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History Of Halloween And Witchcraft

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In the modern world of today, Halloween is known as celebrated by one of the best holidays among the children and adults, as everyone gets to put on a costume of their favorite character in order to have some fun by partying hard or by spooking each other, however, where did all that start?

How old is Halloween?

Halloween, or also known as Samhain, is a tradition that has been started by the ancient Celts who have lived in the area of today’s Ireland about two thousand years ago. Unlike everyone’s assumption that this was always only celebrated as the day of the dead, it in fact was also celebrated as the new year for Celts, which took place on November 1st.

The main reason why it was marked as the end of the year for them, is because November 1st was the day which marked the end of summer, and the very last harvest that year due to the cold winter being right around the corner. The night before November 1st, which is of course October 31st, Samhain was celebrated also with the belief that the ghosts of the dead returned to wonder the earth for that night.

Young Female Celtic Woman Pagan Witch Medieval

Because of that, the Celt witchcraft, which was in the form of druidism was also believed to make things a lot easier for druids and priests to predict the future on that day as they could communicate and consult with the dead. It was very important for Celts to know about their future, especially during the dark winter that was coming, which is why Samhain and the whole prophecy thing were taken very seriously.

Druids would have specific rituals where they would build towering bonfires, which were considered sacred. Using those bonfires, people would gather around and burn animals or crops as their sacrifices, in order to have an even better harvest in the year to come.

You are probably wondering where does the whole costume thing play in? Is it just something that the modern world invented in order to spice up the economy for that day? Actually, it is not. In fact, during the original Halloween, Samhain, Celts would also wear costumes. Of course, they would be nothing like the ones we wear today, as their costumes would consist out of animal heads, their skin, and their bones as well.

The origin of the Jack-o-Lantern

While today’s Halloween was based on true occurrences, when it comes to the well-known Jack-o-Lantern tradition, its story originated with an old Irish legend. The story goes that there was a drunk called Jack, who tried to pull off a trick on Satan, however, little did Jack know by making a deal with Satan that he will not take his soul into hell, he did not expect heaven to reject him as well. After Jack tried to make Satan take him to hell, the devil then gave him a hallow turnip which was glowing inside in order to find his way while wondering through eternal darkness. As time went by, the turnip eventually changed into a pumpkin as the story was being told over and over, and that is how we ended up with the modern Jack-o-Lantern.

Witches and Halloween

Everyone knows that Halloween is one of the scariest days of the year, and since it is believed, even in modern times, that there is very thin layer between the world of the living and the dead on that day, there is no surprise that witches are related to it.

According to the legends, there were only two dates in the year where witches would gather. The first date was April 30th, which is the eve of May Day, and the second one is, of course, October 31st, the day of the dead, All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, Halloween, there are quite a lot of names for this day actually.

On those days, witches would fly on their brooms to the gathering, where they would have a party with Satan. Witches would have fun that night by casting various spells on unsuspecting people, and they would transform themselves into various things in order to cause mischief and tragedy to commoners.

There was a saying, that in order to meet the witch, you would have to put your clothes the wrong way around, and you would have to walk backwards during Halloween. Then, right around midnight, you would see a witch. This legend, as well as the legend about witches was brought to America by the early settlers, and as time went by, their legends and stories mixed with the local cultures.

Modern Halloween traditions

Over the years, there are some ancient beliefs that are still in place when it comes to some people who still honor their dead during October 31st, however, most of us are more known to celebrate Halloween in quite a different way.

For example, Halloween is definitely one of the most popular times for the adult chat rooms from Cam Vive where webcam girls are going to wear all kinds of sexy costumes in order to attract and entertain their viewers. Of course, sexy costumes are not present only in online chat rooms these days, as you will see quite a lot of provocative and sexualized version of some popular characters no matter which party you plan to attend on this date, whether it is an online one, or one that takes place in real life. While Halloween has definitely taken quite a turn as a global celebration, and it is definitely becoming more and more popular every year, there are still some who believe that all of the stories about witches, the Jack-o-Lantern origins, and the communication with the dead, as well as bringing some back are the real deal. However, are you brave enough to try some of those things out, or does the Halloween terror creep up your spine, preventing you to even have a second thought about experimenting with such things, on that dreadful, yet fun night?

