. It is a magical time when the veil between the worlds of the dead and the living is thin, and in Wicca we celebrate death as a part of life, and to give positive value to the idea of going into the dark.

Our Celtic ancestors saw Samhain as a key point to the year's turning, a chance to begin anew. The 18th century scholary monk Bede noted that custom named November the "blood month," and he attributed this to the slaughter of beasts in preparation for winter provisions. With the surplus from summer burned on a balefire, our peace made with the dead and preparations made for the winter, our ancestors may well have seen this as a key departure point from the old cycle into the new. This is why pagans today refer to this festival as the Celtic New Year. Although Samhain is literally "first frost," and thus the first of the winter festivals, it also marks preparation for change.

Celebrating the Crone Goddess

The season is associated with ghosts, spirtis, and the dead walking. It is the season of the Hag or Calliach (Scots Gaelic meaning "old woman"), the crone aspect of the Goddess who midwives us, with great compassion, from life to death. She is Rhiannon, Goddess of transition, Ceridwen, goddess of the cauldron of transformation, and Hecate, weaver of wisdom and guardian at the crossroads. The Crone Goddess is celebrated to some extent in the plastic masks and costumes that children wear at Halloween.

Nowadays, witches celebrate by holding  a ritual in which we name, honor, remember and speak with the dead. Beginning with those who have died in the last year, we move on to family and friends and then commemorate all our ancestors. Then, out of grief, we bring back joy and name the newborn babies of the last year, the new friends and opportunities we have met. Samhain serves as a reminder that life contains death, but it also contains the mystery of rebirth and the movement of the cycle ever onward.


Source:
The Wicca Bible, by Ann-Marie Gallagher.
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The Fall Season in Juarez Town

Fall has come upon the city now known as the most violent city in the world... I don't know whether to feel proud o frightened by the "award" given to my town. Nevertheless, I am here, we all are, and we have to make the most of it. The day-to-day living in this bordertown seems to reject the idea of a violent outcome to the routine. So, we live like it's a last day and we love the same way.

My mother has been particularly sensitive to this dilemma. She has insisted on making me breakfast every day, waiting up for me every night, and that I watch TV with her every afternoon.This came to a very moving conversation we had over the Chile miners that were rescued the other day. She had been stuck to the TV like glue during the entire ordeal and when I asked her why she said, "¡Ay mi'ja! There is so many bad things going on around here, that for just one second I want to pretend that this good thing can happen here too..." And deep down inside I share that same feeling.

In a way, I feel that this time of year represents that. I read somewhere...

Samhain is celebrated on a material as well as a spiritual level.

Materially, it represents a time of gathering resources for the long winter months that are coming. For those who had a bad season through the fall, Samhain is a time to prepare for the perils that winter may bring.

Spiritually, Samhain is a time for reflection and meditation on death, and the honor of your ancestors who have passed to another plane. It is an opportunity to be at one with your past, present and future.
 To me, the time of reflection comes when I sit in the middle of the night, looking out at the night sky and try to keep the bullet noise away. I wonder what is going to happen, how can we stop the madness that is going on here and when is it going to end. What can I do to bring harmony to all around me, to cleanse the spiritual madness that the situation creates, to heal the soul and the heart of all those around me, and to protect the ones I love, the ones I care for, and those who I do not know but I care because they are good people.

This year I know my grandma will be here, because she is worried about her peeps. She will ask for permission and come visit. We miss her. 
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Samhain Recipes (A Kitchen Witch's cook book Part Deux)

Pumpkin Muffins

1 c Unbleached Flour, Sifted
2 t Baking Powder
1/4 t Salt
1/4 t Ground Cinnamon
1/4 c Vegetable Shortening
2/3 c Sugar
1 ea Large Egg
1/2 c Canned, Mashed Pumpkin
2 T Milk

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; set aside. Cream together shortening and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy, using electric mixer at medium speed. Beat in egg. Combine pumpkin and milk in small bowl. Add dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin mixture to creamed mixture, stirring well after each addition. Spoon batter into paper-lined 2 1/2-inch muffin-pan cups, filling 2/3rds full.
Bake in 350 degree F. oven 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot with butter and homemade jam.


