Samhain 2013: Facts, Dates, Traditions, And Rituals To Know

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Photo of last year’s trip to the cemetery of the Beloved Dead

Tonight’s the night it all begins: a New Year, frolic, fun, and honouring my beloved dead.

The season of Samhain lasts much longer than just a single night.

So if you havn’t done all you’ve wanted to this year, you still have time over the next few weeks. I normally celebrate in smaller ways of course after the main day of Hallowmas, and gradually phase out once Thanksgiving night is firmly stuck in my belly.

Then, we come to realize that the tides have changed and shifted forward again as the snow starts to fall towards Yuletide, that next magical holiday of the year.

How will you celebrate my friends? Search through my “Hallowmas Practices” to the right for some inspiration.

Here are a few quick facts about today’s holiday from the Huffington post. More and more people are becoming more accustomed to learning the origins of our “secular” holidays as an appreciation for history, or rather herstory, is being rediscovered.

Namaste

Autumn has arrived, and with it comes the advent of Samhain, a Gaelic holiday celebrated by Pagans and Wiccans, which is the year’s third and final harvest festival. Brush up on your Samhain knowledge with our 10 facts to know.

1. Samhain is celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1, almost halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

2. Some modern Pagans consider it the “witch’s new year,” though other traditions simply recognize Samhain as the end of the year, says Kelley Harrell, the author of ‘Gift of the Dreamtime.’

3. Rituals surrounding Samhain include bonfires, healing, dancing, thanksgiving, and honoring of the dead.

4. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals along with Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh.

5. It’s considered a liminal time, when the veil between life and death grows thin.Food is set aside for ancestors and protective spirits, and rituals honoring the dead take place.

6. Samhain is pronounced “sah-win” or “sow-in.”

7. Samhain is one of the original festivals behind the holiday we know as Halloween.

8. As it was believed that faeries, witches, and demons roamed the earth on Samhain, food and drink were customarily set out to placate them. Later on, people began dressing up as these creatures and claiming the goodies for themselves, sometimes performing antics or tricks in exchange for food and drink. This practice evolved into trick-or-treating.

9. Some of Halloween’s most common traditions are rooted in Samhain’s harvest festival roots, such as the carving of pumpkins and bobbing for apples.

10. Some celebrate Samhain with a ritual to guide the dead home by opening a western-facing door or window and placing a candle by the opening.

How do you celebrate Samhain? Let me know in the comments!

Versatile Blogger Nomination

versatile-blogger

I’ve been nominated for another blogger award, which is nice, although only seems to only humble me further. Although, recognition is the best form of flattery so, hey, why not toot my horn just a tad?

So often are we pressured to control our creativity, and to hide what we say from public view. Too many people in the world are abused, tortured, and silenced. If you are a creative like me, the force of self-expression is paramount to self-discovery.

Many thanks to Patricia Boyd Perkinson, RMT Author and Founder of Willow’s Cabin” who nominated me.

Here are the rules as listed on the “The Versatile Blogger Award” blog:

  • Thank the person who gave you this award
  • Include a link to their blog
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself

This award is given to authors whose quality of the writing, the uniqueness of the subjects covered, the level of love displayed in the words on the virtual page are of exceptional quality. Or, of course, the quality of the photographs and the level of love displayed in the taking of them as well.

It is a great honor given to those bloggers who bring something special to your life whether every day or only now and then.

My Nominees for “The Versatile Blogger Award” are:

*NOTE: the following are not put in any sort of order. They were the first ten to be most unique in subject matter in my reader feed. There are many blogs I passionately follow, so please do not feel excluded. And with that, I share the following 10, yes ten not fifteen as the suggested number. Top Ten sounds much nicer! Kudos lasses and lads!

