Well, it’s the big day itself. End of the witch-year.
See, the ancient Celts only recognised two seasons, Summer and Winter. Winter begins at sundown on October 31st. Summer begins at sundown on April 30th. This is why Hallowe’en - or Samhain - is a big thing in Pagan paths associated in any way with British tradition. (The other festival is Beltaine, or May Day, and it’s the other really big one - Maypoles, flowers, up before dawn, all that kind of thing. Samhain’s about death; Beltaine’s about life. Two essential sides of the coin. Enough about Belatine, we’ll talk about that in six months.)
As I have done previously, here’s my article on what Samhain’s all about. (I’m a writer and an educator, of coutrse I have articles on these things.) I meant to post the articles for each Sabbat - there’s eight in all - as the days arrived, but with one thing and another, well, life gets in the way. Samhain’s about clearing out the deadwood in your life and letting old things go, so maybe after this weekend I’ll be a little more focused. Who knows?
Anywhats. Article ho!
Samhain, also called Hallowe’en, All Soul’s Day, and Saveen, is celebrated on October 31, although the precise date varies year to year; in actuality Samhian arrives when the Sun reaches 15 degrees into Scorpio, which this year lands on November 8th. This festival is the end of what is called the modern Wheel of the Year. As the seasonal year is a circular cycle, this festival is also the beginning, as all ends hold within them the promise of a new birth.
Samhain is a festival which honours the dead. There is great emphasis placed on history and tradition in modern Paganism, and the ritual recognition of ancestors at Samhain is of great importance. As at Beltaine on the first of May, the veils between the worlds thin, which is to say that the otherworld or spirit realm seems much closer to us, allowing us to communicate with those beyond the veil, by offering them heartfelt good wishes and love.
However, Samhain is not a time to fool around with spirit boards, or to go roaming through cemeteries. Rather, it is a festival which allows us to examine our lives and say goodbye to those projects and people who are no longer with us for whatever reason, allowing them (and ourselves) to truly move on as we relinquish whatever grip we held upon them for various reasons - out of love, fear, or anger, for example. In the mythological cycle surrounding the Wheel of the Year, this is the time when the God descends to the Underworld, having been sacrificed along with the grain of the crops. The Goddess is in her Crone aspect, the Veiled Lady who gathers the dead to her bosom, She who holds the scythe and the knife.
Seasonally, this festival marked the beginning of Winter for the ancient Celts, who recognised only two seasons (Summer, of course, begins on Beltane). It is the third and final harvest festival, and marks the time of quiet and reflection that will occupy our minds and hearts until Yule, or Midwinter, when the God will once again be reborn, the Sun will begin to strengthen once more, and we will begin to plan our coming seasons.
Samhain is a festival that our modern society has truly grasped and brought into the mainstream. Dressing up in costume echoes folk practice of disguising children so that malicious spirits will be fooled into thinking they too are abroad to create mischief among men. Carving jack o’lanterns descends from either the practice of keeping a lantern in the window to guide the spirits of ancestors back to the bosom of their family for the night, or the practice of creating glowing maleficent faces to convince the evil spirits that the house had already been targeted by one of their brethren.
As this Sabbat revolves around ancestors, it is a festival that usually involves much storytelling. Some families perform a Dumb Supper: they lay a place at the table for those who have passed over, and serve them a portion of their meal. The meal is eaten in silence, allowing each family member to receive whatever impressions or message from the other side that the ancestors wish to communicate.
Main Samhain Concepts: the final harvest; altar decorations of apples; cauldron used as symbol of rebirth and transformation; honouring ancestors; night of divination; recognition of the essential presence of death within the life cycle.
A blessed Samhain from everyone at the Owlyblog!
Well! Time alone and then a salmon filet with a huge bowl of mussels while watching the last third of Shakespeare in Love can do wonders for the soul.
Today is the live performance of The True Story of Dracula at a Kingston TV studio. The thought of a three-hour drive there, a five-hour work day, then another three-hour drive back makes me want to wince in pain and weariness right now. It will be fun while we’re actually doing the show, between eight and nine o’clock, but everything else will be waiting, waiting, waiting, quick production meeting, waiting, a camera test, waiting, a run-through that will take fifteen minutes, waiting, waiting, waiting….
We were up early this morning, so we went out to pick up the paint for the kitchen. We’ve been talking about painting the lower half of the walls ever since we moved in, and now we finally have the paint: Tree Garden, a lovely sage green-ish colour. Knowing my husband, he’ll want to do a wall or two before we go. He claims painting is relaxing.
