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Ways of Marking the Festival in the Modern world  

Halloween is a festival shared in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres as a way of honoring and welcoming our ancestors. This is very different from the concept of regarding deceased relatives as ghosts to be contacted through mediums for messages. The real essential personalities of the more recently deceased were still regarded as part of the living family as recently as early Victorian times.

Only in the modern world is the idea of the family ghosts celebrating the passing of the year with you perhaps strange. Yet what would seem more natural in earlier times than as the herds were brought down from the hills and the fields for the winter and the herdsmen and women huddled close to the hearth that the family ancestors would also move close to the fire for warmth. It would not be odd to our forebears that at the birth of a new family member or a wedding that deceased great grandparents would want to be present. Even in today’s world a number of people have told me how a friend or newcomer at a family christening or wedding has asked about an older man or woman who was peeping into the infant’s cradle or watching the bride throw her bouquet, with a proud smile. Then the figure seemed to disappear into nowhere. Invariably the description matches a deceased relative who has returned to share the occasion.

In indigenous societies the ancestors are still regularly consulted in divination about the growth of the crops, the welfare of the animals and other matters of daily life. For example, among the Maoris of New Zealand, it is believed ancestors appear in the form of animals or particular birds, whose presence and behaviour indicates, for example, that a new home is blessed or that it is unsafe to travel.

Indeed those societies where the ancestors still play a significant role are usually those where the living elderly are well cared for and respected by younger members of the family.

Halloween or Samhain from October 31 to November 2, the beginning of the Celtic winter and the Celtic New Year.

Focus of the period: Looking into the past and into the future, for protection, psychic and physical, for overcoming fears, especially of ageing and mortality, for valuing the wisdom of retired people, for marking the natural transition between one stage of life and the next and for laying down old ghosts, psychological as well as psychic.

Symbols: Apples, pumpkins, nuts and autumn leaves, mingled with evergreens as a promise that life continues, salt, scary masks, fantastic costumes and lanterns, statues of fairies and magical animals like unicorns.

Animal: Raven

Tree: Silver Fir

Incenses, flower and herbs: Cypress, dittany, ferns, garlic, nutmeg, sage, thyme and pine; also large white flowers; rose petals and rose fragrances and spices.

Candle colour:  Orange, purple

Crystals: Lapis lazuli, sodalite, dark amethyst, smoky quartz, jet and obsidian (apache tear).

Festival Foods: Roasted beef, salted fish and pickles, pumpkin pie and soup, baked and toffee apples with spices, baked potatoes, spiced or mulled wine, candies and sweets of all kinds in dishes. Each family can cook and eat the favourite foods of relatives that have died or old family recipes.

Angel: Cassiel, Archangel of Compassion and Silence. He is pictured as bearded, riding a dragon and wearing dark robes, with indigo flames sparking from his halo. He rules over good luck and games of chance so competitive games and divination are popular at this time

The God and Goddess of the Festival: The Crone or Grandmother Goddess for example the Scottish and Irish Goddess Callieach who rules the winter months. She cares for the animals that live on open moorlands during the winter and older people who may feel the cold but do not have enough money for adequate heating. The God energy is divided between the slain Grain lord in the Underworld awaiting rebirth and the Trickster twin Goronwy. Goronwy takes advantage of the Goddess’ absence from the world when she visits the Underworld to share the sorrows of death with her man, to ascend the throne and cause misrule and chaos through the world.

The Place on the Wheel:

Samhain means summer's end, the time when the herds were brought down from the hills and family members returned to the homestead for the winter. It was believed the ancestors would likewise return and be welcomed to the family hearth.

The animals were either slaughtered or cleansed ritually by the Halloween fires and then kept in barns. Being the Celtic New Year and the time when the Goddess leaves her creation for three days (all the time that is allowed to her) the Otherworld releases fairies and mischievous spirits not just the benign family ancestors.

The Christianised Halloween is called All Hallows Eve. This and the following two days All Saints and All Souls days, November 1st and 2nd are especially in lands where Catholicism is strong, occasions when the family dead are remembered and honoured. For example in France families dress in their finest clothes and visit cemeteries where graves are adorned with displays of flowers and photographs. It was once believed the dead returned to the Isle of Mont St Michel in Brittany on November 1 as what is now the church on top of the mount and the golden statue of Michael was once considered an entrance to the Celtic Otherworld guarded by the wise Druidesses who made their home on the island for hundreds of years.

