My First Halloween Costume
It’s 1950 and I’m watching my mother at her sewing machine. The rhythm of her foot on the pedal mixed with the whirr of the needle going up and down makes a nice rhythm for my ears. Mom is making me a Halloween costume out of black crepe paper! A witch costume entirely out of black crepe paper! I don’t see a pattern; she is making it up as she goes along. I won 2nd prize at Roosevelt Park just a block down Tulip street from our house. In the park there was a bonfire and we children were treated with glazed donuts and hot cocoa. I am nine years old. Oh how I wish I had that photo handy of me to show to you!
The Dennison Manufacturing Company started making paper Halloween costumes in 1937. Until then they were homemade. Trick or treating in the U.S. started in the early 1900s but was in full swing throughout the 1940s. How lucky was I? We kids, who ran about in small groups after dark without our parents (!) got full-sized candy bars, homemade popcorn balls and shiny coins! Some folks would even invite us in for hot chocolate and our choice from a large platter of home baked cookies! From 4,000 years ago until now, our American Halloween has morphed into a commercialized holiday for which we will spend $8.8 billion this year on candy, costumes and related Halloween items!
An Ancient Celtic Festival
We know that Samhain (pronounced Sow-win), was an ancient Celtic Festival dating back to 2,000 BCE in the area now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales and northern France. Celts marked this season as the end of the “light” half of the year and the beginning of the “dark.” Their festivities celebrated the last harvest of the year and always included a bonfire. It was samhuinn, which means summer’s end. And it was their New Year’s Eve. It was also an opportunity to celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth, for even after the dead of winter when spring comes the earth would surely come alive again. It was believed that the veil between the living and the dead was the thinnest on this night. So celebrants disguised themselves with feathers and furs to ward off restless souls wandering about.
The Church Wants Pagans to Become Christian
Over the centuries the Catholic Church attempted to reframe Samhain as a Christian holiday. After a failed attempt in the 5th century, Pope Gregory in the 9th century declared November 1st to be All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day November 2nd. October 31st was now All Hallows Eve.
By the 11th century the Catholic Church introduced souling, a practice where children and the poor would dress up in costumes and beg for soul-cakes (sweet, flat biscuits stamped with a cross) and spiced ale in exchange for prayers for the dead, particularly for those in Purgatory.
Soul-cakes (adapted from “Cattern Cakes and Lace” by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer).
6 oz. butter
6 oz. caster sugar (superfine sugar or bakers’ sugar)
3 egg yolks
1 lb. plain organic white flour (I used unbleached white)
2 teaspoons “mixed spice,” a British spice blend with a balance of these ground spices: cinnamon, coriander seed, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice and mace. (I use cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.)
4 oz. currants
A little milk to mix
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar then beat in egg yolks one at a time.
Sift flour into another bowl with the mixed spice then add them to the butter, sugar and egg yolk mixture.
Stir in currants and add enough milk to make a soft dough, like scone dough.
Roll the dough out and cut out little cakes with a biscuit cutter. Mark each cake with a cross then place them on a greased and/or lined baking sheet. (You can use any symbol meaningful to you. I use a pentagram stamp for my soul-cakes.)
Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin for up to 5 days.
Irish Immigrants Arrive in America
In the 19th century Irish immigrants brought their ancient Celtic summer’s end traditions to America, including wide-spread ribaldry, the lighting of bonfires and oddly enough the carrying around of sticks with turnips attached, which had been carved with scary faces illuminated by a hot coal placed within. All of this in hopes of scaring off any ghosts that might be lurking about. This night of the dead was when the connection between this world and the next was most accessible, so spiritual sightings would certainly increase.
It’s now the 21st century. Halloween on October 31st is neither seen as a religious or secular holiday. But for Pagans and Wiccans, it is the eve of our New Year, the last of 8 sabbats we celebrate throughout the wheel of the year, each one bringing our lives into harmony with the natural world and the divine. We create ritual that not only relates to the season of our environment, but to our own personal season which is parallel to those of our Mother Earth. And we honor those souls that have transitioned in the past year as well as giving honor and gratitude to our ancestors.
Example of a Contemporary Pagan Sabbat Ritual
The Feast: Research foods that correspond to Samhain. Choices for this sabbat will include apple, squash, pumpkin and corn dishes, along with dark bread. Beverages can be pomegranate juice, herbed tea, spiced apple cider, mead or mulled wine.
