Samhain, Festival of the Ancestors

Samhain is the Gaelic word for “Summer’s End”. It is pronounced “SOW-in” in Irish Gaelic, “SHAW-vin” in Scots Gaelic, and “Pumpkin Spice” in American. 😀 I stole that joke.

Like English uses H to change the sounds of C and S, Gaelic uses the letter H to turn M into the V sound. M and V are more similar than you might have realized. That is a little Gaelic language tip for you; I did not get much further in my study of that language.

Samhain is the ancient holiday halfway between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, around the first of November. This is when in Ireland, cattle were brought back down from their mountainous summer grazing fields to the valley fields. Newgrange and other paleolithic Irish monuments mark these astronomical events.

Thanks to Irish immigrants, Samhain became the basis for what we Americans call “Halloween”, a contraction for All Hallow’s Eve. Halloween is the evening before All Saints Day. Halloween is also known as All Souls Night, when we remember our own, ordinary, not-sainted folk. Simply, it is a festival to honor those who have gone before.

Ancestor worship pre-dates the worship of deities. From what I can understand, as Stone Age people, we humans did not fear death or miss our dead relatives the way we do now. Instead, we stayed in touch with their spirits and memories.

Usually, ancestor worship itself was conducted by the oldest living relatives in the family. Those who were closer to crossing over to become ancestors themselves, and who had known the older generations were deemed best for communicating with those spirits. It became their sole occupation. Priesthood must have been a really nice retirement plan!

Modern Pagans often hold unrelated loved ones, such as teachers or even celebrities, as emotional ancestors. Those who inspire us to become better people have also fed our growth as spiritual beings. They “parent” us this way.

Who are your unrelated ancestors? Among mine are the authors Anne McCaffrey and Jane Austen, singer Karen Carpenter and my high school choir teacher, Cheryl Patchen. McCaffrey taught me keep writing and singing in spite of neglect or abuse, and that adopted family can be the best family. Austen taught me to follow my better nature rather than give in to impulse. Carpenter warned me to keep fighting mental illness. Patchen believed in me.

Did you have neighbors growing up who helped raise you? Have you thought about the word “raise”? Good people lift each other up, and as my friend Carolsue says, we live in a world with good people.

Wiccans honor our dead at Samhain. We believe at this time of year, it is easier to converse with our ancestors. The “veil” between our world and theirs is thin at this time, and also at Beltaine, the opposite holiday from Samhain.

One way to remember them is to offer their names to the Samhain bonfire. You can speak their names to the fire, or write them on paper to burn. I usually do both, reading the name aloud and then burning the paper.

Samhain is also the third or fourth harvest festival of the year; it is the Blood Harvest. I am going to let those words hang for a moment… This is the hunting season for well-fed wildlife, or time to harvest your fattened livestock. Their bones went into the Samhain bonfire, bone + fire. This is the time of frost, when (before climate change) the weather would reliably get colder. Meat stayed good longer in a cold larder, or it was cured with salt or smoke. Then it should keep your family fed thru harsh winter months. They did not have things like Spam.

And of course, it is the time of pumpkins, winter squash, potatoes, young wine from Lughnasadh’s pressing, the last of those flavorful peppers, apples and plums. There is still time to plant winter greens to keep your family more healthy during winter.

Another way to honor the dead is the Dumb Supper. “Dumb” means “not speaking”. As you enjoy your marvelous harvests in a Samhain feast, set one plate full of your dinner with a burning candle to draw those spirits who love you. Some Wiccans eat this meal in silence (dumb), to listen for their visitors’ words from the other side.

Many Wiccans include a pomegranate in their Samhain feast to honor the marriage of Persephone and Hades. Do not believe those silly English scholars who mistranslated the old Greek myths: Persephone was NOT kidnapped. Plucking a crocus was essentially knocking on Hades’ door. She was NOT tricked into marrying; offering an unmarried woman a pomegranate was the same today as kneeling and offering her a ring. Her mother’s opinion of the match was another story.

A much-loved Samhain activity is to spend time looking thru family photo albums. Perhaps dust the picture frames if you keep family portraits. Tell stories of your elders’ (hopefully funny ones as well as any other), talk about your family’s history and traditions. We are settling into the darkest time of the year, which is a great time to rest and tell stories.

Samhain is our New Year festival, as well. We chase out and confuse bad spirits by wearing masks and set skulls and bones outside our doors to warn them away. The Irish extinguish their hearth fires, then meet at the village bonfire and take home its coals to restart their hearth for the new year. The old has passed, the new are coming back soon: at the Sun’s rebirth occurs at Yule.

