Preparing for Samhain

My ancestor altar for Samhain 2013.

My ancestor altar for Samhain 2013.

I can feel the veil thinning as we approach Samhain. I find myself blessed with new insights, strange dreams and resurfacing memories. While I love to indulge in the fun parts of Halloween, especially costumes and candy, I also try not to lose touch with the deeper meaning of this time of the year.

My family altar honors our loved ones who have passed, including some special pets. I’ve also laid out some divination tools to encourage messages from the other side.

At Samhain, practice divination and connect with those who have passed.


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Hunter’s Moon and Meteors

Artemis with a hind, better known as "Dia...

Artemis with a hind, better known as “Diana of Versailles”. Marble, Roman artwork, Imperial Era (1st-2nd centuries CE). Found in Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tonight is the peak of the second meteor shower of October, the Orionids. Since the moon is just past full and has been incredibly bright, it’s unlikely we’ll get to see any shooting stars, but that doesn’t mean we can’t harness the energy of the shower in our magickal workings.

October’s full moon is often called the hunter’s moon, because its light aided hunters in tracking their prey on autumn nights, enabling them to bring home enough game for the winter months ahead. The Orionids fly from the constellation Orion, the greatest hunter in ancient Greece. At the same time as the full hunter’s moon, they give us powerful energy to work with.

Orion was the hunting companion of the goddess Artemis until he was killed by a giant scorpion. Artemis is the goddess of hunters and the wild things, as well as the goddess of the moon. She is the protector of animals and children and defends the powerless, especially women, against unjust treatment.

If you are in need of courage in the face of unfair dealings, protection for animals or children, or aid while hunting responsibly, call on Artemis and Orion tonight. It’s even better if you head outside, where the wild things are, and talk to Artemis directly.  Ask nicely, because she’s a tough lady who expects respect. A small offering of thanks will keep you in her good graces.

I’ve had clear nights to enjoy October’s full moon, but I have to admit the addition of the frenetic Aries energy has made it an interesting ride for the past few days. It’s definitely hasn’t been a good time for catching up on sleep. Now that the moon has transitioned into Taurus, maybe I’ll get some rest.

If you haven’t seen this beautiful moon yet, I hope you have a cloudless sky tonight.


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Full Moon in Aries

Full Moon view from earth In Belgium (Hamois)....

Full Moon view from earth In Belgium (Hamois). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tonight’s full moon is in the sign of Aries. With the energy of the full moon added to Aries’ enthusiasm, you might find yourself acting a bit more impulsively than usual. If you’ve been neglecting your fitness routine, it’s time to brush off your sneakers, because you’ve got to do something with all that active energy. With extra creative spark, the furniture might need to be rearranged or you may find yourself itching to start a renovation project.

A full moon is a powerful time for any kind of magickal workings. Aries will give even more oomph to spells for leadership, spiritual rededications or conversions, and will power. Healing spells for the face, head and brain will work best now.

Psychic energy is strong during a full moon, therefore it’s a good time for divination. October’s full moon is an especially good time, as it is almost Samhain and the veil between worlds is thin now. Grab your tarot cards, rune stones, pendulum or other favorite divination tool to gain some insight into the year ahead.

Temper the Aries impulsiveness with some careful planning for any spell you will do during this full moon. With so much strength behind it, full moon magick needs very specific intentions to keep it from going awry.

If it’s a clear night, go outside and spend a few minutes bathing in moonlight.

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Inviting Hestia

Since I find myself calling on Hestia often, I have created a small altar in our kitchen, near the stove, in her honor. Altars do not have to be elaborate and, especially for a domestic goddess like Hestia, can hold common household items. If you use everyday items, however, they should be cleansed before being used on the altar. In addition to a mundane cleaning, I pass my things through the smoke of a sage smudge stick.

My altar for Hestia is on a small shelf next to my stove. It holds a candle, a sprig of basil, a sage smudge stick and some shells.

My altar for Hestia is on a small shelf next to my stove. It holds a candle, a sprig of basil, a sage smudge stick and some shells.

The anchor of any altar to Hestia should be a candle or an oil lamp, representing her sacred hearth fire. A small dish can hold an offering from the oven, like a small piece of fresh bread. I use a shell instead of a dish; it is a nod to Hestia’s association with the energy of water.  A cauldron or bowl would also be appropriate to pull in the water aspect.

Hestia’s herbs include most of the cooking herbs, such as basil, mint, sage, rosemary, parsley, thyme and dill. Sprigs of herbs, fresh or dried, could be arranged in a small vase.  A tiny cabin-shaped bottle left over from some local maple syrup we were given does the job on my altar. If you would like to add stones or metals, Hestia’s crystals are garnet and amethyst, and she can be honored with gold, silver or brass. An antique silver spoon would be perfect.

A statue of your chosen deity is nice to have, but I am not a visual person, therefore I find that simple items that bring to mind Hestia’s energy are more beneficial than seeing what she might have looked like.

