Imbolc is a cross-quarterly festival that takes place on 2nd February in the Celtic calendar. It marks the half way point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Also known as Candlemas, it is one of the fire festivals and a celebration of light.
This festival is about encouraging the passing of winter and the enticement of spring to make its first appearance soon. Slowly the days will be getting lighter little by little and the first sign of the spring bulbs will soon be sprouting. Imbolc is about the Sun God returning and this is where the old Crone transforms back into the Maiden ready for spring time.
This is the time to think about new beginnings, while being a symbol of purification, renewal and fertility. Imbolc is the start of the new agricultural year, it’s the time when the cold, dark, barren winter is being left behind and the earth once again comes to life.
Corn Dollies – Imbolc is about the spirit of the corn once again leaving its winter home found in the corn dolly to return back to the fields, to ensure a bountiful harvest in the upcoming year. Corn Dollies at this time of the year are most associated with Brigid and her cross or Brigid lying in her bride’s bed.
Fires and candles – Candles and fires are a symbol of the sun, often lit to entice the sun to return quicker and to give strength to the Sun God.
As this time of year represents new beginnings, this makes it the perfect time to clear out the old by having a spring clean. It’s time to let go and welcome in the new possibilities for the rest of the year. Clean out the clutter and the things you no longer use, purify the air and let go from the stagnant and bad energy. In the next few weeks place some fresh flowers in the house or even hang herbs if you have any left over from last year. The wheel keeps on turning, release yourself from the energy that is holding you back.
Blessed Be )O(
Winter Solstice or Yuletide is one of the four main quarterly festivals in the Wheel of the Year (Pagan calendar). It takes place around the 21st/22nd December, which is known as the first day of winter. This holiday is also known as Midwinter because we have reached the point of the year where darkness reigns. This day consists of the shortest amount of sunlight during the day and the longest amount of dark hours during the night.
Today is the day where the battle between dark and light takes places and the sun takes its victory. From hereon the sun begins its ascent into the sky once again, where the days will get longer, brighter and stronger until the sun reaches its peak at Summer Solstice.
Winter Solstice is all symbolising the return of the sun with candles and firelight. To use the warmth in winter as strength and to entice the sun to return as soon as possible. Yule is a celebration of the light returning, that once darkness has been overcome there can be rebirth and new beginnings.
Red, green, gold, orange, yellow, silver and white.
Pine, bayberry, thistle, cedar, cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, ginger, frankincense, myrrh, holly, sage, cloves, rosemary, sandalwood and spruce.
Apples, oranges, fruits, squash, nuts, chestnuts, ginger, cakes, breads, soups, tea, cider and wine.
Emerald, Diamond, Bloodstone, Ruby and Garnet.
Yule log, pine trees, pine cones, evergreens, garland, mistletoe, holly, ivy, wreaths, witch balls, candles, fire, stars, snowflakes and bells.
Love, harmony, peace, happiness, gratitude, new beginnings, fertility, good health, good luck, growth and divination.
As this time of the year the days are short, cold and dark, especially since the darkness onsets from late afternoon in winter time, it can almost feel like living in a black hole. What kind of way is great to combat darkness? To fill your home with as many multicoloured, sparkling bright lights as possible. Any kind of light that will entice the sun back and offer up a beacon of hope during the dark winter days. Log fires, gold and red candles are favoured at this time of the year, hang lights from your tree, mantlepiece, altar or even outdoors on your porch.
Evergreens are a representation of fertility and life, they are the only plant that grows all year around while still looking green and full of life even in winter when everything is cold, bare and lifeless. Pine trees are used at winter as a symbol of welcoming in light, life, love, fertility and preparing for the oncoming spring time.
To place a pine tree inside the home is also said to honour the many woodland spirits by giving them a home for winter. Fairies are known to grant wishes, so appease them well and you just might be in luck!
Mistletoe, Holly and Ivy are all fertility symbols. Mistletoe is especially a symbol of fertility, love and peace. To kiss under the mistletoe is a promise of marriage, it also brings good fortune, goodwill, happiness, health and longevity.
