Monday, October 26, 2009

Jack-O-Lantern


     There are many legends and traditions about the Jack-o-lantern. It wasn't until 1866 that carving the pumpkin at Halloween became a specific tradition. Before the Irish immigrants came to America, they would carve turnips at Samhain and place them in there doorways or windows.
     One legend goes that there was lazy and shrewd farmer named Stingy Jack who was being chased by some villagers that he had stolen from. While he was running away from the mob he met the Devil. The Devil told Jack that it was time for him to die. Jack being a very clever and shrewd man, got the Devil to agreed to change himself into a coin, with which he would pay the villagers for the stolen goods then the Devil could change back and chase the Christian villagers or they would fight amongst each other thinking one of them stole the coin.  The Devil liked the idea very much and done just that. So as the coin the Devil jumped into Jack's wallet. While in Jack's wallet the Devil noticed he was next to a cross which Jack had also stolen from the village. Jack closed his wallet and then the cross stripped the Devil of his powers, so the Devil was trapped.
     Jack only let the Devil out if he agreed not to take his soul, which the Devil did.
     Life went on as it does for everyone then one day Jack finally died.
     Since Jack lived a life of sin by stealing, being shrewd and wicked he wasn't alllowed to go to heaven. Jack went to hell and the devil wouldn't let him in hell because the Devil did promise not to take Jack's soul. Jack had no where to go. He wandered the Earth in darkness.  So Jack asked for some light, the devil gave Jack an ember from the flames of hell, which would never go out. Jack carved out a turnip and placed the ember in it. Jack now roams the Earth until he finds a resting place.
     There are many versions to this legend.
     In one story, Jack was a black smith who loved his drinking. He was in a pub one night when the devil showed up to take his soul.  Jack convinced the Devil to turn into a coin so he could pay for the drink. Again, the Devil agreed to do so. Again, the Devil was stripped of his powers because Jack had a cross in his pocket.
     Jack finally let the Devil go if he promises not to take his soul for 10 years.
    Well 10 years came about and the Devil came calling to Jack again for his soul. This time Jack convinced the devil to climb an apple tree, which the Devil did. When the Devil got into the tree, Jack placed crosses around the base of the tree ( or he carved crosses at the base of the tree ) and the devil couldn't get down. Jack promised to let the Devil down if he promise to not take his soul. Of course, the Devil  promised not to take his soul.
     In this story as well as the other ones, Jack finally dies and he is refused into heaven and into hell. He travels the Earth with an ember from hell in a turnip.
     Some versions says that God help Jack trick the Devil and even gave Jack a turnip to carry his ember.
     In another version, the Grim Reaper agrees to give Jack eternal life if Jack gives him his head to carry back to hell with him. The Grim Reaper agrees and takes Jack's head then places a carved pumpkin in place of his missing head.
     So this Halloween/Samhain, when you gather the children and adults together to crave pumpkins tell them the story of the Jack-O-Lantern.
    
    

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sorry guys

To my readers,
   I do apologize for not having a new blog on here as of lately. It's been real crazy and busy around the household this last week. I will have a new blog(s) up soon. I say by Monday.
  Thanks for reading and visiting my blog. I really do enjoy writing.
  Blessings As Always,
    Grannulus

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Goddess Pomona

     Since I have a blog about Apples, I thought I would write a blog about a goddess that was considered to have a connection to the 'forbidden fruit.'
     Pomona was the goddess of fruit trees, garden, and orchards. She was a goddess in Roman mythology. Unlike many other Roman goddesses and gods, she doesn't have a Greek counterpart. She watches over and protects fruit trees and cares for their cultivation. The pruning knife was her sacred tool. She is mostly shown in art and statues with a platter of fruit or a cornucopia.
     Her name comes from the Latin word, pomum, meaning 'fruit.'  "Pomme" is also the French word for 'apple.'  She was said to be a wood nymph and a part of the Numia, guardian spirits who watches over people, places, or homes. She's not actually associated with the harvest of fruits itself, but with the flourishing of the fruit trees themselves.
     She married the god of fruit and orchards, Vertumnus, after he tricked her by diguising himself as an old woman who offered advice on who she should marry.  They both shared a festival that was held on August the 13th. Her high priest was called flamen pomonalis. There is a grove that is sacred to her called the Pomonal. It's located not far from Ostia, an ancient port of Rome.
     She has become popular among our culture of art and our popular reading material.
     There is a nude statue of her in the fountain in the little park before you get to the Plaza Hotel in New York City.  Also Pomona is the first name of Professor Sprout, the teacher of Herbology in the Harry Potter series.  She also appears in the Chronicles of Narnia as the wood goddess who blesses the orchard which was outside the Castle Cair Paravel.

