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Blessed Samhain

Blessed Samhain, Samhuinn, & Hallows!

Originally a celebration of 3 nights to a week to allow for travel time and the moon to move since this festival was originally determined by the moon. The idea of months is relatively new to the Gaelic peoples. The Gaelic words for the months are a new addition to the Gaelic language. They went by seasonal names and groups of days not a day at a time on the calendar. The word weekend for instance is an American invention from beginning of the last century. In Britain, fortnight and sennight instead a week or two weeks spans. So Samhain is simply the word for Summer’s end. There is no Lord Samhain some nitwit with no knowledge of Gaelic made that up and now Christians use it in tracts to defame pagans. Repeat: THERE IS NO LORD SAMHAIN! And by the way it is not pronounced Sam Hane like some strange man. It’s Sow-in in Ireland and usually Sav- in in Scotland. MH dipthong is pronounced as a “v”. So is BH, by the way although if in the middle of the word they may be silent.

So for the Gaels it was a matter of honouring their family dead and setting a place for them at the feast. It was also a night of fear of the Fae. Not pretty Victorian fairies but full size or bigger and dressed for the Wild Hunt. If you didn’t pay homage to them you were liable to be taken away or hunted by the Wild Hunt and never seen again. Alone on the moors in the Highlands was no place to be on Samhain Night.

So light the bonefires and know that if the crops are not in by now they are the ransom paid to the Fae and no longer belong to you. Farmer, you had best be sure to have the last of the turnips and beets in. This is the harvest of the root vegetable, the harvest of nuts from the woods and the harvest of the animals you can’t feed through the winter. Tonight is the feast to prepare us for tomorrow’s winter. We celebrate the eve because we know that light follows dark as spring follows winter. We know that loss comes before gain and indeed from death comes life.

This is the time now for stories. Summer is for play and for work outside, Now we enter around the fireside and listen to the tales of the Seanchai or Fili. Listen to the tales of your tribe, the tales of the wise Druids, the tales of the heroes and heroines, listen to the words of your ancestors. Listen to the wind outside for their tales too. Roast the nuts and watch the women waulk the cloth. Listen to the songs of the people who came before you and rest. Your heavy work is done.

Listen to the piper, listen to the Bodran and the whistle. Come bring the bairns and watch the smoke rise from the peat. It’s Samhain night, It’s Samhain Night, IT’S SAMHAIN NIGHT!

R is for Reality

R is for Reality

Or in this case – Magical Reality. Reality is mutable. It depends on the person’s viewpoint and if in a group, the group’s agreed upon on reality. The dictionary definition defines reality as the state or quality of being real but we all have an idea about what is real and what is not real. A synonym is verisimilitude and that is closer to what I think the definition is. Versimilitude is the appearance or semblance of truth.

An example of unique reality is whether you know or see ghosts. I know ghosts exist and they are part of my reality because I have seen them. There was a man who used to stand by my bed as a child and just watch me sleep. The man is also part of my sister’s reality because he also stood by her bed. We knew it wasn’t my dad because my dad snored louder than a Lear jet and we could hear him down the hall. However, he never stood by my brother’s bed downstairs so he wasn’t part of my little brother’s reality. We figured out who he was as adults. The original owner’s husband who had two daughters. We think he thought he was watching his daughters. My mom wouldn’t believe us but my dad did.

The same can occur at a coven or other magical group’s workings or even at a public ritual. TOILA used to put on large public Samhain rituals and the first time one of the priestesses brought her kids to ritual things happened. One kid freaked out because when we called the spirits of the dead, he saw them come and D came and got me to talk to M and her youngest daughter just thought she was at a really cool Halloween Party since she had been warded before she ever got there in case she went home and told where she had been to the ex-husband. Two separate but very real worlds on the same plane.

The majority of our coven shared a large house when we started but one pair bought a house in a neighboring city and were moving on November 1. So part of our Hallows ritual was to clean house of all the magical workings we had done. The house was always a little strange. The TV went on and off by itself. If you were in one bedroom asleep on the bed someone non corporeal would come and bounce on the end of your bed and when you turned the light on no one would be there. Lights came on and off by themselves in the middle of the night.

