Halloween by Silver Ravenwolf (Llewellyn’s Holiday Series)

Llewellyn’s Holidays Series was published in the late 90s and was eventually replaced by the Sabbat Essentials Series. The Holidays Series was what I had as a baby witch, and I decided to start collecting them about a year ago, partially out of nostalgia. While the information in many of them is outdated, there is still a lot of good information in them. In fact, some of the Holiday books are better than their modern Essential counterparts. One of the quirks of the series is that some books are titled the Christian or secular name of the holiday, which is a little odd. Halloween: Customs, Recipes, and Spells by Silver Ravenwolf is one of those, but the book, published in 1999, is about Samhain. It is still available on Llewellyn’s website here. A few other notable differences between this Holiday Series and the Sabbat Essentials Series are that the Holidays Series does not have uniform covers/spines or chapter structure, though they are of a uniform size, and that the Holiday Series books are much larger than the Essentials Series books.

Chapter 1 explores the historical origins of Halloween, but has sort of a gimmicky framework. While moving between locations and times the reader is on “Silver Flight 2000,” a sort of broomstick-airplane amalgam. It’s kind of cheesy to me, but I think a lot of other people would find it cute, and it’s only done in this section. Some of the historical Samhain information was interesting, but there were a few notable inaccuracies. The first is regarding “the burning times,” when millions of witches were allegedly killed. This is sort of a boogeyman in the pagan community, and has been debunked by historians, so Ravenwolf’s book shows its age by printing it. The next is that the original scarecrows were human sacrifices, which just rings false. It might not be, but a rudimentary Google search came up with nothing on the subject, and it seems like an unnecessarily gory footnote.

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Book Review: Llewellyn’s 2017 Sabbats Almanac

Llewellyn's 2017 Sabbat AlmanacThe Llewellyn’s Sabbats Almanac was started in 2009 and is published annually. The book is divided into eight sections, one for each Sabbat, starting at Samhain 2016 and ending with Mabon 2017. There are seven articles within each Sabbat’s section that repeat: an introduction, Cosmic Sway, the Old Ways, Feasts and Treats, Crafty Crafts, All One Family, and a ritual. This is consistent throughout all the Sabbats Almanac books, though occasionally the features are swapped out. For example, for the 2018 Almanac, All One Family has been taken out, and a plant feature has replaced it. Even though it’s rather late for this review, I marked more pages in this edition than the 2016 and 2018 volumes combined, so it’s still well worth picking up. Each section is about 30 pages long; I read each after the previous Sabbat has ended to get new ideas to add to my own coven’s celebration.

Aside from the Cosmic Sway section, which discusses particular cosmic timing, this Sabbats Almanac can be read any time. Because the Cosmic Sway section has essentially ‘expired’ by now, I’m leaving it out of the review, though I will say that I found the articles really useful at the time. The recipes in Feasts and Treats usually use meat in some way; there are multiple recipes provided, but since I’m vegetarian I don’t think I’ve ever used a recipe from a Sabbats Almanac. The Old Ways sections are always brief (about 3 pages) and go into Polish, Slavic, Russian, and Lithuanian traditions. I always really enjoy this section, but writing that under each Sabbat heading would be repetitious. Below are the highlights of each section, organized by Sabbat.

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Magickal Journal Ideas for November 2017

Maybe it’s the introspective nature of the Samhain season, but lately I’ve been wanting to redouble my efforts to fill my own grimoire. Below I have a list of topics to pack your magickal journal over the course of November. There are both prompts and correspondences listed below the activities. Hopefully we will all be inspired!

Activities/Prompts

Recipes: Any favorite recipes, Sabbat recipes, recipes only you know, or special family recipes that haven’t been recorded can go in your magickal journal. Not all people keep recipes in their magickal journal, but there’s no reason not to if it resonates with you. If you don’t want to keep food recipes in your journal, think of a home remedy from your grandparents or great-grandparents and record it instead.