Souling turns to Trick-or-Treating


The tradition of going from door to door and recieving food can be traced back to Britain and Ireland, in the form of Souling. Souling is where the children and the poor would sing and say prayers for the dead in return for soul cakes on Hallowmas, November the 1st.
     Soul cakes where tiny squares of bread with currants. The more soul cakes that the beggars would receive, the more prayers that they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors, on All Soul's Day.  At this time period, it was strongly believed that the dead remained in a limbo state for a time after death, and that prayers could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.  Similiar practices for the souls of the dead can be found as far south as Italy.
     The pratice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays can be traced back to the Middle Ages. In the Celtic traditions, people would wear costumes and masks on Samhain, because it was thought that spirits, evil or good, would wander the earth because the veil between the living and the dead was very thin and the spirits could slip through, causing the living trouble.
     Druids would walk to their rituals or ceremonies that they would perform on the night of Samhain in costume and masks as well. One tradition states that Druids would go from door to door asking for food for the ceremonies.
     Let me make one correction here: There is rumour or bad publicity going around about the Druids use to go from door to door asking for virgins for their sacrifices. This is a rumour that is being passed by certain inviduals because of their fears and trying to convert people into their accepted orthordox religious organizations. There is no record stating or claiming that the Druids did do this on Samhain. This is a false statement.
    Now back to souling. I'm off my soap box for now. LOL
    Their is no record of any souling rituals being performed in North America. No one knows for certain when the idea or form of  Trick-or-Treaing, as we know it today, took hold of North America. Now many children of other countries are accepting the American form of Trick-or-Treaing including Australia. The earliest record of the ritual begging on Halloween in North America occurs in a newspaper article dating 1911.
     Many different countries has their own idea and customs of Trick-or-Treating.
     In Scotland, the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white.
     In Quebec, Canada, children going from door to door just simply say, "Halloween!"
     In Sweden, children dresses up as witches on Maundy Thursday (Thurs. before Easter) while the Danish children go trick-or-treating on Fastelavn ( or the next day, Shrove Monday).
     Norway, kids go between Christmas and New Years Eve.
     In Scotland and parts of Northern England, a similiar tradition is called guising because of the disguises or costumes worn by the children, Children only recieve treats if they would perform for the households that they go to. Normally they would sing a song, recite a joke or a funny poem. Now the real talented kids would perform card or magic tricks or play some kind of instrument.

A Souling Song
A soul, a soul, a soul cake
Please, good missus, a soul cake
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry
Any good thing to make us all merry
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all

God bless the master of this house, the mistress also
And all the little children who around your table grow
Likewise your men and maidens, your cattle and your store
we wish you ten times more

The lanes are very dirty and my shoes are very thin
I've got a little pocket I can put a penny in
If you haven't got a penny, a ha' penny will do
If you haven't got a ha' penny, the God Bless you.

record by Watersons & by Peter, Paul, and Marry

     The soul cakes wasn't the only thing that the children would beg for. It could be pies, cakes, nuts, berries or breads. Sometimes these items would be used for the ceremonies for the next day. The idea of souling wasn't just for the accepted Orthordox religion at that time. Pagan children would also, before the invasion of Christianity,  go from door to door begging as for foods for the night's ceremonies or the next day harvest festivals. When the invasion of Christianity took place and the church wanted to replace the traditions of Samhain with traditions of All Saint's Day, the idea of begging for soul cakes came about.
     Tricking part came into play when no one would give a treat for their night's entertainment or for their door-to-door begging usually in form of stuffing peat down the chimney, breaking bottles on the ground to where it sound as if a window was being broke, letting the cattle or the horses out of the stalls or throwing pebbles on the roofs.
     Not until the 20th century did the tricking become a little more serious; breaking windows, egging cars, toliet paper rolling yards, surprises in the mail boxes and the old trick of a burning paper bag of dog poop on the front steps.
     In-fact in some parts of the United States, Halloween night has become known as the Devil's Night because kids or teenagers would go around setting fires to abandon buildings. Halloween in some states almost got out-lawed because of these dangerous pranks on Halloween night.
     So now you know the past and origin of Trick-or-Treating, Have a fun filled Samhain/Halloween with your children. Maybe bake a few 'soul cakes' for your close friends when they come a-begging. Please if  you trick for no treats keep it safe and fun, not dangerous, so that a holiday filled with our sacred traditons that has been passed down to us from the ol' country doesn't get out-lawed in the future.    