Uncle Ray's Orange-Carrot Jello Mold
 
l pkg. (small size) orange jello
2 or 3 medium carrots----finely grated
1/4 tsp. white horseradish
In 1 and 1/4 cups *Hot* water (Boiled)...add horseradish, then mix in the orange jello...stir and add the finely grated carrots...pour into mold and refrigerate til set...serve with creamy dressing...following:
DRESSING:
Mix equal parts of Mayonnaise and heavy cream together and chill. Serve with jello mold.

Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake
 
Servings: 10
1 1/2 c Gingersnap Crumbs
1/2 c Finely Chopped Pecans
1/3 c Margarine, Melted
16 oz Cream Cheese, Softened
3/4 c Sugar
1 t Vanilla
3 ea Eggs
1 c Canned Pumpkin
3/4 t Cinnamon
1/4 t Ground Nutmeg

Combine crumbs, pecans and margarine; press onto bottom and 1 1/2-inches up sides of 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees F., 10 minutes. Combine cream cheese, 1/2 c sugar and vanilla, mixing at medium speed on electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Reserve 1 c batter, chill. Add remaining sugar, pumpkin and spices to remaining batter; mix well. Alternately layer pumpkin and cream cheese batters over crust. Cut through batters with knife several times for marble effect. Bake at 350 degrees F., 55 minutes. Loosen cake from rim of pan; cool before removing rim of pan. Chill.

Remembrance Cookies

These cookies can be made on Hallow's Eve. They can be shaped like people and the herb rosemary is added to the dough as a symbol of remembrance. Some of the cookies are eaten while telling stories or attributes of special ancestors, reminding us that we still have access to their strengths--or perhaps a predisposition to their weaknesses. The rest of the cookies are left outside by a bonfire as an offering. This can be a solemn ritul, but it need not be.

Ingredients for the cookies:
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter or margarine (softened)
1 egg
2 t. vanilla
1 t. almond extract
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar
1 1/2 T. chopped rosemary
Heat oven 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, almond extract, and rosemary until creamy. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture. Beat until dough forms and refrigerate for three hours. Divide dough into halves. Roll out one portion to 3/16 of an inch on a floured surface. Cut out with gingerbread women or men cutters and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat rolling and cutting with second portion. Bake for 5-7 minutes.

Colcannon

(Potatoes, harvested from August to October, were a part of the feast in Ireland where they were made into a Samhain dish known as colcannon. Colcannon is a mashed potato, cabbage, and onion dish still served in Ireland on All Saint's Day. It was an old Irish tradition to hide in it a ring for a bride, a button for a bachelor, an thimble for a spinster, and a coin for wealth, or any other item which local custom decreed in keeping with idea of the New Year as a time for divination.)
4 cups mashed potatoes
2 1/2 cups cabbage, cooked and chopped fine
1/2 cup butter (avoid corn oil margarines as they will not add the needed body and flavor)
1/2 cup evaporated milk or cream
3/4 cup onion, chopped very find and sautéd
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Sauté onions (traditionalists sauté in lard or grease, but butter is acceptable.). Boil the potatoes and mash them (do not use artificial potato flakes). In a large pan place all of the ingredients except the cabbage and cook over low heat while blending them together. Turn the heat to medium and add the chopped cabbage. The mixture will take on a pale green cast. Keep stirring occasionally until the mixture is warm enough to eat. Lastly drop in a thimble, button, ring, and coin. Stir well and serve.