Wreaths made from evergreens represent the wheel of the year.
A Witch ball is a bauble shaped charm that is traditionally hung in the window or entrance way to your home. The reflective nature of this ball is said to trap inside any evil spirits, ill-wishes from others or negative energy and therefore prevent it from entering into your home. This charm is often filled with various herbs, spices or natural elements to bless the home or give added protection. At Yule time witch balls began to be hung from the tree and therefore developed into baubles.
Winter food like nuts, berries and dried fruit were hung from the tree to signify the want for a bountiful harvest in the upcoming year and to entice the return of spring quicker in order to plant and grow crops.
Bells are also placed on the tree in order to repel negative spirits and energy, while a Pentagram is placed on top.
In some tales it’s said that the woodland spirits that inhabit the tree for winter will eat the food that’s been placed on it and all satisfied spirits will ring the bells in order to show their appreciation.
All fire during wintertime represents the sun and the impending need for it to return, as the fire is said to give strength to the sun. The Yule log is a specially selected piece of tree that has to be foraged from the land or given as a gift, but in tradition it cannot be bought. The piece of wood is continuously burnt down until only a small remnant remains. That piece is then saved until next year and is used to start the fire that will burn the new log. Any ashes that are taken from the fire can be used in amulets to promote fertility.
A modern day Yule log is now used from a piece of wood that has candles placed inside small holes. Candles promoting light and the sun were traditionally placed on the tree.
Lighting a candle on Winter Solstice and letting it burn through the twelve days until the new month is said to bring good luck and good fortune. If the candle was blown out, moved or touched by anyone else it’s said to be an omen and to bring bad luck into the household.
Both these more modern traditions have developed from a festivity called wassailing. The old Pagan custom was to visit all your neighbour’s houses with a bowl of wassail and there together you would sing songs with each other. This is essentially spiced cider and this ritual is a method of caring and sharing, in order to invoke a community spirit. Sharing some wassail is thought to bring good wishes and fortune onto your neighbours and community.
Yule is all about invoking the spirit of togetherness, whether it be with your family, close friends or a wider community. It’s time to celebrate and put together a feast from the food that was harvested all throughout earlier in the year. Spices, fruits, nuts, baking cakes, biscuits and wine. This is the feast to celebrate the fruits of all the labour.
Spend some quality time with your family, spread love and gratitude, offer a kind gesture and act from the heart. Be thankful for what you have, rather than wasting time thinking about the things you don’t have. It’s time to slow your pace at Yule, have some inner-reflection and aline your rhythm with that of Mother Earth and nature.
Blessed Be )O(
If you’re a massive horror fan like me and like a good scare around Halloween time, then you’re going to love this haunted house. I became aware of this particular house haunt this year by stumbling upon it on the local news, it’s located in Preston and if you live anywhere in the North-west then perhaps you have come across it too.
This father and daughter team who love Halloween so much that they spend most of the year planning for it, by doing so they take a trip to America every year in order to source out the scariest horror props, spending thousands of pounds to transform their everyday regular suburban house into something that would invoke nightmares.
After hearing what a great transformation this house goes through, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see the house of my dreams. I decided to take a trip out to it during the day in order to have a browse around at the props.
To my amazement I discovered a life-sized coffin and hearse, which was complete with its very own skeleton drivers.
The front garden was completely transformed into a graveyard and all the gravestones were made by hand by a family member.
Whilst I was browsing at the cemetery, this black cat came hurtling down the street at me. (I love cats and I am a cat magnet but that’s a whole other story). I don’t know where this little kitty lives but they very much looked right at home in this house.
Anyway, whilst there I discovered they open up their house two nights each year for a walk-through. Oh no, the decorations don’t stop at the front of the house. In fact a building has been constructed all the way down the driveway, which connects to the garage. All the construction, carpentry and electrics are done by family members and friends who donate their time and skills to the cause.
I returned on the second evening of the walk-through, even arriving before opening time I couldn’t believe how the queue was all the way down the street. The house looked even better in the dark, all lit up it was spooky.