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cailleach's Whisper by David Arkenstone

The Goddess Cailleach




 The Cailleach ( KAL-y-ach ) is an ancient goddess of the Earth and the winter months. She is the lichen covered rocks and the mountain peaks. She is the earth that is bare and covered with snow, ice and frost. She is one of the deep ancestors. She is mainly honored and worshipped in Scotland and Ireland. The Goddess who oversees the transformation from Summer to Winter. She is the Death Goddess, who lets die what is no longer is needed. She is the guardian of the seeds. She rules the months between Samhain and Beltaine. On the night of Samhain she is said to leave her mountains and walks the lands bringing winter. She is said to ride on the back of a wolf carrying a wand made out of human skin which she uses to strike down any signs of growth. Trailing behind her and her ride are cold winds, blizzards and ice. In Scotland, she is also called Beira, Queen of Winter.
     The hag of winter, Cailleach is described as a hag with a blue-black face with only one eye sometimes in the center of her forehead. Her teeth are red and her hair is matted and covered with frost. She wears gray clothes and a great plaid wrapped around her shoulders. In some traditions she has teeth of a wild boar and boar's tusk. She is believed to be a great sorceress. She is also thought to be the one that created Earth and mother of all gods and goddesses. In her right hand she carries a hammer, magick wand or a staff. She could turn standing stones into full amored giant warriors. With her hammer she shapes the hills and valleys. She is credited with making numerous mountains, valleys and large hills, which was made when she would stradle across land and accidentally dropped rocks from her apron. In some stories she is said to have meant to built mountains to use as stepping stones across the landscape. Countless Irish myths tell how she created huge mounds, megaliths and towers in a single night. With her staff, she is said to be able to freeze the ground.Her sacred trees are the holly and the gorse bush, under which she hids her staff, before tuning to stone. She can't stand the spring; the green grass and warm sun so when spring comes she throws a fit and throws her staff underneath the holly bush before she eithers disappear in a whirlwind or turns into a boulder. That is why no grass grows under the holly tree. Some myths says that she turns into a boulder at Beltaine until the warm days are over.
      Another aspect of Cailleach is she is the protector and steward of wild animals, particularly deer and wolves. She was said to speak to hunters telling them where the deer was and how many to kill and when. She is also said to herd the deers. In Scotland, she is said to have been herding some deer and watching over a spring. She fell asleep and the spring over flowed into the valley and created Loch Awe.
      In Kerry and Cork, Ireland, she is considered the goddess of giving the kings the right to rule the land. She usually appears as an old woman, who asks the hero if he would sleep with her. If the hero agrees then she transforms into a beautiful woman.
     In Scotland and Ireland, the first famer to finish the grain harvest would make a corn dolly, representing the Cailleach, from the last sheaf of crop.The figure would then be tossed into the fields of a neighbor who had not yet finished bringing in their grain. The last farmer to finish had the responsibilty to take in and care for the corn dolly for the next year.  It was considered a serious and fierce competition among the farmers who would try to avoid taking in the Old Woman. There were different traditions that dictated what was to be done with the last sheaf of grain; feeding it to livestock, tilling it back into the ground or shaking over the fields. Many young girls didn't want to tie the last sheaf because they were afraid they would never get married. One folklore describes tying the Cailleach with a ribbon and hanging in on a nail until Spring. In some places they would put an apron on the corn dolly and fill it with cheese, bread, and a sickle.
     Some legends describe her as being a descendant of the Tuatha de Danann. According to the Yellow Book of Lecan, a 14th century manuscript, the descendants of Cailleach's children became many people and races. It says she had seven periods of youth and her mates died of old age. One of her mates was said to have been Lugh.
     I think this blog has been the most fulfilling 'adventure' that I have had since I started this blog site. I have been practicing my Celtic path since 1986, along the way I have learnt many things. I never considered or honored any certain pantheon of gods and goddesses. Last year about this time, I took Lugh as one of my gods. Doing the research and connecting the dots along the way during the research on Cailleach, a lot of things that I found stirred my spirit and the ancestral blood in my veins. I feel Cailleach personally calling to me and I will heed her call.
 