Howling Jack: Honey Pumpkin Mead

This mead is the color of a ripe peach and smells like autumn leaves - perfect for a Harvest party or sabbath.
1 sound, hard-rind pumpkin (approx. 2 quart capacity)
Paraffin wax
1 1/2 quarts of water
4 lbs. honey
2 each oranges and lemons
1 pkt. wine yeast
1 tea bag (black tea)
Prepare yeast starter.
Sterilize honey and water by boiling for 10 minutes, skimming the froth as it rises.
Remove from heat; stir in sliced citrus fruits, including skins.
Cool to room temperature; pitch yeast.
Allow to sit over night.
Prepare pumpkin by cutting off the top with a sharp knife. The top must "mate" with the bottom so cut carefully. Clean out the seeds, strings, and membranes of the pumpkin. Rinse out with water.
Pour the must into the pumpking, leaving an inch of air space between the liquid and the rim of the opening. Replace the top.
Prepare the paraffin/water bath: Fill a plastic bucket with hot water, melt the paraffin wax and float it on the water.
Dip the pumpkin, bottom first, into the warm paraffin until it is coated up to its lid. Once the paraffin begins to harden on the pumpkin skin, seal the lid by carefully pouring paraffin over the top, making sure to coat the seam.
Set the pumpkin in the middle of a shallow dishpaaan full of water to keep and thirsty pickle worms at bay and place it in a dark, quiet spot.
Allow to sit for two months, then siphon off and bottle.
Note: It is probably a good idea to rack the mead into a glass fermenter, fitted with an air lock, for evaluation prior to bottling. If the fermentation is not complete and you bottle prematurely, the corks and glass may blow.
 
Bird's Nest Pudding
 
The name of this pudding (really more like a pie) comes from the serving appearance--the apples are nestled in a bowl created by the crust.
5 Granny Smith apples, cored and peeled and sliced thinly
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 egg
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour (I use a half and half mixture of wheat and white flours--all wheat yields a tough crust)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp butter
1/2 cup sugar (for topping)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a deep pie dish (lightly grease the rim of the dish as well). Toss apple slices with cinnamon and nutmeg and arrange in the dish. Blend together the egg, sugar, salt, milk, flour, cream, and baking powder until it begins to form a dough. Do not over mix! Shape the dough into a crust and mold it over the top of the pie dish to cover. Bake at for 25 minutes. To serve, invert the dish over a platter. Dot the apples with butter and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Serve with heavy cream sprinkled with nutmeg. Just the thing for contemplating a warm fire or a cozy night of music!


Source
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Samhain Recipes (A Kitchen Witch's cook book)

Apple Sauce Loaf
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. applesauce
1/2 c. nuts
Cream together shortening and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Sift together dry ingredients and gradually add to mixture. Stir until well mixed and add applesauce and nuts. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Mix together 1/2 cups powdered sugar and 1 tbsp. water and pour on cake while still warm.

Apple Bread
1/2 c. margarine
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. sour milk or orange juice
1 c. chopped cooking apples (no need to peel)
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
In mixer, cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, soda and salt. Add to mixture and alternate with liquid. Add apples and walnuts. Turn into greased 9x5 loaf pan. Bake for about 1 hour at 350.

Apple Muffins
2 cups self rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped dried apple*
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 muffin tins. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and add the egg, milk and oil. Stir the ingredients until they are just blended. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into greased muffin pans, filling 3/4 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.
* Dried apples can usually be found in airtight pouches near the raisins in the supermarket.

Apple Spread
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
1/4 c. mayonnaise
dash of sugar
1 c. chopped apple with peel
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. chopped pecans
Mix together the cream cheese and cheddar cheese until well blended. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve with crackers or fresh vegetables.

