If you’re gonna go out flying tonight…just watch the booze, okay???
If you’re gonna go out flying tonight…just watch the booze, okay???
WyndSinger steps inside the circle with his new harp, Tristan. He is clad in a flowing blue, floor-length robe. There is a gold braid on his left shoulder and his long, salt & pepper hair flows free down his back. The harp, standing at five feet tall, glows as the fire bounces off the walnut. The gold leaf in the Celtic knotwork and Phoenix designs on the soundboard glistens in the light. He sits down, indicates to the interpreter that he is ready, and begins to play, improvising to the story.
The night was very dark, with a Full Moon hanging in the cloud-filled sky above. The air was crisp with the feel of late Autumn and the doorway between the worlds was wide open. Carved pumpkins sat on the porches of the houses in the little town, and the laughter of children dressed in costumes could be heard from the streets.
It was a sad time for Beth as she climbed the hill behind her house.
In her arms was her cat and friend Smoky, carefully wrapped in his favorite blanket. A little grave was already dug on the hill, waiting, for Smoky had died that day.
“Do you want me to go with you?” Beth’s father had asked. “I dug his grave beside MacDougal’s at the top of the hill.”
Beth clearly remembered when their dog MacDougal had died after being hit by a car.
“No, I want to go by myself,” she answered.
Beth stopped at the top of the hill and knelt beside the little grave. She carefully laid Smoky’s blanket-wrapped form in the earth and covered it with dirt, laying several large rocks on the top. Then she cried and cried.
“Oh, Smoky, I miss you so much!” Beth looked up at the Moon, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Why did you die?”
“It was his time to rejoin the Mother,” said a deep, gentle voice in the darkness.
“Who said that?” Beth looked around but saw no one.
“Dying is part of the cycle of life, you know.” One of the boulders on the hill stirred into life.
“Who are you?” The moonlight shone down on the little woman, and Beth could see she was not human.
“I’m a troll-wife,” said the creature as she came to sit across from Beth. “This is a sad night for both of us, girl. I, too, came to this hill to bury a friend.” The troll-wife wiped a crystal tear from her cheek. “The squirrel was very old. Still it makes me sad.”
Beth stared at the troll-wife. The little woman was the color of rock in the moonlight, her hair like long strands of moss, and her bright eyes like shining crystals. She wore a dress woven of oak leaves and tree bark.
“The squirrel and I lived together for a long time,” the troll-wife said. “We often talked to your cat when he was hunting here on the hill. Smoky and I were friends. I shall miss him, too.” The little woman patted Smoky’s grave gently, “Sleep well, little friend. When you are rested, we shall talk together again.”
“But he’s dead,” Beth said, her voice choked with tears.
“Child, this is Samhain. Don’t you know the ancient secrets of this sacred time of year?’ The troll-wife motioned for Beth to come and sit beside her. “It is true that our friends have gone into a world where we can no longer physically touch them, but the Mother has given us other ways of communicating with them. We can do this any time, but the time of Samhain is the easiest.”
“I don’t understand how this can be done,” Beth said, “or why Samhain makes it easier.”
“At this time of year,” the troll-wife answered, “the walls between this world and the world of souls and spirits are very thin. If we are quiet and listen, we can hear our loved ones and they can hear us. We talk, not with spoken words, but with the heart and mind.”
“Isn’t that just imagination?” Beth looked down at Smoky’s grave, tears once more coming into her eyes. “Like my thinking I can feel MacDougal get up on my bed at night like he used to?”
“Sometimes it is, but mostly it is not imagination, only our friends come to see us in their spirit bodies.” The troll-wife reached up her hand and patted something Beth couldn’t see on her shoulder, “Like my friend the raven. He is here now.”
Beth looked hard and saw a thin form of hazy moonlight on the troll-wife’s shoulder. “I’ve seen something like that at the foot of my bed where MacDougal used to sleep.” She whispered. “I thought I was dreaming.” She jumped as something nudged her arm. When she looked down, nothing was there.