Halloween or Samhain as Witches call it

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Samhain, which is pronounced Sow-in, Sah-vin, or Sahm-hayn, is more popularly known as Halloween, and while we know it as just a spooky holiday today, it was actually marking the third and final harvest. It is also the day when we commune with and remember the dead, making it also a celebration reincarnation. Halloween, or also known as Samhain, is the most coveted sabbat by the Wiccan and many Pagan religions.

Samhain in European traditions is also the night when the old God dies and the Crone Goddess mourns him for the next six weeks. The Crone Goddess is also represented as the Halloween had which menacingly stirs her cauldron, and that comes from the Celts, as they have believed that all dead souls returned to her cauldron of life, death, and rebirth in order to await reincarnation.

For many, Halloween is the favorite time of the year, the time for Witchcraft and witches, Wiccans who have the ability to experience the magnificent night where the physical and spiritual realities’ separation is the weakest. Because of that, it is the time when dimensional openings can be done, which makes it one of the somber holidays when dark clothes are worn and where all the thoughts are focused on the dead. According to many believes, those with necromantic talents can use their gift to communicate with the dead on this day. Witches also believe that Halloween is the time when relationship and bad times end, and when new hopes are revealed. Samhain, or Halloween, is truly an interesting holiday, as there are all kinds of beliefs behind it, especially those related to remembering and honoring our ancestors.

Home Protection Spell

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The first thing you want to do is compose an altar on which you are going censer in the center, before the image of the Goddess. You should also have a twelve-inch round mirror with you, and you should circle the altar with nine white candles. Once you do that, you should burn a protective incense, like sandalwood, in the censer, and then, starting with the first candle directly before the Goddess image, say “Lunar light protect me!”.

You should repeat those words as you light all the candles, and once you are done, hold the mirror and invoke the Goddess by chanting the following words:

Great Goddess of the Lunar Light

and Mistress of the Seas;

Great Goddess of the Mystic Night

and of the Mysteries;

Within this place of candles bright

and with Your mirror nigh;

Protect me with Your awesome might

while ill vibrations fly!

After that, stand before the altar and hold the mirror while facing the candles. As you keep the mirror towards the candles, slowly move clockwise around the altar while observing the flames reflect the mirror to the surroundings. Then slowly increase your speed, and mentally invoke the Goddess to protect you. As you move faster and faster, observe the light shattering and cleansing the air around you, burning away all the negative energy and the pathways the negative energies have invaded your home.

You should charge your home with protective light energy of the Goddess by racing around the candles until you feel the atmosphere changing, which will be the sign that your home is cleansed and guarded by the Great Goddess. Upon experiencing such feelings, stand before the image again and thank the Goddess however you desire. Then slowly pinch out the candles one by one and bind them with a white cord so you can store them in a safe space until you wish to use them again for the same purpose.

Halloween and the jack-o-lantern

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One of the most well-known autumn symbols for Samhain, which is better known as Halloween, is the pumpkin, and it is known among both pagans and the non-pagans. The reason behind that is because of the tradition that is at least two thousand years old, where they carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns. Ireland was the first place where this tradition took place, and it started by simple faces being carved into turnips, as they could be easily carried if one needed to travel during the night. The main idea behind the designs of the jack-o-lantern is to frighten evil spirits away who were following deceased loved ones, and blocking their way into the Land of the Dead while also serving as protection for the living. Today, jack-o-lanterns are still carved with various faces, and they serve as protection during the October nights.

It is not a coincidence for the face to be carved into the jack-o-lantern, as the ancient Celts believed that the head is the most sacred part of the body, and at one time, they even held a cult-like veneration for it. During the battle, the Celts would take the heads of their enemies, and mount them on top of poles to guard the soil that they have lived on. Celts didn’t see the head as a center of learning, but also the seat of the immortal soul, which envisioned it as the repository of all knowledge. It was believed that attributes of a person such as strength and agility were used as a protective force in both life and death.