So we started at the top of the house with brooms sweeping the energy and singing and it quickly became apparent that someone was running in front of us and they were getting angry. Two of us could see her and the rest could feel her anger. When we were done we sat in the circle in the living room and it felt like we were being watched from an outside window and then from the living room rafters and that there was a lot of anger involved so we started singing calming songs. Someone came in the front door which we had left open and sat in an opening in circle between K and I and I could see her. She was in an early 20th century blue cotton flowered dress and seemed to be a bit slow or developmentally disabled. It was clear she thought that we had been playing once she had calmed down and was bouncing up and down like a small child that wanted to play. She was adult sized but her demeanour was very child-like. We tried to make clear to her that it was time for her to go and that we were leaving. I’m not sure if we got through because every time I go by that house it’s for sale, again.

She was very real to me and I ended up grabbing a piece of paper and drawing her for the others so that they could see what I saw. She then became part of their reality as she hadn’t been before except energetically.

So, where am I going with this?

Do not assume that your experience in circle or in any magical working is the same as the person next to you. It isn’t. It can’t be because we all have different degrees of openness, experience and training. If you aren’t open to it, things may or may not happen and different people’s senses. My reality may contain a priestess calling down the goddess and it may also contain the goddess she drew down or there may be nothing there at all. And that is okay. We all see/know/believe what is essential to us at the time. And someone who says they saw something may also be lying. Such as some people who after a guided meditation have elaborate stories about what happened on the meditation and they are flat out story-telling and trying to make themselves important and the person next to them had a very profound experience and chooses to say nothing because it was personal or so overwhelming they need to process it.

It’s all alright. We each do what we need to do to create the reality we desire and the person with the elaborate story may have nowhere else in their life where they can stand out. In their mind, they have found some place they feel they can be important and it’s alright. It’s still creating a reality that is real to them, maybe not to you but it’s real to them for that moment even if it’s just a momentary ego boost in an otherwise dull life.

So what is your reality as you walk through the world? Did you see the raven from the tree observing you? Did you see your totem dragonfly buzz you to get your attention? Do you live in your “real” world or someone else’s? Are you someone else’s creator of reality? Are you real, Velveteen Rabbit?

How I learned I could fly

The Spring of ’76 we were running Outdoor Ed camps for private schools all springs which led to a big discovery. On the north end of camp there were several flat boulders that held metates. (A metate is a grain or seed grinding stone, in this case acorn meal.) There were also holes that had been hollowed out as storage for acorns next to the grinding stones. Some boys from camp were playing where they shouldn’t have been in the ravine where one of the streams flowed through that was quite dense with brush. It was off limits due to rattlesnakes but they went there anyway and made a discovery. They found more metates and they also found pictographs and carving on some of the large stones above the creek.

The next day one of the women from the Cahuilla tribe was coming to visit so we showed her the boys find and it promptly went off limits again while the local tribe came to investigate. They decided that it would be kept secret because it was on protected private land. What we didn’t know was that within a year the camp would close but that is a whole ‘nother tale.

Knowing it was off limits to the greater world didn’t mean it was off limits to the staff and we fascinated as was the D, anthropologist/storyteller/ shaman for the tribe and ran their tribal museum at the time, and she would come up just to visit. She continued to do this through the summer and since she was in her 80’s we asked her to always take one of us with her as they weren’t in an easy place to get to and we were afraid she’d fall. They were down a really steep hillside.

The site consisted of an upright slab with red handprints and drawings of deer in red and other small drawings. This stone was a pretty large slab facing the south into the sun. On a slab facing east was the only carving and it was of a very large snake. And just below that was a sort of cave made by two smaller upright stone and a very large stone that laid across the two small upright stones which made a cave of about 5 ft deep and at one end it was about 2 ½ feet tall and then sloped down lower toward the back. It had been totally blackened from fire on the inside and had a nasty feeling to it. One of those places you instinctively know not to go in but D, our anthropologist from the tribe was totally enthralled with it. G, R and I wanted no part of it and we were her usual escorts. The cave at some point had had a fire in it so intense that it cracked one of the large side rocks that held the stone above.

