The adventures of a Witch who writes nonfiction and fiction.
Author of 9 books from Llewellyn, including Everyday Witchcraft (2015) and The Baba Yaga, Broken Rider, and Veiled Magic series from Berkley Romance
To all my friends, Pagan and otherwise, I wish you a very happy Samhain. Samhain (pronounced SOW-WIN) is the third of three harvest festivals, and is also known as the Witches' New Year. It marks the end of the old year, and the beginning of the new, and it is a time for letting go of the past, and opening up to new possibilities. The veil between the worlds of the physical and the world's of the spirit are at their thinnest on this day (hence the tradition of ghosts) and so it is the perfect time to speak to those you have lost and say goodbye, if you need to.
My wish for you all is that your sorrows, should you have them, are lifted, and washed away with the remnants of the old year, and that the year to come brings you health, prosperity, love, and joy. Blessed be!
Happy Samhain from me, and my cat Samhain (so named because she is orange and black).
For those who asked, here is a Samhain ritual, suitable for both solitaries and groups. This is the one I wrote for Blue Moon Circle to perform this year, and which we will be doing at 6:30 tomorrow (Sunday) night.
Supplies: Quarter candles, god and goddess candles, sage smudge stick, salt & water in a small dish, small tealights on a fire-safe plate, leaves or pieces of paper, pen(s), or a pomegranate, tarot deck/runes/scrying mirror, matches. Cakes and ale. For group—a speaking stick. Optional: if you are going to be outside in the dark, or inside in dim light, a battery-powered reading light makes it easier to read the ritual!
[Note: this ritual can be done by a group or an individual, simply make the necessary adjustments, such as saying “I” instead of “we.” I suggest reading through the ritual before trying to do it.]
If you are going to be outside, this is the perfect night for a bonfire. If you don’t have a firepit, a hibachi or portable firepit works well. If you are going to be inside, you may want to put candles around the room if it is safe to do so, or use a dish/cauldron filled with sand or salt, and place candles on that in the middle of your altar.
Clear the space where you are working by smudging it with sage and/or sprinkling a mixture of salt and water around the circle. You can also smudge yourself to clear away negative energy.
Cast the circle by walking around clockwise (deosil) and pointing with your finger/an athame or sweep around it with a magickal broom. Visualize a line of protective white energy and say: I cast this circle round and round, from earth to sky, from sky to ground. I conjure now this sacred space, outside of time, outside of place. [close circle] We are [I am] between the worlds, safe and protected, in a sacred space. So mote it be.
Call the quarters: East (yellow candle)—I call the watchtower of the East, the power of Air, to protect this circle from all that which is unseen, from the winds that blow cold with the touch of winter, and from negative energy of any kind. So mote it be. South (red candle)—I call the watchtower of the South, the power of Fire, to guard this circle with the warmth of love; past, present and future. So mote it be. West (blue candle)—I call the watchtower of the West, the power of Water, to wash away the year past; its sorrows and its triumphs, and clear the way for the new year to come. So mote it be. North (green candle)—I call the watchtower of the North, the power of Earth, to ground and center me, so that we [I] might have the strength to face the long night and the winter ahead. So mote it be.
Invoke the goddess: (black, white, or silver candle) Great Hecate, goddess of the Witches, come to us [me] on this, your sacred night. She who is the face of darkness and yet protects the young; She who guards the crossroads—we are at the crossroads of the year, with the old year behind us and the new year yet to come—join us, and show us the way!
Invoke the god: (black, gold, or green candle) Great Herne, Lord of the beasts, He who howls in the night, and leads the Wild Hunt on their terrible journey from death to life and back to death again—help us to safely part the veil between the worlds, so we might speak with our honored dead once more. Welcome and blessed be!
High Priest/High Priestess (or say aloud to yourself): Tonight is Samhain, the Witches’ New Year, our most sacred and powerful holiday. It is the third and final harvest festival, when we rejoice for those things that grew to success, and mourn those that did not thrive as we might as wished. Tonight, the veil is thin and so we may speak to those who have gone before. Tonight the veil is thin, and so we might ask for guidance in the year ahead. Tonight, the way opens before us, so we let go of that which no longer works for us so that we might move on, free and open to new possibilities.
