The Origins of Halloween by Silver RavenWolf

Harvest Moon, velvet sky, pumpkins glowing, children laughing, costumes, candy, scary stories—just where did this autumn gaiety begin? Let’s look through those cobwebby corridors of time to unearth the exciting genealogy of the American Celebration we call Halloween!

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems—especially when dealing with history. Too often events and circumstances of our past were written or re-written by people who, for whatever reason, operated under an agenda, or simply wanted history to reflect how it should have been, rather than how it was. How, then, do we determine what is fact and what is fiction? In some cases, we can’t. In other situations, we dig.

The Celts

Many historians feel that the greatest strength in the Celtic people lies in their collective mythos. Wading through the romanticism to find unmodified information can prove a tricky endeavor. The earliest archaeological evidence we have of the Celts rest in France and Western Germany.  The Celtic people moved into Spain, Britain, and Switzerland between the fifth and first century BCE. They even ransacked Rome in 390 BCE.

The Celtic peoples celebrated four festivals called fire festivals–commonly know today as Samhain, Oimelc (Imbolc), Beltane, and Lughnasadh. Samhain (pronounced sow-in, sow rhymes with now) was the first and foremost a harvest festival relating to animal husbandry and preparations for the winter months. Fire is an element of cleaning, a vehicle of eradication, so it is not unlikely that fire would work itself into any type of religious celebration. Fire among the ancient peoples often represented an aspect of the divine.

What does the word Samhain mean? Well, we know what it doesn’t mean. There is no archeological or literary evidence of a Celtic god by the name of Samhain. This little slip of fact appears to have begum in the 1700s and continues in some misinformed publications today. The word Samhain actually means “summers end”.

So, where did this Lord of the Dead thing come in? Over time, Samhain took on a religious significance through ministrations of the Druids (the clergy of the Celt’s). Legends indicate that on Samhain all the hearth fires in Ireland were doused and then lit again from a central fire maintained by the Druids at Tlachtga. To the Celts, Samhain was a turning point from light into darkness, and it was thought that this break or fissure created easier access to their land of the dead, Tir nan Og.

The Druids

We need to know a little bit about the Druids to continue with our history of Halloween. The Druids were versed in all learning and were considered to have the gift of prophecy. They functioned as judge, ambassadors, healers, and religious leaders. The Druids first named the holiday Samhain.

 Feast of the Dead

As the Celtic religious system solidified so did the beliefs of the Celts concerning the dead—as has occurred in all religions, before and after the Celts. Since the turning points of the year were considered fissures in time and space, the Celts believe that the dead they loved so dearly could travel through time and space and return from Tir nan Og to visit them. The custom of leaving food at the table (the birth part of the treat part of trick-or-treat) was a gesture of welcome to the departed. From these visits came the belief that those who had gone beyond the land of the living could provide information on past or future events. This is how divination became associated with Samhain.

The Celts did not believe in devils or demons, but they did believe in the Fairy Folk, whom they thought inhabited the land of the dead (the land in-between). Fairies were thought to be resentful of humankind for taking over their land. Because time and space could be conquered on Samhain, fairies were said to roam countryside creating mischief and kidnapping a human or two now and then—just for fun, you understand.—except the humans never came back. Here then is the root of the scary stuff associated with Halloween. The mischief, of course, was caused by living humans, and accepted by the Celts as a psychological release before the onset of winter gloom—though I doubt they would explain it in those terms.

Is it odd, gross, or unusual that a group of people should set aside a day for the dead? Nope. Different cultures and religions have followed such a practice for centuries. Let’s get on our broom again and check out Rome and its contributions to Halloween.

 As the Celtic religious system solidified so did the beliefs of the Celts concerning the dead—as has occurred in all religions, before and after the Celts. Since the turning points of the year were considered fissures in time and space, the Celts believe that the dead they loved so dearly could travel through time and space and return from Tir nan Og to visit them. The custom of leaving food at the table (the birth part of the treat part of trick-or-treat) was a gesture of welcome to the departed. From these visits came the belief that those who had gone beyond the land of the living could provide information on past or future events. This is how divination became associated with Samhain.

