When the Veil is thinnest

I love Halloween! It has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love wandering down dark streets in the crisp air, with the leaves crunching under my feet, passing strange apparitions, always with a hint of fear, the sense that something is lurking in the darkness. Since I grew older, my attention shifted away from trick-or-treating and parties towards the main theme of this dark festival: death.

Halloween is one of the great quarter-days or pagan festivals which fall midway between the solstices and the equinoxes. That makes it an agricultural festival — it marks the time of the last harvest, the winter slaughter, the death of the crops and the rest cycle of the land. The Saxons called it Winter’s Eve. The Celts called it Samhain, which means “summer’s end.” To the Celts, the day began with night fall. Thus it was natural for the year to begin at the start of the darkest time of the year. Celtic feasts were celebrated from sunset to sunset, so Samhain began at sunset on October 31st and continued until sunset November 1st. The Feast of All Saints, which came into existence in the 7th century, was commemorated on November 1 under the name of All Hallows Day, from which we get the name Halloween (the eve of Hallows). The following day, November 2, is All Souls Day, a day when the priest wears black, the church is draped with mourning and the faithful pray for the souls of their departed, with the hope of shortening their time in Purgatory.

The Day of the Dead

In Mexico, All Souls Day is called Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) and is a time of commemorating the dead by decorating their tombs (with marigolds, a flower sacred to the Aztecs) and inviting them to a feast in their honor. Families go to the cemetery for a picnic and eat skeleton cookies and sugar skull cakes. Trick-or-treating derives from an ancient British custom of going from house to house begging for soul-cakes. Some say the soul-cakes were given to the priest to buy Masses for the souls of relatives in Purgatory. Others believe they were offerings to the dead. Candles flickering in the windows (or pumpkins) were meant to serve as beacons for the dead, just as on the similar holiday in Japan, lanterns are hung by the garden gates.

The Month of Blood

There are some obvious reasons why this place on the Wheel of the Year is associated with death. The sun is approaching its nadir, the leaves are falling from trees, the death and decay in the natural world remind us of our own mortality. Martinmas, November 11th, was the traditional time for slaughtering the cattle, sheep and pigs which could not be maintained during the winter. The Welsh called November the month of Slaughter while the Saxons called it the Month of Blood. In the Odyssey, Odysseus summons the shades of the dead by sacrificing animals. Their blood drains into a pit and the restless shades come eagerly crowing up from the underworld. Odysseus holds them at bay with his sword until the particular spirit he wants comes forward, laps up the blood and then prophesies what will happen in the future. This scene combines the themes of fear, slaughter, death, the Underworld, ghosts and divination which are common to Halloween.

Honoring the Dead

There are many ways you can honor the dead, starting with the simple act of setting out food for them. While you’re at home and can properly supervise, place lighted candles in the windows to serve as beacons for the spirits. Host a Feast of the Dead as I will be this year with my coven family & friends. Set a place at the table for the dead and offer them servings of the food you eat. Invite departed friend and relatives, ancestors and heroines. Ask the living participants to share a memory about someone who has died who was important to them. Light a candle or ring a bell for each person after you speak about them. In Feeding the Spirit, Cunningham suggests a variation of a Shinto tradition: cut out or draw pictures of things the dead would like. Then burn them in the fire (or candle flame), saying something like, “George, I am sending you new clothes for your journey in the spirit world.” You can also make an altar for your ancestors. Z Budapest in Grandmother of Time suggests putting pictures of your departed relatives in the middle of the altar, burning white and yellow devotional candles and incense, and talking to them. If you feel uncomfortable talking out loud, write letters. You can burn these too and imagine the smoke carrying your message.