The head of the Celtic God, Bran the Blessed, was the most famous head of protection, and his noble noggin was mounted high on the site where the Tower of London now stands. He was turned towards the English Channel as insurance against future invasions, as that is where the islands with biggest coming threats were located.

While the tradition is to carve a face into the jack-o’-lantern, it does not necessarily have to be a full face with eyes, nose, and mouth, as you can easily notice that there are various creative ways to carve a pumpkin. Every store you visit during the Halloween month is going to have different carving, and you can find various tools to carve some really incredible art onto the pumpkin. While it is common to draw many other pagan characters like Death, flying witches, smiling ghosts, modern Halloween brings all kinds of creations to life.

While carving an artistic jack-o’-lantern may take a lot of time, you can still make your pumpkin unique by adding some small details such as pentagrams, stars, hearts, or whatever you consider in the spirit of the holiday.

Carving the pumpkins is just one part of the procedure, as a lot of people tend to carve the top off in order to use them as candle holders for their home, or for a party. Different sizes of pumpkins can provide different lighting effects, and such luminaria, which is the Latin word for “lights”, can be used as a function of showing the way for travelers and friendly spirits during the night.

In order to make a luminaria, the process is very similar when compared to carving a standard jack-o’-lantern, however, instead of carving the top off, you would make a hole on the side of the pumpkin, and then take the insides out before you put in a small candle in the center. Of course, don’t forget to make a couple of tiny holes on the top of the pumpkin so the heat can escape, otherwise, you would end with a burnt pumpkin. You can safely put these on your walkways for a Halloween atmosphere, but remember to blow them out before you go to bed.

Pagan and Wiccan sabbats and holidays

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YULE – circa Dec. 21

Winter Solstice, December 20-23, and it varies around the particular date on the standard calendar when the Solstice will occur astronomically. It is the longest night of the year, after which the days later will be longer as winter passes into the coming spring. In the Goddess worship, it is the time when she gives forth birth to the Divine Sun child that will both child and with time, father and lover of the next child within the cycle. For pagans, winter Solstice, is a time of feasting, as well as exchanging gifts, and it is the original Holiday that was modified into Christmas by Christian religions, even the part about the birth of the child. Most theologians that spent time studying the birth of Jesus will admit that he was born not on Christmas, which is the day celebrated as his birth, but instead in March or April. His birth date was moved to the Christmas date to help Pagans induce giving up old ways and allow their holidays during the spread of Christianity through the British Isles and Europe. When it comes to traditional adornments used during this period are oak, Yule Log, and a combination of holly and mistletoe, which was also been input into the Christian ways later on.

IMBOLC – February 2

Candlemas, Brigid’s Day is not common among all Pagans, however, it is very popular among Wiccans and Celtic sects. Brigid is the Celtic goddess of inspiration and fire, as well as smith craft, healing and poetry, while also being a representation of Love and Fertility of Femininity. Among the Celts, Brigid had a following so strong that the Christian church decided it was easier to assimilate her to their own system, which is why it came to making of Saint Brigit, as well as all the stories that they have created about her in order for her followers to leave their old beliefs behind so they would not side with the druids whom were thought of as “the snakes” due to their tendency of taming snakes in order to produce healing mixtures with their venom while also opposing the Catholic church. According to History, the druids lost against the odds presented by the church, led by a warrior who would be sainted by the church, Saint Patrick. Because of that, Christian rule of different sorts came to Ireland. On this day, hand crafts are often dedicated or sacrificed to Brigid. The celebration is done with a lot of candles and of course, with a lot of feasting. Christians also took and moved the date at the time Saint Valentine was created, so they can use this day for love reflections. Imbolc marks the recovery of the Goddess after birth of God. God uses his power to fertilize the Earth which makes the earliest beginning of spring occur. Imbolc is a sabbath of purification, fertility, and a festival of light, while also being a traditional time to imitate new members into covens and self-dedicated rituals. It is also known as Feast of Torches, Feast of Pan, and Oimlec.