We also picked up a rag roller and chose a couple of paint chips in warm creamy colours (Starlet and Country Cream - they’re so darned close that we’re still trying to make a final-final choice) for the bedroom, which has been sterile and cold landlord-white for the past eighteen months. I’m fascinated by different finishes, and the ragging finish intrigues me with its subtle marbled effect. We’ll buy the paint in another two weeks or so.
See? Fall hits and we go all nesty. Since we can’t move any more furniture around, or acquire more kittens or baby creatures of any kind, we end up painting the walls.
I hate it when I’m caught between two choices and both make me feel awful.
It’s orchestra night, and I’m still having so much trouble with the Handel and those fricking legato sixteenth note passages in the Mendelssohn. I’d have slunk in and played air cello for those particular bits, except that last week our second cellist made note of the fact that he wanted a cello sectional rehearsal sometime tonight. That means the five of us sit in a room alone and battle out passages.
Sure, sounds like a terrific idea if you’re having trouble. Except that I’ve been having trouble for weeks, and I’m no better. And I’m so upset about it that playing it badly all by myself over and over, with two or three people telling me how to do it and getting impatient because I can’t, is the very last thing I need tonight.
So I called the secretary and told him I was working late on a project and couldn’t get away. He was completely understanding, and I feel dreadful. A different kind of dreadful than I’d feel if I went to orchestra, though. There I’d be fighting back tears, and the urge to throw my bow across the room.
I’m so upset about this music that I absolutely cannot get, no matter what I try, that I’m tempted to back out of the December concert. Yes, it’s that bad. I don’t enjoy this music in the least; I get no thrill out of it; I can’t settle into it musically, let alone technically. If I can’t offer even a passable product, why am I wasting everyone’s time for this concert? Oh, I’d go back afterwards when new music is introduced; I don’t want to drop orchestra completely. And by not going to rehearsal I’m not scuttling away from challenge. There’s big difference. If I was scuttling away from challenge, I’d have quit last September after three rehearsals. The phrase “It will be all right on the night; how? It’s a mystery”, while it appears to apply to most theatre, doesn’t apply in the same way to orchestral performance, I have discovered after three concerts. I haven’t decided yet, anyway; it’s a possibility I’m turning over and over in my mind. For now I’ll just grit my teeth and practice those gods-damned passages till I hate them even more - I’ll be able to play them, but I’ll hate them.
When my husband walked in I asked him not to talk to me for a while, and he hovered for a bit before asking what was wrong. I blew up at him - with reason, I think, since I had already indicated politely that I was not in the mood to talk and when I was, I would. We’ve always been straightforward about this sort of thing, and have respected such requests, so why he broke the rule this time completely escapes me: it just made it worse. Terrific; now we’re both scowly and anti-social. Evidently we’re in for a wonderful night.
Seeing the end of October creep up on me, and knowing that the last time I sat down to work on the Great Canadian Novel was about two and a half weeks ago, I threw some Tori Amos in the CD changer yesterday and sat down on the living room floor with my laptop. I wrote three pages and felt really good about myself. I’d stopped being as curious as I had been about my GCN world, and deliberately immersing myself in it again was good - it felt comfortable. I also felt a bit worried, what with NaNoWriMo looming. Having two novels on the go is a bit like having a new child and having to soothe the elder sibling: no, I still love you, I haven’t forgotten you, this new baby just needs so much attention…
Then I amazed myself by getting up and making a wonderful dinner that included baked chicken, and brussels sprouts done in cheese, onions, and lemon butter. (”What are these?” asks my husband. “Baby cabbages,” I answer, unconcerned, as I begin to eat. “Oh,” he says, munches on one, and begins to rave about it. “I didn’t expect you to like brussels sprouts so much,” I remark calmly, reaching for my water glass. He faltered for only an instant, brave man.) After dinner, he asked what he’d done to deserve a big dinner, and I told him that as of Friday, I wouldn’t be able to do things like this, so I thought I’d get one in before I sacrificed my life to NaNoWriMo.
Yesterday was pretty good. Then this morning…
I spent two hours setting up Eudora as my mail program, importing my Outlook Express stuff, and generally fumbling around until I can at least use the ruddy thing. I have experience with Eudora; we used it at work once or twice a week to mail out newsletters and such, so it’s not like I’ve never seen it before. Still, I get as frustrated as the next busy human when I can’t grasp things immediately. I also went through a bunch of old e-mail to delete it from OE before I exported stuff to Eudora, simply to save room, and it always takes longer than I expect - click, scan, click to delete; rinse, repeat. Boring. Like housework. Tidy, polish, sweep, dust.
Gods, it’s all so exciting, I think I’ll have to take a break and go lie down.
Dark. Dark early.