Alas, SAMHAIN approaches! This is the new year for witches and preparations have been in full swing for weeks for this holiday by everyone; not just pagans, witches and Wiccans. This holiday is intended for paying tribute to out deceased loved ones and the ancestors. Ironically, it takes place at one of the two times of the year (March being the other) when the veil between their realm and ours is the thinnest, which ideally makes spirit communication easier; the perfect time for a seance, scrying in dark mirrors and psychic/mediumship readings, as well as dream visitations from the deceased even to those who believe they have no such gifts). In Pagan times, the holiday was known as All Hallows Eve or Samhain and featured a “Feast of the Dead”—in later days, it became known as Halloween; the feast also changed to a plate set for deceased loved ones at the table of the evening meal or a plate of food set upon an alter; of a facsimile of that idea. No matter how the old ways fit into today’s lifestyle – or if you follow the practice of witchcraft or paganism – preparations for the party are well under way for Halloween night. Ironically, this is thought to be the busiest shopping season for decorations, costumes and party goods – I think I heard it’s more so than Christmas for overall sales. Nevertheless, the old festival that was intended to frighten away evil creatures, demons and guard against the long dark night has evolved – or rather, shape-shifted – into a reason to costume ourselves into everything imaginable. Children eagerly dress as their favorite super hero or something whimsical and race outside I the dark (or near dark) unafraid as they engage fully in the serious job of trick-or-treating, thereby collecting enough candy to last for the winter or longer (LOL).
While humans change their garments into the fantastic, weird and comical, so too are the over-stressed trees and bushes changing, right before our eyes. As they slip out of their shining summer greenery, they carefreely show nakedness of trunks, branches and partially their roots that extend outward from the base. Frisky breezes assist their undressing by snatching one leaf at a time, choosing those visibly dried and in colorful shrouds of orange, yellow, red and rusty brown. Death is no ending even leaves, falling from deciduous trees that need a winter’s rest before the warming sun awakens new buds then leaves in the Springtime. Autumn leaves, dried to crispness, are flitting past the window on the brisk wind today . . . soon they shall land and go skittering about walking feet, becoming a crunchy blanket of protection for the Earth from the snow of a long Winter.
Thus, this is the Turning of the Wheel of the Year and the time for witches to celebrate by riding high on magical broomsticks . . . oops! Sorry, got carried away with the myth so long ago perpetrated by ancient fear and a mistaken belief that they flew on such things to their hellish Sabbath. No such thing! That so-believed flight was a version of astral traveling, which might have been enhanced using a fat-based ointment or beverage laced with some variety of hallucinogenic plant/substance. They certainly did NOT consort or dance with the devil/Satan, because most witches did not – nor do not now – believe necessarily in that Christian symbol, the image may have originated from the forest god, Pan. Samhain originated in Europe where people carved faces into turnips or gourds to frighten away evil spirits and ironically even witches. American settlers began using pumpkins for the same purpose because they were easier to obtain and carve. Today, that humble pumpkin transforms as a kindly or evil expression is painted onto it or carved into its orange flesh . . . and Ta-Da, the result is a perfect . . . Jack-o’-lantern!
No longer does the jack-o-lantern need to light the walkway against ghosts, goblins or witches . . . rather, we place a candle or battery-operated light inside then take it outside to light our porches or walkways as a must for any amount of decoration during the Halloween season. The former name, Samhain, seems forgotten by all but the modern-day witch or pagan. Each time I give a pumpkin a new face, I chuckle, wondering:
“How can any self-respecting evil thing or demon be so intimidated by a vegetable with a goofy face? That is, unless it’s carried by a caped, headless man, riding a rearing, charging black horse and gets thrown at them? Perhaps, it is the flickering candle inside that creates a perfect illusion that the pumpkin has come alive and able to bite back, its features morphing into something much less silly and certainly more terrifying when the imagination takes charge of the sight of what was previously a source for a pie? Or is it how the candle makes the empty eye holes seem to be blinking, winking and even following? Admittedly, there is something that creates the illusion that the pumpkin has come to life and can bite if provoked the moment our imagination gets involved, morphing the features from something silly into something more terrifying. No wonder folklore comes to life in tales such as “The Headless Horsemen” in the book by Robert Louis Stephenson, and characters like “Dracula” inspire movies and scary story-telling or graphic horror movies. Now of the year, there is also an increase in experiences with the paranormal or supernatural, as well as actual ghostly encounters—all credited to the thinnest division of the veil between the ream of the dead and ours. Whether one is a witch or skeptic or somewhere in between, admittedly the Halloween symbol of the jack-o’-lantern speaks to the psyche in many ways.