Celebrating

Decorating for this holy day is easy since there are so many items available for Halloween which will set the proper tone of mortality: autumn leaves, skeletons, miniature coffins, skulls, tombstones, pumpkins carved with terrifying faces, black candles. While you enjoy the fruits of the harvest, you can honor their source by wassailing the trees. Go out to the trees which have shared their bounty with you and thank them, drink a toast and pour a libation on their roots. For a dramatic but simple Halloween ritual I recommend this piece of the long and beautiful Samhain ritual described by Starhawk in The Spiral Dance. Light candles in a dark room. Take a pomegranate and hold it up saying, “Behold, the fruit of life —” Put it down on a plate and cut it open with a knife, saying “— which is death.” The ruby-red juice of the pomegranate will look like blood in the candlelight. Then hold up an especially shiny red apple — one that reminds you of the apple the stepmother gave Snow White — and say “Behold the fruit of death —” Put it down and slice it open horizontally rather than vertically. Hold it up so others can see the five-pointed star made by the seeds and say “— which is life.” Cut up the rest of the apple and feed it to each other or use it for one of the many forms of divination.

Divining the Future

After being fed and entertained, the ghosts might provide oracular advice as they did for Odysseus. Since the spirits are so close to us on this night, this is an excellent time for all forms of divination. You have more access to your personal underworld, your unconscious. Consult your favorite oracle — the tarot cards, the I Ching, a Ouija board, runes, tea leaves or a crystal ball, etc. Request images of what you can become or what you will do in the new year. There are many traditional forms of divination practiced on this night, most of them used to reveal the identity of your future spouse. If this is not something you need to know, ask for another vision. Several forms of divination involve apples. For instance, you are advised to take a candle, go alone to a mirror in a darkened room and eat the apple while looking into it, combing your hair all the while. The face of your lover — or the Devil — will appear over your shoulder. A variation of this says you only have to peel the apple while looking into the mirror. You can also cut an apple into nine equal parts, eat eight of them, toss the ninth over your left shoulder, turn quickly and glimpse your future mate. There is something to be said for helping the spirits provide the answer which is in your best interest.

References

Barolini, Helen, Festa: Recipes and Recollections of Italian Holidays, Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich 1988 Budapest, Z, Grandmother of Time, Harper and Row 1989 Cunningham, Nancy Brady, Feeding the Spirit, Resource Publications 1988 Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987 Owen, Trefor, Welsh Folk Customs, Llandysul, Dyfed: Gomer Press Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, Harper & Row 1979

 

Visions: a waking dream and flight of a black bird

I recently had an intense experience that now lingers in my head. It surrounds my moments of tranquility and appears vividly in my minds eye. This moment was overwhelming and intense but not in a bad way. I wasn’t frightenend or uneasy, but rather focused and almost in aw of what I was seeing. I believe that a waking dream is an emotionally charged event that stands apart from the rest of your day. Each waking dream in our life is divine. They are created for our spiritual growth. That said, this is what occurred . . .

Several nights ago I lived through this particular moment of what I am now calling a waking dream, although I had not yet fallen asleep. I got into bed, turned off the lights and started to get comfortable with my blanket and pillow when a red light captured my attention. I looked over at the light and saw two eyes, a woman’s eyes. I began to focus my vision and allow my eyes to adjust to the darkness in the room. Was I seeing things?

Once my eyes adjusted, I could clearly see, there was no mistake. It was a woman’s eyes. At first it appeared to be the eyes of a woman who’s face is covered by a Saree, but as I continued to examine, the woman was only wearing a mantle over her head without covering her face. I was still confused and in disbelief of what I was witnessing. My rational brain began to take over and so I did the logical thing to do. I began rubbing my eyes. Then I covered one eye to look and then the other eye, but the image was still very clear right in front of me. Once I realized it wasn’t my vision, I relaxed a bit and continued looking back at the eyes that were utterly fixed on mine. Now an amazing thing started to occur. The eyes and face of this woman began to transform into what looked like a black dog or a wolf. I was puzzled. Who was this? Why was I seeing this? A message no doubt, but what could it be? The image of the wolf/dog’s face morphed back to the woman’s and then back to the wolf and back to the woman and it continued happening for a few seconds before it remained as the woman. Those eyes!  Needless to say, I eventually turned to my side and fell asleep.

The next morning, the first thing to come to mind was what I had witnessed, and thus began my investigation. I searched the web for a connection between a female deity, a goddess, and a wolf or dog. I immediately found that the goddess Hecate was connected/associated with dogs and is sometimes depicted wearing a mantle over her head.