There is a myth about Demeter, the goddess of all that grows, and her daughter, Persephone. It was through Demeter that the trees grew strong, the crops grew high and bountiful, and the flowers blossomed. But it happened that one day Hades, the god of the underworld, saw Persephone out walking and was so captivated by her youthful beauty that he carried her away with him to the land of the dead. Demeter mourned for the loss of her daughter, and the world grew cold and barren. No plants would grow when the goddess wept for her lost child. And so Zeus, the king of the gods, decreed that Hades must return Persephone to her mother. But the young goddess had eaten six pomegranate seeds while in the underworld, and so it was decided that she must spend six months of the year with Hades and return to the upper world for the other six. And thus it was that the seasons began, and so it is that we have summer, when the land grows and blooms, and winter, when the land lies quiet and dormant, waiting for Persephone’s return. But what is often not mentioned is that Persephone grew to love her dark husband, and although she missed her mother in the months they were apart, she returned gladly to the underworld for those six months, and proudly reigned as queen.
There is a lesson in this myth for us, too. If you cannot change the seasons, you must embrace them instead; taking what is good and positive about the dark time and making it work for you until the light returns again in the spring. Winter is a time to turn inward; to be quiet, and introspective, to rest and regain your strength.
First, we unburden ourselves of all that no longer has a place in our lives. Sometimes we chose to let go of things and people. Sometimes that choice is made for us, through fate or the choice of another or even death. But the weight of the past will only hold us back as we walk through the door to the future, and so we choose to let go. Think of all those things you have lost, or realized you must give up since they no longer work for your benefit. Write them down on a piece of paper, or place them into a leaf or a pomegranate seed by visualizing the energy moving from inside you into the item you hold. Then speak aloud of what you will let go, and cast it into the fire. [If not using a fire, you can tear the paper into shreds, crumple the leaves, or place the seeds into a bowl that you will dump outside later.]
If you wish, you may light a candle for anyone (person or pet) you have lost, either in the past year, or at any time, and speak to them. Listen with your heart open for a reply, or even just a feeling of presence or peace.
Samhain is a bittersweet night. For while we must let go of the year past, we may also look ahead to the year before us, filled with potential beyond what we can even imagine. Picture your dreams for the year to come and ask for guidance in achieving them. Take a moment to fix your goals and aspirations firmly in your mind, then pull a tarot card, or a rune stone, or look into a scrying mirror or bowl of water, and see what suggestions you might find to help you as you walk your path. Remember that Hecate is the goddess of the crossroads—if you ask her, perhaps she will show you your way. [If practicing with a group, people can also go around the circle and pull cards or runes for the person next to them, and see if they can channel some words of wisdom from the goddess.]
Eat some cakes and drink some ale (or bread and cider, or whatever you prefer), both as a way of grounding back to the real world, and in appreciation for the harvest. If meeting as a group, pass a Speaking Stick, so all might have a chance to speak whatever is in their heart and be heard.
Thank the quarters for their protection and dismiss them individually or all together.
Thank the goddess and god: Great Hecate, Powerful Herne, we thank you for your presence here in our circle, and in our lives. May you continue to watch over us and guide us as we walk through the world. Thank you, and blessed be.
The circle is open, but never broken. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.
Just a quick reminder that if you live in the Oneonta area, I'd love to have you join me at the Borders bookstore at the Southside Mall on Rt. 23, from 2-4 on Sunday the 31st. I'll be doing a booksigning, and starting the fun at 2 with a scavenger hunt (there will be two winners--one gets a signed book, and the other a basket of assorted goodies including a signed cover flat!). I hope to see you there...mostly so I'm not standing around talking to myself and looking silly :-)
Also a reminder that if you haven't signed up for my "Editing As You Go: How and why to edit as you write the first draft" mini-workshop at SavvyAuthors.com you only have until the end of the day tomorrow (the 31st) to do so, since the class runs from Nov 1st-6th. If you're doing NANOWRIMO this year, this is the perfect class for you! Also, if you're not...
Be sure to spread the word, and tell all your friends. Seriously. There might be chocolate in it for you. Or my undying gratitude. Or both.