Thanksgiving Gratitude List: I usually reserve gratitude lists for Full Moons, but Thanksgiving is a holiday about thankfulness, after all (at least in its modern form). Spend time around Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it) creating a master gratitude page in your magickal journal. Even if ‘gratitude’ it hokey to you, consider it a piece of attracting magick. This can be everything you are thankful for in life, or just in the last year.

Thanksgiving Reflection: Thanksgiving is a stressful holiday for a lot of people (myself included); before Thanksgiving, write a list of everything that you are worried is going to go wrong. Whether you realize it or not, you are giving energy to these fears. Once you have written them down, allow your mind to let them go; they’re in a safe place, no need to remember them anymore. After Thanksgiving is over, review the list. One of two things will happen: all or most of your fears will not have happened, or some/all of them have, and you’ve still survived. Variation: Once you have written your list of fears, burn the list in your cauldron to release them. Add a post-holiday reflection to your magickal journal in its place.

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Dia de los Muertos for Witches and Pagans

My birthday happens to fall on Dia de los Muertos, which has invited many sugar skull themed items into my house, but I’ve never explored the holiday in much detail. Last year, when I told someone my birthday was on the Day of the Dead, they said, “Oh, November 1st?” I didn’t answer, but thought it was odd.

I did a little research and found out that Dia de los Muertos is, as I has assumed my whole life, November 2nd, but that it was a holiday to honor deceased adults. However, November 1st is also a holiday, Dia de los Inocentes (aka “Day of the Innocents”) designed to honor dead children and infants (angelitos). Traditional gravesite visits are reserved for the 2nd, though the spirits of the infants and children are given 24 hours to return to their families, starting at midnight on October 31st. Decorating family altars is common during this time, and I added photos of both of my grandmothers to our altar on Samhain last year.

Below is a list of Dia correspondences that you can add to your magickal journal, and below that is a list of suggested Dia activities that you can participate in.

Some Dia Correspondences

– Altars (ofrendas, family and public)
– Cleaning and Decorating Graves
– Epitaphs (written for yourself or friends)
– Food (nuts, fruit, or the deceased’s favorite meal)
– La Calavera Catrina (circa 1910)
– Marigolds (the flower of the dead, thought to attract souls to the offerings)
– Pan de Muerto (special bread)
– Sugar Skulls (made only as offerings, not for consumption by the living)
– Water (or alcohol, for the adult departed)

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Eight More Samhain Season Celebration Ideas

It’s that time in the Wheel of the Year again, Samhain, an easy favorite amongst witches. Last year I posted my list of Eight Samhain Sabbat Celebration Ideas and this year I’m back with eight more. There are ideas for solitaries, pairs, families, and covens, as well as many that would work with multiple configurations. Some require a little preparation or shopping, so I wanted to post them early enough that you can incorporate them into your Samhain preparation. Remember, though, Samhain is a six week long season and not just one day! I must confess that the season gets cut off Thanksgiving week for me, so I start my Samhain celebration a bit early.

1. Pagan Pumpkins: I saw the pumpkin craft idea pictured above (by Terri Foss) about a year ago, and instantly I wanted to make one of my own. You can easily reproduce this craft with a natural or artificial white pumpkin, and a fine-tipped permanent marker. Decoration ideas include sigils, astrological symbols, moons and stars (like above), pentacles, or other Samhain-themed art. Black pumpkins are available at craft stores and can be decorated with a silver marker, which would also look great. If you use an artificial pumpkin this could end up part of your permanent Samhain decoration stash. This would be a really cool way to decorate a LED candle, too.

2. Tarot Reading: I recommended doing divination last year, but I found the tarot spread to the left (click to view larger) that utilizes the theme of ‘as above, so below’. This is especially important on Samhain when the veil between worlds thins. The website, Fox and Feather Tarot, is defunct, but they have an Etsy store. If you’re looking for a more involved tarot reading to do on Samhain this one works well.

A variation of this tarot spread that I would use is: 1. Release, 2. Embrace, 3. Weaknesses, 4. Strengths, 5. Path Forward. You could do this as a general advice reading, or for something more specific.

