- Religion and Philosophy
Musings on Samhains Past: Some Excerpts from my Book of Shadows
My Wiccan Samhain Experiences (some of them)
Anyone following my hubs may have noticed that I love to write about sabbats, particularly Samhain. I know it sounds like a cliché: Wiccan Witches, rituals, Halloween (cue spooky organ music)-- but it's more than that.
On this sabbat-- more than any other-- I have had potent experiences that continually re-affirm my faith for me, and put to rest any doubts or questions that might occasionally arise. Whether this is due to the 'veil between the worlds' being thin, or the group energy that comes from so many cultures holding harvest festivals, ancestor worship or fright-night activities this time of year, I don't know. I do know that there is something extremely powerful about this time of year, and I've tapped into that energy.
I took a walk down memory lane and read through my Book of Shadows (BOS-- my favorite Wiccan tool). I'd like to share with you some of the experiences I've had over the years.
My Samhain Memories
Tell Us About It:
Have you ever had an unusual spiritual experience on Samhain?
The Year of My First Samhain
I held my first Samhain ritual with a couple of friends who were also very new to Wicca. We fussed and stumbled a bit over the beginning of the ritual-- what to do, what to grab, trying to read off index cards by candlelight. This was before the internet, before the onslaught of Wicca 101 books. We had little real guidance when it came to Wicca.
After the invocations, though, everything began to come together. There was a deep sense of satisfaction. Spiritually, I felt touched. It was so meaningful, I was moved to tears from the beauty of the ceremony. My younger self wrote in my first BOS:
...Tears streamed down my face. It just felt so right. For the first time in my entire life, I actually knew what it was to feel really touched by a God (and a Goddess!). All those years I had prayed to be closer to God finally paid off, because I truly felt them. After it was over I felt so many emotions. I was amazed, in awe, excited and felt like things really made sense. At the same time I felt sad and comforted by death being part of life-- but I didn't feel fear about death anymore. I was angry and happy at the same time. I was angry of all the people who lied to me all my life, telling me this stuff was evil. And I was happy that I'd discovered the truth for myself...
The Year of Circle Sickness
One year I really didn't want to miss the big local open Samhain ritual, but in hindsight I should have. I'd been really sick with a bad cold that turned into bronchitous-- but I was a busy working college student, and refused to let nasty cough slow me down.
There were a couple hundred in attendance. As the High Priest began casting the circle at midnight, I started feeling a bit tired and tingly. We began raising energy-- I started feeling seriously fatigued-- I even went over to a wall to lean against it. When the energy was joined and directed by the High Priestess, a wave like static electricity came over me, and everything slowly went black.
The next thing I knew, I heard the voice of a friend calling me-- it sounded as if their voice was transmitting through a staticy radio station, though. Then their voice grew clearer and my vision came back. I was sitting on the floor-- realizing I had slid down the wall. What I learned later from my High Priest was that I experienced 'circle sickness'. I learned two lessons, as I mentioned in my BOS:
...wow... I have no doubts anymore. Energy is real. It's palpable and you can feel it. I don't know where it comes from or how it gets there, but it is real...
...I can't believe I have been so stupid. How am I going to be a Witch and attune with nature and other things if I don't even listen to my own body? Why do I push myself like this? I have to start being more aware of how I feel and I have to start paying attention when my body is trying to tell me something...
Sad to say, the latter is a lesson with which I still struggle today, as I was reminded of in my recent hospital stay (that essay found here).
The Year of Grieving
My daughter (who was only seven) and I observed Samhain alone that year. We'd also lost an uncle that year who we were both very close to, as well as my dad only a few months before, so it was hard for us-- we were barely over the grieving process for our losses.
We had a small, simple altar. We said our prayers, made our offerings, then sat in the middle of the floor in front of the altar. She sat on my lap. We hugged, rocked, chanted songs, and cried. I woke up the next morning and wrote in my BOS:
...It's odd. After the heaviness that weighed on us last night, I thought it was going to be a terrible day. Last night [my daughter] cried herself to sleep in my arms and I slept with her in her bed, waking up occasionally to sob myself back to sleep. But both of us seem to be feeling better-- the mood is a bit lighter, the sun shining through the window makes the house feel a bit brighter. For the first time in months, I feel rested-- refreshed. We both felt the presences of [our loved ones] so strongly with us last night, and it was so comforting, and it was very healing. I feel like now, we're ready to carry on their love and memories and leave some of the mourning behind...
The Year of my Crisis of Faith
I could live with the death of people getting older, getting sick, but when a friend of mine died suddenly and without warning in the prime of her life, I had a real crisis of faith. She left behind her husband-- the love of her life-- and a 5 year old child -- a child that they both had tried so hard and so desperately to bring into this world.
I spent three months bitterly depressed. Admittedly, some of it was also probably due to postpartum hormones, as I'd just given birth days before she died. The news on TV made me bawl. Looking at my babies made me cry because I took it so hard that my friend would never get to see hers grow up. I was angry at the Gods-- if they did exist, I seethed, they could not be good to rip families apart like that.
