At the time now as I write this it has well entered the “Winternachten” (Winter Nights) tide. Which ushers in Mid through late October. This marks the more official beginning of the winter or “dark time” of the year. It proceeded what the Anglo-Saxons referred to as the “Blotmonath” (which is what is now called November in Modern English.) Literally meaning “Blood Month” it was the time that in conjunction with the preparation of what came from the crops and plant-life livestock and animals were slaughtered and prepared to assure food during the coming coldest and darkest depths of the winter-tide. Hence referring to the blood or Blot that will be shed in this process. Since our ancestors practical and spirtual life existed symbiotically this was a time of “sacrifice” a time of being mindful of death cycles and the dead.
For the Celtic people this was the time of Samhain. The ancient Celtic festival of “Summer’s End” and the dead. This along with the festival on the opposite end of the Celtic wheel of the year (Beltane) were the two most important festivals for the Ancient Celts. The Samhain tide being somewhat of the Celtic “new year” (as opposed to in Norse/Germanic traditions the New Year happening in Yuletide. Which has been adapted and continued today in the Western World.)
For the Celts Samhain was seen as the time that when the veil between this realm and the realm of spirit “thinned.” It was believed to be an optimal time to communicate with those beings and entities of other realms.
Relating to what is mentioned above regarding the Blotmonath and the time of slaughter and harvest and how our ancestors practical lives and spirtual practices existed symbiotically we can easily see how such a view formed.
Of course one must note that any seasonal tide shift or transition was seen as “viel thin” between worlds. We can see how a certain view has permeated throughout much of the European consciousness and it’s various peoples of applying a certain connotation with the end of fall/ beginning of winters nights/ eve of the blood month with the dead and death!
In contemporary Western Society this celebration continues most akin to those customs of the Ancient Celtic and Irish people in the form of “All Hallow’s Eve” or as it is better known as today Halloween.
Halloween or “All Hallow’s Eve” refers to the eve of what was known as “All Saint’s Day” in Catholic tradition. Of course we can see here that this is yet another example of how the ancient indigenous customs of the given European people were emalgamated with the newer religious institution of Christianity.
However, when we take a deeper look it is more than obvious that such customs were merely just the same heathen or pagan customs merely just re-branded with a new name.
In today’s world (particularly and ecspecially in North America and Western European countries) Halloween has become one holiday most beloved by children and young people. As the custom of giving offerings to wandering spirits has now become “trick or treating.” In a way I personally somewhat find this adaption intriguing and somewhat having a beautiful symbolism that many of us may not consciously realize. The idea that a custom that had the intial purpose or reason of “feeding” or appeasing the dead and other such entities has now became doing such to appease our children. It seems that we very much continue to “feed’ those old spirits as they live on very well through our own children.
Of course with this? Some part of the possible “downside” is that often such customs become so “watered down” with the usual that “water things down” in this day and age. Halloween of course often becoming more associated with marketing and often many folk completely forgetting any sort of aspects of such traditions foundation or origins. Many merely associating it as a “day to get candy” or “dress up.”
However even with this, we can still observe a rather interesting phenomoneon that seems to show that even among such “watering down” and loss of mindfulness the meanings and purposes of such still persist whether we consciously realize it or not. The month of October and “Halloween” is often a time where people are free to entertain and express ideas that maybe deemed inappropriate or “taboo” in a contemprary western society that often doesn’t deal well with death or even such thoughts and experiences that go against the so called rational norm. Very much so in today’s world where we very rarely interact with or even discuss such topics like mortality. These are subjects that all too often in the world of a “daily grind” we spend little time acknowledging our emotions and certain experiences like those related to death and mourning often get labelled as “morbid” or “macabre.” We can even note other themes that have become popluar subjects pertaining to deep experiences we may encounter that go against what we deem as genuine parts of our reality. In today’s world all things that are considered “real” are that which is described as having a “rational explanation.” A certain phenomoneon has happened where many have expressed a strong intrigue in that which is dubbed the “supernatural” or the “paranormal.” Subjects that in recent times have fuelled countless inspiration for many forms of entertainment such as movies and television shows. It’s interesting to asses these terms “supernatrual” and how we associate certain things like for example what we describe as our own “spirtual experiences” as such. We assume that such things happen outside of the “natural world.” Although, realistically some would argue (myself included) that no such experience (regardless of what the actual explanation maybe) happens “outside of the natural world.” Rather such are all a part of nature just simply they belong to an aspect that we may not yet fully understand. This of course is often a huge blow to the psyche or ego of contemporary man. As we have created a perception where we believe ourselves to understand all things that are, and that all such things can carefully be catorgized and explained in a so called rational manner. However, still in such a world we are still “all too human” and may have experiences and emotions that defy such a simplistic and even (feeling at times) mechanical and rigid view of the world.