  1. Áine Órg from The Spinning of the Wheel. Áine’s posts are always so insightful and show such beauty with her descriptions of her earth-based spiritual path. She is versatile because she is both a writer and streams videos on Youtube.
  2. Kaycie on Joyful Cacophony. Kaycers’ posts show such wealth in the level of writing and spirit she puts into her articles. She is versatile because she is both a seeker and a walker, making waves of light wherever she goes.
  3. Wuji on Seshat Nibada. Wuji’s poetry inspires you to higher levels. No matter what the subject material, both the images he chooses and the prose he pairs them with are utterly beautiful.
  4. Tyler C. Pederson on the Ancient Eavesdropper. Tyler is a photographer, poet, ecologist, bookworm, nature enthusiast and runner from Helena, Montana. His posts always transports you to the spot from whence his art is snapped and written.
  5. Andrew from Haiku Andy. Andy has done something truly amazing: he writes beautiful haiku and then randomly leaves them out in the world for others to discover. Not only that, but he mails them to anyone who asks.
  6. Katy from Bones Don’t Lie. Katy is an anthropology PhD student who specializes in mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology at Michigan State University. Katy tries to always give a number of perspectives and never favors one view over another. Her articles are in depth and show the untold story of what happens after we die.
  7. Encyclopedia of Exquisite Delights. If this blog ever makes it to publication, I would surely purchase a copy of my own. The photography alone leaves you speechless at nature’s intricate yet profound simplicity.
  8. Violet’s Veg*n e-comics. This “little” blog always brings a smile to my face. The amount of time and creativity put into each comic is priceless. They are “full of stories about children who, growing up veggie/vegan, have battles to fight, victories to win, games to play and cakes to eat.  At Violet’s Veg*n e-comics all the comics are free to view and there’s no waste of paper or plastic in their production!  They’re saving the planet – one comic at a time!”
  9. Chris Fischer Photography. The photos he posts are always stunning and truly versatile. You never know what you will see or what new land you will visit tomorrow. Chris has photographed everything from whales and bear in Alaska to Mayan burial sites deep inside caves of Belize, street photography in Cuba down to wildlife photography in Africa.
  10. Kayla at Dreamrly. Whether it is her passion for dream interpretation or just her fondness for mandalas, I am hooked! Kayla hopes to begin a program to become trained to lead dream groups following Jung’s methods in the spring. Let us all wish her well on her journey!

*Choosing nominees is not as easy as it seems.

Seven things about myself that aren’t widely known:

  • I am a domestic violence and sexual assault survivor. It’s true what they say about the “wounded,” we make excellent healers.
  • All of my past relationships have ended due to some form of mental illness or emotional instability.
  • I have a killer sweet tooth. Homemade pies, cookies, cakes, and dark chocolates with chilli powder are my favourites.
  • I killed a deer with my car on an icy road on Twelfth Night a few years ago. I cried for a week straight.
  • I had a crush on my male best friend in high-school.
  • I have always wanted to finish piano lessons. The piano consistently keeps appearing and manifesting in different ways.
  • I created my own language at age 10 so my parents couldn’t read my journal. It is a mixture of ancient Early Phoenician, Ogham, Greek, and my own symbols.

Thank You again for this honour. 

Namaste.

The Story of Death

This story is from a collection of The Storyteller’s Goddess: Tales of the Goddess and Her Wisdom from Around the World by Carolyn McVickar Edwards.