Golden Herb Rolls
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1/4 cup water
4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 package quick-rising yeast
2 teaspoons dried savory leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed, crushed
1 cup canned pumpkin
4 eggs, divided
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 20 to 24 muffin cups. Combine milk, butter and water in small saucepan; heat until butter is melted. If necessary, cool to 120º F. to 130º F. Combine 3 cups flour, sugar, yeast, savory, salt, thyme and dill in large mixer bowl. Add milk mixture and pumpkin; beat for 2 minutes. Stir in 3 eggs and remaining flour. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place for 10 minutes or until doubled. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling 1/2 to 3/4 full. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place for 30 to 40 minutes or until doubled. Beat remaining egg and brush on top of rolls; sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until rolls are golden and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans; serve warm or cool on wire rack.

Morning Glory Muffins
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup raisins
4 large grated carrots (2 cups)
1 apple, shredded
8 ounces crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift together the sugars, flours, cinnamon, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Add the fruit, carrots, nuts, and stir to combine. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, oil, and vanilla. Pour this mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir to blend well. Spoon mixture into cupcake tins lined with muffin papers. Fill to brim of each cup. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. Toothpick inserted into the middle of muffin will come out clean when muffins are done. Cool muffins in pan for 10 minutes then turn out on rack to cool. Yield is 16 muffins. Muffins improve even more after 24 hours. Freezes well.

Pumpkin Muffins
3/4 cup natural bran
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup mashed or canned cooked pumpkin
2 eggs (unbeaten)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
In bowl, combine bran, flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and raisins; toss to mix. Add pumpkin, eggs, oil and yogurt; stir just combined.
Spoon batter into paper-lined or nonstick muffin tins. Bake in 400 degree F oven for 25 minutes or until firm to the touch. Makes 12 muffins.

Pumpkin Pie Muffins
2 cups flour
3/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
3/4 cup chopped dates (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease twelve muffin cups. In a large bowl, stir together first 9 ingredients. In another bowl, stir together pumpkin, butter, buttermilk, eggs, molasses and vanilla until blended. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add pumpkin mixture and stir just to combine. Stir in pecans and dates.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups; bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean. Remove to wire rack. Cool 5 minutes before removing muffins from cups; finish cooling on rack.

Rye Bread
1 packet yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 quart warm water
3 cups rye flour
2 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon melted shortening
9 cups all purpose flour
Dissolve yeast and sugar in the 1/4 cup of warm water, set aside and let stand until frothy. Pour the quart of water in a large bowl, and add the rye flour, salt, caraway seeds, shortening, and yeast mixture. Mix well. Let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, until bubbles start to form on dough's surface. Gradually mix in the all-purpose flour, until the mixture has become a firm dough. Knead on floured board for about 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and let rise until the dough doubles in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Knead again for 10 minutes. Form into 2 loaves and put in greased and floured loaf pans or on cookie sheets for a more natural look. Let them rise again until doubled in bulk, and then bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees.

Jack-o-Lantern Cheese Ball
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
4 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. solid pack pumpkin
1/2 c. pineapple preserves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 pretzel rod, broken in half
Decorations: Dark rye bread, red pepper, black olive slices, parsley sprigs
Assorted crackers
Beat cheeses, pumpkin, preserves and spices in a medium bowl until smooth. Cover; refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or until cheese is firm enough to shape. Shape mixture into a round pumpkin; place on serving plate. Using knife, score vertical lines down pumpkin. Place pretzel rod in top for stem. Cut 2 small triangles for the eyes. Small triangle of red pepper for nose. Slice olives slices in half for the mouth. Cover loosely; refrigerate until serving time. Serve with crackers.