D had come up to visit and was doing workshops with the girls at the north stones and showing how acorns were ground and prepared for eating and after lunch some of us who were her big fans would get her talking and telling stories. That day, she kept wanting to go down to the cave but none of us were free at the time and wouldn’t be until later and she said she would wait. We shouldn’t have believed her.

That summer the Asst Camp Director, R and I had started reading Carlos Castaneda’s books and they were the topic of much discussion among us and with D who wasn’t sure about them. So we were already primed toward the kind of events that were about to occur.

Around 3 pm I noticed D had disappeared from the stones. I could see that area from Arts and Crafts and got a really intense feeling of something awful happening and took off to find R and G who also had the same feeling and were already moving in the direction of the road and we took off running for the cave and found D almost to the area on the road above. And she told us to come along, she was going with or without us and that we were being stupid. She had decided to go by the creek and climb up from there and so we went with her. We spent some time sitting below the large upright slab talking about the various symbols. D’s theory was that it was a coming of age spot for girls of the tribe that were using the site as a summer camping area. That makes a lot of sense from the size of the handprints on the rock. All seemed normal and I think we all felt like we had been a little nuts for jumping to a conclusion.

We were all looking at the stone when D disappeared around the back side of the cave and crawled in the smaller end. This can’t have been easy because she was elderly and not a small woman but she said she felt compelled to sit inside the cave. Once she had gotten herself in there she started to feel intense pressure on her chest and to have trouble breathing. So she yelled and got our attention and of course we dove for the larger size entrance just behind us. The three of us tried to get her to come out. R even tried to pull her out, he was a fairly big guy and he couldn’t get her to move. She said she couldn’t and wouldn’t move but she thought she was having a heart attack and couldn’t get her breath and that she was having intense feelings of evil from whomever the last man to use it was and that he was really pissed.

While she was relating this to us the three of us found out we could not move. It felt like someone was pinning us to the earth. I remember trying to force myself to my feet so that I could run and I just couldn’t move. It was one of scariest and weird sensations I’ve ever felt. Like my legs had been cemented to the earth. Later G and R said they had felt the same way. I finally broke free and started to run up the hill and down the road for main camp to get help. The other two still couldn’t move not could D.

G and R said it was one of the strangest things they had ever seen. They told me I was off the ground going up the hillside. I don’t remember that, I just remember running like hell and how difficult it seemed to move at first. The farther I got away the easier it was to run. As I reached Main Camp my boss was running to the camp van with the keys to come and get us. They had been eating dinner when she said she felt me yelling for her to come to us. I hadn’t even started to yell at that point I was running too hard.

I jumped in the moving van and we hauled down the road to above the site. Somehow after I broke free D had too and R and G were helping her up the hillside when we got there. I don’t remember how we got the van turned around but we did and hauled ass to camp where we had an ambulance already on the way from the forest station.

They got D down to the hospital to be treated for what everyonewas sure was a heart attack. She had all the symptoms. We got an anxiously awaited phone call from D a few hours later. Could she come back to camp in the morning, the hospital says there is nothing wrong with her??!!

They had told her after she had a completely normal EKG that her heart showed no signs of trauma nor did any of her blood work. So they let her go home and told her to take it easy for a few days so of course she wanted to come back to camp.

I don’t think any of us ever went near the cave after that for the rest of the summer. Not even D wanted to do it. She said she had had enough of whoever had been there before. We’d go see the pictographs and I went and drew them. Still have my sketchbook but no way was I ever going in that cave again.

Spirits of place

I was thinking about the day I found out I was claimed. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s when I became a part of So Cal pagan community there seemed to be a lot more times to gather and there were several camping events that used to occur in our local mountains such as Pacific Circle and COA had a camping event and there were several small ones along with pagan festivals like Harvest Moon and FERALS monthly concerts and gatherings.