The Celts did not believe in devils or demons, but they did believe in the Fairy Folk, whom they thought inhabited the land of the dead (the land in-between). Fairies were thought to be resentful of humankind for taking over their land. Because time and space could be conquered on Samhain, fairies were said to roam countryside creating mischief and kidnapping a human or two now and then—just for fun, you understand.—except the humans never came back. Here then is the root of the scary stuff associated with Halloween. The mischief, of course, was caused by living humans, and accepted by the Celts as a psychological release before the onset of winter gloom—though I doubt they would explain it in those terms.

Is it odd, gross, or unusual that a group of people should set aside a day for the dead? Nope. Different cultures and religions have followed such a practice for centuries. Let’s get on our broom again and check out Rome and its contributions to Halloween.

A Fly-BY of Ancient Rome

Rome had the habit of changing rulers as many times as you empty the lint trap in your dryer. Between 14 and 37 CE, Christianity had begun its rise in Rome. By 41 CE, Claudius had distinguished himself with the conquest of Britain. The Romans also had a harvest festival, so the Celts didn’t have much trouble blending the two holidays together after they came into contact with the Romans. It was around 314 CE when Constantine the Great declared the Roman Empire to be Christian, and the fate of Samhain and Druids was sealed.

 The Advent of Christianity

By the fourth and fifth centuries , Celtic Christianity had oozed into Ireland. St. Patrick has his hands full, and here is where the kettle starts to boil. At, first, the Pagans openly welcomed Christianity, but as Christianity filtered into the Celtic system, church officials had a few problems—mainly the Celtics didn’t want up their holidays or folk practices. The people were not willing to throw out traditions that were ingrained into their social structure. If you can’t get someone to completely change, what do you do? Compromise. And that’s exactly what happened. Samhain was changed to All Hollow’s Eve. To make the Pagan peoples adhere more closely to this new religion of Christianity, the clergy of the day taught the peasants that fairies were really demons and devils (remember, a concept totally unknown to Celtic belief or history) and their beloved dead were horrid ghosts and ghouls. The early Christian erroneously associated the Celtic land of the dead with the Christian concept of Hell.

To help the belief in Christianity along, Druids priestess were systematically murdered. Early Christians also taught the area peasants that their Lord of the Underworld was in fact Satan, which is ridiculous, as the two mythos don’t have anything in common. It appears that Christians misunderstood what the word Samhain meant: because the peasants use this celebration to honor the dead, Christians assumed that Samhain was the incorrect pronunciation of a Pagan deity in the Bible, recorded as Samuel, from the Semitic Sammael, meaning God of the under world.

The Witches

So far, we’ve talked about the land of the dead, how the early Christians managed to superimpose Satan onto Samhain, and how fairies got zapped into demons, but there has been no mention of Witches, commonly associated in our time with Halloween. Where did Witches come from?

During the Dark Ages, the Church sought to eradicate the Pagans and wise women from the countryside so that the church could amass both power and property. First, they had to devalue women because women kept the holy days, trained the children, and provided the cohesive socialization of the culture, thus women held the power to shape society. The church taught, among other things, that women had no souls. Once this teaching had occurred, it was only a small step to make them inhuman, and the Church was able to incite the superstitious populace.

The Celtic women were the strong hold of the family environment, and although the Celts accepted Christianity at first, they did not want to give up their family traditions or their lifestyle. The Church was not into free thinking—therefore anything that did not follow the church dictates was evil. Hence, the Witches (really the women) became evil. Since Samhain was a primary festival of the Celts and the Church had already determined that Samhain was evil, the association between Witches and Halloween was born.

All Saints’ Day / All Hallow’s EVE / Halloween

All Saints’ Day and All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) were first introduced in the seventh century CE. All Saints’ Day was originally celebrated in the spring. The date was changed to November 1 to supplant Pagan beliefs because those pesky Pagans just refused to cough up their original Samhain. The day was to honor God and all his saints, known and unknown. All Saints’ Day later became Hallowmass, a mass to honor the dead. The Eve of All Hallow’s Day, October 31, became All Hallow’s Eve, which evolved into the word Hallowe’en. Although the church wished this time to be one of somber prayer and quite custom, the Celtics continued their customary bonfires and fortune telling.

All Souls’ Day is a bit different. This festival falls on November 2, a day to offer prayers and alms to assist the souls of those departed that manage to get stuck in purgatory, an in-between place that is neither heaven nor hell. Over the succeeding centuries, Halloween, like Christmas, picked up various customs and discarded others, depending on the complex socialization of the times and religious dictates.