The entrance started at the gates and you entered into the extension building, only small enough to let a handful of people in at a time. It was filled with amazing mechanical, sound and light props. The prop in the first room jumped out at you, which is the creepy looking person in the picture below.
The connecting corridor was filled with mechanical zombies. From there on there was an option to turn left to the really scary bit or to turn right to skip the scary bit.
I went left of course….
The extension down to the garage was three different scenes; one a zombie nurse with a surgeon and a bloody corpse, a skeleton biker and a Doctor Frankenstein style theme.
They were blood curdling, amazingly scary and all accompanied by family members and friends who had given their time to do some acting (And what great actors some of them were, particularly the doctor above, he was freaking scarily into character)
Heading into the garage was a labyrinth, a pitch black maze with people in costume jumping out at you and banging on walls. It was very small and very dark, I have no idea how they fit so much into a small space. It was like the Tardis in there, bigger on the inside. From there on lead out into the back garden.
The only criticism I have, is that there was no prior warning or notices of strobe lighting or confined spaces (Although the second one might be assumed). Definitely not good for anyone who has claustrophobia or suffers from any medical conditions. Also, after seeing what a scary place it was, I think there should have been an age limit on entrance. If you have an aversion to children like me, the crying kids who turned back because they were scared shitless and had to squeeze past you was definitely of an annoyance. This place is definitely too scary for younger kids.
Out of the garage and into the back garden was full of zombies. I literally thought I had walked onto the set of the Walking Dead.
Travelling through the back door was a scary Alice in Wonderland themed area leading into the living room. This is the less scary bit you are diverted too, leading onto the exit which is the front door.
When walking through this house, it’s hard to believe someone has opened up their home to complete strangers. While it no longer looks like a home, the settings and decorations have been done to the highest standard. I definitely had a few screams walking through here and came out laughing my head off.
I would take coming here over any commercial event, the best kind of entertainment is one done through passion and enjoyment. This is one community spirited family that offers their time, money, skills, labour and passion for the enjoyment of others.
They do have a charity bucket at their home but donations are voluntary, not mandatory, so even if you don’t donate you can still enter the house. I do believe it’s the same charity every year – Cancer Research. However if you’re like me and don’t wish to participate in funds going towards animal research, I would like to make another place known.
www.drhadwentrust.org It’s a medical research facility that uses non-animal testing methods.
Even if there was an entrance fee to this home, I would have been like here take my money. It was exceptionally well worth it and I shall be returning next year.
Blessed Be )O(
I couldn’t let my favourite holiday pass by without sharing a few snap shots of it.
My roots for celebrating Samhain are very much from Paganism. Samhain, the cusp of the Celtic New Year and my birthday on the 2nd means a part of the celebrations for me includes a lot of reflection and implementing changes into my life.
However, as much as I celebrate the meaningful and spiritual aspects of Samhain, I love to decorate and have fun. As with any holiday, I do believe the most important part is to celebrate only if you want to or if it means something to you and how you choose to celebrate it should be in a way you’re comfortable with.
Halloween has always been a part of my yearly routine since I can remember. When I was growing up it was always the porch that got decorated. In the last five years or so, we have been turning the garden into some kind of mini-haunt.
Every year we always try to change the layout about slightly, while we always leave the gazebo up from summer to turn it into a spooky hideout. As much as I love looking at all things creepy, there’s some kind of community spirit about putting on a display for the local kids. This is something that doesn’t exist anymore, the point of events should be to bring people together and I think we manage that.
These are just a few of the pumpkins we carved this year.
We even went to see a professional pumpkin carver.
How ever you chose to celebrate this year, I hope you stayed safe and had fun!
Blessed Be )O(
Samhain (pronounced Sowen) or Halloween is one of the four cross-quarterly festivals in the Wheel of the Year (Pagan calendar). It takes place on the 31st October (but can last until 2nd November) and marks the last of three harvest festivals, the other two being Lammas and Mabon. This day is also known as All Hallow’s Eve, The Feast of the Dead or the Witches New Year.