I was invited to one with the rest of the Pallas Society Board and Lorraine Covenant, two groups that sadly no longer exist, at least not in the LA area. There may be some form of Lorraine Covenant up in Seattle where the HP moved. Anyway a group run by the Crowleys coven put on a campout that I was invited to and I jumped at the chance because it was across the road from my most beloved camp. What I didn’t count on was that the spirit of camp would claim ownership of me.

Our camp had a protective spirit known to the camp as the Old Squaw and yes, I know that isn’t a politically correct term but the camp had been founded in the 30’s and that was what she made herself known as to the first campers. I have since been told her real name in a dream and told to keep it close, so I will.

We told her story every session about her protective spirit and about how she saved Don Benito Wilson’s life when he was mauled by a bear. The same Wilson, Mt Wilson is named after about how he allegedly gifted her with the land. About how the trappers came in the early 1900’s and left again when they didn’t catch anything because she told the animals to go away. Camp still has a national historical monument in that log cabin and the trading post a hundred yards away that they had to abandon.

It’s amusing that they couldn’t catch anything because that canyon has more wildlife in per square inch of any camp I ever worked at. We had Mt lions, bears, fox, squirrels, ground squirrels, rabbits, bob cats, mice, kangaroo rats, bats, mule deer and raccoons and those are just the ones I remember seeing.

For two years after we stopped working there we had rituals after camp was over for the summer to honour her because the new camp director wouldn’t allow her story to be told so we organized a campout to honour and tell her story. The 2 years they wouldn’t allow the story we heard from the staff that all kinds of things went wrong and that the summer was just not as easy as it had been before. So a some of the old staff and friends and our HP and group went up and I told her story. At one of those she actually appeared behind me in while I was telling. I still remember my partner at the times white face as she pointed behind me. This person was not prone to believing in ghosts let alone seeing one normally only heard of in tales so that was pretty amusing but my first realization was when she touched me.

A cold hand stroked my face like a mother or fond relative does and I about jumped out of my skin and I have to admit I squealed until I figured out what it was and the people pointing behind me and babbling that she was standing there. I apologized and went on with her story very conscious of my audience corporeal and non-corporeal. I think that also may be the last time I did a non-reading storytelling too. (Since I was the only one standing on that side of the campfire I knew it wasn’t any one there.

When I worked there I would sit out in my Arts and Crafts lodge and the door would open on one side and then a few moments later the door on the other side would open and close and there was never any wind when this occurred and I used to greet her just as I would anyone else coming there to visit. There were cold spots in camp as you were walking around in the dark that there were no explainable reason for. It would be normal temp a few feet away and it almost always happened on the road at least for me. And except for the summer we had Peter Pervert spying on us the camp always felt unusually safe.

Anyway, a few years later I was attending the campout and was about to attend the Circle for the evening when I started to get the feeling that I shouldn’t go but I couldn’t figure out why I should feel that way. (Sometimes I can be really dense.) I put myself in the East because that was where I almost always stood in the Circle when I was new and felt comfortable there when I felt the hard compulsion to leave right as the Circle was starting to be cast. I looked at my HP and shook my head and excused myself.

I started walking away and felt like I was being pushed and pushed hard away from the ritual. I was being pushed to the stream that ran through the campground. The next thing I knew I was rolling down the bank and into the water and the words, “You are mine and you will not do that here!” rang in my head.

It was clear that I was still on HER land and she wasn’t having any of me attending a Circle not dedicated to her. I belonged to Her and she was really clear about it. She seemed to think rolling in the water and mud a fitting thing.

It also may have been a reference to something I had done before I left camp my last summer and at the time I wasn’t a practicing pagan and would have not known what that was but I went on my last night to the stream that ran into our lake and washed myself in the cold water of the stream and wished the camp and land goodbye and I’ve never told anyone I did that before. I made sure I wet my hands and feet and heart and head and at the time it felt right. So think the roll into the stream was a reminder of whose I was and what I had done.

Somehow it was clear that anytime I was on her land or near it I was hers and I was not to forget that ever!

The Celts were known having local goddesses and gods that were not known out of the areas they protected and now I know that they aren’t the only ones that had that relationship with the spirits of their lands. And I know who I belong to.