The Forbidden Fruit



Samhain or Halloween is fast approaching us. Among the the Jack-O-Lanterns, black cats, witches and ghost, the apple has also become a symbol of this Sacred holiday.
     The apple has a linked to the Celtic Otherworld, Annwn, where the tree is called the 'silver bough' and possesses magickal properties especially divination. This time of the year, when we attend our Halloween parties we have the game called bobbing for apples which in itself has a divination history to it.
     If you cut an apple horizonal, you will see the five pointed star made from the placement of the seed casings. This symbol is the pentagram is the symbol of Knowledge. The five pointed star is surrounded by the circular shape of the halved apple, the symbol then becomes a pentacle. This is a symbol of protection, the protection of Sacred Knowledge.
    The ancient symbol of knowledge was known to be sacred to the Celtic Goddess of death, Cailleach, the Crone, the Veiled One. Samhain is her time of the year.
     A type of cider named Verjuice was her drink at this time of the year. It was made by gathering ripe crab apples, laying them in one pile and leaving them to rot and sweat. The rotten fruit is then gathered into a bowl, then beaten to a pulp and pressed through a coarse cloth. The liquid is bottled and is ready with a month.
     Apples were also sacred to the Greek goddess Aphrodite. Eris, the greek goddess of discord, became angry because she wasn't invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. For revenge, she tossed a golden apple, which was written upon it the word Kalliste meaning, "For the most beautiful one" into the wedding party. Three goddesses claimed the apple: Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. Paris of Troy was selected to select the one that should receive the golden apple. After being bribed by Hera and Athena, Aphrodite tempted him with most beautiful woman in the world, the famous Helen of Sparta. He awarded the apple to Aphrodite thus causing the Trojan War. Some say it was Zeus who tempted Paris of Troy.
     Also Gaia or Mother Earth presented to Zeus and Hera a tree with golden apples as a wedding present. It was guarded by Ladon, a serpent who never slept and nine goddessess who formed a protective ring around it and sang sweet songs.
     In Norse myth, Iounn was a provider of apples to the gods that gave them eternal youthfulness. Vanir, a tribe of gods who were associated with fertility. Skirnir, the messenger of the major Vanir god, Freyr gave eleven golden apples to the beautiful Geror. The goddess Frigg sends King Rerir an apple after he prays to Oden for a child. Frigg's messenger in the shape of a crow drops an apple in his lap while he sat onto of a mound. His wife eats the apple and after 6 years of pregnancy the birth of their son, the hero Volsung.
     Since ancient times it was unwise to harm an apple tree. It was okay and healthy for the tree to be pruned. The pruned branches were then used for wands, magickal items, wreaths or pentagrams for the walls of homes.
     Among, the Celts, the fruit symbolized knowledge, magic and prophesy. The tree itself was of the Celtic Underworld and acted as a bridge between this world and the Underworld. The apple tree has close links to the shamans and wisewomen. It is used to undergo otherworld journeys. Celtic names one of these underworlds, Avalon, the Apple vale, where the hills were covered with apple trees. The word 'Avalon' is derived from the old Irish word 'Avaloch' meaning 'a place of apples." The word Avalon became more easily to pronounced.
     King Arthur, when he was wounded in the Battle of Camlan, was carried to the island of Avalon to be healed. Here the fruit of the tree brought healing and a dreamlike state to the king. In Avalon it was reported that the apple trees beared fruit all year long.
     People believed that apples would keep them young forever.  Notice how some people rub the apple clean before eating it, well people once believed if you didn't rub it clean before biting into an apple was a symbolic jesture of challenging the 'devil.'  To appease the spirits of the dead, people would bury a few apples, after the harvest.
     Apples are a natural remedy for the stomach, bowels and heart, the organs for giving and receiving. An apple before bedtime will cure constipation and sleeplessness. I need to try that! For sleeplessness, that is. LOL For Rheumatism, rub the area with a rotten apple. A cure for warts was rub the warts with the two halves of an apple and then bury it.
     An Anglo-Saxon remedy was to write a holy name on the apple, eat on it for three straight days to cure a fever.
     Apples were used for divination by counting apple pips, burning the  pips after naming each one with a young suitor's name and watching which one would explode or throwing the peel over the left shoulder to see it form the initial of an individual when it lands.
     If you wanted to attract an unicorn then bury an apple on the last day of October. Unicorns was know to lived under apple trees.
     The popular Halloween children's game, bobbing for apples is believed to be from an old Druidic rite of divination known as Ordeal by Water. Whoever catches an apple by it's stem between their teeth, is to take the apple home and place it under their pillow. Then that night as they sleep, they will dream of their future husband or wife.
    The Apple has been used by our ancient people and cultures for a very long time and was held very sacred.