3. Homemade Treats: There’s nothing quite as special as handmade treats, with candied apples being particularly fun for the sabbat. I’ve seen people make very creepy candied apples with grape Jolly Ranchers or food coloring, but caramel also works. A simple candied apple recipe can be found here. Just be sure to use a candy thermometer since molten sugar will seriously burn you. Making candy is for badasses only! I would not let even the most responsible child near this activity, so involve little goblins at your own rick. For an extra Samhain bump, set one non-candied apple outside as an offering.

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Book Review: Samhain by Diana Rajchel (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials)

Llewellyn's Sabbat Essentials: SamhainLlewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series contains eight small books, one for each Sabbat in the pagan wheel of the year. The author varies by the Sabbat with no author having more than two books in the series. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes, and Lore for Halloween was penned by Diana Rajchel, who also wrote Mabon. At the risk of being a downer: those are the two weakest books in the Sabbat Essentials series.

One of the reasons that I don’t particularly like this volume is that it’s so heavily Wiccan, and I prefer these books to have a general pagan path. This is because the books are presented as “essential” guides to the Sabbat, so I feel that they have a bit of an obligation to be more general. The other complaint, which is far more important, is that the rituals included in the Rituals of Celebration are quite weak. Generally, a good book in Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series has a ritual for a solitary, a couple, and a coven; this is a great formula. This volume’s solitary ritual is “A Solo Ritual to See Beyond the Veil,” complete with a full page list of supplies, which is just excessive. The ritual feels excessive, too, with all the anointing and chanting that pushes me away from Wicca. Then, if that’s not enough, she invokes Christian angels to assist. Seriously? Finally, it’s not really a ritual for Samhain, but more of a pseudo-Christian ritual. I was so insulted when I read it that I was beyond words (temporarily, obviously). The two person ritual is the Wiccan “great rite,” which I guess is so great because you have heterosexual sex in the circle, and which I also find very troubling. Are you alone and doing a handfasting? Great, go for it, and for some Sabbats this is very appropriate (though I do think it should be private). Wiccans seem to advocate (public) sex as an integral part of pagan worship, which I could not find more off-putting. Finally, the group ritual is an underworld maze, which isn’t a full Samhain ritual by any means, and is again endowed with all the hokey theatricality you’d expect.

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Eight Samhain Season Celebration Ideas

Samhain's Magic Circle Print by Poison Apple Print Shop

Samhain (also known as Halloween) is often a favorite in the pagan community with many witches using it to mark the end of the year. You may choose to celebrate Samhain on October 30th, 31st, or on the closest New Moon. The veil between the material and ethereal worlds thinning on a New Moon is too beautiful for many to pass up.

Regardless of when you choose to observe the Sabbat, below are eight ideas for Samhain celebrations to add to your ritual or observance, be it solitary, in pairs, in a coven, or conducted from inside the “broom closet.” Eight More Samhain Ideas can be found here! Please feel free to post suggestions in the comments, have a beautiful Samhain, and blessed be.

1. Ancestor Work: One of the biggest aspects of Samhain’s energy is the increased ability to communicate with ancestors who have passed to the other side. Bringing photos of ancestors to the ritual or to your altar is a beautiful was to observe this connection. You can also tell stories about ancestors, research your own lineage, or send them messages. One of the best ways to send messages to the other side, in my opinion, is to write what you want to say on a piece of parchment paper (remember to address it) and burn it in your cauldron, thus sending it to the other side. In the Chinese tradition, burning Joss paper (also called Hell Money) is a way to send literal currency into the afterlife.

2. Candles: No witch is a stranger to burning candles, as they are an integral part of so many sabbats, rituals, and spells. Fitting colors and their correspondences for Samhain would be: black (banishing negative energy and acknowledging the dark half of the year, death, etc.), orange (heightened creativity and energy), purple (increased psychic awareness, can be used in conjunction with divination), and silver (you can substitute with white; representing lunar energy). For those who have issues with smoke, LED candle are just as effective.

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