BUILD YOUR OWN ALTAR Using These CEREMONIAL HERBS

Good Witches Homestead

Day of the Dead: Ritual and Ceremony 

Little is firmly known about the particulars of today’s holiday since the limited sources available are either folkloric literature like the Celtic sagas or Roman authors who would have likely “trashed” the traditions of a culture with which they were often in conflict.

Although, you can kind of imagine what really went on back then. Different cultures around the world gathered in a ceremony to honor their ancestors on and around November 1st. This sacred day was often known as a cosmic aperture, where the veils get thin, and the souls from “the other side” can contact us with more ease. There’s plenty of written experiences where people have encounters with spirits or ancestral anecdotes from all over the world regarding the ceremonial processing of these mystical energies. Samhain, for example, is very well known as its a three day ancient Celtic pagan festival…

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The Samhain of our Lives

The Druid's Garden

Just last week, we had our first hard frost. After homesteading for a number of years, you grow to be vigilant for the signs of the first frost. The air smells different somehow in the two or so weeks leading up to it. The bird and wildlife patterns change.  The nights have a crisp bite to them that they didn’t even a few days before. And then, just like magic one day, the frost is there, glistening in the morning light. The garden radically changes overnight–even for those things you covered–the entire landscape lies in disarray.

Sunrise at First Frost Sunrise at First Frost

I could feel it on the air, and for the last few mornings, have been going to to see if it had arrived. That morning, I turned the corner and first saw it first on the strawberry patch–white and glistening. The frost is beautiful, magical, and yet, destructive. While the…

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Queen Of Air And Darkness

Good Witches Homestead

The early Celts savoured the dark side of life. They embraced war like a lover, plunging into battle naked, singing gloriously boastful songs. They were fearless in the face of death, which their belief in reincarnation taught them was ‘…but the centre of a long life.’ It was not uncommon for a man to lend money and agree on repayment in a future lifetime. Their day began at dusk; the new year at Samhain, the festival we know as Halloween. Darkness was associated with new beginnings, the potential of the seed below the ground. In Celtic mythology and folklore, the wisdom of darkness is often expressed by powerful goddess figures. Whether in the natural, cultural or individual context, their role is to catalyse change through the transformative power of darkness, to lead through death into new life. A Dark Goddess of nature, particularly in Scotland, is the Cailleach, a name…

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Our Winter goddess and the calm in the storm

Beltane Fire Society

Samhuinn Fire Festival is sometimes seen as a battle between two seasons, but there is a key third aspect of our story that leads the ritual turn from Summer to Winter. We sat down with Kate, who this year will embody the mysterious Cailleach, to learn more about her interpretation of the Crone goddess.

Photo of Kate as a Blue. Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. http://www.beltane.org / http://www.facebook.com/beltanefiresociety

First a bit of background. The Cailleach traditionally manifests as an old woman, part of the triple goddess who changes as the seasons turn. At Beltane Fire Festival She emerges as the May Queen, goddess of the Summer when new plants and animals flourish. In Winter She is older, a Winter goddess associated with the formation of the landscape and fierce storms that batter the land, and She plays a pivotal role in maintaining the balance…

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That Old Granny Magic

Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

Last night, in the darkest of early morning hours, I heard the call of a distant train. We all know what that sounds like. It’s unmistakable, like the voice of somebody you once knew. I heard it just as clear and plain as I did when I was a child, when we lived across the river from the railroad tracks and the Norfolk and Southern would sound her alarm as she sauntered by our quaint, coal town neighborhoods. Most of the time, the train’s call was such a distant nuance, like a dream, that we never even woke up at all. We got used to that distant call, and after a while, it became a part of us, a comforting and peaceful wail, an Appalachian child’s lullaby, faithfully reminding us that we were home in our warm beds.

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Despite the passing of time and the fact that I no longer…

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All Hallows Eve – 3 Days of the Dead & Beyond..