The Altar: An altar cloth of brown, orange or black and crystals such as red jasper for looking into past lives, obsidian for protection from malevolent spirits and negative workings, and carnelian, which helps us get in touch with our ancestors. Herbs such as sage, pine and bay and especially cedar, which helps us connect with our ancestors. Nuts and seeds, such as apple and pumpkin, and dried corn, representing our bountiful harvest can also be placed on the altar and candles that represent the god and goddess.
Represent the four elements: Represent air in the east, perhaps with a feather or fan; fire in the south with a red burning candle; water, with a small bowl of water; and earth, with a small dish of salt. In addition sage on the altar is excellent and for Samhain, Patchouli incense is wonderful. An altar, by the way, can be created with dollar store items for $20.00. Not everything I mention needs to be present on the altar. For the crystals, for instance, you can study each one that corresponds to the sabbat and place a picture of that crystal that you have printed from the Internet and place it on your altar. Most importantly for Samhain include photos or trinkets of your loved ones who have passed.
Other items: Items that go on every altar are the athame, a black handled knife that directs energy and draws boundaries; the boline, a white-handled knife used for the cutting of herbs and for inscribing candles, a mirror, a pentacle, a cup or goblet (for Samhain I love pomegranate juice), flowers (I like marigolds for Samhain), a cauldron (could be a black bowl lined with foil) and small cakes or cookies.
Clearing Space, Casting the Circle and Calling in the Quarters (directions): You can read online the ways to invite the four Watchtowers (spirit beings) into your circle, asking that only those who support your intentions attend and that all others need not come. (I light a colored candle that corresponds with each direction as I do this: East/yellow; South/red; West/blue; North/white.) With your athame and with the elements of air, fire, water, and earth craft your circle. To be within this sacred circle puts you between time and space.
The Ritual: Rather than describe all the elements that can create a ritual, I will focus on the components which are specific to Samhain. As with each Sabbat ritual, first quiet yourself and become centered and focused. Then remember and honor those who have made their transition in the past year. Now, honor and express gratitude to your ancestors and forgive them and yourself if you feel the need.
The Magick: Central to your Samhain ritual can be the letting go of that which no longer serves you. A simple way of doing this is to write a few words on a piece of paper that indicates your intention to let go and release. It will be most powerful if you have meditated, ruminated and journaled your intention at least a few days before your ceremony. At the altar write your soulful intention/s in a few words. Strike a wooden match and mindfully burn the paper in your cauldron as you state aloud your intended purpose and release the energy of that which is holding you back.
To conclude lift your cup or chalice. If you are with a group, turn to the person to your left, affirming that she will never thirst as she sips the liquid. Likewise with the cake, offer her one and while she eats affirm that she will never hunger. Proceed around the altar until the drink and substance return to you. If you are alone make the affirmations to yourself as you sip and eat. Then with the water container in the palm of your hand, bless the person to your left by placing a drop of water on her forehead with your finger and say, “Sister thou art blessed.” Again proceed around the altar until finally you are blessed by the person to your right. If you are alone bless yourself with the water, affirming and knowing that you are blessed by All That Is. Now you will address the spirits of each direction by thanking them and bidding them adieu, “ Go if you must; stay if you will.”
When you cast the circle you were moving clockwise around your altar. Now you will move counterclockwise and open the circle. “May the circle be open, but never broken.”
This short outline is based on the many gatherings of our Spirit Sisters of the Sacred Spiral, a group of solitary practitioners which met for 10 years and which has since disbanded. You can apply these practices to solitary practice or to a group, and resources online are endless. Be flexible. Be Creative. Integrate singing, dancing and drumming into your celebration. And remember, there is no right or wrong way.
Raise your glass; The veil is thin.
Toast the Ancestors; Let the Magick begin.
Blessed Be, Win Fiandaca
One of our time-honored traditions at Crones Counsel has been selecting and donating funds to a group in our host city. We do that by passing the hat (or the bucket or the basket or whatever we can find) and invariably, you wonderful Crones empty your hearts and your pockets to support whatever group has been chosen. In Tucson, the organization was Sister Jose Women’s Center. I received a wonderful “Thank You” letter from the director, Jean Fedigan and it belongs to all of you.
Thank you very much for inviting me to speak about Sister Jose Women’s Center at your Crones Counsel gathering on September 8th. The donations we received from the members in attendance will have a transformative impact on the lives of the women we serve. We were gifted with at total of $2100 in contributions from that meeting and we are sincerely grateful for this generosity.