THERE IS NOT enough room!” the people were crying. “There is not enough room!”
It was true. Plants were so thick on the forest floors that the strongest knives could not cut paths through them. Corn and rice grew so high in the fields that they towered like trees over the people. People had not enough to eat in those times, because no one died. Babies came a grew bigger and bigger, but people did not get old and they never left Earth.
That was when the Goddess Kali turned over in Her sleep. The people’s cry, “There’s not enough room!” became part of Her dream. But She must have been ready to awake because the next cry, “There’s not enough room!” woke Her and She sat up. “You disturb My sleep!” She bellowed, rubbing Her eyes with Her fists.
“There’s not enough room!” the people cried.
Kali drew on Her robes. She walked to Her window and threw it open to look out on the world. She put Her dark hands on the sill and leaned out. Her black hair ruffled in the wind. What She saw made Her draw back into Her room.
She saw crowds of people piled on each other to get at vats of food in buildings crammed together so tightly it was hard to see the sky. Animals swarmed through the throngs. The air was hot with sweat and perfume and soil.
Kali, inside, licked Her lips. Her hands went to Her hips. “Time!” She yelled.
Her servant, Time, came running. “Bring Me My red sari,” She ordered. Time brought the garment, dark as the colour of blood.
Kali threw off the gray robes of sleep and fastened the red about Her. “Clothe yourself,” She said to Her servant. “We are going out. And bring Me My jewels.”
Time did as bidden. He took up Her gray robes for himself and put on shoes the shape of fish. Then he brought Kali Her necklace, glinting with skulls.
“Take these,” Kali said, and She thrust gifts wrapped in golden paper into Time’s hands. “Now call My chariot!”
The chariot came, pulled by eight white stallions and eight black mares. Fire leapt from its wheels when Kali and Time climbed to its platform. With a loud cry, Kali raised Her hand and let loose the rein.
The horses smoked across the distance to Earth. Before each village, Kali drew in the rein. Her servant Time stepped from the chariot and handed the gold-wrapped gifts to people who crowded at each stop.
In each package the people found Kali’s gifts. Spider webs. Dust. Decay. Mold. Worms. Rust. Mushrooms. Crumbling. Rot. Mildew. The smell of rich earth. Aging.
It was on that day that crops knew more than just blooming and growing. They knew also the withering that returned them to the soil. It was on that day that the plants of the forest floor began to add to the blackness of the soil so the trees could grow. Animals had babies, but now the babies grew old. Humans too began to age. They also began to die, so there would be room for their children.
Kali and Her servant Time returned to Her palace. Exhausted She fell, still crimson-clothed, across Her bed. Time undressed Her gently and tucked Her under the covers.
Kali is the Goddess who dances at funerals and sometimes stops babies from being born. Kali still rides with Her servant, Time. Since that first trip, though, Time has carried his own presents. Time gives people the gifts of white hairs, and he wraps them carefully in the gold paper of wisdom and acceptance.

Palestinian farmers hungry for change

Growing crops internally provides an alternative to industrialised Israeli food products [Eric Reidy/Al Jazeera]

Palestinian farmers hungry for change – Features – Al Jazeera English.

Marda, Occupied West Bank – The wall in the sitting room of Murad al-Khufash’s farmhouse is pulling away from the ceiling, exposing a jagged sliver of gray concrete. The three-centimetre gap is a small imperfection in an otherwise tidy living space.

Gesturing out the window, Khufash says, “They run their sewage into our fields.” He is pointing towards the Israeli settlement of Ariel, which spreads across a hilltop above the West Bank village of Marda.

Sewage from Ariel runs downhill and saturates the soil around the foundations of the house, he says, causing it to sink. “If you go around the house … all the walls have cracks.” His neighbours have the same problem.

Yigal Rosental is the director of municipal waste management at Ariel. He says there was once a problem with the sewage, but the pipes have been replaced. “Now there is no sewage going from Ariel,” Rosental says.

“In our market, we know where [the food] is coming from, who the farmer is … We know all his family, his life story, everything.” – Fareed Taamallah, community volunteer

Khufash, however, disagrees. “They are lying. That is not true.”

The Israelis also drilled a well at the western edge of the village, he says, causing the water level to drop dramatically at a spring that farmers have used for generations to irrigate their crops. “Now, you have to go down maybe 40 stairs to reach the water,” Khufash says.

Because of these difficulties, only a small number of people in Marda still cultivate their land. Those who do, for the most part, tend olive groves. In this traditionally agricultural village, as in much of the West Bank, almost no one still grows food to feed their families or sell in the market.

In addition to sewage and water scarcity, the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel paved the way for Israeli and settlement products to flood Palestinian markets with low-price and low-quality agricultural products.

Free trade agreements and international aid that have promoted chemically intensive, industrial-style agricultural practices to farmers have also contributed to the erosion of the traditional Palestinian food system, according to Aisha Mansour, who wrote a master’s thesis at Bethlehem University on the effects of international aid on Palestinian agriculture.