The troll-wife smiled, “Close you eyes and think of MacDougal,” she said “He has been waiting a long time for you to see him.”
Beth closed her eyes and at once, the form of her little dog came into her mind. His tail wagged with happiness. She felt a wave of love come from him, and she sent her love back. Then she felt the dog lie down against her leg.
“Can I do this with Smoky?” Beth asked.
“Not yet,” the troll-wife answered. “He needs to sleep a while and rest. Then he will come to you. This gives Smoky time to adjust to his new world, and you time to grieve for him. It is not wrong to grieve, but we must not grieve forever.”
“I never thought of it that way,” Beth said. “It’s kind of like they moved away, and we can only talk to them on the phone.”
“It is this way with all creatures, not just animals.” The troll-wife stood up and held out a hand to Beth. “Will you join me, human girl? Although I buried my friend squirrel this night, I still must dance and sing to all my friends and ancestors who have gone on their journey into the other world. For this is a time to honor the ancestors.”
Beth joined the troll-wife in the ancient slow troll dances around the top of the little hill in the moonlight. She watched quietly while the troll-wife called out troll-words to the four directions, words Beth couldn’t understand. Deep in her heart the girl felt the power of the strange words and knew they were given in honor and love by the little troll-wife.
When the troll-wife was finished with her ritual, she hugged Beth. “Go in peace, human child” she said, “And remember what I have told you about the ancient secret of Samhain.”
“I will,” Beth answered. “Will I ever see you again?”
“Whenever the Moon is Full, I will be here,” the little troll-wife said. “And especially at Samhain.”
“I wish I had something to give you.” Beth hugged the little woman. “You have taught me so much.” She felt the tears come to her eyes again.
“Let us exchange tears for our lost friends.” The troll-wife reached up a rough finger and caught a tear as if fell from Beth’s eye. The tear glistened on her finger. The troll-wife gently touched her finger to her cloak, and Beth’s tear shone there like a diamond in the moonlight.
Beth reached up carefully and caught one of the troll-wife’s tears as it slid down her rough cheek. It turned into a real crystal in her hand.
“Remember the secret of Samhain, and remember me,” the troll-wife said softly as she disappeared into the darkness. Beth walked back down the hill, the crystal clutched in her hand. Her father was waiting on her on the porch.
“Are you all right?” her father asked as he gave Beth a hug.
“I will be,” she answered. She opened her hand under the porch light and saw a perfect, tear-shaped crystal lying there.
“Did you find something?” her father asked.
“A troll-tear,” Beth answered, and her father smiled, for he also knew the little troll-wife and the secret of Samhain.
The music continues for a brief moment until it resolves in a chord of promise. WyndSinger returns from his trance and quietly slips back to his place within the circle with Tristan.
“Hecate guards the threeway crossroads. She guides those who journey between the worlds, both the living and the dead; and the wheel turns on…”
The holiday that most people celebrate on October 31 is called Halloween. However it is also a sacred time that is a religious holiday for Wiccans and Pagans. We call our holy day Samhain. Both of these holidays have roots in the ancient history of Europe.
Modern Halloween customs such as trick or treating and ideas about ghosts and dangerous creatures who go about on this night, come from the Celtic culture of the settlers who came to America in the 1840′s to escape the potato famine.
The Catholic Church absorbed this holiday and renamed it All Saints Eve – a time of remembrance for dead saints; they could not change the original practices associated with it so they changed the meanings for the rituals of the holiday.
Samhain is the exact mid-point between the fall equinox and winter solstice. It is the time when the sun would sink to its lowest point on the horizon as marked by the Celtic astronomers.
It is the time that marks the third and final harvest holiday observed by Wiccans. The ancient Celtic people would now gather in the final food of the field. If any food was left in the field after the 31st the Pookhas (evil goblins) got it. They made it inedible so it was very important to finish the harvest by this day. The Celts would also bring their herds down from the hills to be culled or wintered. So this was not a blood free harvest.
