by Elizabeth A Kaufman
For Witches, such as myself, Pagans and other followers of the Old Ways, Hallows (also known as Samhain or Halloween, among other names) marks the third, final harvest and a new year. It is a time of introspection, withdrawal and honoring the Goddesses known as "dark", the Crone or Hag. As Winter draws near, we begin that journey down and within. The scent of woodsmoke, drying herbs, apples and spices fill the air. Out of doors, the temperature has dropped and chill winds begin to stir; leaves crackle beneath our feet as we walk through field and forest, drawing in the aroma of the season, a not unpleasant decay. Autumn, the Grand Dame, makes Herself known to us.
Now, all of this may sound a bit macabre and not very festive, but if you consider carefully, it is indeed a joyful time. We are able, on some level, to reconnect with those who have crossed the veil. The Ancestors of our Way (Witchcraft) and the Hidden Company (those who once practiced our arts, they are no longer physically with us, but assist those who practice those Old Ways) along with family and friends are, perhaps, easier to connect with. For these reasons, various divinatory tools, such as scrying or black mirror, tarot cards, runes, stones and bones, are wisely used to make contact and obtain answers and gain wisdom. These tools seem to come alive, at this time, in a special and more powerful way. Used respectfully, wisely, we can find answers and guidance for the year ahead.
Offerings and libations are called for, as usual, to show respect, honor and devotion for the Goddesses we revere, the Spirits of the Land, the Hidden Company and, of course, our Beloved Dead. All manner of offerings can be acceptable: special cakes made with barley, corn, oats or other grains, eggs, meat or fowl (part of our own meal) as well as parts of the last harvests from gardens. Herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, rosemary, parsley, chamomile; nuts and berries, make welcome offerings. Libations (liquid offerings) such as spiced and sweetened wines, teas, cordials and cider are placed in horn or cup upon the ground then gently tipped and spilled, seeping, journeying into the Underworld as a gift. You will likely be guided as to what is acceptable. Follow your intuition and do not worry, when made from the heart, it is always good.
However one celebrates, with formal circle or compass casting and ritual, simple gatherings or solitary rite, all are valid. However, the working should have meaning for you, stir your spirit and leave you filled with fire and magic.
For myself, a formal ritual and casting of a circle along with meditative journeying and divination are always included. A light is lit (generally in a pumpkin) and left at the window to guide and welcome my dead ancestors. I also choose the names of thirteen women from historical sources, who were executed as witches, not because they actually were witches, but simply as a remembrance of victims of a misogynistic society and time. Someone must remember them, who better than those who practice the old arts?
There is one other way I celebrate as well. Certain charms of protection are renewed at this time of year. One in particular, The Hazelnut Charm, has been part of my Hallows celebrations for many years and I shall share it with you.
I am lucky that my husband of over thirty years never questions when asked to accomplish certain tasks - such as drilling holes in hazelnuts, a requirement for this charm. He simply does as asked. He considers himself the consort of a witch, accepting such requests as a sacred duty. And thank the Goddesses he does, because I'm not very handy with a drill - the less said about this, the better. In any event, a thin drill bit will be needed for the task as well as a steady hand to hold the nut while drilling. A thick slab of wood beneath the nut will keep rugs and floors or tables from being damaged - again, the less said about these adventures, the better! The nuts will be strung with a large needle and strong, decorative thread or yarn, but one could tie the nuts in decorative (or simple) knots as well, although I have not tried it with this charm. I have used this technique with other charms such as is used when making a witch's ladder.
This charm is used to protect one's home and family for the year and is hung on the front door. Last year I made three charms, one for our home, Toadstool Condo, another for my car (the Stregamobile) and the third for my husband's vehicle. The charm will be as protective as you make it. Believe it for it has served many that I know and myself well.
The Hazelnut Charm
- nine hazelnuts for each charm (holes should be drilled through like a bead before ritual unless the nuts are to be tied)
- decorative thread or yarn, cut in lengths of at least 13 inches
- large darning needle (eye should be large enough to accommodate the yarn)
- various dried herbs and branches to burn in cauldron or fire-pit
- a candle, best it be black, but choose as you will
- last year's charm/s if you made them
Bring yourself to a state of light trance, focus upon the task - protective magic, blessings for home and family. Hold the nuts, yarn and needle in your hands while doing this.
When ready, carefully and with intent, thread your needle, then string the nuts (or tie them) with the thread or yarn, leaving a longish tail at the beginning. When the nine nuts have been strung, you may continue with additional stringing for other charms. Be sure to leave a tail at each end. When all the charms are strung, take the charm and bring the tails together, tying nine knots. Dip the knot into the pooled wax of your candle.
Make a fire with herbs and branches so that you have a nice little flame and a bit of scented smoke. (If doing this indoors, another candle in a cauldron along with a stick or cone of incense will do.) Add whatever herbs, spices and resins that you feel inclined to use. Walk around the cauldron, waving the charm back and forth through the smoke, raising energy, dancing and walking faster and faster while chanting repeatedly, but at least nine times:
Hazelnuts nine in a ring,
By the Hallows Fire bring,
To my home, me and mine,
Protection strong by this sign.
Guard the family of the Lady’s Breed,
So I say, as is my need.
By the blood moon and magic three,
This, my work, done it be!
You must really build up the energy with your dance, waving your charm/s. Let yourself go, don't think, just dance and let the energy and power flow. At some point you will know the work is done and you now will sit around the cauldron. Raise the charms to the sky, touch them to the Earth and then to your heart. The working is done. Last year's charms should be burned, buried or tossed into a deep body of water after the rite.
Divination and/or spirit contact may follow now as there is plenty of magick and energy in the air. When all of your workings are completed, make your offerings and libation. If your rite has taken place indoors, open your circle, if used, and take the offerings outside to some special place: the base of a favorite tree, a hedge, a corner of your garden that will remain undisturbed.
Now… eat, drink, be merry, make love and don't forget to ground yourself and close the portal opened by the ritual. Say farewell to the dead and set them on there way back to their realms. Crush a bit of mugwort in your hands before retiring, inhaling the scent then sprinkle a bit near your bed or place it in the pillow slip to bring prophetic dreams.
May your Hallows bring wisdom and blessings!