At Sr. Jose Women’s Center, it is our mission to ensure the safety and dignity of homeless women throughout Tucson. The scope of that work is wide, but with the support of compassionate community members, we are able to provide approximately 13,000 safe overnights per year, 2,000 day-visits per month, and services including creative expression classes and job training.
We’re just getting started. Thank you for taking on this vital and rewarding work with us.
Welcome to the beautiful Pacific Northwest!
Please gather with us in Portland, Oregon for Crones Counsel XXVIII where, under the watchful eye of Mt Hood, we will draw on our Sisterhood for the strength and support to become what we truly are — women, forged of fire like the mighty volcanos. Crone acknowledging her purpose, feeding it with flames of passion and wielding the power of fire to achieve her goals.
Mt Hood, called Wy’east by the Multnomah tribe, inspired our theme. She towers on the horizon, an ancient Grandmother rising from bedrock, her white crown shining in the sky.
Our theme, “Crones of Fire,” reflects “cronehood” which honors the cycle of life, death and rebirth in much the same way as a volcanic eruption brings fire to life. It cleanses the ground and fertilizes it for new growth. So does each life leave a legacy in the world for future generations to build upon. That is the true gift of being Crone.
Get ready to have FUN! Reconnect, recharge, sing, dance and drum. Laugh and cry with old friends and new. Enjoy the offerings of so many talented Crones…present a workshop, display your wares in the Artisan Room, take your act to the stage at the Follies. You may do as much or as little as you want, but come, add your shining energy to the Crones of Fire. Magic awaits!
We will gather at the Embassy Suites by Hilton at the Portland Airport. The Hotel has a free shuttle to and from the Airport. Reservations? The Hotel will begin taking reservations for our group in late November so look to our next newsletter for details.
Shopping and restaurants are close by the hotel with easy access to downtown Portland via our light rail system with plenty of opportunities to sample our Northwest cuisine.
Registration for the Gathering is available on the Crones Counsel website https://www.cronescounsel.org/2020-registration/
I had an awesome Wise Women Circle on Sunday, October 13, 2019, from 3-6 pm, with 19 women attending.
As always we begin by going outdoors, getting Smudged, Calling in The Directions next to Grandmother Tree, and giving and receiving beautiful Healing Hugs from her.
We then enter into my sacred Angel Room, get in Circle and read The Guidelines of a Circle, I explain the use of the Talking Stick and we go around the Circle and check in on how we are feeling.
The theme this month was delving deep into the Matriarch stage of our lives and taking a look at our Shadow Selves, so that we can heal all of our parts and past, claim our power and be whom we came here to be in our Earthwalk! I laid out Caroline Myss’s Archetype Cards in a circle on the carpet and we each took the card that called to us. While listening to relaxing music we contemplated the Light Attributes and the Shadow Attributes of our cards. We then went around the circle and shared what it meant to us. I encouraged everyone to use their divine inspiration and intuition to connect with the card and “feel” the messages.
We then did the Ho’oponopono Prayer of Forgiveness for ourselves and others whom may have betrayed or disappointed us, and shared in one word how we felt. The Circle then closed and we enjoyed a beautiful feast of lovely food brought by the Wise Women.
With much Love and Light,
Articles for Crone Times Needed
Would you like to write an article for Crone Times? Our next issue will come out in February and our theme is JOY. We love to hear may different voices. If you are interested, please contact Kianna or Julie for more particulars.
Although it was a smaller group in Tucson, we were just as mighty as ever!
I am always so impressed and proud of the continued generosity of our Crones. When the basket is passed you open your hearts and your wallets and support Crones Counsel Inc.
This year over $1300 was collected for our Grant Fund. We have enough in the fund now to provide 12 grants in 2020.
Through your generosity, we were able to leave over $1900 behind in Tucson with Sister Jose’ Women’s Center. This charity for homeless women in Tucson gave us a wonderful presentation that helped us understand the problems of homeless women and the solutions Sister Jose’ Women’s Center is providing.
This year Marta Quest asked her friends and family to remember her birthday by donating to Crones Counsel Inc. Through that simple request, Crones Counsel Inc received over $400! Thank you Marta.
I would like to thank each of you for your financial support. To put on the annual gathering, send out the monthly newsletters, print and mail the Crone Times twice a year, to maintain an active website, and to promote Crones Counsel Inc. takes money. The all volunteer Mother Board and all the adjunct positions try very hard to be good stewards of the money you entrust with us. We sincerely thank you.