Since it is a new year, you might scry or read your tarot cards to gain insight for the coming year. You might converse with your ancestors by visiting your relatives’ graveyards, or simply stand outside on your porch to await their coming to see you, just as you would wait for the living who have texted to say they are are on their way.

If you choose to scry, keep in mind that all news is not good. Be prepared to receive messages of any sort. Christians interpret hearing bad news as the “Devil’s words” and view our holiday with anxiety. Bless their hearts. Wiccan faith says to accept the whole cycle of life as it comes. When you receive messages, do your best to handle the news.

And this is one reason that Wiccans set circles of protection when we scry. We need to filter out those spirits who might mean harm, or who are just full of mischief. Think of all the people you know in life. They do not change their nature when they die.

Samhain New Year is an excellent time to purge your home of unwanted or unused items, or items with some painful connection. It might be a valuable item, but if it only brings you sorrow, purge it. Purge yourself of sorrows too, using that burning ritual I mentioned earlier. Write your sorrow on paper and add it to the Samhain fire. That catharsis is magnificent.

Walking a labyrinth is another Samhain tradition. The labyrinth reminds us that life is full of twists, turns, doubling back, rushing forward, and then doing it all over again with fresh perspective.

Think of all the feelings you get when you work thru any problem! They can all be there in the labyrinth. Interest in a new thing, satisfaction in that first turning back to see where you were before. Frustration of going back and forth when you thought you were done. Confusion when you are not sure if you are following the right color on the floor. Joy of sailing forward thru a long loop, and then anxiety as you see yet another turn ahead. Relief when you reach the center. Exhaustion when you realize you are about to go thru all of that again – or maybe you love seeing it all go by again and laugh at the places you were stuck or frustrated before.

You might outline a labyrinth in your own yard, using cornmeal or flour, bricks, masking tape or ribbon. To use a bag of cornmeal or flour for this, cut a pouring spout from the top fold and use the flour to trace the design. Non-toxic, needs no clean up. The Cretan labyrinth + is a simple and most ancient design. Or, quite simply, or you can mark out a spiral using a garden hose.

Samhain is a time of immense power and change. In this season, it behooves us to connect with our past and weigh our needs and desires. Take time to appreciate where you came from, the good and the bad together. Take time to evaluate where you are and appreciate your own wealth.

Awkward Start to My Week

14 October 2019: 7:40am

Driving in reverse, turn and put car into forward, surprised to see neighbor Kevin with his dog, Max. We have met a few times when walking our dogs on the road. He had once thanked me for driving a Nissan, as he works there. 

Our driveway is a sixth of a mile long. This guy walked nearly all the way down it, past two “no trespassing” signs. I figured he was bringing Max to play with Teddy. I rolled down my window, and this conversation ensued: 

Me: Good morning! Hello doggo! (reaches to pet Max, the extremely friendly rescue pitbull). Are you coming to visit Teddy?

Kevin: Did you lease that? (pointing at my car)

Me: No, I bought it. It is used, had been a lease before. Are you here to visit Teddy?

K: I don’t even know who lives here! (waves his arms around, indicating our yard, house, woods)

Me: _I_ live here. We’ve met before, this is Max and you’re Keith?

K: Kevin.

Me: (I nod. Max tries to reach me and scratches my car door.) No, get down.

K: How come no one has memories anymore! (waving his arms again) None of this will be here in 100 years.

Me: It was my husband’s grandmother’s place, we bought it from his father and uncle. My husband, Chris. You’ve met him.

K: How big is it?

Me: 6 acres.

K: Wow.

Me: Yes, we wanted to keep it (I meant to say “in the family” but said “open” instead.)

K: For what this place is worth, you could move all this (he points at the house) anywhere you want it.

Me: Ha! THIS IS where we want it.

K: I am looking to invest.

Me: Have a nice day!

K: Good luck.

 

WEIRD way to start my week.

Autumn Equinox, or Mabon 21 September 2019

This holiday really is a Southerner’s favorite. Sure, the South loves Christmas enough to put their tree up in July, but nothing makes South happier than cooler weather. If my social media feed is any indication, anticipation of this event begins after the first hot day in May.

What is this holiday, besides a lead up to Halloween? It is our second harvest festival. Apples, grapes, gourds and nuts are ripe. Time to make jam, pickles, wine, and roast pumpkin seeds. The grain mills that were busy after Lammas have churned out flour, so it is a great time for baking pies. The Horn of Plenty spills over. People who turned their Lammas grain into beer can spill over too. #tipsy So you have both products of the first harvest, and the second harvest’s crops. Quite the cornucopia.