The Witch & Walnut

halloween nightHappy Halloween Everyone! I wish you all a wonderful night and wish you well for the remainder of the season that is now upon us. Tonight is a highly celebrated day for most Witches. To some it is a New Year and others welcome the dead, open doors and set a place at their tables for their ancestors.

The actual “celebration” of the dead lasts 3 days for my particular tribe. In fact I started my decent and workings in September and will continue well into November. During this time we typically take personal time to honor, connect and celebrate those whom have come before us.  Think about what that means to you and how you want to honor the other side. The side we will all be on one day.

This is the dying season, and tonight marks a peak in that season but don’t forget that its not…

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Visitations From My Cat Angus & Samhain Celebrations

By Amy Brucker

I’ve been thinking about death a lot these days. Since my cat Angus died a couple weeks ago my house has felt noticeably void of life. There’s a stillness that permeates everything. Even the couch seems to miss him.

But last week, Angus visited me.

The dream was so real I knew it was him in spirit form. He sat on our bed, in his favorite place, and let us pet his silky fur. It was deeply satisfying to hold him one more time, especially since his dream self was so happy and healthy.

A Sacred Time of Remembrance

In my neighborhood, everything is letting go. Leaves are falling from the trees. Daylight hours are fading. These subtle shifts are gentle reminders that death is a necessary part of life.

It’s also Samhain, the Celtic holiday my ancestors celebrated to remember those who went before them (and to ensure the ancestors were happily fed with offerings of food and drink so they didn’t haunt the harvest and ruin it). This liminal period is a time when the veil between worlds is thinnest, so watch your dreams and waking dream-states for visitations from loved ones, including your pets.

Samhain Questions to Contemplate

Who do you need to remember?

Who went before you, paving the way for the life you live today?

Who were your ancestors? (Not just family, but friends and teachers, too)?

What joys did they celebrate?

What hardships did they endure?

Every one of their experiences was a thread woven into your life. Each encounter a small, but perhaps significant piece, that helped shape the person you are today.

What can you do to honor them?

To honor how they impacted your life?

Perhaps a traditional Samhain celebration with an ancestral altar and feast? Some carved turnips with candles inside to ward off evil spirits?

Or perhaps you’ll create your own tradition to celebrate the past.

Whatever you do, have fun!

Sweet dreaming,

Amy

Crystals for Halloween

By Tara Mideaker

Many holidays celebrated today are products of Celtic/Pagan traditions.  Perhaps none are as interesting as Halloween.  While other customs of the Pagan culture have been adopted and adapted by various religions, Halloween is unique in that it is celebrated worldwide as a non-denominational holiday.  So why does Halloween stand apart as such a popular and universal holiday?  Samhain, the traditional Pagan holiday, is the most sacred day of the year to Pagans.  It is a time of endings and beginnings that is naturally tied to the Earth’s cycle when the dark and cold of winter approaches and nature “dies”, only to be reborn in the spring.   It is a celebration of the life/death cycle and, more specifically, a time to remember and honor those ancestors who have passed into spirit.  This connection to the earth, to the cycle of life, and to the past is something that we all share despite any religious or cultural differences we may have.  Perhaps it is these roots that lie deep within each of us that encourage us to unite on Halloween Eve.  Halloween Eve is a night when the world comes together to recognize the dark while celebrating the light that constantly surrounds us, so carve your Jack-o-lanterns, choose your costume and gather around the bonfire for a very Happy Halloween! Here are some crystals to carry along with you to make the most of this special night.