Thus far, it could quite possibly be this vision is of Hecate. She is among other things a goddess of crossroads and transitions. Something I am currently experiencing in my life. My search continues . . .

In some readings, I noted that crows are also sometimes associated with Hecate. Now it’s beginning to come together. Last November (2011) I had my first encounter with a crow. Having never seen one, other than on television, I experienced a very out-of-the-ordinary moment with a crow. As I was exiting a parking lot and moving slowly across the isles of parked cars, a crow decided to fly down from where ever he was and land on the hood of my car, then immediately swoop upward to perch on a stop sign just to the right of me. I stopped, and I looked over at him. It was indeed a crow! I couldn’t not believe my eyes! A crow! This was a very exciting moment for me. I saw a crow! Later I found out that crows are associated with messages. And thus I took it as that. A message.

After this encounter, I continued to have many others with crows. I was seeing crows everywhere, flying over my house, singing while I walked my puppy, in movies, on outings, they were everywhere. A few days after the vision of the woman/dog in my bedroom some nights ago, I visited a store. As I was already standing in line waiting to pay for my items, when I suddenly felt a strong pull. A force I couldn’t resist wanted me to leave the pay isle and go back a few lanes to where the merchandise was. On a shelf were some seasonal decorations and on that shelf were 2 little black crows. Needless to say I purchased them as well, and they are now perched upon my bedroom dresser mirror.

Now what does all this mean? Are the crows related to the vision of the woman and the dog/wolf? I needed to be sure, so I consulted with some women I trust, who happen to be daughters of Hecate. Based on my descriptions of what I saw, how I felt and the experience as a whole, it seems that this indeed was The Goddess of the Underworld herself, Hecate.

HECATE, Hekate, Heket, The Distant One, The Far Darter, Queen of Night, Night Mother, Queen of the Ghosts, Queen of the Witches, Mother of Witches, Mistress of Magic, Most Lovely One, Goddess of Paths, Goddess of Crossroads, Goddess of Transitions, The One before the Gate.

Heka means “magical speech” in Egyptian while Hekate means “influence from afar” in Greek. The latter attribution is due to her ability to
use magic upon a person from a distance. Hence the appellations “Far Darter” and “The Distant One” given to Hekate.

I am now aware of Hecate. I don’t know if her appearance was  a welcoming gesture or that of a longer stay. This I will see and recognize in due time. For now, I just say, “I am now aware of Hecate.”

Image I created that closely depicts how I see Hecate.

Dark Goddess Meditation

Breathe deep the scent of the ocean.

The eternal abyss.

Breathe deep the starlit skies.

The never-ending void

Breathe deep the love your Self, of sisters and those who have come before.

The womb of our Mother.

Breathe deep the Moonlight, our most Holy of Guides.

As you stand at the shoreline, you know you are safe.

You take one step into the incoming tide, and feel the water splash around your ankles. Another step and another still, until you are completely immersed within the Ocean embrace.

Water fills your lungs as you begin to get sucked down to the very bottom of these dark waters. Deeper you go…dreaming in emptiness.

A voice calls to you from the watery depths, “Release these things that hold you back and immerse yourself in the Goddess.”

You find that you are able to breathe and before you stands the entrance to a cave hidden beneath the waters…Before entering the cavern the Voice calls to you once more, “What is your name? For your name itself holds power…Do not forget your name.”

As you make your way into the cavern the water slowly recedes. You find yourself emerging into an enclave with many doors in crescent moon formation. Sparkling stalactites hang precariously overhead. The soft trickle of water droplets collect in a small dark pool at the center of this room, separating you from the doors that lie ahead. Slowly you make your way to this pool, “To go up one must first go down”, you kneel and see your reflection within the black waters.

What do you look like? What do you want to look like…. what do you really look like?

“Your purpose” demands the Voice from the abyss.

“Why do you seek Us in Our Halls?”

“What can We teach you that you cannot learn yourself?”

The pool begins to quake and the doors open forcefully, shaking with power.