Halloween Comes to America

Our first inkling of Halloween coming to America revolves not around a specific set of people (many indicate the Irish) but with William Penn’s motley collection of refugees from Europe. In 1663, Penn wrote a promotional tract about the Americans. As a result, fifty ships dropped the anchors in the Delaware River. They discharged persecuted souls from England, Ireland, Wales, and the Rhineland (now Germany). Collectively, the Germans and Irish shared Celtic heritage. Therefore many of the folk customs resonated together—including Halloween.

From 1684 through 1930, Halloween was more a time for tricking rather than for treating. Many of the tricks the German and Irish communities became universal, such as overturning outhouses, dismantling a wagon and putting it back together on top of a house or barn, and tying cows to church bells. The tricks often served as social function, such as mildly chastising a neighbor who exhibited antisocial behavior.

By 1910, several American manufactures were making or importing party products just for the American holiday Halloween. From noisemakers to costumes, a new holiday meant new business and an opportunity to make money.

The drawback to the new holiday came in the form of the “declared” Mischief Night, Goblin Night, or Devil’s night on October 30. Minor offenses, such as trying several garbage cans together and hanging them from a light pole, soaping windows with lard, and later, bars of hand soap, abounded. As the pranks grew to vandalism shopkeepers would bribe youngsters to ward off destruction of their property.

In an effort to stop the criminal behavior, the Boy Scouts, in conjunction with local town councils, cities, boroughs, instituted the custom of Trick-or-Treat night to help keep youngsters from naughty practices. By the 1930s the custom of trick-or-treating was well entrenched in our American culture. Halloween, like Christmas, became a holiday for children, and parents strove to make the holiday as much fun as possible for the enjoyment of their youngsters.

During he 1950s. ’60s, and ’70s our American Halloween stayed primarily the same, but in the ’70s and ’80s, with a recession coupled by a candy scare, groups and organizations once again sought to find appropriate avenues to make Halloween safe for America’s children. Halloween practices extended through the entire month of October. Haunted houses, parties, hay rides, plays, story hours, and numerous other events were held throughout the month.

In the mid-to-late 1990s certain sects of the Protestant Christian church declared war on Halloween. using the same erroneous propaganda cultivated hundreds of years ago. Other groups size Halloween for their own political agendas—hosting haunted houses showing aborted babies, drug addicts, and other modern day violent situations. This did not go over well, as the holiday had become an event primarily for children, not adult political issues. Radical Christian groups said that the holiday was Satanic—which, as we’ve seen from our research, is a bizarre and fantastic claim, based on misinformation, politicking, personal agendas and fear. With America’s policy of separation of church and state the battle for destroying Halloween in the United States is an uphill battle.

The original Samhain marked the the close of the agriculture season and functional third harvest festival. In America, Halloween has become the first holiday in our end-of-year rush for partied gaiety. Our Halloween functions as the opening of the three-month-long celebratory fest that includes Thanksgiving, Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, and Chanukkah, and ends with the popular American New Year.

As our children crave pumpkins with delightful chatter, adults find solace in a night when they can be whatever they want to be. We have little doubt about the joy this holiday bring to the American people. I am sure we will forever love the haunted house, the harvest Moon, the thrills and chills of a well-wrought tale—and, of course, the deliciously scary things that go EEEEK! in the night.

 Harvest Moon, velvet sky, pumpkins glowing, children laughing, costumes, candy, scary stories—just where did this autumn gaiety begin? Let’s look through those cobwebby corridors of time to unearth the exciting genealogy of the American Celebration we call Halloween!

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems—especially when dealing with history. Too often events and circumstances of our past were written or re-written by people who, for whatever reason, operated under an agenda, or simply wanted history to reflect how it should have been, rather than how it was. How, then, do we determine what is fact and what is fiction? In some cases, we can’t. In other situations, we dig.

Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook1999 Pages 24 to 29

Samhuinn Crystal Infused Ritual Oil

Samhuinn Crystal Infused Ritual Oil

Hematite-ground stone

Black Obsidian-Clairvoyant but grounding, sees things within our self

Pumpkin spice

Hazelnut base

Cinnamon

Nutmeg

Anoint objects

© 2015 Wolf Woman Ways

Fire Scrying

As the power of the Sun fades, we embrace the harvest season and the decline of the fire element. This is a perfect time, as we approach the introspective tide of winter, to scry with flame. On a night close to the New Moon, cast a circle of protection, and light a purple candle. Sit silently and breathe deeply, allowing your conscious mind to grow quiet. Gaze at the candle flame and permit your thoughts to drift by without judgment. Soften your focus and relax your vision. Concentrate only on the flame. Ask a question. Observe the flame expectantly, and open your observations to your intuition. Invite the flame to impart images. Write down your insights, and carefully date your interpretation for future reference. Perfect to do on Samhain eve…

~ by: Karri Allrich

 

The Old Ways: Hallows

by Doug and Sandy Kopf

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Samhain (pronounced Sow-wen), also called Hallowmas, is the final festival in the Witches’ year. It is celebrated on October 31st. The word Samhain means ‘Summer’s End’. It is the first day of Winter and the Witch’s New Year. In earlier agricultural societies, Samhain was also the end of the Harvest, the time to put aside the seed corn for the coming Spring. It was a time for feasting, too, as the weaker animals were culled and killed. Only the livestock most likely to make it through the hard Winters were spared. Feasts consisted of any parts of the animal that couldn’t be salted and preserved. It was also considered by the Celts to be one of the Spirit Nights. It was a time to remember the ancestors and tell stories about them. At this time, when the Veils are thin, we honor our ancestors and invite them to attend our celebrations.

Although the modern calendar counts four cross-quarter seasonal celebrations, some early Celts recognized only two: Gamain (Winter’s End), on May 1st, and Samhain (Summer’s End), on November 1st. As Gamain (or Beltane) is marked by the rising of the Pleiades, so Samhain is marked by it’s setting. Many of the old Festivals were timed according to the movement of the stars, a calendar available to everyone, even to the illiterate peasantry.

Now, we are aware of howling winds, the days are short and the nights are long. Fruit trees are bare and Winter coats come out of mothballs. Storm clouds gather in the sky. Coming home in the evenings, we are aware of the darkness, the light disappearing earlier with each passing day. Checking our supermarket shelves, very little is available in the way of fresh produce. More and more often, we find ourselves in front of the frozen food counter (for some of us, our only encounter with ice)! This is not a subtle seasonal change, even in the city.

Today, at Halloween, you probably open your door and dispense candy and treats to children in adorable or frightening costumes, as their parents watch, in both pride and concern, from a respectable distance. But why do they do it? Well, today, they do it because children love candy and are game for any excuse to play dress up. (Wait a minute…that applies to most of the adults we know! Modify that to read ‘people’ love candy and costumes, not just children!). However, that wasn’t the real reason for going house to house at Samhain.

The earlier custom was called Soul-caking. Soul-cakers would go to each house, singing either a begging song or a plea for prayers for the dead. They would put on a mummers play for the residents of the house, which would consist of a challenge, a battle, a death, and a magical revival. Specially-made cakes were given to the Soul-cakers at the conclusion of their performance. Soul-caking is still the custom at Antrobus, in Cheshire, but there has been a change or two. Instead of going house-to-house, the Soul-cakers go pub-to-pub, by car! Leaving cakes and wine out for visiting ancestors is also an old custom that has carried over into many British households, even today.

The Hooden Horse, a similar but more threatening counterpart of the Beltane ‘Obby ‘Oss, is another Samhain tradition. The Hooden Horse often accompanied the Soul-cakers, with its head made from the skull of a horse, its eyes from bottoms of glass bottles and a hinged lower jaw that could snap or bite. It was held by a man, draped in a blanket or a sheet, known as the ‘Hoodener’. The origins of the word Hoodening are unknown. It may have come from ‘Wooden’ horse or ‘Woden’s horse’, or possibly from ‘Robin Hood’s horse’. According to Janet and Colin Bord (‘Earth Rites’), it most likely meant ‘hooded’, referring to the covered Hoodener. There are thirty-three recorded sites in Kent for Hooden Horse performances, but they are all before the turn of the century. The custom has been revived in Folkestone and Charing, during this century.

Like the more comic ‘Obby ‘Oss, the Hooden Horse has, as companions, a groom with a whip, several musicians and a man dressed in women’s clothing, called ‘Mollie’, who carries a besom (broom). They go from house to house and are rewarded with food and drink. The horse snaps it’s jaws and chases young women, while being restrained by the groom. In Cheshire, the horse is attached to the Soul-caker’s mummers play.