Agate and Jasper

The many varieties of these crystals embody the energy of Halloween.  Jasper has a grounding/earthy quality that can help you feel connected to the earth and its endless cycles.  Red Jasper draws the nurturing energy of the Earth to you while Brown Striped Jasper encourages vitality.  Jasper can help you to reach for the sky while still keeping you grounded.  All members of the Jasper family offer immense comfort and protection which can sustain you during the colder days ahead.  Agates are immensely creative crystals that can help you to deal with any situation in the most positive manner possible.  These crystals provide stability and balance when everything seems too jumbled and confused.  Many Agates have a banded quality that promotes perspective and focus when clarity is needed.  Botswana Agate is a wonderful tool for bringing fun and joy into any situation.  White Agate makes an excellent meditative tool for the darker months ahead.  If you celebrate Samhain, Fire Agate will connect you to the past, while Moss Agate will welcome in the New Year.

Calcite and Quartz

Calcite is a powerful cleanser that is perfect for ridding yourself of old habits and situations.  Now is the time to “bury” those things that no longer serve to be transformed over the coming months into something more positive.  Orange Calcite will encourage happy transitions and Blue Calcite will offer comfort and reduce any fears.  Quartz is a powerful crystal that will amplify positive energy and reduce negative thoughts, while relieving any mental, spiritual or physical pain you may be experiencing.  Remembrances of the past can be difficult and any Quartz crystal will make it better.  Ametrinebrings balance to the elements of light and dark that are prominent during Halloween and is a valuable addition to a Samhain altar or table.

Obsidian and Carnelian

Obsidian and Carnelian are the two crystals that are most essential to your Halloween and/or Samhain celebrations, and not just because they are Black and Orange (although that does enhance their energy!).  Obsidian connects you to the deepest layers of Earth where true change can occur.  At the same time, it offers solace and protection and reminds you that everything has a season.  Obsidian can help you find meaning when you are feeling lost.  Mahogany Obsidian enhances the nighttime energy and Snowflake Obsidian calms any sadness you may be feeling.  Samhain rituals are enhanced by Black Obsidian.   Carnelian allows you to let go of the past and focus on the here and now.  It will boost your personal power, your energy, and your creativity as it harnesses the energy of the Earth and the Sun.  Carnelian is an excellent companion as you head towards a new cycle.  Its protective qualities were used to accompany those who had passed on from this life in Ancient Egypt, making it a true welcome guest for a Samhain Dumb Supper.

Other crystals that will enhance your festivities include Petrified Wood, Cuprite, Opal, and Sunstone.  Find the crystal that speaks to you and let it accompany you on your journeys this Halloween.  Most importantly have fun…be safe…and maybe you’ll get some rocks in your Trick or Treat bag!

Happy Halloween!

Honoring the Ancestors of Land, Tradition, and Blood

The Druid's Garden

As the world  (where I am at, at least!) gets bathed in frost, as the plants wither and die, as the trees bathe themselves in color and then drop their leaves, as the cold wind blows and as the darkness sets in, we in the druid tradition–and in any other traditions–turn to think about the ancestors. In this post, we’ll explore the global traditions surrounding honoring the dead that tie to August-October and honoring the dead to see similarities, we’ll discuss three types of ancestors the druid tradition recognizes, and then we’ll explore ways to honor the ancestors.

Food for the Ancestors! Food for the Ancestors!

Global Ancestral Traditions

When you start digging into ancestor traditions around the world, some striking similarities seem to emerge.

  • The Mexican Day of the Dead, which is a blending of European traditions and Aztec honoring of the dead, goes from Oct 31 – Nov 2. As part of…

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Welcome October: Pumpkins ~ Magic & Lore

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Good Witches Homestead

It is a magical time when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. According to our Celtic Ancestors, this is the time the souls of people who had died that year make their journey to the Otherworld. During this thinning of the veil, spirits are said to roam the earth freely, and communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easier at this time. It’s also told that the Fairy Folk became very active, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. People use to dress in white (like ghosts), wear disguises made of straw, or dress as the opposite gender in order to fool the spirits and traveling after dark was not advised. The holiday’s bonfires and glowing turnips (yes, turnips) helped the dead on their journey while protecting the living.

So, let’s talk about the Halloween pumpkin … Pumpkins…

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