“Why have you come?” asks a voice from one of the doors. “What makes you think you are worthy?” asks another. “Who is She who dares stand before Me?” says a third. “How was Her price paid?” . . . One by one a woman emerges from each of the doorways.

Robed in feathers and pearls…in blood and in satin…in wool They come. Some, stand naked before you, primal and refined, hungry and satiated, in unison They say, We are that which the light has hidden. We are They who have known you since birth. We are She who will destroy you, and from Our hands, create you once more. Now what is it you fear?

As you step forward, you are approached by the Goddesses. One by one, spend time with as many as you see fit.

(allow time for your personal journey to manifest)

When it is time, and you are ready, saw your farewells. Remember, these are your Mothers, your Grandmothers, Ancestors and daughters that have yet to come. See within Them the reflection of that which has always been and ever will be.

“Return.” , calls the Voice, “Return, Return, Return”

As you make your journey back to the world of Light you reflect on the things you have seen, heard, and spoken. You are armed now, and ready. The choice is yours. You have stood before the Dark Goddess in Her many forms.

“Return, Return, Return…for She will always be within you.”

You float blissfully up to the surface, collected and empowered. You have come face to face with She who is You, as only a Woman can be.

Creatrix and Destroyer. Mother of Rebirth.

Take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to come fully back into your body…When ready, take a deep breath, open your eyes and smile.

~ original work by Jessica ~ http://bandaidctrl.wordpress.com/

The Charge of the Dark Goddess

The Dark Goddess speaks to us, through the mouths of Lillith, Kali, Tiamet, Hekate, Nix, the Black Madonna, Nemesis and Morgane.

I am the Darkness behind and beneath the shadows.

I am the absence of air that awaits at the bottom of every breath.

I am the Ending before Life begins again,

the decay that fertilizes the living.

I am the bottomless pit,

the never-ending struggle to reclaim that which is denied.

I am the Key that unlocks every door.

I am te Glory of Discovery,

for I am that which is hidden, secluded and forbidden.

Come to me at the Dark Moon

and see that which cannot be seen,

face the terror that is yours along.

Swim to me through the blackest oceans

to the center of your greatest fears-

the Dark God and I will keep you safe.

Scream to us in terror, and yours will be the Power to Forboear.

Think of me when you feel pleasure, and I will intensify it,

until the time when I may have the greatest pleasure

of meeting you at the Crossroads Between the Worlds.

 

~ The Charge of the Dark Goddess by Lynne O’Connor ~

 

Journey to the Underworld: Meeting Persephone

Image

The end of Winter had surely begun. The yearning for the flowers’ bloom and the chirp of birds that fill the air, were undoubtedly about to begin. In search of the beauty that lie before us, we would travel to the underworld. A long and dangerous road lay ahead. Would we have the courage to enter the door past the gateway to meet Persephone and invite her to accompany us on our journey back to our living realm?

The Dark Moon’s presence was above us. We did not see her but she was there. Overseeing our space as she always does.  The rustling leaves in the trees made songs that the trees themselves danced freely for us. All had fallen into place for us to embark upon this journey to the underworld. The passage through the underworld would be difficult. Preparation for the journey was essential.

“Once arrived and face to face with the door, would I dare to enter. I know I didn’t come all this way, seen all the things my eyes won’t forget, and hear the sounds my mouth will not dare speak. Yes. Yes, I will open the door, and I shall enter.”

The door opens on its own. Of course it would, for She knows I come to see her. The radiant beauty that sits enthroned before me is indescribable. A breathtaking sight. She is Persephone, Goddess of the Spring, Queen of the Underworld. “Enter and speak. Why are you here?” The moments that followed, I will keep with me for all the days of my life. I left the underworld with a gift from Persephone. A single Pomegranate seed. With that, I ascended up and out, into this realm.

The next morning, the sun’s magnificent rays were shinning bright. The sky was a perfect blue without adornments of clouds. A gentle breeze caressed my face as I sat upon the blades of grass and gazed at the bees and butterflies that visited my garden. The songs of birds were plentiful and there was life once more. There was beauty that can only be described with one word. Spring.