The Horn of Plenty was Amalthea’s horn, the goat who suckled baby Zeus when Rhea hid him from his power-crazed, baby-eating father Cronus. Zeus blessed the horn so that it would always provide food for its owner. It was later gifted to Heracles after he fought with the ocean naiad Achelous over, of course, the love of a woman. It is hard to say if Greeks enjoyed fighting more or less than they enjoyed love. But goats undeniably filled an important role in their agriculture, and I understand that our football season has also begun. #fightfightfight

At Mabon as at Oestara, daylight and nighttime hours are equal. The dust of summer is damped down by leaves and heavier dew. It can be fun to have a bonfire or enjoy lighted candles. Wiccans love to cut an apple laterally and show their children the star shape that the seed pods make. Persimmon seeds get cracked open to see if they have a “spoon” shape. I do not remember what that signifies, but people like to see it.

Metaphyisically, take a look at the projects you are working on. Can you finish any of them in a day? Can you finish them in the six weeks before Samhain? Look and those you have completed, simply to enjoy the accomplishment. In a fast-paced world, it is easy to forget what we have gotten done.

When I was a child, Autumn was a months-long season. Now, Autumn is disappearing into the heat of Global Warming and its effect of Climate Change and its mild temperatures occur briefly. Summer’s heat lingers, or the polar vortex gets pushed south and brings early frost or rain at really bad times. If nothing else compels you to act to fight Climate Change, maybe you would be motivated to Save Autumn?

Letter to City Planners

Hello ,

I am the property owner and resident at (0000) Asbury Road, next door to two properties that have been sold to the developer Landmark. I attended the developer’s meeting last week, and I have these specific concerns:

Flood plain:

Landmark’s development plan includes six homes on the western side of these properties, in flood plain of Overall Creek. They plan to raise or build up at least some of this ground. I have serious concerns about this plan.

Has there been a recent study of Overall Creek’s flood patterns, a study within the last 5 years? Overall creek flooded over 12 feet, reaching well up onto my property in February 2019. It flooded at least 10 feet once in 2018, and twice the year before that. I can show you those flood water levels on my property, if you need to measure.

Overall Creek behaves much differently now that the woods upstream are nearly gone. The riparian zones may have been preserved, but the acres of woodlands in the watershed that used to soak up rainfall are now mostly gone. The city and/or county needs to re-evaluate Overall Creek’s flood plain levels and floodway.

I do not need to tell you that flowing water is a tremendous force. This artificial elevation that Landmark plans to make will wash out. Eddying will undercut and washout my land, and possibly slump onto my property.

Moreover, the development’s lowest 4 homes at least will flood. Landmark should seriously consider the effect this would have on their reputation.

Upstream, that elevation would effectively dam the creek, flooding homes (0000 0000 0000) on Dixie Lane and in Spring Creek development. Those homes are currently in less danger from floodwaters.

Water mains: Mine and my neighbor north of me (0000 Asbury Road) have our water mains on the easternmost of the two properties that has just sold. We need the city to either relocate both of these water mains, or the new development’s HOA to maintain our easement. Those lines and mains need to be protected during and after the builders’ work on the site.

Trees on fence line: My fence around my eastern, southern and western border is dependent on the trees growing there. Any living tree that is within one foot of my fence needs to be left standing and unharmed, its roots and branches untouched and its base not covered by or deprived of any soil.

Water flow from the development onto my property: Rainwater currently flows from the developer’s site onto my property along the eastern edge, where my driveway has its lowest elevation. It then collects into a small vale and enters Overall Creek. This water flow needs to continue to occur in this location, over this approximately thirty food spread, as it does now.

Well: I have a well on my site, which we planned to use again in the near future for homesteading and animal husbandry. I am concerned that blasting next door will interrupt the karst flow of water that feeds water to this well.

Heat: The ambient temperature in Asbury Park will rise with the absence of the tall trees in this development. Please request that Landmark use light-colored roofing, such as light tan or white/light gray. Dark roofs create updrafts in winter that rob homes of their heat, and in summer a dark roof heats up the home and the air around it. If possible, please encourage the use of light colored roofs. Changing from black to light gray/white roofing made a big difference for the better in my old house.

Traffic:

The intersection of Hord Road at Old Nashville Hwy, being so close to the bridge over 840, has almost zero line of sight from that direction. Many more cars will need to exit there in the future. Can you increase reflector strips on the bridge and signage warning of the intersection? Are there other actions the city or county could take to improve the situation for drivers exiting Hord Road at ONH?

The intersection of Asbury Road and Old Nashville Hwy often has limited line of sight due to brush. Can this intersection be kept more clear, and its road sign placed to be better seen by traffic on Old Nashville Hwy? Can intersection signs be added from both directions on ONH?