In such a world where certain emotions and experiences in the daily are often brushed off as “strange” or even “morbid” a holiday like Halloween seems to serve a vital role in many western countries. It’s a time when expressing such thoughts and feelings is deemed acceptable. Even in regards to topics such as what frightens us. All too often in the contemprary world we are taught to avoid and ignore any such topic or theme. Though it seems that on this certain time of year we are permitted to not only discuss and express such fears but also integrate them as a part of ourselves. We see examples of this in simple things like the trend of “dressing up” as even fictional characters from popluar horror films. A character that very likely invoked fear in the person admiring such. Such a thing allows us express and further explore ourselves and the world around us along with how it makes us feel. As well coming to terms with and even integrating such things as a part of ourselves. So it seems that even in a modern world where we often perceive such certain ancient practices and concepts that we dubb “shamanic” are still very alive and well in our collective unconsciousness.
For our ancestors, the coming of winter was a time of accepting the “darkness” to come. A time to prepare for it, yet at the same time; embrace it! It was a time when they tied up loose ends, finished the harvest preparations, and slaughtered what needed to be so. With all of such it reminded them of course of the finality of all things (even themselves) it was a time when they were left time to confront even their own fears. Making peace with all of such and even integrating all such in to themselves. A process or experience that they would probably describe and percieve as something that strengthened them spiritually or in-terms of “wyrd” or “Hamingja.”
With this one can observe or even conclude that possibly the only thing truly dividing us from our most ancient ancestors is possibly era, cultural context and the external world which we exist in. However, on a deeper psychological and spirtual level we still innately and instinctually react the same way. Even though this whole process maybe happening on an entirley unconscious or subconscious level. I have mentioned and written about in previous entries the question of “What would our ancestors be like if they lived in and were raised in today’s world?” The answer: we only need to look at ourselves. We are the answer to that question.
So, with this being said? This takes us to the subject of those of us occultists, folk-practioners, as well as pagans/heathens in general and how we utilize and perceive such a tide. We observe that such energy, association and connotation applied to the time from most ancient to recent makes this often a ripe time to deal with such workings pertaining to dealing and becoming in-tune with “the dead.” As well ecspecially working with such forces that are chthonic in nature. As I have discussed before and made obvious in previous entries; ancestral veneration is a central part of my own and most folk practioners daily lives. Though, for those of us who maybe living in North America or Western European countries it seems that the month of October is a time that permits us to express and discuss these things more openly among the general public. Or rather it’s time when the general public may allow themselves to be more open to inquiring about or discussing such. Thus it seems, the “veil” thins as possibly this maybe the only time many comfortably permit themselves to “pay attention” to some of the more complex parts of their psyche. The way that often certain forces and chthonic forces would communicate with us.
As a practioner it’s a time we can often easily utilize such forces or intiate connection with a certain nature. In other-words: it’s a time that many find most preferable for things we would refer to as “Necromancy” and “Shamanic” in nature. It’s a ripe time to honour/ and facilitate communication with the dead and certain spirtual forces.
Here I will give some examples of such things from the plant-world that are often associated with such works. These are examples from my own personal experiences and studies and are just to name a few.
