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Sunday, 28 October 2012

A Sense of Waiting

Despite the whirlwind of activity in the cyber community regarding preparations for Samhain, I have found it almost impossible this year to even show much interest, let alone enthusiasm, for the festivities. The unseasonally warm weather we've been experiencing up until the last couple of days wasn't helping, it's hard to think of Samhain while walking around in short sleeves, soaking up the autumn sun, but that wasn't all that seemed out of place.
 
I have an uneasy feeling about Samhain this year, a kind of impending sense of doom, that I just can't shake. It's been building since early September, a kind of butterflies-in-the-stomach wariness that has been my constant companion. I've had feelings like this before -haven't we all?- but always in the past it either dissipated, presumably because somehow I had, all unawares, averted the imminent disaster, or it would reach its unpleasant conclusion within a week or two. Never before have I carried this feeling around with me for so long.
 
There are serious health issues with a close family member, and I don't think that's helping matters. Especially as I discovered yesterday that he his going in for major surgery on Samhain. Coincidence? It doesn't bode well.  
 
But I think it's more than that. I think my step-dad's health has become my focus but I don't think that is the root cause. There's something else, not as immediate, but possibly bigger, life changing. There are whispers in the wind. Warnings. There is a strong sense that I'm being prepared for something and Samhain is just the start of it.
 
The ancestors are drawing near, but there is a difference this year. They are gathering in their droves! Whole crowds of them have been following me around. I've become so accustomed to their presence that once or twice I've caught myself mid conversation with them as I walk the lanes and footpaths around here. I'll get myself a reputation as 'that nutty woman who talks to herself' if I'm not careful! They are wrapping around me like a comforting shawl, waiting. They are gathering about me like a protective cocoon, preparing.
 
It's an uneasy state of affairs, this sense of waiting.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Octoberfest

A big, warm welcome to anyone popping by on the Real Witches of Halloween blog tour from Wise Whispers. And an especially big thank you to Lyn Thurman for including me, it's quite exciting! I've never been part of a blog tour before.

Make yourself at home, pour yourself a coffee, there should be cakes coming out of the oven any minute now and I think there's even a bottle of rhubarb wine around here somewhere, just help yourself.


I've always loved this time of year, possibly because my birthday is only a week away and no matter how old I get, I've never lost my childlike enthusiasm for birthdays, but strangely my birthday isn't the most celebrated date in October. The 31st looms large on most witch calendars, with Halloween far outstripping any other date in the popularity stakes. In fact it was way back in July when I first heard an excited 'Ooooh, it's almost that time of year again.' I have to put my hand up here and say at first it took me a while to work out what she meant, and when the penny finally dropped I thought you can't be serious? But she was. In certain quarters the pressure cooker that is Halloween has been building since July!
It's an attitude I'm coming across increasingly often and it puzzles me immensely. I don't want to rain on anyone's parade here, but I do wonder if Halloween is in serious danger of becoming the pagan equivalent to Christmas?  And by that I mean over commercialised, over done and over emphasised. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing!
Is Halloween your favourite time of year? Do you feel the urge to spend the whole of October dressed in black, freaking out all the other mums at the school gates? Is your box of Halloween decorations twice the size of your Christmas tree? Do you go through a year's supply of candles in one day, or live off pumpkin soup/cake/pie for a month? Do you want to scare the neighbourhood children silly and have them daring each other just to walk past your door? (OK, so I've always fancied doing that one! Not that I would of course, but, y'know... ;)
We all have our favourite seasons and festivals, I'm sure we all observe certain dates in different ways, some receiving more emphasis than others and that's only natural. For myself, I came to paganism through Wicca and although I left that behind many years ago the Wiccan wheel of the year is still ingrained. I find it very hard to ignore certain dates even though I find some don't sit well with me personally, or no longer seem to fit with our changing seasons. As a result some observances are little more than the lighting of a candle ( and the main event adapted and moved to when feels/smells right) while others give rise to full blown planning, feasting and honouring deity, ancestors and land.
Samhain is one that usually involves more planning, but that usually means a couple of days, maybe a week, in advance, not months! There have even been years when I've done very little at all because it just hasn't felt right to do more. I may have a pumpkin (but mainly because I have a fantastic recipe for pumpkin cake), we may have a 'dumb' supper although that's a bit of a misnomer as silent it is not! I've discovered over the years that our ancestors are rather rowdy. I will have a bag of sweets by the front door in case any of the neighbour's children come to call trick or treating.
I don't really have a problem with the 'fun', commercial side of Halloween. My Mad Druid however, does. For him it is an insult to his faith that such a sacred day is now awash with plastic pumpkins and skeletons, fake blood and cobwebs. He sees it all as a Christian assault, making fun of a holy day. 'How would they feel,' he says, 'if we did the same to Easter, or Christmas, going door to door in fancy dress with a plastic crucifix?' Personally, I think he's a bit over sensitive and we bang heads over it EVERY year. I make a clear distinction between Halloween and Samhain, and that stops me tearing my hair out with frustration when I hear trite inaccuracies rolled out year after year by everyone from the press, to Christians, to Pagans themselves, about what it all means. In my head at least, Halloween is for fancy dress and silliness, Samhain is for ritual and respect, but try as I might I can't get my Mad Druid to separate the two and it's getting harder and harder every year as the Halloween hullabaloo starts ever earlier.
October? OK, nothing wrong with a bit of a build up if you enjoy it. But September? August? July?!!
The trend towards promoting October to 'Witch Month' disturbs me. It's a bit of fun, yes, and there is nothing wrong with that, many of us enjoy the drawing in of the nights, a return to misty mornings and yes, the occasional evening curled up with a glass of wine in front of Practical Magic, but I've recently seen or heard October described as 'that witchiest of months' and 'the most sacred time of the year' and 'the time of real magic', and 'the month of the most important pagan festival'.
Really?

Is October really any different to any other month? Am I more of a witch in October? Is my magic more effective? There are aspects to this time of year that I love. There are energies I work with that are stronger now, but I could say that about any month, any season. Each has its own quality, its own strengths. Is it right to put October up on a pedestal and hail it as some magical giant of a month? Is it cheapening our craft to jump wholesale into the hype? *ducks to avoid flying objects- yes, I know I'm probably on my own with this one.

It's not that I mind all the blood and gore, ghosts and ghouls, candy and fancy dress (I still fondly remember the two year old 'witch' I encountered last year, tripping over her broomstick and proudly announcing 'I is a witch. I not 'fraid dark. No!' I defy even the staunchest Halloween hater not to melt over that one!) It's the way it seems to take over these days and swamp everything else for so long. It swallows up the last dusty days of summer and hangs over the harvest, it gobbles up the green in a great rush greet the dark. Well, the dark will come in it's own time,when it's ready, we don't need to hurry it and bully it along. I'm all for letting the seasons roll as they will. I'll celebrate their turning and enjoy it, when the time comes, when I feel that shiver, when my nose picks out that defining note, when I sense that change. Until then, I'll enjoy the now, the last of the sun, the harvest, the still warm days. There will be plenty of time to think of Halloween later.

What do you think? Is Halloween given too much precedence these days? Do you agree that it's starting to override other, equally important, festivals and seasons? Or do you love it just the way it is?