Therefore, the iconic pumpkin became a perfect assistant for my Samhain celebration, which would be held alone and outside inside my stone circle—October 2015, I think. Because the idea of the ritual was intriguing and the result amazing, I decided to share the idea with my readers. Id does not matter if you are a witch/wiccan/pagan or skeptic or somewhere in between, all can appreciate and use this idea in either a ritual setting or a variation in their backyard or quiet room. I would place a jack-o-lantern at the quarters of my circle, I obtained four of approximately the same size, roundness and coloration. I chose to carve the faces as generic and simple (and because I’m no pumpkin-carving artiste by any stretch of the imagination) with just round eyes, triangle nose and a smiling mouth, complete with the cursory missing few teeth. And Ta-Da—five jack-o-lanterns were born!
While carving, create your intention with a verse, which should be relative to whatever circumstances you chose to address with the rite or the loved one with whom you wish to communicate. If you plan to employ a protective circle by using an elemental guard at each direction, as I did, be certain to apply the correct energy for each quarter with the jack-o-lantern you plan to place there. Example: North-Earth, East-Fire, South-Air, West-Water Feel free to be creative when carving the faces or using your own words to set the intention, taking care to be thoughtful of the application to the problem or idea – be ever so careful of what you wish, lest you get it (an adage true even with this whimsical idea for a ritual), remember that thoughts are energy; each may come with appropriate consequences as directed. Be creative with your ritual whether that be the words spoken or the expressions carved as a face on your pumpkins (each can be the same or each a characterization appropriate for the element they are to represent)—but, be wise in the energy infused into them according to your purpose in the ritual. Okay, I realize how crazy it sounds to think of infusing energy or intent into a vegetable, but trust me, its pulp will take what you direct, regardless whether you creatively design this unusual ritual—or use an old stand-by from your magical bag of tricks.
Place the jack-o-lanterns around the outside of your circle, facing outward as watch-dogs. Light their candles as you “call the quarters” setting up a protective perimeter; essentially you would be instructing the four to ward off any unbidden negative spirits and welcome with their silly grins any that you have or intend to invite to commune with you. I choose to turn the pumpkins to face inward to watch over the ritual, but that depends on the reason for the rite. For the one I am sharing here, however, the purpose was not so much a ritual to invite communication from loved ones or other ritualistic ideas—this, one was meant to experiment with the faces on the pumpkins and how my clairvoyance would influence them or be influenced by them; whichever might occur.
Let me make point here, before I go on. Because the ancient Egyptians considered the head or skull to house the brain, which was the seat of perception, conscious thoughts and intelligence (also, seeing all that of little real importance, it was not saved in a Canopic jar upon mummification as they did with the important other organs). That concept formed my original inspiration for using a jack-o-lantern for it was literally a bodiless skull or a “vessel” containing intentions and carrier of imagination of the fanciful or mundane. By putting the candle inside, it occurred to be as a spark or an idea or creativity—and so the pumpkin with a face became as a “VESSEL”. This creatively transformed the pumpkin into a magical tool – in a form known as sympathetic magic – which relates to using something tangible to symbolize a completely different object or an intangible idea as a focal during a ritual, spell or topic of meditation. My thought on using the pumpkin proved limitless, symbolism that could stretch as far as imagination could conceive. One aspect, made the pumpkin face symbolic of a mask, behind which one might keep fear or pain hidden from the world as much as from oneself—the other concept was the shiny orange surface was as a mirror with the carved face like a reflection of the self and showing truth to be understood or accepted or a lie to be denied or corrected. The variation on the symbolism here is limitless, all so befitting a pumpkin with a face—don’t you think?