Ways of Marking the Festival in the Modern world

In traditional style hollow out a pumpkin and set it with a lighted candle inside a window facing the road, for the three days till dusk on November 2. This will protect you from all harm but will welcome home the family ancestors and the light will connect you emotionally with living relatives who are far away.

It was believed that if you listened to the wind at a crossroads on Halloween just before midnight, you would hear all you needed to know for the year ahead. Spend time outdoors on Halloween Eve, listening to the wind in the trees, the sound of the sea, water running over stones or bird song. You may hear words in the leaves or wind or in your mind that explain matters that have been troubling you.

Alternatively indoors make eight holes instead of a face in the sides of a second hollowed out pumpkin. Each window represents one of the eight festivals. Place a lighted candle inside.

Revolve the pumpkin anti clockwise and stare hard into each window; blink and an image will flash before you to reveal an opportunity or unexpected assistance or strengths for the approximate six week period ahead. Begin with the six weeks after Halloween.

If you are seeking love, eat salted herring before bed and it is said you will dream of your true love bringing you a drink of water in your dream.

Alternatively play the traditional Druid apple bobbing game of picking an apple by its stalk with your teeth from a barrel of water. Take the apple home and at midnight eat the apple while brushing your hair by candlelight looking into a mirror. It is said the image of your true love will appear in the glass at the first stroke of midnight.

If you are playing apple bobbing with others, the first to pick an apple will be the first married.

You can of course use your favourite form of divination to ask questions about the twelve months ahead such as Tarot cards or runes. 10pm is a very potent time.

Find out about a family ancestor with whom you feel a strong connection. During the week before Halloween, try to visit the place where the person lived, to connect with your historical roots. If not go to an industrial or local history museum where you can see the kind of implements and tools your chosen ancestor would have used and the clothes and especially their shoes they would have worn.

Either in the place they came from or once lived or the museum sit quietly and picture your ancestor in your mind. Focus especially on an image of their feet and shoes and say softly or think, ‘May I walk in your shoes for a while?’

Stand up and begin to walk slowly and imagine your ancestor walking beside you and gradually your footsteps and feet merging. You may experience flashes of scenes from their life you never knew before and share their emotions.

At last you will feel the connection fading and your footsteps separating. Say, ´Go in peace and with thanks and blessings.’

If you have not already started, resolve to research your family tree in the days after Halloween or find a family member who would enjoy doing it. Then by next Halloween you will have a much fuller picture of your roots.

On Halloween Eve or one of the two evenings afterwards, cook favourite family recipes passed down through the generations, get old photographs out and tell or recall if you are alone family stories and legends. If alone record some of them for the future, maybe even as the basis for a short story or novel or the recipes and customs as a cookery book.

When you are quiet on November 1 during the evening, place a protective clove of garlic on a west-facing window and light an orange candle, saying: ‘May only goodness and love enter here’. Hold a favourite possession of a beloved deceased relative and speak words of love. Then ask him or her to give you a sign that they are with you. The candle may flicker or you may feel their presence or a soft touch on your shoulder or hair. Your relative will not frighten you by appearing unless this is what you want but you may hear soft words in your mind.

After a few moments the connection will fade. Blow out the candle and say, ‘Go in peace and blessings and with my love.’ You may dream of the person during the night or hear their favourite music or see their favourite flowers somewhere unexpectedly the following day.

Gaze into a fire or candle flame and sprinkle sandalwood, cedar and juniper berries on to the flames. Images of past worlds and maybe past lives will emerge spontaneously in the embers or flame or in your mind. These fragrances are ones used it was believed to bring visions of the past from the Archangel Azrael.

The Ancient Egyptians had altars where they left offerings for the Ka or soul of their deceased relatives and sent those blessings that the ancestor’s name might live on.