OSTARA – circa March 21

Also known as Eostar and Spring Equinox, taking place in March 20-23 depending on the astronomical event. The Goddess covers the Earth wit fertility while the God grows and stretches it to maturity. During this time, the light is slowly overtaking darkness as the hours of day and night are equal. This is a time of action, planting spells, beginnings, and tending of the gardens, while it is also the start of the pagan year of spring among Wiccans and Celtics. The God and Goddess are praised by the first flowers, and they are thanked for the true return of better and happier times for everyone. Ostara is not a holiday of somber colors like ones which are found in Yule or Candlemas, but it is one of more colorful holidays instead. One of the most important factors during this holiday are feasting and socializing as well as t he celebration of returning colors to the natural world. Again, Christians adopted this holiday by making them mark the final days as well as the rebirth of Jesus, even if he died in June according to historians.

BELTANE – May 1

May Eve, April 30th-May 1st is one of the most important holidays for pagans. Beltane starts at dusk on the 30th and it continues until dawn of the 1st, it is the great Fertility rite of life. During this time, the God and Goddess conceive the sun-child, no matter which pagan tradition is involved. Christians discourage Beltane as a holiday, and they did not use it as their own holiday due to the power and nature of the day that is involved. However, even in Christianized Ireland, dance day of Maypole remained in May, as well as the giving of the flowers to friends who are cared and loved. The Maypole is a symbol of unity of the God and Goddess to create life, and the pole is a phallic symbol while the dancers and vines or streamers of lowers represent the goddess’s fertile womb as it takes the phallus of God while also receiving his seed. Besides the Maypole, there is often a bonfire where the members of the group are encouraged to jump the flames for their own fertility and luck. During this holiday, the evening is revolving around love, food and drinks. Unions of love are enacted in most sects. This is the time of handfastings and marriages in the pagan community, where some choose to begin, and some choose to end relationships of physical nature. During the get-togethers on this holiday, clothing is very optional, and it is mostly colorful and sensual. As this is a holiday of free love, even the sects that prudish about things usually accept the rules of this particular holiday. It is said and believed that children which are conceived on this day are going to grow up strong to wield great knowledge and power while also being healthier than anyone else.

LITHA – circa June 21

Is the Midsummer or also known as Summer Solstice taking part between June 20-23 depending on the astronomical event. It is held on the longest day of the year, and it is the celebration of light triumphing over darkness while also being a celebration of the beauty that light brings into life. Roses and other bright cheerful wildlowers are put on the altar and worn by everyone, while there are flows put in the circle as well. This is a changing point of the year, so it is a celebration of the spiral dance of the year that is commong among Wiccans. The holiday revolves around joy and feasting. Wiccans will attire themselves in bright and colorful adornments of flowers. During Litha, the usual foods are honey cakes and cornbread. It is not a holiday celebrated by all sects, and the ones that do celebrate it, do not celebrate it in the same way. Those celebrating would leap through bonfires to encourage health, purification, love, and fertility in the past. The midsummer festival is a classic time for all kinds of magic.

LUGHNASSADH – August 1

It is a great corn ritual of Wiccan belief, and in Celtic realms, this is a celebration of the wheat god. The corn is an Americanization, but there is a possibility that there is an American Indian traditional holiday which is very close this date that was borrowed by the American Neopagans. It is a very big celebration, and it can be considered a Pagan Thanksgiving, however, the time clock is different is different from Celtics. During this ritual, a lot of feasting and dancing occur, however, it is more somber than other holidays. Certain Pagans decide to celebrate this day simply as a day to bake bread and cakes for the upcoming winter while not doing any rituals at all while they are preparing the food. Pagans look at these times as ones when the God loses his strength as the Sun rises farther to the south each day, and nights slowly become longer as time passes by. The Goddess observes in sorrow, but also in joy, due to realization that even if the God is dying, he is inside of her as her child. Once summer passes, Wiccans remember the warmth and the bounty in the food that is eaten. This sabbath is also called August Eve, Feast of Bread, and Lammas.