My process began as above, but my version for the rite was different. I would like to share the experience that resulted with you now. I lit the quarter jack-o-lanterns, but asked my usual wards to do their jobs rather than the jack-o-lanterns, which I lit and turned to face inward as witnesses or participants of a sort to the meditative rite I had planned. There in the center of the circle, I sat across from the fifth pumpkin face and gazed with relaxed vision into its flickering eyes for probably several minutes. Shortly, the carved features began to visually morph, changing as if the pumpkin had come to life and its expression likewise changing—subconsciously, I saw it begin smiling, but soon its face changed to appear as a snarling dog then an angry old man and next a woman bemoaning something unintelligible and last, it seemed scowling pitifully with eyes drooping with sadness—eventually, it looked like an expressionless alien thing. The changing effects became mesmerizing, but just as possible it was just my imagination—or was it? Could it all have been due to my entrancement by the shadows and flickering candles—or was this truth, some sort of revelation of something real? I can say it didn’t take long for me to stop wondering what was magical, what was supernatural or paranormal or what was imagination creating what I WANTED to see.
There was a lot more from the experience, but the most significant was a vision created by the hypnotic candle. One minute I was outside, woolen cloak wrapped around me for warmth and musing over a pumpkin face – the next moment, I was gone to another place and time; a past life scenario. This extraordinary shift was something unforgettable for it began with a buzzing in my ears and fading of the details of the jack-o-lantern . . . ironically, I had been particularly uninterested in pondering my own past lives up to this point, but there I was right amid one, at least visually taken there like Cinderella to the ball in her pumpkin carriage (but, without the 8 white horses)!
I had an awareness of the time, which later research proved to be 1612 and the place Lancashire, England. I could hear distant sounds of shouting, certain they were just beyond where I was sitting, and my name screamed by a male voice: Get there here, Elizabeth Device . . . and more I could not recall. I did realize I was being accused of practicing witchcraft and had harmed someone in the doing and must pay for my sins. I could smell farm animals, wet earth, rotting vegetation and burning wood, but saw nothing of those things—I could feel the sensations and emotional distress as if real—and, in a way, I suppose it was. The magistrate appeared from nowhere, pronouncing my sentence as one of several of the Pendleton Witches who were to be hung for the crime of witchcraft and murder. Somehow, the scene shifted once more, and I found myself standing on a wooden platform, looking out over an angry crowd and then feeling the hangman’s rope slipped over my head as I cried my innocence—but, it clearly went unheeded and the horrific sense I was about to be hung for something I may not have done crashed into my mind. I began to cry, later found tears had wet my cheeks, and in the moment of anticipation of what was to come, I heard an owl hooting, loudly as if it was just overhead—and it was!
In that instant, a realization rose—the owl doesn’t quite fit with the vision. That was sufficient to shatter the visual experience and pull me back to the present. There was an actual owl on the branch just above me, hooting softly as a great feathered guardian of the past or present—or serving as the placeholder for both. Alas, I shivered and took a deep breath, gladly noting that I had been dropped back amidst my collection of pumpkins with faces—all of which, seemed grimacing with oddly knowing expressions; the one across from me, grinned with amusement for observing that astral journey—or had it gone somehow traveled along to be sure I would get back safely to the present, Samhain Eve and far from the place in time where I was hanged as a witch.
So . . . the next time you see a leering jack-o’-lantern, DARE to look directly into its face. LAUGH and stare into the mirror of the eyes as you would into the bathroom mirror on the worst bad-hair day . . . oh, you are not alone when Halloween brings out the crazies or you find yourself facing things that go bump in the night! While your jack-o-lantern may just sit there with its hollow eyes sparkling by the mercy of a candle and never talk to you or morph into a phantasm of the wildest kind, just remember the real MAGIC is within YOU and it is the imagination born from your subconscious that makes life fun. You may say you have no magical or psychic abilities, but you have lots for only you can attract or detract what you wish in your life. Remember -- Think Abundantly—Attract Abundance. Think Negatively or Depressively—Exist in those Shadows. Samhain/Halloween is not all about witches or carving a pumpkin with a mouth turning up or down . . . but giving it a complete set of features, which create a face, which may then reveal so much about the recent or long past, the present or possibilities for the future. All potentially written in the language of a goofy grimace or weird leer on a gutted orange vegetable, which is magically manifested to be a creature known by the name of . . . Jack-o’-lantern.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN and have a MAGICAL SAMHAIN EVE!