October 2019 Newsletter: Samhain

Posted by Alison Sheehan on Jan 1st 2020

October 2019 Newsletter: Samhain

The following is the content from the October 2019 Newsletter. I will try to post the newsletter content within around 30-90 days here as individual articles so it can be found again in the future.

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Hello all, and welcome to our very first newsletter!

We likely met some of you at one of the wonderful events around New England this fall, or maybe you found us on Facebook or Pinterest…but however you found us, welcome!

If you haven’t checked out the Blog yet, I hope you’ll give it a peek, and add comments to let us know what you’d like for subject matter: https://arachnesweb.net/blog/

The newsletter each month will have a few sections: 

  • The Stone of the Month 
  • The Herb of the Month 
  • If there is a Sabbat that month, it will be discussed 
  • Recipes will be offered when I have or find some that I think you might enjoy 
  • Some months will have an essential oil profile (if you like it) 
  • And I am happy to get suggestions from you on things you’d like to see added or omitted as we go.

If you got this from a friend and want to get it every month, please sign up at the bottom of our home page! https://www.ArachnesWeb.NET

I am excited to start on this journey with you, and I hope you will find the newsletter fun and informative. I promise you will never get other emails based on subscribing to this list!

Please share with your friends! And please check out the blog and join into the comments. I want this to become an active and vibrant community! Blessed be! Alison

Herb of the Month: Wormwood

Propagation:

Wormwood grows quite well in New England, and can be easily grown from cuttings taken in early spring or late fall. Wormwood can also be propagated from root division in the fall or sown from seed. • Plant Wormwood around the edges of your garden, at least 2 feet from any other plants, to discourage weeds and insect larvae. • Wormwood is a lovely addition to a moon garden.

Wormwood likes full sun and can tolerate some drought. As with most “weeds”, Wormwood doesn’t like to have “wet feet”. 

Harvesting:

The method for harvesting Wormwood is similar to many herbs: • Cut off the flowering tops on a bright, sunny day, when they are in full bloom • Hang the herb to dry naturally in a place with very good ventilation, out of direct sun • Once dry, put into sealed jars, then store away from light. • Always label the containers with name of the herb, the date harvested and the discard date • Fresh herbs last about one year after cutting, for medicinal use. After that they lose their properties fairly quickly. • My rule of thumb is that if they are no longer medicinal, they have likely lost much of their magical power, so I compost herbs after 1 year. Note about storage:

Always store herbs in the largest possible form. That means you should avoid powdering or breaking up the herbs more than absolutely necessary. Once you break up plant material, it starts to lose potency faster. The rule is:

Latin: Artemesia absinthium 

Planetary Association: Mars, Saturn 

Element: Earth 

History: 

The history of Wormwood goes back at least hundreds of years, and probably thousands. The use of this king of bitters in Medieval beer recipes is well documented, and it has been used for centuries as a vermifuge (de-wormer).

Wormwood may be most famous as the bitter main ingredient in Absinthe. Absinthe is a liqueur, originally made in Switzerland and France, and outlawed for many years. It is legal now, virtually everywhere.

Absinthe is used by millions as an enjoyable drink and as a remedy for upset stomachs.

Due to its vermifuge property), Wormwood was used in the Crimean War to delouse the troops. Each solder was given a “dose” of Absinthe, in which a primary ingredient was Wormwood. They were also given a sugar ration to help them get this bitter medicine down. This is where the “spoon full of sugar” from Mary Poppins came from!

The smaller the parts/pieces, the quicker the herb will give up it’s properties. That means that to make an oil or tincture or tisane, you want to break up the plant material as small as you can. But to store it, keep the pieces large or whole. Medicinal Use:

Wormwood has been used as a digestive stimulant. The way that works is, the strong bitter taste of the Wormwood causes an increase in the production of bile in the liver and gallbladder. That increase in bile in turn helps the users absorb nutrients. Wormwood has also been used for gas and bloating. It has anti-inflammatory effects and may have anti-tumor effects. The name Wormwood tells us that its primary use has long been considered to be as a way to dispel parasites and worms. The essential oil of Wormwood is sometimes used as an insect repellant.

Important Note: If using Wormwood internally, use only LOW DOSES. Higher doses can be toxic. One idea for using Wormwood is to try Absinthe. It is legal in the United States now, and can be purchased in the liquor stores in most states. My husband uses Absinthe (mixed 5 to 1 with ice water) as an after-dinner drink to settle an upset stomach and he swears it works every time. Magical Use:

Wormwood is one of the most sacred herbs for Witchcraft. 