I penned this simple prayer to Hestia to say as I greet the altar each morning. May Hestia bless your home, as she does mine.

Lady Hestia, keeper of the hearth
and the heart of every home,
please bless this loving family
with peace and harmony.
Every hug is a hymn to you.
As I do my household chores,
help me to be calm and centered and
fill this home with your warmth.
Every meal is an offering to you.
May friends find their way to our door,
welcomed as you are ever welcome
in our home, honored first and last.
Hestia, every flame is a prayer to you.

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Wish on a Shooting Star

English: A fireball Geminids falling earthward...

English: A fireball Geminids falling earthwards. The Draconid meteor shower is expected on October 8, 2011, and may feature up to 1000 meteors falling her hour, according to some astronomers. Almost all meteors burn up and disintegrate long before reaching the surface of the Earth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re having a rainy afternoon. Since it’s been dry and unseasonably warm, I really can’t complain, except that the timing could have been better.  After two weeks of clear skies, the night the Draconid meteor shower peaks (during a thin crescent moon, even) will be cloudy.

The Draconids, so named because they fly past the head of the constellation Draco, are viewing-friendly because they show up shortly after sunset. Many of the showers make us stay up past midnight if we want a glimpse. Most years there will be just a few streaks, but the Draconids have been known to occasionally put on a show, with stars shooting across the heavens several thousand times per hour.

Alas, I’ll have to find out second hand what sort of year it was.

Meteors, or shooting stars, seem magickal, even though we now know what they are. It’s no wonder that ancient people either feared or worshiped the stars which appeared to shoot across the sky. Many Greek and Roman temples had shines to rocks which had fallen from the sky, including Apollo’s temple at Delphi. In North American, meteors have been found at Indian grave sites.

Making a wish on a shooting star is just one of many meteor-related practices. In Swabia (southern Germany), seeing a meteor meant a year of good fortune, but seeing three in one night meant the viewer was doomed to die. In the Philippines, one had to tie a knot in a handkerchief before the light was extinguished in order to hold onto the good luck. In 1492, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian assembled his council to figure out the meaning of the Ensisheim stony meteorite, which had fallen in Alsace (now part of France). The council, perhaps making their own good luck, decided that it as a good omen for Maxmillian’s wars with France and the Turks.

If you catch a glimpse of the Draconids tonight, make a wish for me.

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New Ivy Moon

West College Princeton University, Princeton, ...

West College Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night’s new moon marked the beginning of  the Celtic month of ivy. The Ogham (Celtic tree alphabet) name is Gort (go-ert). This powerful evergreen teaches us about strength and endurance, death and immortality. Ivy’s strong shoots take hold in the smallest of cracks and hang on. The plant is known for covering the bricks of America’s oldest and most revered universities (the “Ivy League”). It frustrates homeowners by opening cracks in mortar and loosening bricks while it climbs high.

Ivy climbs the bark of trees, often taking over the entire plant, causing its death. The ivy, rooted in the earth, survives even long after its host has died, reminding us that life goes on.

A poultice made from ivy is said to steady the nerves.

The new moon is the time to begin things. It’s effects will be more powerful in the time of ivy, with its emphasis on resilience and rebirth.

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Herb Harvest

We’ve had a strange growing season in the Adirondacks. Seedlings paused their growth when temperatures dropped in May and June and everything is late. My morning glories were straggly vines all summer, only to bloom beautifully in September. They are still blooming against the backdrop of autumn leaves.

For some reason every grasshopper in the area migrated to my yard and decimated the herb and vegetable beds. One day I had the nicest broccoli crowns I’d ever grown, the next day, sticks. Newly planted mint, which I expected to take over the bed by summer’s end, struggled to survive the onslaught of hungry insects. In the end, it was a poor year.

I’ve read that, here in the north, you can tell when to plant garlic by looking to the mountains. When they explode with color, it’s time. Last weekend the mountains said plant, so I did.

The sage and oregano, probably because they were older, established plants, managed to survive the grasshoppers. Despite the beautiful fall weather, I know it’s time to prepare the plants for winter. I cut them back, harvesting plenty to dry for use over the winter.


Giving up on the tomatoes ever ripening on the vine, I grabbed those as well, wrapped them in newspaper and tucked them into a paper bag to see if they would turn red.


There were plenty of chives. There are always plenty of chives. (Why does nothing eat chives?) I chopped them and filled the dehydrator. In about two hours they had dried and we have more than enough to last until spring.


Cold and flu season is on it’s way, so I prepared some sage-infused honey, my favorite sore throat remedy. I cut some leaves and put them in the bottom of a small jar, then poured honey in until the leaves were completely covered. I mashed them against the bottom of the jar with a chopstick until all the air was out and the leaves were somewhat crushed and completely coated with honey. Then I capped the jar and stored it in the dark corner of a cabinet.


Bunches of sage, oregano and the little bit of mint I could take are hanging over my kitchen window to air dry. The smell is divine.


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