Ultimate Caramel Apples
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
10-inch square piece of styrofoam
6 popsicle sticks or small wooden dowels
6 Red Delicious or Golden Delicious apples
3 ounces white chocolate
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped nuts

In heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine water and sugar. Over low heat, stir mixture gently until sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat to medium low and cook, without stirring, until mixture is a dark amber color. Remove from heat and carefully stir in heavy cream (mixture will bubble up and spatter a bit, then subside.) Set aside to cool and thicken. Cover styrofoam with waxed paper to catch caramel drippings (this will be a stand for caramel apples). Insert popsicle sticks into bottom center of apples. Dip top half of each apple into thickened caramel. Insert bottom of popsicle sticks into styrofoam, allowing apples to stand upright so caramel runs down sides of each apple. Refrigerate to harden. Meanwhile, melt white chocolate in top of double boiler above gently simmering water; stir until smooth. Transfer melted chocolate to pastry bag fitted with small writing tip. Drizzle thin, random strips of white chocolate over each caramel apple. Repeat melting and drizzling with semi-sweet chocolate. Sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Savory Samhaim Butters

Autumn Butter
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup butter, softened
Mix all ingredients until well blended. Spread onto your favorite muffins, quick bread, sweet crackers, or drop a dollop onto morning pancakes.

Cinnamon Butter
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve over sweet bread, muffins, or morning waffles. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Butter
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
4 tbsp canned pumpkin puree
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp freshly grated or dried nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Keep tightly covered in the refrigerator up to three weeks.
* 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice can be substituted for cloves, ginger and nutmeg.

Raspberry Butter
1 cup raspberries
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon blackberry liqueur
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
Boil raspberries, water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until syrupy, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Strain through sieve to remove seeds. Cool. Process with remaining ingredients until smooth and well mixed. Can be prepared one day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature and stir before serving.
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Samhain Divination

In many agricultural societies, a popular pastime at Samhain was that of divining the name of one's future lover. Some revealed a face, others an initial or even a full name. These traditional methods were practiced in rural societies for centuries. You can use them today for your own divination.

Apple Divination

Apples have always been popular tools for foretelling the future. There are a number of traditional methods in folklore for seeing who one's lover might be.
  • Peel the apple, keeping the peel in one long piece. When the peel comes off, drop it on the floor. The letter it forms is the first initial of your true love's name.
  • Wait until midnight at Samhain, and cut an apple into nine pieces. Take the pieces into a dark room with a mirror (either hanging on the wall or a hand-held one will do). At midnight, begin eating the pieces of apple while looking into the mirror. When you get to the ninth piece, throw it over your shoulder. The face of your lover should appear in the mirror.
  • If a girl has more than one potential lover, peel an apple and pull out the seeds. Place a wet seed on your cheek for each boyfriend. The last one left stuck to the skin represents the suitor who is the true love.

Water Divination

Water has always been known for its magical properties, so it's only natural to use it for divination workings. Try one of these on Samhain night.
  • At midnight on Samhain, go to a lake and gaze into the water. You should see your lover's face reflected in the lake before you.
  • Fill a cauldron with water, and then light a candle. Drip the hot wax into the water, and see what shape it forms. The shape will indicate the profession of your future lover.
  • Find a moving body of water like a stream or river. Select a piece of wood to represent the person you wish to be your lover, and throw it in the water. If it floats downstream, he will be true and constant. If the wood gets caught up on the bank, or sinks, your lover will be unfaithful.

Food Divination

There are a number of divinations that use foods, baking and cooking as their focus. Some of these are still practiced today.
  • Scottish Bannock Divination: in Scotland and northern England, a girl would bake a bannock cake in the evening. In complete silence, she walked to her room and placed the bannock under her pillow. Her dreams that night would show her the face of her lover, and in the morning she ate the bannock.
  • To find out if you'll find love in the coming twelve months, separate an egg and drop the white into a glass of water. If it sinks immediately, love is forthcoming. If it floats on the top of the water, you'll spend the next year alone.
  • Take two nuts, one for yourself and one for your lover. At midnight on Samhain, place them on a grate over your fire. If they burn well, you'll have a long and happy relationship. If one nut pops or burns, it means one of you will be unfaithful. 
SOURCE
http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/samhainoctober31/a/Samhain_Divinat.htm
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History of Samhain

 
What is Samhain?:
 
