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love this time of year. Where I live, here in upstate New York, the summer’s
heat has given way to autumn’s chill, the leaves are shifting into colorful
hues of yellow, orange, and red, and the farmer’s markets are filled with
pumpkins ready to be carved.
is a palpable sense of change in the air, as we move out of the light half of
the year and into the dark. And, of course, Halloween is coming. For me, that
is the most special part of this time of year, because I’m a Witch.
worry—I’m a good witch, not a bad witch (smile). As a Pagan, I follow a
nature-based religion, worship a god and a goddess, and believe in the power of
magic to create positive change in the world. And yes, I cast spells (although
never on anyone else) and do rituals. Especially on the night of Halloween,
which we call Samhain [pronounced sow-win], after the ancient Celtic holiday it
is based on.
is the Witch’s New Year; both the end of the old year and the beginning of the
new. It is a time for letting go of all the things that no longer work for us,
and saying goodbye to those we have lost in the last year. It is said that the
veil between the worlds is thinnest on this night, and so we pay respect to our
ancestors and those who have gone before us. You can see how the “ghosts and
things that go bump in the night” aspect of the holiday came about!
is also a celebration, and as the final of three harvest festivals in the Pagan
Wheel of the Year, it is often used as an excuse to gather with like-minded
friends and feast on seasonal foods like corn, squash, and apples. You don’t
have to be a Witch to bring some of the more relevant Pagan aspects of the
holiday into your life, either. Here are a few small, simple rituals you can
do, no matter what spiritual path you follow, that will help you to tap into
the special energy of this singular night.
up an ancestor altar: Take a small table or your mantle top (any place that is
safe from children and pets) and spread a pretty cloth on it. The holiday
colors are black and orange, but you can also use something with sparkly moons
and stars, or a cloth that has particular meaning to you. (For instance, my
grandmother was a weaver, so I tend to use something she made.) On the altar,
place photos or representations of any deceased family members, friends, or
pets. For each one, light a black or white candle (tea lights will do) and set
it in or on a fire-safe holder. You can say a prayer, talk to the deceased one,
or simply take a moment of silence to remember those you have lost. This
doesn’t have to be sad! Focus on the positive aspects they brought to your
life, and what you still carry in your heart. Leave the candle burning, if it
is safe, or say a quiet goodbye and blow it out.
the harvest: Take some time to appreciate the gifts of the season, and all that
you have harvested in the year now behind us. You can make a harvest feast for
yourself, or invite a few friends over to share it with you. Be sure to use
seasonal foods (I’m a big fan of apple pie, in case you were thinking of
inviting me) and either go around the table or sit down before hand and talk
about the things you are grateful for, and what you anticipate harvesting at a
in to the dark: Samhain is a great time to ask for guidance from your
ancestors, the spirits, or the universe (however you want to look at it). You
don’t have to be a professional tarot card reader to tap into the openness of
the night. If you have a tarot deck or a set of rune stones, you can form a
question in your mind and then pull a couple of cards or stones to try and get
an answer. Remember, this is more about gut feelings than intellect. You can
also meditate on a candle flame, or look into a dark bowl filled with water.
Open your mind, and see what comes.
you do a ritual or not, I hope you have a fun and not-too-spooky Halloween!
Blake is the author of 6 books on modern Witchcraft from Llewellyn Worldwide,
including The Goddess is in the Details, Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook, and
the recently released Everyday Witch Book of Rituals
also writes fiction (often featuring witches, of course) including Witch Ever
Way You Can, available on Amazon. She can be found at http://deborahblake.blogspot.com