The name Soul-caking probably came from the Christian All Souls Day, but it is obviously a carryover of an earlier custom. The Church adopted November 2nd as All Souls Day in the year 998 c.e., but Frazer shows, (in ‘Adonis, Attis, Osiris’) that this was simply another case of the Church creating a holiday to explain the Pagan customs they were unable to suppress. All Saints Day, on November 1st, was recognized in the seventh century, when the Pantheon in Rome was turned into a place of Christian worship and dedicated to Mary and all the martyrs. This was probably a first attempt that didn’t quite work. The Reformation abolished All Souls Day in the Church of England, but Anglo-Catholics have revived it. All Saints Day still exists as a date in the Christian calendar.

At this time of celebration, Christians in many countries leave lamps and candles burning overnight to commemorate the dead. This reminds us of the Egyptian Feast of Lamps, thought to have been approximately November 8th, during which lamps were also burned through the night in honor of the dead. So, in this case, the Christian custom may have been had it’s origins in the Egyptian one.

In Mexico, November 2nd is a National holiday. This is The Day of the Dead. For the week preceding the Festival, the face of Death can be seen everywhere, in the form of fantastic skulls and skeletons decorating store windows and homes. In the bakeries, you will find decorated loaves in the shapes of men, women, children and animals. These fancy breads are ‘ofrendas’ or ‘offerings to the dead’. They are placed on elaborate Day of the Dead altars in every home. These gifts are offered to those who have crossed over, along with the favorite foods of the departed loved ones, who are thought to visit on this day. Elaborate receptions are held to welcome them. The offerings of food are first given to the dead, then eaten by the living.

The souls of small children are called ‘angelitos’ and they arrive earlier, on October 31st. The little one are given toys and sweets and parents light fireworks to guide the souls of their lost children. These celebrations also include visits to cemeteries and parades in honor of the dead. The Day of the Dead customs are recognized by the Catholic Church, but their Pagan origins are hard to ignore.

Bonfires were part of the Samhain celebrations (this is another of the four great Fire Festivals) in many areas. They were prepared during the day and lit at dusk on a hilltop, if possible. Celebrations were held round the fires and apples and nuts were roasted. This was a time when the spirits were nearby and the events of the coming year could be foretold. Marked stones were cast into the fire and the prophecies made according to the condition of the stones in the morning. If a stone could not be found the next day, it was believed that the person would soon die. These fires were believed to consume all the miseries of the year gone by, and leave the people free to make a fresh start for the New Year.

Often, an effigy was burnt in the fire, representing any malevolent forces which might have been causing ill to the community. This effigy was called ‘The Hag’. In recent centuries, it has come to be called ‘The Witch’. Why did they change the effigy’s name to ‘Witch’? Because, during the Burning Times, Samhain was thought to be the best time to burn the real thing!

It was felt that Witches, who were well hidden through the rest of the year, would venture out of hiding for this, the most important gathering of the year. (At Samhain, they might be able to get aid from the spirits of the dead in handling their many problems, or throw those problems into a bonfire to be consumed.) Therefore, this was the time to burn Witches, because it was the time to FIND Witches. (And there were nice, ready-made fires, too!)

We queried a friend in England as to whether the bonfire custom existed anywhere, today. She replied:

“In a village with which I am familiar, picture this event. The celebrations have of course been moved to November 5th, and called Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night, but a bonfire is built, as it used to be. It is composed of anything for which the villagers have no further use, broken equipment, tree prunings, ancient furniture – just about anything which will burn. The children carry lanterns made from hollowed out swedes (no pumpkins here!!) There is a fireworks display, after which they all go into the village hall for the feast. What do they eat? Sausages, stew, potatoes, parkin (cake), toffee and apples. The sausages and stew contain meat which could not be preserved; the stew contains offerings from various farmers who have grown swedes (rutabagas), carrots etc. The ladies in the village cook potatoes (also donated by the farmers) in their skins and bring them to the hall. Everyone talks to everyone else; those who have not met socially for a long time get caught up on family news, and tell stories about what has happened to them during the year. After the feast, people wander to the fire, and can be seen quietly gazing into it What are they seeing? Pictures? Do these pictures mean anything to them?”