  • Wormwood flowers and leaves can be added to magical sachets for protection against accidents. Hang these in your car or carry them on your person. 
  • Combined with Mugwort and burned: 
    • wormwood is useful for calling up spirits. Make sure the area is well-ventilated as the smoke can be very irritating to the eyes and throat and is toxic if inhaled. 
      • It is also said to be useful in banishing spirits. 
  • Wormwood can be added to ingredients to make magical ink. The ink is then used to draw sigils to protect from the dead. 
    • Char all ingredients, combine with Gum Arabic and Red Wine Vinegar to create ink. Alternately, use alcohol to avoid the strong vinegar smell. 
    • Wormwood used in inks may have prevented insects eating valuable scrolls in ancient times. 
  • Witch’s Vermouth is used by some to sip before readings and seances aimed at communication with the dead. (See recipe below).3

Wormwood Around the House: Due to its use to repel insects, Wormwood can be useful in sachets, hung in closets. I discourage putting it anyplace where pets could accidentally eat it. 

Recipe: Try grinding fresh/dry wormwood leaves and flowers then steeping in apple cider vinegar for several days. Once done, strain and try as a spray to keep pests away. Be warned this will smell strongly of vinegar. Planting wormwood around gardening areas will help prevent the growth of insect larvae and grubs in the soil as it releases compounds in the soil that are unpleasant to them. However, it may also inhibit the growth of other plants, so keep this in mind when you are planting for this purpose.

Stone of the Month: Citrine

The decision on which stone to use for October was just brutal! So many options, so many to choose from! And I am sure many of you are wondering “why Citrine”?

Citrine is a lovely, gold colored quartz with pretty rainbow inclusions possible in select pieces. The color can range from palest yellow to deep rust and it may have clear sections. It is crystalline in structure.

Magical Properties

Citrine is often used to bring luck and money because of its gold color and sparkly inclusions. It is

So why include this in information for Samhain? For that, we need to have a little story…

Citrine has the unique property of helping to leave the negative karma and resentments of this life behind, when we are leaving. Meaning, when we are dying, this stone is highly beneficial by the death bed.

When Citrine is placed in the room with an individual who is in the process of dying, it will help them (on a spiritual level) to leave their traumas and resentments behind and move on to the next life unencumbered by those past experiences. The learning still happens, but it helps to ease the transition.

So that’s why I chose it for Samhain, since that holiday is all about the ancestors, the dead and dying, and of endings in general.

Other stones that would be useful in a Samhain ritual: 

  • Black Tourmaline - protection 
  • Black Onyx - protection The History of Samhain 2, 6

The History of Samhain 2, 6

The Origins

According to many sources, Samhain because with the ancient Celts in Ireland and the British Isles. The festival of Samhain was the most important of the 4 quarterly “fire festivals”.

Ancient texts imply that Samhain was a mandatory celebration that lasted 3 days and 3 nights. It is important to remember that for ancient people, harvest celebrations literally marked life or death as a bad harvest meant suffering and likely starvation. Samhain was the marker for the end of the harvest and the start of the “dark days”. 

Gradual Changes

During the Middle Ages, celebrations of the fire festivals continued, but began to change. Bonfires called Samghnagans became popular at farms outside the cities. These were “personal Samhain fires” which may have been to protect families from fairies and witches.2

Jack-o-lanterns began to appear during the middle Ages too, as carved turnips are recorded with that name. These were attached by strings to sticks and embedded with coal. The Irish later witched the tradition to pumpkins.3

The Arrival of Halloween

As the Irish emigrated to the U.S. during the 19th century, they brought many elements of their culture with them. One of the most popular was the celebration of All Hallows Eve, or Halloween!

The Irish and Scottish practice of “mumming” (putting on costumes, going door-to-door and singing songs to the dead - cakes were given as payment) made its way to America and became the modern day “trick-or-treating”. The pranks which came to be a part of trick-or treat began to be seen during this time. In earlier times pranks and such were typically blamed on the fairies! 4

Modern Celebrations of Samhain

Today, pagans of many traditions celebrate Samhain as one (if not THE most) sacred holidays in the year. Samhain is the time when the god dies and is taken to the underworld. The wheel of the year then starts over as he is born and goes through the cycle of life anew.

A Samhain Ritual

Samhain is the night when the veil between the world of the living and the dead is at its thinnest. This means that Samhain is the ideal time for communication with loved ones who have moved on.

I don’t mean you are able to pick up the phone for a chat every Halloween, more’s the pity! I mean this is a wonderful time to incorporate elements in your rituals to encourage communications through pathways like dreams. Things I use: 

  • • Gray and Black candles 
  • • Salt 
  • • Dreamers Tea (recipe below) 
  • • Sabbat oil or other anointing oil 
  • • Citrine(s) 
  • • Herbs and items to decorate your altar and for offerings: Mugwort, rosemary, marigolds (calendula), apples, pomegranates, squashes (pumpkins or gourds) and Rowan tree, to name a few. 

I cast my circle, light my candles and welcome my guides and deities, then sip my tea and gaze into my candle flame. 

I focus on the year that is past, and what I want to accomplish in the coming year.

I think of family and friends who have passed, and send them love. I ask them for their guidance and wisdom, through the vehicle of dreams during the coming night. 

If I am particularly wanting to reach a specific ancestor, I might put one of their possessions on my altar. For example, if I want advice from my father, I might put a photograph or one of his books on my altar. Then hold that item and focus on him for a while, inviting his insights and wisdom. 