Samhain is known by most folks as Halloween, but for Wiccans and Pagans it's considered a Sabbat to honor the ancestors who came before us. It's a good time to contact the spirit world with a seance, because it's the time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest.
Myths and Misconceptions:
Contrary to a popular Internet-based (and Chick Tract-encouraged) rumor, Samhain was not the name of some ancient Celtic god of death, or of anything else, for that matter. Religious scholars agree that the word Samhain (pronounced "sow-en") comes from the Gaelic “Samhuin,” but they’re divided on whether it means the end or beginning of summer. After all, when summer is ending here on earth, it’s just beginning in the Underworld. Samhain actually refers to the daylight portion of the holiday, on November 1st.
All Hallow Mass:

Around the eighth century or so, the Catholic Church decided to use November 1st as All Saints Day. This was actually a pretty smart move on their part – the local pagans were already celebrating that day anyway, so it made sense to use it as a church holiday. All Saints’ became the festival to honor any saint who didn’t already have a day of his or her own. The mass which was said on All Saints’ was called Allhallowmas – the mass of all those who are hallowed. The night before naturally became known as All Hallows Eve, and eventually morphed into what we call Halloween.
 
The Witch's New Year:

Sunset on Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The old year has passed, the harvest has been gathered, cattle and sheep have been brought in from the fields, and the leaves have fallen from the trees. The earth slowly begins to die around us.

This is a good time for us to look at wrapping up the old and preparing for the new in our lives. Think about the things you did in the last twelve months. Have you left anything unresolved? If so, now is the time to wrap things up. Once you’ve gotten all that unfinished stuff cleared away, and out of your life, then you can begin looking towards the next year.



Honoring the Ancestors:

For some of us, Samhain is when we honor our ancestors who came before us. If you’ve ever done genealogy research, or if you’ve had a loved one die in the past year, this is the perfect night to celebrate their memory. If we’re fortunate, they will return to communicate with us from beyond the veil, and offer advice, protection and guidance for the upcoming year.

If you want to celebrate Samhain in the Celtic tradition, spread the festivities out over three consecutive days. You can hold a ritual and feast each night. Be flexible, though, so you can work around trick-or-treating schedules!



SOURCE
http://www.paganspath.com/magik/samhain-history.htm


Samhain's History
Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), dates back to the ancient Celts who lived 2,000 years ago. Contrary to what some believe, is not a celebration of a Celtic god of the dead. Instead, it is a Celtic word meaning "summer's end." The Celts believed that summer came to an end on October 31st and the New Year began on November 1st with the start of winter. But the Celts also followed a lunar calendar and their celebrations began at sunset the night before.
 
Many today see Halloween as the pagan holiday. But that's not really accurate. As the pagan holiday of Samhain is on November 1st. But their celebrations did and still do, start at sunset on October 31st, on Samhain Eve. During the day on October 31st, the fires within the home are extinguished. Often families would engage in a good "fall" cleaning to clear out the old and make way for the new. Starting the winter months with fresh and clean household items.
 
At sunset on October 31, clans or local villages begin the formal ceremonies of Samhain by lighting a giant bonfire. The people would gather around the fire to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. It was a method of giving the Gods and Goddesses their share of the previous years herd or crops. In addition these sacred fires were a big part of the cleansing of the old year and a method to prepare for the coming new year.
 
During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, and danced around the bonfire. Many of these dances told stories or played out the cycles of life and death or commemorated the cycle of Wheel of Life. These costumes were adorned for three primary reasons.
 
The first was to honor the dead who were allowed to rise from the Otherworld. The Celts believed that souls were set free from the land of the dead during the eve of Samhain. Those that had been trapped in the bodies of animals were released by the Lord of the Dead and sent to their new incarnations. The wearing of these costumes signified the release of these souls into the physical world.
 
Not all of these souls were honored and respected. Some were also feared as they would return to the physical world and destroy crops, hide livestock or 'haunt' the living who may have done them wrong. The second reason for these traditional costumes was to hide from these malevolent spirits to escape their trickery.
 