“Isn’t this familiar? The bonfire and fireworks to send help to the declining sun, the feast, the stories, divination in the fire, and the mutual support and co-operation. We still hold parties, where we bob for apples, roast chestnuts, tell ghost stories and sing the old songs. Food and wine is left on the hearth for our unseen kinsfolk, past, present or future!”

Guy Fawkes Night is a commemoration of the famous ‘Gunpowder Plot’ which occurred on November 5, 1605. According to Trefor Owen (‘Welsh Folk Customs’), the Samhain festivities were moved to this date in 1758. He refers to a letter, written by William Morris in that year, stating that this year the bonfires and nut-burning had moved to the new date, for the first time. November 5th is in keeping with this cross-quarter Festival, because if you divide the year between the Equinox and the Solstice, you will come up with something closer to the 5th than to the 31st or the 1st. It seems to us that Samhain in England isn’t gone, it’s just wearing a bit of a disguise!

In Wales, this night was ‘Nos Galan gaeaf’ or ‘Calan gaeaf’, (the eve of the Winter Kalend) and the feast was ‘ffest y wrach’, (The Hag’s Feast). As the fires burnt low, people would call out ‘Home! Home! Let each try to be first! May The Tail-less Black Sow take the hindmost’, and run as fast as they could for the safety of their homes. Not only would the good spirits aid them, but bad ones would harass them, and they felt safe only as long as the fire burned. The ancient Celts saw this as a very dangerous time of year, indeed, when all manner of spirits ran rampant. Their rituals served to protect them, as well as aid them.

Samhain, when people felt a closeness to the Otherworld, was seen as a time for divination of all sorts. Many of these activities can be tried in our celebrations today. One tradition, from Merioneth, in Wales, is the ‘mash of nine sorts’. The ingredients for this dish are potatoes, carrots, turnips, peas, parsnips, leeks, pepper, salt and enough milk to bring it to a good consistency. A wedding ring is carefully hidden in the mash. All participants stand around it, spoons in hand, and eat. The fortunate person who finds the ring will be first to marry and will have good fortune.

Another divination game requires placing three bowls on a table. One is filled with clear water, one with cloudy water and one with earth (or with nothing at all). A contestant is then blindfolded and asked to dip his or her hands into one of the bowls. A prophecy is based on the choice. The clear water signifies success throughout life, the cloudy water means marriage, followed by strife and the other bowl signifies death before marriage. We would think that other meanings could be applied to the choices, though.

Of course, apples are involved in many of the traditional Samhain games. Did you know that both bobbing for apples in a tub and catching an apple suspended from a string are very old traditions? Here’s another form of this game, but look out, it won’t be easy. A stick is suspended from the ceiling with a string tied around the middle. An apple is attached to one end of the stick and a lit candle to the other. Spin the string so both items are rotating, then try to catch the apple in your teeth. Good luck!

Samhain is also known as ‘Nutcrack Night’ in parts of England, because of the many divination games using nuts. One that is simple is to toss a nut into the fire and see how it burns. If it burns brightly, the thrower’s wish will come true. If not, it won’t. Another idea is to see how many nuts can be picked up in one hand. An even number indicates a faithful love, an odd number is betrayal.

On Okinawa, an Asian island, this is the time of Obun, an Ancestors Worship Festival. The Okinawans prepare special packets consisting of ‘Spirit Yen’ (incense wrapped in white rice paper) and put them out with fruits and flowers to honor their ancestors. The Spirit Yen is burnt as an offering at the end of the celebration.

Samhain is a Festival that has survived ’round the world. Call it by any name you like, but whether you bob for apples, practice some of the many forms of divination, light a fire (or just a candle) or spend the evening greeting costumed children at the door, you are celebrating in The Old Ways. Celebrate with your Honored Dead and have a wonderful Samhain (and May The Tail-less Black Sow take the hind-most!).

Summerlands

“Shining bright against the sky,
they never seem to fade or die
And as they glow throughout the night,
Round the world they go in flight”
-Peter Fein

~ Three Stages of Life by Klimt

There were many symbols sacred to the Celts. The number three was evident in many of their spiritual practices,
for instance, the three worlds:

The Upperworld (Sky)

The Middle World or Earth (Land)

The Lowerworld or Underworld (Sea)

The Celts determined that the rise to the Summerland was by accessing the Sky, while entrance into to the Lowerworld or Underworld was admitted through the Sea or by mounds known as Sidhe (shee). The Underworld does not refer to ‘hell’ as the Christian beliefs, but rather a place of rest to await and be reborn. The Celts did not believe in an all-evil entity such as the Christian devil.

