Happy Halloween/ Blessed Samhain/ All Hallows eve!
No matter what your own belief system may be, many will associate witches, ghouls and goblins with the 31st October. Personally I absolutely love the 31st of October I feel deeply connected to this very special date.
Don't worry I won't be offended if you call me a witch... it wouldn't be the first time!
In fact just last weekend, whist I was a delegate on a training weekend, one of my fellow delegates jokingly used the term to describe me...."She's a white Witch" ...." its just spooky how much she can know about you without you saying a word!" ( I took this as a compliment by the way!) After all one of my deeply held values is "Soul to Soul connection", or for those who have seen the beautiful film "Avatar" will understand " I see you". I have a wish and desire to connect with my fellow travelers along life's journey at a deeper level, not just to see their mask.
I also want to understand, truly understand. Which is why I thought I'd write about the roots and meanings of Halloween today, that we may all have a greater understanding of where the celebration of the 31st October came from.
So Halloween or Samhain... Just what is it all about?
well lets take a little look at some of the history:
The history of Halloween goes back more than 2,000 years. The earliest celebrations of Halloween were among the Celtic people who lived in the areas which are now Great Britain and Northern France.
The Celts were people who worshiped the beauty of nature. They worshiped a Sun God and believed that without him, they would not live. They also worshipped Samhain who was the lord of the dead and of the cold, dark winter season. They believed that on October 31 Samhain would call together all of the dead and these souls would take on the shape of an animal. They believed that all creatures wandered the Earth on that night. This was called the Vigil of Samhain.
The Druids, which were the priests of the Celtic people, would build fires on the hilltops in belief that the large fires would help to strengthen the Sun God, and give him power enough to overcome the lord of darkness so that the sun season could continue. They believed that the fires were sacred, therefore they burned dried crops to help strengthen the Sun God. At midnight they stop worshipping the Sun God and start to worship Samhain because he would be the ruler for the next six months. This was the starting of the new year. They performed ceremonies through the night to ask the spirits to tell the future of the upcoming year. In the morning each household received an ember from the fire, this ember was used to start fires in their own homes with the belief that it would ward off evil spirits in the new year.
The Christian Festival on All Hallows (Saints) Day on 1 November was deliberately set to coincide with the last day of the year in the old Celtic calendar of 31 October.
There is still a lingering belief that children born on Hallowe'en have supernatural gifts!
I have a couple of friends with their birthday today !!
Hallowe'en Traditions in Scotland
In Scotland, Hallowe'en was traditionally associated with witches and bonfires. In the last few hundred years, bonfires have ceased to be part of the celebration of Hallowe'en - they are reserved for "Guy Fawkes" night on 5 November. But other pagan rituals have been perpetuated with traditions such as "dookin' for apples" (removing an apple floating in a basin of water without using your hands, either spearing it with a fork held in your teeth or by biting it). Of course, apples were sacred to the Druids.
Then there are "tattie bogles" (potato scarecrows) or "neep lanterns" (turnip lanterns) made by scooping out a turnip and cutting through the skin to create eyes, nose and mouth. A candle was then placed inside (and turnip was on the menu for days afterwards). The pumpkin serves the same purpose - they are easier to scoop out! But children who have fun doing this do not realise that they were continuing a tradition of placing skulls on poles round encampments to scare away evil spirits.
In Modern Times
By the end of the 19th century Hallowe'en had become very much a festival for children. Dressing up and going "guising" is a tradition which has lasted to the present day. The original idea was to dress as spirits of the dead but options have widened over the years. When money was tight, dressing up in some old clothes from grandparents was all that was required. But witches (with broomsticks, cloaks and pointed black hats) have always been popular, with blackened faces harping back to the pagan days when the Druids may have smeared their faces with ash from their bonfires. Long before "trick or treat" children went round the houses and had to perform a poem or a song or tell jokes before receiving nuts, apples and sweets .
There is a (long) poem by Robert Burns on Hallowen which gives a good description of the traditions which were followed in his day. And of course, the epic poem "Tam O' Shanter" is all about "brownyis and bogillis" and the witchcraft and superstition of those times.
What Halloween means to me
Well for me its a time to remember my ancestors, those who have gone before me, who's DNA form me, who's memory lives on in me. It is tradition on this special date to prepare a feast and set a place at the table for those we have lost in the past year. To invite them to join us and celebrate the final harvest of the year.
In some traditions it is believed that this is when we are at our closest to those who have gone before, that energetically they are nearest to us.
I like to reflect on the positive side of Halloween, the honouring of where I have come from and the gifts that brings me. To celebrate the last harvest , both literally and metaphorically,before we head into the winter. A time to stop and take stock, to reflect.
Which brings me back to the opening line of this blog...
'Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble' is one of the most famous lines in English literature. These lines are spoken in unison by three witches who predict Macbeth's future throughout the play by William Shakespeare. Which you may recall didn't have a particularly great ending for him! The Witches had an intent of the energy of their words doubling.
As you may have heard me say before, on many occasions, what we focus on grows... good or bad.
This reminds me of an adapted quote I used on Tuesday in a Business integration day I ran along with Jon. I believe it's worth sharing with you as a reminder as you reflect today.
"Be mindful of your thoughts, as they become your words.
Be mindful of your words, as they become your actions.
Be mindful of your actions, as they become your behaviour/ character.
Be mindful of your behaviour/ character as it becomes your life experience"
Or as a couple of good friends of mine would say:
"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body."
So today I urge you to have fun, celebrate, reflect and remember your ancestors, your history, your harvest. Speak with love and kindness and watch your blessings grow or maybe even .....double, double!"
Until next time ,
make every moment count
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“Only as high as I reach can I grow
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Only as much as I dream can I be”
― Karen Ravn