The intersection of Asbury Lane onto Medical Center is already well established as a poor connection, especially if one is exiting to the left. Please make a change that will save lives and reduce the traffic flow problem from Asbury Park. I have three suggestions:

Re-work the timing of the lights at Convention Center Blvd to give people leaving and entering Asbury Lane more opportunity to turn.

Alternately, add a traffic plate trigger on Asbury Lane and a recessed light on the west-bound side, such as is used at Bell Road (in Nashville) before the intersection with the off ramp.

Second alternative, since Asbury Lane is already S curved before meeting Medical Center, please extend the Lane to meet Medical Center further east from where it now meets, and create an intersection that can host a traffic light.

Thank you so much for hearing my concerns. I look forward to attending the planning and council meetings, and hope to speak to you there.

Thank you,

(signed)

3 September 2019

Save My Home?

We attended a developer’s meeting on Monday about a new home building project next to us. I see that the city’s plan to expand the roads (2040) would work well with this development. By “work well” I mean it would save the city time and expense.

My idea would ALSO save both mine and my neighbor’s home. Can I get a thumb’s up? I do not want our homes destroyed!

I hope we can point out to the city of Murfreesboro this simple, easy solution. The new home development will need roads, the city needs this road expansion. This idea of mine would take out a major curve in the proposed road and leave the surrounding homes intact.

Problem is, the director of city planning would not hear this idea. At least not on the first meeting, which one of my neighbors had arranged. The Director ordered him to leave.

Let me say again: this is a simple, easy, faster, less expensive solution to what would otherwise be a long, painful, expensive project for the city. Good all around!

But we need this to get heard!

I need advice? How to communicate as a homeowner and individual, with the city department that holds the fate of my home in its grip? I hear bulldozers in my sleep. The dread is indescribable.

I know that engineers are sensible and logical folk. I need to approach or communicate with them in a way that makes this solution of mine obvious. Because it is!

My suggestion to put the proposed road thru the new development is good for the city and its planners, less expensive, and causes the least harm and destruction to my neighborhood and home. Surely that should go over well?

Advice is welcome! Help me save my home? ❤️

Food! End of the MCLF 2019

A week ago this evening, I ate raw greens for dinner, fresh out of my garden. Basil, wild grape leaves, mustard greens, mint, lemon balm, and hyssop, which I ate with raw apple cider vinegar. It was a bit like chewing a lot of gum, if gum were also a bit stringy. But this was the first necessary step to coming back to normal eating.

Breakfast and lunch were the same on Saturday, and then dinner was fresh fruit: grapes and watermelon. Sunday breakfast and lunch were more watermelon, apple and grapes, but to be honest, the grapes were terribly sweet.

AND THEN, SUNDAY EVENING there was salmon, steamed mixed vegetables, rice pasta in cheese sauce, and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. It was marvellous, even tho I only ate half of it. I should have poured half a glass of wine, a whole glass was too much. The leftovers made a wonderful lunch on Monday. My belly was in perfect shape and I had zero issues eating normally.

The fast was a good experience, over all. From it, I learned I need just one serving of alcohol per day, and that I can handle being hungry but not famished. The lingering cough disappeared, but tinnitus came back full bore. I do not know if my body worked on removing the bones puts in my neck, but I hope so.

I hope to get or build a shoulder stand, so that I can do inversions and increase blood flow to my head and ears. I hope that will address the tinnitus. There has to be some way to heal the inner ear.

Cleanse Fast 2019, days 7 & 8

Wednesday went well. I felt good all day and took several walks.

Started the day with the salt water flush, which worked much better than the herbal tea alone had done. I only had kosher salt, not the recommended sea salt, so I used slightly less than the normal 2 tsp per quart.

Elimination was over within 3 hours. There was not much to eliminate, but my tongue still has the yeast coating. So I am not cleaned out yet.

I admit I am impatient to get this over with; I do not enjoy fasting. Even tho this lemonade makes it possible to get thru the process without going hungry, I miss food SO MUCH.

Another thing that has helped me get thru is honey drinks. Evenings are the most discouraging time, when I am already tired and am used to looking forward to dinner. So, I have taken a heaping tablespoon of honey and dissolved it in warm water to drink. At this point, I am tired of the taste of citrus.

But I am also buoyed by the fact that I am more than halfway thru the process. I hoped to end early but that does not look likely, now. This evening begins the 8th day. I will take my herbal “Smooth Move” tea tonight and make my lemonade for tomorrow. In the morning, I will drink another salt water flush.

Next week will be full of wonderful flavors, incredible things like wine, cheese, green salads, nuts, noodles, vegetables, eggs, fruit. I will savor them like the gods’ own ambrosia. Those days will be here soon.