On November 2 if you do not have one already, set up a small table covered by a white cloth in your home where you can keep mementoes of loved ones who have passed on. For example you could display a piece of jewellery or watch belonging to the loved one and pictures of your family ancestors. Keep fresh fragrant flowers there and on a special family anniversary, at Halloween or if you wish once a week on a Friday or Saturday light a white candle, send your deceased relatives blessings, perhaps read aloud their favourite poem or prayer or play their favourite music and ask for their blessings on your life and family.

Halloween party Games

Taken from my Psychic Party Games (Piatkus)

The following are three of my favourites

Game 1: Love come to me

Equipment:

1 Four dishes or deep saucers, one filled with clean water, one with dirty or dark water (add half a drop of dark food colouring), one empty and one filled with small feathers or thin paper streamers from used party poppers

2 A blindfold

How to play:

The four dishes are arranged in a row on a table.

One person is blindfold and the dishes rearranged several times.

The player is turned round three times and must say three times:

Fortune, fortune tell me

Am I pretty or plain,
Or am I downright ugly
And ugly to remain?
Shall I marry a gentleman?
Shall I marry a clown?
Or shall I marry old pots and pans
Shouting through the town?

The rhyme can be adapted for male players.

The contestant reaches out with their left hand, if necessary with guidance until they put their hand in one of the saucers.

The blindfold is then taken off.

The Results

If the person touches the dirty water their intended will be of a similar age to the player, attractive and available (or in the case of an older person maybe a charismatic toy boy or girl).

If they touch the dirty water, he or she will be older or divorced.

If they touch the empty plate, they will remain single until next Halloween

If however they touch the feathers or streamers, they will meet an entrepreneur or adventurer who will either become a millionaire/ess in a short time or will whisk them off hotly pursued to an off shore haven

Tips

Relax your fingers and let them be drawn to the correct dish-don’t try to guess

Game 2: What’s my future?

 Equipment:

1 Four plain cups of the same size

2 A ring, a silver coin, a sprig of heather or a small lucky horseshoe

How to play

Place an item under three of the cups and leave the fourth empty.

Invert the cups on a table and mix them round several times.

The first volunteer is twirled around three times clockwise and three times anticlockwise while the hostess further moves the cups round the table.

The volunteer touches each of the inverted cups in turn, saying three times: ‘Three by three, so shall my fortune be’

They then turn over one of the cups.

Return the item to the cup and re-mix .The game continues very fast, repeating the same method till everyone who wishes to do so have picked a cup.

The Results

The item picked gives a fun 12 month forecast.

If you pick the cup with the ring, you will marry within the year or enjoy great love and admiration-or if you are already married a fun flirtation.

If you pick the cup with the heather, you will have unexpected good luck. If you choose the cup with the coin, extra money or promotion is coming very soon; if you pick the empty cup, you will need to make your way in the world by hard work over the next year

Tips

Don’t decide in advance which fortune you would like. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Game 3 The Mashed Potato Fortune Telling Game

Equipment:

1 A huge bowl of mashed potato

2 A set of symbols, each large enough not to swallow, comprising two rings,  two silver coins, two round sea shells, two buttons, two heart-shaped charms/lockets and two keys (wash the items well)

If more than 10 people are playing have a second bowl of potato and another set of symbols, two rings etc for each extra ten guests

3 A fork, plate and spoon for each player

How to play

Play before people get too merry so they don’t swallow anything and warn everyone to be careful. The game has been played for hundreds of years without ill effect

Set out the dish/es of mashed potato containing the hidden symbols.

Dim the lights and get everyone to take a big scoop of mash and put it on their plate.

They then sift through till they find the item(eating the mash is optional)

If they haven’t found a symbol first time they may try once more only.

Some may get more than one charm in the first attempt and so get a double fortune.

The Results

This game also offers a prediction for the next twelve months. If you find two symbols, the first refers to the first six months ahead.

If you find a ring, you will be happily wed or devotedly admired within twelve months.

If you find the coin, you will acquire fame or wealth.

If you find the button, you will settle down and maybe have a family

If you find the heart charm, you will have a passionate love affair or be tempted by an exciting flirtation

If you find the shell, you will travel to far-off places

If you find the key, you will have a new home.

If you didn’t find anything, a secret will soon be revealed to your advantage

Tips

Don’t delve around looking for a symbol; let your fate come to you

 

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