That Samhain my husband and kids set up the altar and I grudgingly went along with the traditions of honoring the ancestors as usual, going through the motions. I placed my friend's picture upon the altar, but went to bed feeling cold and angry. The next morning's entry:
...last night, M____ came to me in a dream. I was watching [her daughter] play in the park, thinking how sad it was that M___ would never get to see her grow up, when M___ appeared looking radiant and beautiful. I said, "M___, you're here!" She said she wasn't really gone, and that she'll always be watching over [her daughter], watching her grow up. And she told me that it was all okay.
I feel so much better today-- like a weight has been lifted off me. I'm not depressed anymore, not like these last few months. I looked forward to greeting the beautiful morning for the first time since the day [my son] was born. I might have just chalked it up to a dream last night, but then I talked to [another friend of M___] who told me that M___ came to her in a dream! Her dream was just like mine, M___ said all the same things! I couldn't believe it and she nearly fell off her chair when I told her that I'd had the same dream! This is too much to be coincidence; I think we were visited by M___'s spirit last night...
My crisis of faith was over.
The Year of the Gift
One year a couple of unexpected blows left us pretty broke. I mean, we were able to pay the rent, the essential bills, and put food on the table (nothing fancy-- rice and beans were a staple, but no one went hungry). Other than that, everything was a struggle.
I wanted to honor the ancestors and our deceased loved ones as usual, to carry on traditions.
I set up the altar with what I had. I scrounged and scrimped to host a gathering of our Pagan family and friends. I save up enough to buy a few ingredients to make a nice meal and bake, and was even going to spend my last $5 on flowers for the altar. We headed out to the store to get the stuff, and a $50 bill blew up at my feet when I got out of the car. I was so busy picking it up and shouting I found $50 that I didn't notice my husband-- on the other side of the car-- shouting that he found $50 as well.
There was no one in the parking lot. We went back in the store (where I worked at the time) and told my manager we found the $100 if anyone called to say they lost it. He told me to hang onto it so it didn't disappear. He put a note up on the customer service window. Later that night, I wrote:
...we talked about it with everyone. We all agreed it was strange for money to be blowing around with no one in the vicinity. It was also strange that it blew up to both of our feet, even though we were on opposite sides of the car, and it seemingly came from opposite directions. It seemed like more than a coincidence.
Everyone just instinctually felt it was my father. He was always worrying about us, asking if we had enough money, or handing us or the kids cash whether we really needed it or not. [My husband] said he was probably partly worried about us and probably partly thanking us for honoring him and keeping his memories alive with the grandkids. I would like to believe that but I don't know.
Everyone bet that no one would claim the money. I doubt it, but if no one does then I'll be more convinced that it was a gift from my dad...
No one ever claimed the money.
The Year of the Wake Up Call
One year I went to a big, open Samhain festival and there was a past life regressionist. She led us into a big group regression meditation, then left us silent for a time to explore our own experiences in trance. My odd experience was this:
...I had never had a meditation quite so deep as this. I felt as I had fallen into another existence and was completely detached from my current self. My real life, my current self, felt like the dream from which I was waking up, and for a minute I didn't know which was real or which was the dream. I was both people, simultaneously. The experience felt as real as any waking day in my life...
... I have no idea when or where it was, but it was like a tribal culture in prehistoric times. I couldn't see any real houses or roads or signs of technology; just mud huts, people with leathery, weather-worn skin were sharpening wood spears or preparing food in simple clay pottery over open fires, dressed in animal skins and some kinds of woven (wool?) garments.
I myself was a child-- adults were taller and smiled down as I ran about, patting me on the head or shooing me away from their work. I could see my hands, they were like a child's hands, though dirty and rough.
I wandered toward an old man. He was nearly toothless with long darkish hair bunched in knotty strands almost like dread lock. He, hunched on the ground near a small fire, and was pulverizing some herbs on a rock. He was 'my teacher'-- that's what I knew him as. I knew I was supposed to go to him.
He looked up at me... and the strangest thing was that I knew that he could see me-- the present me-- right through the child I was. He gave me a look and proceeded to chastise me in a language I didn't know but understood perfectly... saying that I was impeding my own journey in this life, that my learning had not ended, and he kept saying that I was wasting time and what was I waiting for?...
I knew I had let my Craft studies fall by the wayside ever since moving away from my coven, and I felt this regression was telling me that I was not taking them seriously enough and not living up to my potential for whatever I was supposed to learn in this lifetime. I began taking my studies and practice more seriously again after this.
Samhain-- What a Sabbat
Reading over my past Samhains made me realize why this sabbat sticks out in my mind-- I've had more deeply spiritual experiences this time of year than probably any other. I almost always seem to get a message, learn something about myself, or break through some road block that's held me back.
Have you had any interesting Samhain experiences? If you'd like to share them, I'd love to hear them. Blessed sabbat to my fellow Pagans and Witches at this most sacred season.