This festival marks the celebration of Summer’s end and how we are now deep into the darker half of the year. Samhain is all about embracing the darkness, for you cannot have light without dark. It’s about honouring the dead, as both death and birth is a part of the cycle of life. This time of year is about saying goodbye to the old and embracing the new, it’s about rebirth, new beginnings and starting new chapters in your life.
This festival is known as the Witch’s New Year because Samhain is known as the Celtic New Year. With it being the last sabbat of the year, before the Wheel of the Year starts turning again makes this the most special and most important festival of the yearly calendar. The veil between the worlds is thinnest at this point (the opposite festival being Beltane at May where the veil is also thin too). This allows the worlds to connect, the spirits to walk the Earth, the faeries and other mythical beings to appear.
Black, orange, red, green, purple and white.
Cinnamon, mugwort, rosemary, sage, rue, allspice, mandrake, deadly nightshade, nutmeg, mint, cloves, lavender, heather, patchouli, ginseng , garlic, bay leaves and tarragon.
Apples, pumpkins, squash, corn, root vegetables, turnips, nuts, seeds, grains, cider and wine.
Carnelian, Obsidian, Black Onyx, Smoky Quartz, Jet and Bloodstone.
Pumpkins, pine cones, black cats, witches, broomsticks, cauldrons, coffins, faeries, ghosts, skulls, scarecrows, skeletons, tombstones, bells and masks.
Changes, courage, death, rebirth, renewal, new beginnings, decisions, spirit contact, honouring the dead, transformation, knowledge, wisdom, truth and divination.
At this sabbat your altar can be changed to represent Samhain. Orange, black and red candles, decorate it with pumpkins and leaves, place skulls or any other death themed object there. This is also the time to get your old family photos of loved ones who have passed and leave their photographs on your altar and leave food offerings too – apples are best for this.
Samhain shouldn’t be passed by without having a little fun also, by decorating your home. Carve pumpkins and leave them on your doorstep, decorate the outside of your house in a spooky theme, create a graveyard in your own garden if you want to. It’s also customary to leave a white candle burning in your window, this is said to protect against negative energies, help guide family members home and give comfort to lost souls.
Before the introduction of pumpkins from North America to Europe (Paganism originated from Europe) turnips were the choice of vegetable to use. However turnips are extremely hard to carve into and once pumpkins became widespread and readily available, their softness made them the lantern of choice.
To carve a face into a pumpkin is said to have developed from the tradition of honouring the dead by placing a skull on your doorstep or outside your home. To carve a face into a pumpkin is an appeasing way to honour the spirits by giving them a more comforting face to associate with.
Placing a candle inside turns these pumpkins into lanterns and the fire from the candle is a symbol of protection. Displaying these lanterns outside your home will ensure that the candlelight will repel negative and evil spirits. While the innocent, good and lost souls who are wondering the streets on Samhain are said to be guided home by the lanterns.
With the spirits out wandering amongst us on all Hallow’s Eve leaves us susceptible to their trickery and devious actions. Dressing in spooky costumes is to aid you to blend in with them, letting them believe that you are one of them. The purpose is to fool and confused the spirits, tricking them into thinking you are one of them means they can not hurt you or play tricks on you.
Samhain is also known as the Feast of the Dead, where people would leave food on their doorsteps for the wandering spirits to receive as an offering in their memory. Trick or Treating originated from the spirits who made it to your door. Should you find them on your doorstep begging for food, it was wise to offer them something, for should they find themselves empty handed was to unleash a trickster! Offering food to spirits is about honouring their memory and your heritage.
Apples are sacred to Pagans and the harvest since they are often found in abundance at this time of the year. Cutting an apple open you will see the seeds in a shape of a Pentagram, the most sacred of symbols, this is what makes apples so special. Apples represent wisdom, knowledge, protection, life, death, immortality and divination. They are also seen as a fortune telling tool.
There are few ways to use apples around Samhain time. One is to go bobbing for apples – placing apples in water and the first person to catch an apple with their teeth and eat it, is said to acquire knowledge and wisdom straight from the ultimate source. When it comes to apple bobbing it’s also said that the person to catch the first apple will be the one to get married in the upcoming year. Also, to peel all the skin off the apple in one go and throw it over your shoulder to the floor is said that whatever shape the peel lands in will be the first letter of your true love’s name.