The final representation was a method to honor the Celtic Gods and Goddesses of the harvest, fields and flocks. Giving thanks and homage to those deities who assisted the village or clan through the trials and tribulations of the previous year. And to ask for their favor during the coming year and the harsh winter months that were approaching.
 
In addition to celebrations and dance, it was believed that this thin veil between the physical world and the Otherworld provided extra energy for communications between the living and the dead. With these communications, Druid Priests, and Celtic Shamans would attempted to tell the fortunes of individual people through a variety of methods. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
 
These psychic readings would be conducted with a variety of divination tools. Such as throwing bones, or casting the Celtic Ogham. There is some historical evidence that additional tools of divination were also used. Most of this comes from writings recorded by Roman invaders, but there are stories of reading tea leaves, rocks and twigs, and even simple spiritual communications that today we'd call Channeling. Some historians have suggested that these early people were the first to use tiles made from wood and painted with various images which were the precursor to Tarot Cards. There's no real evidence to support this, but the 'story' of these tiles has lingered for centuries.
 
When the community celebration was over, each family would take a torch or burning ember from the sacred bonfire and return to their own home. The home fires that has been extinguished during the day were re-lit by the flame of the sacred bonfire to help protect the dwelling and it's inhabitants during the coming winter. These fires were kept burning night and day during the next several months. It was believed that if a home lost it's fire, tragedy and troubles would soon follow.
 
With the hearth fires lit, the families would place food and drink outside their doors. This was done to appease the roaming spirits who might play tricks on the family.
 
The Romans began to conquer the Celtic territories. By A.D. 43 they had succeeded in claiming the majority of the Celtic lands. They ruled for approximately four hundred years combining or influencing many Celtic traditional celebrations with their own. Two Roman holidays were merged with Samhain.
  1. Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead.
  2. Pomona's Day of Honoring, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
 
Samhain to Halloween
With the coming of Christianity in the 800s AD, the early Church in England tried to Christianize the old Celtic festivals. Pope Boniface IV designated the 1st of November as "All Saints Day," honoring saints and martyrs. He also decreed October 31 as "All Hallows Eve", that eventually became Hallow'een.
 
Scholars today widely accept that the Pope was attempting to replace the earlier Celtic pagan festival with a church-sanctioned holiday. As this Christian holiday spread, the name evolved as well. Also called All-hallows Eve or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day). 200 years later, in 1000 AD, the church made November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It is celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls' day, are called Hallowmas.
 
November 1st or May 13th?
Some people confuse Samhain being originally celebrated in May with other pagan and early Christian holidays.
 
Samhain comes from the Gaelic word samain. "Sam" - summer and "fuin" - end. It literally means Summer's End. The early Irish and Brythonic cultures believed the year was divided in half. The dark half and the light half. Samhain marked the end of the light half and the beginning of the Celtic new year or the dark half.
 
According to Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia (1979 Vol 12 p 152), The Druids originated the holiday. It was a celebration of Saman Lord of the Dead who was the God of Evil Spirits. There is some debate about this origination as the Druids were not the only, or the first spiritual pagans of Ireland.
 
Some of the earliest archaeological evidence of the Celts come from their trade routes with the Greeks. Their culture can be followed with great precision from the 5th Century BC through the La Tène culture. From these early records with the Greeks we know of some of their great festivals and in particular one of their biggest Samhain the new years festival. Certainly we can gain information from Julius Caesar who wrote extensively about the Gauls during his invasion campaigns in Ireland during 4th Century BC. Eventually Rome is sacked by the Celts in 3rd Century BC, around 390BC. The Romans in general wrote of their warlike inhabitants and many of their barbaric celebrations. Which included Samhain.
 