Reincarnation seems to be one of the most controversial spiritual topics of our time. Hundreds of books are being published on the subject as if the Western world had only recently discovered this ancient doctrine.

Reincarnation is one of Wicca’s most valuable lessons. The knowledge that this life is but one of many, that when the physical body dies we do not cease to exist but are reborn in another body answers many questions, but raises a few more.

Why? Why are we reincarnated? In common with many other religions, Wicca teaches that reincarnation is the instrument through which our souls are perfected. One lifetime isn’t sufficient to attain this goal; hence, the consciousness (soul) is reborn many times,each life encompassing a different set of lessons, until perfection is achieved. Perhaps being an “old soul” means one is a slow learner. No one can say how many lives are required before this is achieved. We are human and its easy to get caught up in our day to day dramas.

A man could even become his own daughter by dying before she is born and then entering her body at birth. Some tribes avoid eating certain animals because they believe that the souls of their ancestors dwell in those animals.

 

In Wicca, we seek to strengthen our bodies, minds and souls.We certainly live full, productive earthly lives, but we try to do so while harming none, the constant One upsmanship, intimidation and looking out for number one slows this journey down.

 

The soul is ageless, sexless, non-physical, possessed of the divine spark of the Goddess and God.Each manifestation of the soul(i.e: Each body it inhabits on earth) is different. No two bodies or lives are the same. If this wasn’t so,the soul would stagnate.The sex, race, place of birth,economic class and every other individuality of the soul is determined by its actions in past lives and the lessons necessary to the present.

 

As an aid in learning the lessons of each life, a phenomenon exists which has been called karma. Karma is often misunderstood.It is not a system of rewards and punishments,but a phenomenon that guides the soul toward evolving actions. Thusly, if a person performs negative actions, negative actions will be returned.Good brings good.With this in mind, there’s little reason to act negatively.

 

 

Karma means action,and that’s how it works. It is a tool, not a punishment. There’s no way one can “wipe out”karma, and neither is every seemingly terrible event in our lives a byproduct of karma.

 

We learn from karma only when we are aware of it. Many look into their past lives to discover their mistakes,to uncover the problems inhibiting progress in this one. Trance and meditation techniques can help here, but true self-knowledge is the best means of accomplishing this.

 

What happens after death? Only the body dies. The soul lives on.Some Wiccans say that it journeys to a realm variously known as the Land of the Faerie ,the summerland, and the land of the young. This realm is neither in heaven nor the underworld. It simply is-a non-physical reality much less dense than ours. Some Wiccan traditions describe it as a land of eternal summer, with grassy fields and sweet flowing rivers, perhaps the earth before the arrival of humans. Others see it vaguely as a realm without forms, where energy swirls coexist with the greatest energies-the Goddess and God in their celestial identities.

 

One day you may “know”, not believe, that reincarnation is as real as a plant that buds, flowers, drops its seed, withers and creates a new plant in its image. Reincarnation was probably first intuited by earlier peoples watching nature. Until you’ve decided for yourself, you may wish to reflect upon and consider the doctrine of reincarnation.

 

~ Vienna by Klimt

 

“We are not human-beings having a spiritual experience,
but we are spiritual-beings having a human experience.

~ Deepak Chopra

 

~ The Waiting by Klimt

Where we come from, where we go . . . beyond punishment and judgments there is acceptance and unconditional love, from where we separated us. Life never starts, never ends, just its expression does change, which makes us believe we die, or we take birth.

All the ancient peoples of the world believed in the reality of reincarnation and a majority in this world still does. Buddhists, Hindus, Druids, Celts, Britons, Gallics, Platonists, Pythagoreans, many gnostic Christians, are only some of the people that hold to this doctrine. Add the Inca and Maya civilizations, the old Egyptians, the Roman poets Vergil, Lucretius, Horatio, the Stoics, and the list is still not completed! Also the Jewish Sohar, the famous Kabbalistic book, contains references to reincarnation.

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