This is the time in the Wiccan Wheel of the year that the Dead Sun God is mourned by the Mother Goddess. She now evolves through her pain of sorrow into the Crone. The “Wise One” who has experienced life and learned its mysteries and now understands the value of death. Death, no matter how much it is feared, is a chance to rest from the pleasure and pain of living and an opportunity to start again (and if were lucky not make the same mistakes).
Remember, if no one died where would there be room for the living? The ancient Celtic people did not fear death, they saw it as a part of the cycle of life just as Wiccans and Pagans do today. This is also the Wiccan New Year as the cycle of life can only begin again from the dead and fallow fields.
The God that we worship at this time is the Horned God. This is the God of the Hunt, the keeper or the forest. From him we learn that we must respect the gift of life and that nothing can survive without partaking of another – either plant or animal. All life is sacred and the gift of that life to sustain another should not go unrecognized, unvalued. We as Wiccans need to acknowledge the great sacrifice that is made when we take the life of a plant or animal to feed our own. This too is part of the cycle of life and death. One way of doing this is to improve the quality of life of the plants and animals that feed and clothe us. This means not polluting our environment as well as not forcing animals to live horrible existences just to improve output.
The cauldron that is today a symbol of Halloween comes from the idea of the cauldron of the Dark Mother. In her great dark womb she would break down the souls of the dead to cleanse them and reshape them for returning to the world of the living.
The custom of trick or treating comes from the Celtic tradition of leaving out some food for the dead so that they could also feast with the family to celebrate the harvest passing. It is also connected to the habit of leaving out food for the fairy folk lest they play tricks on you and curse your home. Also remember that when people are uncomfortable with dealing with something they make jokes about it. This is why the trickster God is important at this time for he teaches us that nothing is so great or powerful that it does not have its weaker side. It too can be overcome and conquered; even death is not an end. Once we realize this we know that we have nothing to fear. We know that it is just a cycle that we must go through and we can laugh at it and at ourselves (remember if we can laugh about something we can survive it, laughter and hope go hand in hand).
The souls of the dead are believed to walk the earth at this time. This comes from the belief that as the Sun God passes from the world of the living to the world of the dead he weakens the portal or veil between. This makes it easier for other spirits to return on this night to talk to their family. Because the world of the fey is also permeable at this time, magical practices such as deviation are easier. We are more sensitive to our senses other than the usual five.
As you can see many practices are still the same as they were in ancient times but just a little different…just as Christians have incorporated ancient Celtic practices into their religion and given those a different meaning. Modern Wiccans and Pagans have adapted and reinterpreted the ancient ideas and beliefs to reflect our cultures way of viewing the world and our relationship to it. Just as the Crone has gained wisdom from her years of experience so have we learned that the gift of life and death is a wonderful thing.
Note: Samhain is generally pronounced “sow-wen” and Ocean signs it by using a combination of two signs – “dead night” to demonstrate its importance as a night for honoring the dead.
To all my wonderful readers ~
This is just a quick note to let you know that my move went successfully and I am now getting settled in my new home here in Newburgh. Moving is such fun… NOT! But things actually went pretty smoothly and things are coming along.
I still don’t cable up in my apartment yet, and thus I do not have internet access. I will be getting it hopefully next week. Right now my friend and neighbor Fyre is helping me put together my new computer desk that will go in the corner of my bedroom as my little mini-office. We’re having a lot of fun “screwing around” in my bedroom, heh heh heh.
Please be aware that my old insightbb.com email addresses DO NOT WORK any longer. If you are trying to get in touch with me this way, those emails are not going to get to me, because I no longer have Insight cable service. Just hang on, and soon I will have new internet service, and a new email address for everyone!
The weather here has been lousy the last few days, but today is a beautiful day – the sun is shining, the sky is a vivid blue… a perfect fall day. I love this time of the year!
Just wanted to drop a line and let everyone know that yours truly is still alive and kicking, and throwing out boxes as fast as she can empty them. I’m looking forward to getting back on-line soon and writing up some new posts.
Until then…behave yourselves!
Goddess Bless and Goddess Keep,