In most if not all of these accounts, Samhain is immersed in blood and sacrifice. Often in the earliest of times, those sacrifices were human. One Greek account states these early Celts sacrificed prisoners captured during a battle during their New Years festival of Samhain. In The History and Origins of Druidism by Lewis Spencer writes about the Druids stating they burned their victims in holy fire which had to be consecrated by a Druid priest.
 
The confusion of May to November 1st probably comes from the Christians and pagan Roman festivals. The Roman Empire was a pagan culture. During their reign they held many pagan festivals and celebrations, one being the Feast of the Lemures on May 13th. During this time malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were appeased and festival participants would attempt to gain the favor of the spirits. The feast covered a three day period that honored "all the dead" with food, drink and sacrifice.
 
At the same time Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs. This was celebrated in the west from May 13, 609 to 610. Pope Gregory III (731–741) during an oratory in St. Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world", moved All Saints Day to November 1.
 
This is further confused by the early Irish churches who did not celebrate All Hallows Day in November or May, but rather in early spring on April 20th during the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Talaght. A festival of All Saints was already widely celebrated in the days of Charlemagne in November. But it took a decree at the insistence of Pope Gregory IV to all the bishops, that the celebration be confirmed on November 1st.
 
These early similar celebrations come together around 835AD. The Roman pagan festival is over taken by the early Church, the Irish Church conforms it's celebrations with Rome, and everyone seems to move their day of the dead to coincide with early Irish pagans and their celebration of Samhain on November 1st.
 
There's no doubt, however, that the Irish festival of Samhain has always been at the end of summer on November 1st, and has been one of the prominent harvest festivals for Celtic pagans from the past and the present.
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Samhain Lore

Samhain Lore (October 31st)

Samhain, (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. It is one of the two "spirit-nights" each 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. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands. 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.

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 guest. Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them. Turnips were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this was a night of magic and chaos. The Wee Folke became very active, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. Traveling after dark was was not advised. 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. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits. Bonfires were built, (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.

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, (that day actually falls on November 7th), 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.

Herbs of Samhain:
Mugwort, Allspice, Broom, Catnip, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Oak leaves, Sage and Straw.

Foods of Samhain:
Turnips, Apples, Gourds, Nuts, Mulled Wines, Beef, Pork, Poultry.

Incense of Samhain:
Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg.

Colors of Samhain:
Black, Orange, White, Silver, Gold.

Stones of Samhain:
All Black Stones, preferably jet or obsidian. 



Source
http://www.wicca.com/celtic/akasha/samhainlore.htm
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October's Moon -- Random thoughts.

Still your mind,
and still your soul,
heed the words that make you grow,
listen to the winds of the sages,
learn the wisdom of the mages,
handed down to us from the ages.
-- R.A. Melos, 
"A Witch's Words to Her Familiar On Samhain" (Fragg)

From A Collection of Samhain Poetry

Samhain is almost here... you can sense its presence in the air you breathe, the leaves that fall, the moon that peeks out through the sky. There has always been something magical about this time of year, and you cannot grasp the exact thing that is magical about it. All you know is that you have the need to go out, dance under the moonlight, ride your broom, and boil something in the cauldron. It electrifies us in a way no other sabbath does. As the spirits prepare to return to the land of the living for a few short hours, we should also prepare to relish with them the joys of their return. True is, with their passing a void has been left, but also true is that with their return, a gleeful showers suddenly comes forth.


Times of renewal are upon us, and we should make note of it. What have we done this year that can be renewed, what have we done that has to be mended. Meditation is key to offer the Goddess and God our spirit to be cleansed in the underworld, cleansed from those negative influences only to be reborn again come Yule time. 


What can I do to be closer to this universe? What part of my spirit must be released from negativity so that my spellwork is clear? How can I welcome this change in my life, how can I embrace it without feeling like I am leaving an important part of me behind? What voice will I hear this year, coming from the past? What are my ancestors trying to show me through the veil? Important questions we raise and need to ask. Important conversations we need to have with our inner self. 


Samhain is here, my dear witches.


Embrace it! 


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