Planting apples along the roadside are said to bring comfort to the roaming spirits who have no home or family to go to during Samhain.
A witch is a visual representation of “The Crone”, the death stage of the triple Goddess. The Pagan Goddess has three stages of life; the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. These are the three symbols of birth, life and death. A wise old woman nearing her death, is representing the death of the crops and nature all around as we enter into the cold season.
This wise old hag, who is the ultimate encompass of what Samhain represents, has evolved from a frail old lady to a witch. She represents death, changes, renewal and is the keeper of the spirits. As Samhain was Christianised and slowly developed into Halloween, the figure of the Crone evolved into into a scary witch with warts.
The cauldron is another representation of the Goddess, it symbolises Mother Earth. That when we die our souls go back to the cauldron, meaning we all go back to Mother Nature from where we came so our souls can be reborn again. The cauldron can be seen as the Earth element on an altar.
Spirits and witchcraft, does Satan belong here too?
Simple answer. No.
Satan belongs to Christianity, not to Paganism.
I personally believe after Paganism was Christianised, in order to convert as many people as possible it associated Paganism with fear, negativity and evil. Paganism is a very broad term for many different sub-genres of naturalistic beliefs, some of which include Wicca and Witchcraft. Hundreds of years ago witches were feared and innocent people who were accused of witchcraft were murdered. There are a great many myths and tales on how people should protect themselves from witches, all of which I believe came from misinformed Christians.
So is there light at the end of the tunnel, talking about all this death?
There is a lot of hidden, deep meanings to Samhain if you stop and think about it. Samhain is about honouring and respecting the dead, it’s about saying goodbye to those who have passed in the last year. This teaches us about letting go, about moving forward and about living life again. Death is not to be feared, but to be understood that there is no life without death. Death will happen to us all but we should live life to the fullest and not dwell on the things we can’t change. The cycle of life is inevitable but as the seasons pass; as autumn and winter pass, there can be once again rebirth of life in all its forms.
Samhain is about change, growth and regeneration. About moving on from the past, accepting the present and being hopeful for the future. Make a journal, visit a grave or make that change you have been thinking about the last few months. Just do it. Now is the time.
Blessed Be )O(
My favourite time of the year has arrived again!
Mabon or Autumn Equinox, the brief time where the hours of light and dark match up equally in balance with one another before the onset of the darker half of the year taking over. Darker days, longer nights, low-lying sunsets with a magical cool breeze, the harvest is gone and the trees are shedding beautiful crisp leaves as though they are crying for the death of the Sun God.
Oh the beauty that Autumn brings, who could have thought there would be so much beauty in nature dying? But that is the cycle of life and the cycle of the seasons. Being born at 1:10 am on 2nd November; so close to Samhain and the Celtic New Year, makes me a little biased. I am definitely an Autumn person, the leaves feel like a little bit of magic dropping around me.
Although my favourite Sabbat is Samhain, I particularly favourite the time between Lammas and Mabon. There is nothing more perfect than seeing the sun beam over a corn field on a late summer’s day. Of course, let’s not forget Corn Dollies! Oh yes. As the fields are being harvested, it’s the time of the year to indulge in some Corn Dolly making.
As the weeks pass by and Autumn Equinox arrives, so does the pumpkins. Oh let’s not get me started on how much I love pumpkins but needless to say I make the most of the good six weeks before Samhain with pumpkins. It also doesn’t get better than being able to have pumpkins on your birthday.
I celebrated the harvest moon this year by carving a pumpkin and making a life-sized scarecrow, which so happens to have a pumpkin head too. In the evening we sat outside under the moonlight, with the pumpkins glowing in the background, by a roaring fire, and it’s such peaceful moments like those that I truly enjoy.
Don’t forget to appreciate the little moments in life and who you spend them with. Make every minute count, laugh as much as possible and enjoy life.
Have a blessed Mabon )O(