~Dandelion: Dandelion is an often under-appreciated member of the flora world. In an esoteric and folkloric perspective it is an extremley magical spirit of the plant world! Dandelion (ecspecially dandelion root) is excellent in aiding with facilitating spiritual connection and communication. In-fact in traditional crafting of the Alraune fetiche dandelion root was often utilized just as often as the “Alraun” or Mandrake plant itself. Dandelion works well in conjunction with other herbs in blends to use in facilitating spirit communication. In incense herbal blend if the work is more pertaining to energies or forces of the “upper-branches of the tree” most specfically the leaves and petals could be used. If the work pertains to specfically working with that or those of the “roots below” using specfically the root is helpful. If uncertain or for general works? One may use a combination of such. One method I have personally utilized is using a root itself and saining/ dedicating it as such to be used as an object or tool for communication. This can be done by means of obtaining a good and well developed dandelion root. One that seems to instinctually appeal to you. After it has been dried, one method is to tie it with red thread. Sain/dedicate it in honour of your ancestral spirits. You may present it to them at your ancestral altar (if you have one) or any such place you honor them. Explain your intentions. That you wish to use this as a medium to commune with them. With this you can use this root in the manner of a “pendulum” using it to commune with your ancestral forces/ the spirits you work with. Remember to also show gratituide and honour to the spirit of the dandelion root as well. Treat this as a most sacred object and fetiche.
~Elder/Elderberry: Elder is one tree that is held in sacred regard to the Germanic peoples. It often is better known or more famously utilized in works of warding and healing. However, the elder is strongly associated with Frau Holle, witches, and the “underworld” Disir and Norns. Thus it is good as a protection charm and as well good to utilize in rites that regard honouring and communing with Holle or Hel. Which is helpful before opening up the gates our initiating communing with the spirits of the dead or lower realms.
~Mugwort: An excellent herb that is sacred and very commonly found throughout much of European plant-lore. It is said to be one of those substances and energies which is profound with assisting and facility spirtual connection, communication, trance like visions and divination. It’s favourable to burn mugwort as an incense (often along with other such herbs like wormwood.) While doing works of honouring and communicating with spirits, as well as any sort of trance or divinatory work. Mugwort was often brewed into magical teas and consumed previous to scrying works. As well mugwort tea was often used as a wash for certain scrying tools like crystal balls, mirrors or any sort of mirror that maybe used for spirit communication.
~Marshmallow root: Marshmallow root is one that I have observed become increasingly popular among many modern folk-practioners of various cultures and traditions. Marshmallow works excellent added in conjunction with other herbs used as burned offertory incense/smoke type blend. It also works well adding it to the dressing of candles and other such objects used in honouring spirits. It can be used in itself as an offertory item. This can be handy for those who want to set up something for facilitating communication with their own ancestral spirits but are not exactly sure what to use or who to call to. Preparing a white candle in honour of such along with some Marshmallow root, and maybe some other sort of offering (like a drink) and dedicating such in honour of your ancestral spirits is quite useful.
~Rose: Rose may not be a common one that comes to mind when thinking of such works. However, because of it’s (and certain other flowers) association in recent eras as a funerary flower; roses can often make an ideal gift or offering for spirits of the dead or graveyard spirits/ wights. The rose also carries the symbolism of “rebirth” and the ongoing cycle of life from death. Thus giving such a flower as an offering is very honouring to many spirtual forces. As well, the Wild Rose has a strong association with Holda and the Hidden Folk. Hollow/Holda having a strong connection to the underworld spirits and as well the Hidden Alfar had strong associations with the certain ancestral spirits.
~Wormwood: wormwood is an excellent plant for spirit works and divination. Works well when used along-side mugwort in mixtures. A good general and simple blend to be burned as an incense during any sort of spirit-work or divination consists of mugwort and wormwood. Also, along with mugwort the two combined together can be brewed in a tea or wash for divinatory and scrying tools. Wormwood is one I often use as a foundation herb for any such blend pertaining to working with the dead or spirits in any manner.
~Yarrow: yarrow is an herb with a rich lore. Used in many sorts of magical works. From matters concerning, love, romance and marriage to divination. Another such property of yarrow is it’s association with the Frau of the “underworld.” Yarrow can be used in such works to commune and honour her and those such forces of her realms. I would recommend using it in conjunction and mixture with other such herbs. Like mugwort and/or wormwood and elderberry.