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Samhain Traditions

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Samhain Traditions

Postby SifGreyWillow on Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:21 pm

Samhain Traditions

Samhain is considered a time to eliminate weaknesses - our Celtic ancestors slaughtered weak animals that were not likely to survive the winter and their meat was salted and stored for the dark months, this has evolved into the custom of writing your own weaknesses onto a piece of paper then burning them.
Stones with a personal mark were thrown into the fire. These had to be retrieved from the ashes to ensure luck for the coming year, if your stone was missing or damaged it was considered a sign of forthcoming bad luck.
Also known as 'Nutcrack Night', because it was a popular custom at Samhain to throw nuts on the fire - if a nut burned brightly it meant that the thrower would be alive in twelve months time, and if it flared up brightly it meant marriage within twelve months.
To see if a relationship will last, place two hazelnuts side by side and burn them over a fire. If they stay together as they burn then the couple will last, but if the nuts burst apart the relationship will break up.
Baked cakes were offered up for the souls of the dead. All the family would eat the festival Soul cakes - known as 'barm brack' cakes in Ireland - which often contained lucky or unlucky tokens : a coin for fortune, a button for remaining unwed, a ring for marriage, a wishbone for your heart's desire, a pea for poverty.
It was customary at Samhain to leave an empty chair and a plate of food for any dead guests, so that they would not be offended.
At the stroke of midnight - believed to be the hour the dead visited - all remained silent in respect.
The custom of trick-or-treating may have originated from an old Irish custom of going door-to-door to collect bread, cheese, nuts and apples in preparation for the feasting at Samhain.
When a candle flame flickers on Halloween night it is being touched by the spirits of dead ancestors.
In Scotland the fishermen would wade into the sea at Samhain and pour out a bowl of ale into the waves for the 'Shoney' - a sea serpent-like being, to ensure a good catch for the coming year.
At Balmoral on Halloween night, during Queen Victoria's time a bonfire was lit and an effigy of an old woman called the Shandy Dann was indicted with witchcraft, then thrown onto the fire.
At the Forest of Pendle in North Lancashire, at Samhain a ceremony called the 'Lating the Witches' took place. Locals believed witches gathered here on this auspicious night, so lit candles were carried over the hills between 11 p.m and midnight - lighting the witches or 'lating' them. If a candle stayed lit then the witches' power was broken, but if it went out - blown out by a witch - bad luck may follow.
Those born on All Hallows Eve are believed to have the gift of second sight.
If you catch a falling leaf on Samhain before it touches the ground it will bring you good luck and health for the coming winter..
On the morning of November 1st a silver coin was thrown through the front door of the house. The coin had to remain where it had fallen in order to bring financial luck.
Halloween lanterns
The tradition of face-carved pumpkin lanterns is thought to be derived from the Celts' placing of ancestors' skulls outside their doors at this time. Others see it as originating from using lanterns to ward off any evil spirits, which may be wandering through the thin veil into the living world on this All Hallows Eve.
The lit pumpkins also symbolise that in the darkness of winter the light continues within the seeds, tubers and bulbs dormant under the earth - they are still full of life and glowing like the candles within the pumpkins.
The name Jack O'Lantern derives from an old Irish tale of a villain who could not enter heaven or hell, so was condemned to wander the land with only a candle to see his way. Others believe Jack-O-Lantern was a mischievous spirit who carried a light at night and lures night travellers into bogs or marshes, which were the dwelling places of fairies.
The Jack O' Lantern used to be made from a turnip, but Irish emigrants to America adopted the plentiful pumpkin since it is much easier to carve.
Divining
Samhain was a time for divination and magic, the Druids would foretell the future on this powerful night.
Many of the customs were performed by young people divining for their future husbands and wives - apples often figured; their connection with fertility is widely recognised :
An old belief is that by peeling an apple on Hallowe'en and keeping the peel in one piece, then throwing it over your shoulder you will discover the initials of a future lover.
By candlelight go alone to a mirror and eat an apple before it, whilst combing your hair. Your future love will be seen in the glass over your shoulder.
Ducking for apples was a marriage divination. The first person to bite an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year. 'Dookin’ for apples' is thought to have originated from a Druidical rite associated with water.
Young girls would stick apple pips to the outside of her cheek, with each one standing for her sweethearts. The last pip that stayed stuck was her true love.
In Ireland a blindfolded person would sit at a table on which were placed several saucers. They choose one by touch, after they have been shuffled about the table. The contents of the saucer foretell the person's fate for the following year :
water means the person will travel, a coin means wealth, earth means someone known to the player will die next year, a bean predicts poverty.
Samhain or Samhuin stands between the worlds of the living and dead and outside of ordinary time. It's the day that past memories meet the hopes of the future. It is death that gives life its purpose and decay that fertilises new growth.
It is a time to plant the seeds of new projects, allowing them to germinate over the winter months. It is also considered the time to end old projects and to generally take stock of one's life.
Use the magic of this time to say good-bye to a bad habit or addiction, an old relationship, or anything else negative in your life - Samhain is the night to leave it all behind.
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