For Khufash and a small number of other Palestinians, developing alternatives to the current food system is a ripe opportunity to resist Israeli occupation, help the environment, and begin to build resilient communities in the face of difficult circumstances.

Farming as resistance

“If people start having their own food … [the Israelis] can make a curfew. They can shut down the whole country. I don’t care because I have everything around me,” Khufash says. “This is resistance to the occupation because I don’t need to buy your food. I don’t need anything from you.”

With this idea of self-sufficiency in mind, Khufash has turned about half an acre of land that he inherited from his father into a permaculture demonstration farm that he uses to feed his family and offer courses in alternative agriculture.

Murad al-Khufash is one of the farmers practicing self-sustainability [Eric Reidy/Al Jazeera]
He grows a wide variety of crops using a method called “companion planting”. Every plant has multiple functions in the overall ecosystem of the farm, and he pairs plants together that are mutually beneficial.

For example, cauliflower has deep roots to extract nutrients from the soil, whereas potatoes have roots close to the surface. So, if you plant them together, they do not compete for nutrients. Cauliflower also has thick and wide leaves that give shade to the potatoes and protect them from frost, he explains.

Instead of chemical fertilisers or pesticides on his farm, Khufash uses compost and manure to enrich his soil. Plants are put into the ground to attract insects that are beneficial and repel other insects that would damage his crops. He also uses water catchment systems and natural design principles to irrigate his farm and reduce his reliance on Israeli-controlled water resources.

Connecting consumers and producers

Fareed Taamallah, a volunteer with a community organisation Sharaka, sees a disconnect between farmers such as Khufash – who are practicing sustainable or traditional agricultural methods – and Palestinian consumers.

To address this gap, Sharaka started a weekly summer farmers’ market in Ramallah, where 20 to 25 farmers producing food grown using traditional or sustainable methods come to sell directly to consumers.

“In our market, we know where [the food] is coming from, who the farmer is … We know all his family, his life story, everything,” Taamallah emphasises.

The direct relationship is important because, without help, Palestinian farmers producing this type of food will lose out to Israeli and international farmers selling cheap, industrialised crops on the Palestinian market, Taamallah says.

A big part of the problem, according to Fatima Saed – a volunteer at Bait al-Karama, a women’s collective in Nablus – is that many consumers have no idea that much of the produce they buy comes from Israeli settlements.

“We always felt unable, un-empowered to do anything because of the occupation. We need to change that mentality.” – Lina Ismail, environmental activist

Bait al-Karama is launching a project to document where vendors in the city source their produce, and to map seasonal Palestinian foods so that consumers will know what goods they should be looking for in the market, if they want to support local farmers.

“If consumers knew where their food came from … I think they would think twice before they bought,” Mansour says.

These projects, and others like them, are putting together the pieces of what a sustainable and local food system in the occupied Palestinian territories would look like, Saed says. “We complete each other.”

Uphill battle

Yet in many ways, those struggling for a sustainable food system in the territories are fighting an uphill battle.

“Our agronomists believe that we cannot grow without chemicals,” says Saad Dagher, an agricultural engineer working on sustainable agriculture projects in the West Bank with the Arab Agronomists’ Association.

It is also largely unclear whether local and sustainable agriculture practices can support the 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

The question of sustainable agriculture is a simple one for Abu Samir, an elderly landowner in Beit Sahour. For the past six years, he has rented land that he used to farm to a permaculture project called Bustan Qaraaqa.

“I am seeing a different way,” he says. “But I don’t know if it is good or not yet. If I see it’s a good way, I will go with it. But if I don’t see anything change, I will go back to doing things the way I was before.”

Environmental activist Lina Ismail says it is important to explore local alternatives to the current system.

“We always felt unable, un-empowered to do anything because of the occupation. We need to change that mentality … We need to provide grassroots solutions, at least as much as we can, for the situation we are living in,” she says.

In the process, she adds, “you create a very strong community … a resilient community”.

Taamallah says the effort is certainly worthwhile. “What we are trying to do are very small things. But it’s better – much, much better – than just to stay looking and doing nothing.”