Check out this great blog post on the history of Halloween, and how it moved from its roots as a Pagan holiday to the holiday we celebrate today. The author even quoted from my book, The Goddess is in the Details :-)
One of my favorite blogs to visit is The Magical Buffet. Blogger Rebecca Elson is interested in lots of things, from Paganism (which is how I got met her), to ghost hunting, to Buddhism, to reading...just about everything. Her blog is always interesting and never predictable, which is one of the things I love about it.
Today's blog post is extra interesting to me, because it is a guest post by author Nancy Holzner. Nancy wrote a wonderful and original urban fantasy called DEADTOWN (which you should run right out and buy, if you haven't read it yet). I'll let you go to The Magical Buffet and read all about it, in Nancy's own words.
The New Age Retailer printed a great review of the new book! I am doing the dance of joy, author version!
Witchcraft on a Shoestring: Practicing the Craft without Breaking Your Budget Deborah Blake $15.95 P, 9780738721361, Llewellyn Publications, www.Llewellyn.com
In a struggling economy, the cost of witchcraft supplies can be a roadblock for many aspiring Pagans. Finding imaginative ways to use what you have, tracking down free supplies, and focusing on the principles of the craft, rather than its trappings, are all ways she and the members of her beloved Blue Moon Coven hone their skills. All that is truly required for the practice of witchcraft is a belief in natural law, fueled by the power of will and focused on a specific outcome. Of course, the tools, costumes, settings, and feasts all add significantly to the experience.
Blake doesn’t try to tell readers to do without; instead, she shares ways to have it all on a budget. The book includes simple instructions for craft projects (such as making your own clay runes and creating magical candles), dollar-stretching recipes (such as “grown-up” hot chocolate and Magikal Moussaka), and low-cost/no-cost things to add to a Pagan practice. One of the things she does suggest spending money on is books, and she includes an eight-page list of suggestions for a starter library.
Blake’s enthusiastic personality comes through on every information-laden page of this fun-to-read book. The lively cover completes the package and makes it a terrific item for both holiday and post-holiday sales. --Anna Jedrziewski, www.SpiritConnectionNewYork.org, New York, N.Y.
I have a (free) subscription to an online magazine devoted to writers and writing, The Verb. Once a month it lands in my email inbox, full of tips, interesting info, and a contest.
One of my favorite sections is called "What's on My Desk," in which a featured author shows you their work space and a glimpse into how they write.
So you can imagine how tickled I was when Elizabeth Guy, who writes The Verb, asked me if I wanted to be the (spook-ish) guest author for October! If you are curious about what's on MY desk, go take a look!
We had torrential downpours here starting last night and going through this afternoon. My road was okay this morning when I left, although the creek across the street had massively overflowed its banks and flooded the fields next to it, creating a lake (not uncommon, but not usually to this extent).
When I was halfway to work, I heard an announcement on the radio saying that they'd declared a state of emergency in my county, but by then I was over the border into the next county (where the store is located) and besides, it is the FIRST, which means I have to go in and do everybody's checks and masses of paperwork. Or there are riots.
I was getting ready to leave the shop around twelve-thirty, because I had a friend from Albany and her hubby coming in for Fabulous First Friday (and some energy healing work from me before hand) when my friend Jess called to say, "Just thought you should know: they've closed down your road due to flooding. You can't get home."
She did say that she thought I could get to her place, which is about a mile away from mine, and park my car there. So I sweet-talked my way past the guys blocking off the road and raced to Jess's. She let me borrow a pair of her husband's Wellies (theoretically waterproof boots, which, as it turns out, weren't even remotely waterproof--but did keep me from wrecking my regular shoes, or having to walk barefoot on the road, which had been my original plan), and I slung my shoes into my bag and set off down the road.
I had to wade through fairly high water (above my ankles in all cases, and once up to my shins) in three places, but thankfully, I made it home okay. Then I frantically called my pal Rebecca just in time to stop her and her husband right before they walked out the door. I would have hated for them to have driven all the way here (an hour and a half), just to find out that they couldn't make it the last three mile to my house.
I was grateful to be home, and even more grateful to discover that my phone and TV were back on (all my cable services were out when I woke up this morning, probably because of the severe winds that came with the storm). I ended up missing the last Fabulous First Friday, which was too bad, since I was one of the people who arranged it all, but at least I was home and safe.
And on the bright side, that meant I got to work on the ms, and I did 1,200 words so far this evening. I may give my arms a rest and try and do some more later.