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I’ve disliked my tradition’s Samhain ritual for years. YEARS. Its got a vaguely condescending tone to large swathes of it, it doesn’t show so much as TELL, there are bits that don’t align with anything else in our mythos, and — worst of all — it is incredibly wordy. (Less of a problem in person, but online — deadly!)

Since last year, yes a full year, I’ve had it on my ‘to do’ list to rewwrite the Samhain ritual. Let me just point out that I am not a procrastinator. But I am at the mercy of the Muse and although I tried to tackle this task a number of times throughout the year, I failed. I had conversations with various people. I researched alternate styles and methodlogies and mythos’.

I failed.

Today, at 1:30 — a mere five hours before we were to gather in preparation for the ritual — the Muse came to visit. Two hours later I had a completely redone ritual. Completely.

And you know what? Its damn good. (and I don’t say that lightly.)

Many blessings, Muse. Many thanks.

The Johari Window was invented by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in the 1950s as a model for mapping personality awareness. By describing yourself from a fixed list of adjectives, then asking your friends and colleagues to describe you from the same list, a grid of overlap and difference can be built up.

Which words do you associate with me? http://kevan.org/johari?name=Lisa+Mc+Sherry

I’m interested for a variety of reasons — and you know I can take criticism. I promise I’ll share the results (presuming more than five people reply 🙂 otherwise it isn’t terribly valid.)

The Season of the Witch – what on earth does that mean? Traditionally, Samhain (pronounced SOW-in or SOW-aine and which non-Pagans call Halloween) is the celebration of the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. The word comes to us from Old Irish word for the month beginning on November 1. The feast celebrates the end of the harvest – a huge effort for agricultural communities as they rushed to gather the grain and fruit (August and September) and then slaughter the meat needed for the harsh winter months (October). Once that was over, they could rest and throw a party.

Samhain is often called the Feast of the Dead which comes to modern witches from Celtic lore (as opposed to history or culture, please note). What we do know is that Samhain marks the changeover from the ‘light’ half or the year to the ‘dark’ half – which makes a great deal of sense when you look at the waxing and waning of the sun (particularly in northern latitudes) – it is about this time of year that we all notice that the days are significantly shorter.

The celebration began with the extinguishing of all fires in the land (except those needed for survival, such as for nursing mothers and the very old) and then the ritual lighting of a bonfire atop the Hill of Tara, which signaled to the rest of the land (also gathered atop hilltops) to light their own fires. Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together. The dead were welcomed, and celebrated at this feast, often with the custom of setting an extra place at the table for them. 

One of the most tenacious erroneous beliefs in non-Pagans is that Samhain is named after a Celtic Lord of the Dead. From this error has come a persistent belief that Witches (and Pagans) are worshipping said Lord, and thus is proof of our worship of Satan. From this point of view Death is evil and therefore worshipping a Lord of the Dead is worshipping evil. Let me first state that although there is Celtic character named Samhain, he is an incredibly minor person (he’s known only because Balor stole his magical cow) in the mythology. His reincarnation as the Lord of the Dead is the result of poor scholarship in the 18th century. Modern witches see Samhain as a celebration, not the worship of a so-called Lord of the Dead. 

Nowadays many of us prepare a meal made up of favorite foods of our beloved dead, set a place for them at the table, and entertain them with songs, poetry and dances. We may open a door or window to the west and specifically invite them to attend. If it is too cold for that (as it often can be) we may light a candle in a western window to guide them home. 

As I look to other religions, I see echoes of our celebration. The Catholics have celebrated November 2nd as All Souls’ Day for hundreds of years (and All Saints Day on November 1st since 844AD) and in fact some believe that Halloween was originally called Hallow’s Eve, for the eve of All Hallow’s (hallowed) Day. It was a night of vigil and prayer for the dead. In Chinese Buddhism there are three festivals for the dead: Qing Ming (Celebration of Tomb Sweeping; when they cleaning the graves and make food offerings), Zhong Yuan Jie (Festival of Hungry Ghosts; elaborate meals are served with empty seats for each of the deceased in the family, and Shao Yi Jie (Burning Clothes Festival; paper clothes are burned so that their ancestors have enough to keep warm in the coming winter months). 

In my tradition we celebrate by giving up that which we no longer need or want. One year a celebrant gave up the comfy chair he’d grown too used to in order to become more physically active. Other offerings have included cigarettes, chains of self pity, and the voice of the self-hater. We then learn the Mystery of Rebirth:

ALL: Everything passes, changes.

CRONE: Seed becomes fruit.
ALL: Fruit becomes seed.

CRONE: In birth, we die.
ALL: On death, we feed.

CRONE: For my womb is the cauldron of rebirth.
ALL: In us, the circle is ever turning.

From this point onward we no longer gather at the Full Moon to work magic, but instead are studying the ways of the Dark God/dess through a cycle of six dark moons (more on this in another post). In the dark silence comes the whispering of new beginnings, the gentle gathering of the seed’s strength. We turn our attention inward in celebration of this quieter time of the year. 