MABON – circa Sept. 21

Also known as Fall Equinox, it takes place between September 20-23 depending on the astronomical event. It is a lesser holiday, which is why it is not celebrated as widely as certain other holidays, and it is most common among the purest Wiccan groups, especially those that are based around the works of Starhawk and other Dianic sects. It is a weaver’s festival and the braiding of cords is done as the process of spell casting that adds one life to what it is. Each person weaves into themselves things that they wish for, and the coven as a whole that does the weaving of the cords together unites their power and efforts symbolically. The autumn equinox is the finalization of the harvest which began at Lammas, and once again, the day and night are equal in length as the God prepares to leave the body and start a great adventure into the unknown, toward rebirth and renewal of the Goddess.

SAMHAIN- Oct. 31 / Nov. 1

During Samhain, the Wicca say goodbye to the God, even if he is ready to be reborn at Yule. Samhain is a grand sabbath, which is also known as the Feast of the Dead, All Hallows, Feast of Apples, and of course, Halloween once the time of sacrifice is marked. During this time, the animals were slaughtered to ensure food throughout the cold days that are about to come with winter. The God falls as well in order to ensure that our existence continues. This is the time when one would reflect and come to terms with a single thing in life that we do not have control over, death. Wiccans feel that during this night, there is a very fragile layer between the physical and spiritual reality as the guard is lowered and the veil is the thinnest. Because of that, it is the time of dimensional openings and workings, as well as the celebration of death of the year king. It is a somber holiday, with dark clothes and thoughts for the dead. It is also quite a common saying that those who happen to have necromantic talents can speak with the dead, and it is the time to remember the dead which one was close to. It is also a time when relationships come to an end, as well as bad situations and it is an era when everyone can see a glimmer of hope in their future. This holiday has quite a lot of concepts attached to it, and it is truly a time to remember ones ancestors and those who have gone before us.

Various Wiccan paths and traditions

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This is an observation of many varied traditions when it comes to Wicca Family of Faiths. While there are many groups who profess one set of ideas or tenets, one can quickly notice why they may be lumped as a single Religion.

Of course, to begin, one must define Religion in a way these groups of people are taking it. After, a listing of a few more popular traditions, with a short description for each. In the end, a couple of comments on the “strings which bind these groups together”, such as a description non the philosophies of the New Age Movement, Neo-Paganisms to be specific.

What is a Religion?

According to the dictionary, one may find a definition that looks something like “Religion, n.; An organized system of beliefs and/or rituals, centering on a supernatural being or beings.” We can all agree when it comes to the definitions for “Supernatural” and “Beliefs”, so “Ritual” will be the sub-definition: any ordered sequence of actions or events, directed thoughts included, especially ones which are repeated in the “same manner” every time, which are designed to produce a predictable state of awareness, where certain religious or magical results can be obtained.

By using the definitions mentioned above, the sharp reader may realize that in order to belong to a religion, one does not really have to “believe” into anything, however, most “established” churches will require one to say so in order to be accepted into that Religion. When it comes to Pagan/Wiccan/NeoPagan Religion, one of many beauties they share is that the one who wants to belong to those religions, does not necessarily have to conform on their beliefs. There is no need for the one to believe in the God or Goddess in order to worship them, which is exactly the key of a religion which belongs to the New Age type.

Opposite to what is expected to most religions, it is not the shared beliefs or similar principles which hold the Wiccan religions together, but the attitudes of the people which are involved, as well as their common heritage that provides co-operative bonds among the Pagans. Below, you will be able to find a quick list of some more popular Traditions along with some descriptions, where the points of agreement are addressed.

Alexandrian

It was started around the same time as Gardner’s, and it is a tradition that is quite similar, but with slightly more emphasis upon ceremonial magic. This path was founded by Alex Sanders in England during the 1960s, and there have numerous covens in both Europe and US.

British Traditionalist

Similar to Dianic, this is a mix and a sub-class of Gardnerian and Celtic beliefs. Every traditionalist group is based upon literature, myth, traditions, and folktales which are a part of that particular geographic and demographic area. This can be noticed in the names which are used for the God and Goddess by the individual groups. They are structured in their beliefs and they train through the degree processes.

Celtic Wicca

When it comes to Celtic and Druidic pantheon, its use heavy stresses the nature, the elements, and the Ancient Ones. Celts and druids have a vast knowledge of healing and magical qualities when it comes to plants and stones, trees, flowers, elemental spirits, gnomes, fairies, and the little people.

