Is it Halloween or Beltane?

Halloween seems huge this year. Shop fronts are darker than ever with ghoulish displays of the festival of the dead. It's like Goth Christmas.

Originally Halloween, also known as Samhain (pronounced 'sow-hain'), was a seasonal festival taking place in autumn to mark preparations for the winter. It was also a time to reflect on the past year and learn from events that had taken place. This time of year was also dedicated to people who had passed on. Ancestors and other spirits were more available for communication due to the 'thinning of the veil' between worlds that occurs at this time. It is a good time for meditation, psychic and mediumship work. For Witches it is new year, where seeds or goals are dedicated toward the new season's harvest or plan.

These days Halloween means providing sugary treats to kids dressed up as the spirits of the dead. This is a modern version of the old Dumb Supper where food was prepared for the dead as well as the living. For an alternative to bags of sweets I am presenting the ritual of the Dumb Supper.

Ritual: The Dumb Supper, for Halloween

  • Prepare your dining space beforehand by smudging with incense. If you don't have any incense you can achieve similar results by dusting, vacuuming and opening a window for 30 mins.
  • Cast a circle around your dining space, dedicated to loving and enlightening energies. See blog on casting circles...
  • It's best if all people involved have at least washed their hands prior to entering circle to help prevent unwanted energies entering.
  • Set a place at the dining table for each person attending the meal plus an extra place for spirit. Light enough candles to manage your meal, but otherwise prepare the space for darkness.
  • Prepare meal, remembering to dish up an extra plate.
  • Invite everyone silently to the table. Everyone is to remain silent, eating by candlelight for the entire meal. Participants might sense an ancestor or guide come to join them. The silence helps participants to hear the voice of spirit if it's meant to be heard.
  • After the meal, the extra plate is offered to nature. For me that means into my compost bin, but more rural readers might leave the food out for the possums and squirrels. I'm not sure what apartment dwellers would do. Under a tree at the park? A homeless person? The idea is to give the food up as an offering. We have stayed fed for another year and this is an opportunity to say thank-you, before retreating into winter's rest.

But What About Beltane?

Earth is seasonally divided by hemispheres. This means that as the northern hemisphere is preparing for winter, the southern hemisphere is preparing for summer. This natural division of dark and light keeps the whole world balanced. Until the whole world came to celebrate the festival of darkness all at once. 

While October 31st is seasonally Halloween in the northern hemisphere, in the southern hemisphere the seasonal festival at that time is Beltane. Few southern folk know that our festival of the dead is actually April 30th and that October 31st is a festival of light. Some cultures know the festival of light as Diwali, when the light triumphs over the darkness once again. The festival of light for the northern hemisphere is around April 30. It is basically a spring festival. 

Beltane is a fun season to celebrate. We taste the first fruits of the season and celebrate the return of warmth and light. We welcome the return of the sun and daylight savings extends our days. Traditionally it is a time for marriage or hand-fastings and celebrations related to fertility, abundance and union. 

Beltane is a time to observe nature fertilising itself in renewed growth cycles. Esoterically it is about the union of opposite polarities to produce growth; a union that promotes life-affirming energies. On an archetypal level, God and Goddess unite in the Great Rite, producing all growth and prosperity for the coming year. 

Although we use candles for our Dumb Supper ritual, we can also use them for the following Beltane ceremony. The fire is a symbol of the sun and also of the transformation taking place as the seasons change. Stay fire safe. Part of preparing for majickal work is taking responsibility for the safety of all involved. Remember, harm none. 

Ritual: Jumping the Beltane Fires

  • Cleansing your space in this case means ensuring you have a firesafe surface and the area is clear of combustible materials that might catch. Make sure your clothing is tight fitting. Flowing gipsy skirts aren't good for majick involving fire. 
  • Cast a circle large enough to contain you and any other participants, with a candle set at the centre. Make sure the candle isn't too long, you will be jumping over it. You and your clothing need to be clear of the flame.
  • Light your candle and clearly visualise what you want to grow in your life. i.e. a goal or vision for the coming year. Make sure it's life affirming and dedicated to love. This is the real majick - where YOU create the vision you want in your mind. The rest of the majickal work is just raising energy to empower your own vision. It's as  simple as making a wish and blowing a dandelion fairy, only in this case you are going to jump a candle...
  • Acknowledge the past at your back as you face the light of the future. Imagine your goals accomplished as you now move toward them. Safely jump over the candle, knowing you have taken a leap of faith toward your future and the manifestation of your goals.  Dedicate your new vision to the life-affirming energy of the universe, or the power of love. 
  • Traditionally this ceremony took place over an actual fire. Participants would leap over the flames into the new season. I have performed it many times using a fiery cauldron, which is extra exciting. Use your own imagination. You might only have the torch on your phone, which is fine. You are the majick, the tools are symbols of your own life, so you are free to choose your own.
  • The main goal of the season is to celebrate the energy of light and life. Celebrate, be joyful, play in the sun and have fun with loved ones.
So no matter which hemisphere you identify with, each festival is a balancing part of the whole. I like to remember to celebrate the festival of the living as much as the dead, or a little more...

In the dark we rest, in the light we grow. Wishing you a bespirited Halloween and a bountiful Beltane, or whatever your seasonal festival is called. 

Blessed be in love and light X

Leanne Margaret © 2017


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