Witches work in balance, honoring both the light and the dark, for we understand that these forces have anything to do with Good or Evil, but are natural forces and energies. Without darkness, plants wither and fail just as they do without light. Samhain marks the time when we begin to look within, into the darkness so that we may understand and absorb that knowledge and in doing so, grow closer to the Divine. 

May the Beloved Dead bless you now and in the coming year!

 

References

“The myth of Samhain: “Celtic god of the dead” found at http://www.religioustolerance.org/hallo_sa.htm, accessed 10-25-08

“History of All Hallows’ Eve“ found at: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/overviews/months/10_2.cfm, accessed 10-25-08

Ancestors’ Sacrifice Festival“ found at: http://www.chinavoc.com/festivals/Sacrifice.htm, accessed 10-25-08

I find this video and accompanying story scary, and very sad. The writing is WS, the video is very disturbing and therefore not absolutely WS.

The power of the mob is well known, to see it in action is shocking. I wonder if I would have the courage to be so calm and take the video footage? Would you? Think about it.

(this is sparked by a colleague’s LJ post — it’s locked, or I would share).

I think just about everyone should take classes in Muay Thai — particularly anyone who believes they are weak, or helpless. MT is a dynamic, strength-building, flexibility-enhancing sport that builds mental and physical capability. Participants end up with the cardio workout of an aerobics or high-energy dance class and the strength-building of lifting weights. Moreover, you learn what fighting feels like in a safe environment. Bruised knuckles, aching jaw, sore elbows, and aching muscles all over — sounds like a typical post-MT feeling, even if you’re using pads and protection. It just happens.

Before Muay Thai, I would flinch when something came at my face — not because I’d ever been beaten, but because sports with balls tended to end up hitting me there and I just learned a bad habit. When you’re fighting someone you simply cannot flinch when they feint towards your face, they’ll take advantage of that quickly and a bad habit can cost you the fight. My trainer desensitized me to the sight of a fist (gloved or not) and then other objects coming towards my face until I stopped flinching. Breakthrough came when I got hit by a fist — in the nose, by accident — and I just made the correct counterattack until the bout was over. (And then whined and got ice — that HURT dammnit.)

Muay Thai gives you a feeling of being incredibly prepared and confident.

Another story: friend (who was also in MT class) and I were having a drink at a semi open air bar one day. Some guy at the table next to ours got loud and physical, slamming his fists down to make his points and generally getting obnoxious. We both kept talking but found ourselves shifting slightly in our chairs to have  a better view of potential trouble. Sure enough, right after the waitress refused to serve him anymore beer, he stood up and made as if to flip the table over (it was a solid wood picnic bench). My friend and I immediately stood, grabbed our beers, moved one zone away, put the beer down, and stood calmly watching. Only after the bouncers had cleared the area did we relax — and then laughed because we were both in a loose fighting stance, arms at ready to shift and deflect. And we’d never stopped talking while we did it.

ysabetwordsmith posted (from another LJ) the “10 commandments of Coyote” and I found them amusing. They inspired me to do the following:

1. I am the Divine; by whatever name you shall call Me, I AM

2. Worship Me, not My image.

3. My name — any one of them — is Sacred; to speak it is to invoke Me.

4. Keep the holy days in ways that are pleasing to Me.

5. Honor those who raised you.

6. Take not the life of a sentient being.

7. Engage only in consensual adult sexual pleasures.

8. Take not another’s earnings.

9. Do not lie.

10. Eschew envy.

This article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/business/31view.html?_r=2&em&oref=slogin&oref=slogin does a very good job of breaking down the presidential candidates economic policies.

But this post (http://yaforobama.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2246335%3ABlogPost%3A8502) from Scott Westerfield walks the reader through the economic history of Republicans and Democrats.

Its hard to imagine the difference being this easily seen, but it is.

I know at least some of you are near-daily readers, and I apologize for the recent theme changes. Its just that I like to change themes seasonally. This time I ran into a hassle with the chosen theme (the autumn leaves against a blue sky) was missing a line of code or somesuch that I needed to run a specific script. It’s been a-heck-annoying.

So now you know. This theme will (as you may have guessed) stay up through early November.

This is the best answer for the average person? Sure, your credit rating might be hurt, but you’ll save $1000s and get treated like a rich person by politicians.

Why do I think this? Today’s thought-provoking blog post at wisebread, which relates to an article by Peter Schiff at the San Diego Union-Tribune saying just that.

“Nobody likes foreclosure, least of all politicians. The new law clearly indicates that the government will make major efforts to reduce foreclosures through “term extensions, rate reductions and principal write-downs” of the troubled mortgages that it buys from the private sector. In other words, your new landlord will bend over backward to keep you in your home. The legislation telegraphs this by including a provision that extends until 2013 the exclusion of loan reductions from taxable income. “

Thank you thank you thank you somehedgehog for creating this bit of loveliness:

http://somehedgehog.livejournal.com/245807.html

(and thank you ysabetwordsmith for finding it)

Worksafe, but your monitor might suffer from laughspray.

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