Caledonii

Is also known as Hecatine, and is of Scottish origin which still preserves the unique festivals of Scots.

Dianic

Is more of a sub-class instead of being a particular tradition as pinpointed by Margaret Murray’s “The With-Cult in Western Europe” in 1921. There are a couple of feminist traditions that are considered dianic. This sub-class often emphasizes the female aspect of the Goddess, and quite often excluding the male God completely. Many say that these groups are self-limiting  and reactionary, but be that as it may, when it comes to Dianic covens, they tend to be more politically active.

Eclectic

When it comes to Eclectic, its indication is that the individual does not follow any specific tradition, sect, denomination, or magical practice, but instead, the followers learn and study from various magical systems and they apply those who appear to work best to themselves.

Gardnerian

It was founded by G. Gardner in the mid 1950s in Englang, and its tradition claims to have existed in secret since the Middle Ages when the Witch-Burnings began. While there are doubts if that is true or not, there is no denying that the sect with most influential traditions has been the Gardnerian sect. In fact, a lot of other groups were influenced to follow the Lord and Lady were started by members of a Gardnerian group.

It is a structured religion which has a definite hierarchy within each group that is known as a coven, however, each coven barely has any, mostly no authority over each other at all. There is a matriarchy within the cove, with the High Priestess considered the leader(most of the time, as there are exceptions according to multiple sources, but it is very rare). When it comes to the Gardnerian view of the God or Goddess, it is one of a Dominant three-faced Goddess, a maiden, mother, and a crone who has a male consort  that goes by many different names like Young Summer King, Old Winter King etc.  When it comes to ceremonies of Gardnerian traditions, they include a series of initiation on higher levels of the craft, and various holiday celebrations which are based on the “Wheel of the Year” calendar from Feast days.

Pictish

It is a very interesting tradition of Scottish Witchcraft which revolves around various aspects of nature such as animals, vegetables and minerals. It is a solitary form of The Craft, and it is mostly magical in nature with just a small amount of religion.

Seax-Wica (or Saxon) Wicca

It was started by Raymond Buckland in the position of the original leader who was promotion the Gardnerian tradition, as an alternative to existing covens. Most traditions consider the coven group to be the normal unit of division, however, the Seax version has provision for lone witches which are often referred to as Solitaires. Something else that sets this specific brand apart is the non-reliance upon being properly initiated into the Wiccan community. A lot of other groups usually require the new members to be brought to an existing coven for the ceremonial initiation after years of study within the group before one even gets the privilege for the ceremony. However, the Seax tradition recognizes that there may not be a neighborhood coven that is friendly, so it allows self-initiation, and automatic setup of the coven.

Strega

It is a religion which follows the tradition that is seated in Itali. It began around 1353 with a woman who goes by the name Aradia. Among all the traditional Witches, this group seems to be the smallest when it comes to numbers in The United States, but the teachings that this religion does should not be missed, as they are quite beautiful.

Teutonic (Nordic)

Teutons have been recognizes as a group of people who speak various Germanic languages, from the ancient times. This included Dutch, Icelandic, English, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish people culturally, which is why it is also called the Nordic tradition.

Common ties, beliefs, ideals etc.

As it was mentioned earlier, it is not the similarities in principles that hold these diverse groups together, but instead, the common ideals and feelings which are expressed by the Pagan people themselves. A couple of examples:

The Wiccan Rede: “An it harms none, do what thou will.” is accepted amongst the groups almost universally, as most groups tend to be animists, polytheistic, pantheists etc. A person is not “converted” to Wicca, but instead, the new comer has the sensation of “coming home”, or more poetically, “The Goddess calls to her own”. In most traditions, nature plays quite a big part, either as the aspect of the God or Goddess, or as a direct personification of them. However, when it comes to the counterpart, the Devil, there is no such thing in Pagan religions. No personification of “all evil” but rather that everyone has a choice to make. But, there is the Law of Three Fold Return, which says “That which thou dost send out shall return three fold”, which emphasizes that good begets good, and that evil will find those who are evil( while simplified, it is true).