At the end of any circle, as I close it, I go outside and cast my offering herbs, flowers, fruits and grains to the woods for spirits, and thank them for their assistance, their guidance and their protection. 

The last thing I do is leave 1 candle lit on my altar right up until I go to bed. That last candle is a remembrance candle for all the loved ones who are no longer here. 

Remember: the next day is a joyful celebration of the new year. Sadness is left behind and the lessons learned from our ancestors are journaled and taken with us into the future! 

Recipes

Dreamer’s Tea

  • 1-part Mugwort 
  • 1-part Rose petals 
  • 1-part Mullein flowers 
  • 2-parts Chamomile flowers 
  • 2-part Lemon Balm 
  • 1-part Licorice Root*
  • ½ part Hibiscus flowers 
  • ¼ part of Horehound or Peppermint Leaf

*If you have high blood pressure, omit the Licorice Root. As that ingredient makes the tea sweeter, you could substitute a bit of stevia or even a little honey.

Note: To make herbal teas, bring a small pot of water to a boil on the stove, then add your herbs, shut off the heat and cover the pot tightly. Leave tea to steep for about 20 minutes, then decant. 

  1. Combined the herbs and flowers. 
  2. Adjust the ratios to suit your taste – this is a starting point! 
  3. Use approximately 1 teaspoon of the mix in each 8 ounces of boiling water to make tea. 
  4. Enjoy a cup before sleep to encourage vivid dreams. 

Seasonal Squash Bake

There is NOTHING like baking a Delicata squash with a pat of butter, some maple syrup, a sprinkle of cinnamon and allspice and just a whisper of nutmeg. So good with almost any Autumn meal! 

Autumn Apple Pie Liqueur 

  • Gallon jar with a secure lid 
  • A bushel of apples, mixed types are best
  • 1-2 handle bottles of inexpensive vodka, 100 proof 
  • 2 Whole Vanilla beans, split the long way 
  • 6-12 Whole Allspice Berries 
  • 2 Whole Cinnamon Sticks 

Note: If possible, go to a local orchard and get 4-6 different varieties of apples! 

1. Grind up the apples, seeds, skins and cores and all and put them into the jar. 

2. Add all the spices and vanilla beans 

3. Pour vodka in to cover the mix. I try to fill the whole jar with apples loosely, then fill with vodka. 

4. Steep for 6 weeks. 

5. Decant out the fruit and spices and discard.

6. Make a simple syrup (see below). 

7. Mix the steeps vodka with 50% simple syrup. So, 1 cup vodka + 1 cup simple syrup. 

8. Allow the liqueur to “rest” for as long as possible. The longer it sits, the smoother it gets. 

I make mine in the fall, and let it sit until the following year. Then we give it out at Yule as a gift. This aged liqueur is a favorite with our family and friends! 

Witch’s Vermouth

This recipe is from The Witching Herbs, by Harold Roth. 3 

  • 750 ml bottle of red wine 
  • Handful of mugwort 
  • Handful of clary sage 
  • Handful of Vervaine 
  • Handful of Yarrow 
  • 1.25 cups of brandy 
  • Sprig of Wormwood to be used as a stirrer 
  • Honey, if you want it sweet.

Steep the herbs in the wine overnight.

Strain and press out the herbs, then add the brandy.

Stir with the sprig of Wormwood, then toss the sprig onto the compost with the other herbs.

Taste.

Add honey if you prefer it sweeter.

Seal well and store in a cool, dry place in dark glass.

May be kept for up to 3 months. 

Some Ideas for Samhain

Samhain is the last of the harvest festivals. It is about endings... 

  • A harvest meal is always appropriate, with lots of Autumnal produce, grains and baked goods. 
  • Samhain is the time when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. This is a time to allow your dreams and meditations to turn to loved ones and ancestors who have passed beyond the veil. Reach out for guidance in dream work and meditation. 
  • Try something new – this year my husband is brewing a Medieval Wormwood beer! 4 
  • We always have a “New Year’s” celebration on November 1st as it is the Witch’s New Year. Samhain for us is the “New Year’s Eve” of our calendar. We do a variety of things to celebrate the new year: 
    • Write/journal things we want to do in the new year 
    • Talk about people and things or situations that are gone or that ended in the year that is ending. 
    • Talk about dreams for the coming year. 
    • Create goals for the coming year. 
    • Give thanks for the people and blessings that were part of our lives in the year that is ending. 
    • Have a really nice dinner with champagne, candle light – and dress up in nice clothes! 
    • And of course, the circle – performing a Samhain ritual on Samhain, is one of the greatest joys of the season! 

I hope you all have a safe, happy and blessed October and a joyous Samhain! 

Blessed Be! 

Bibliography & Reading List:

Some of these are web sites, some are links to Amazon for specific books:

1. http://www.witchipedia.com/herb:wormwood

2. http://www.witchipedia.com/herb:wormwood

3. The Witching Herbs: 13 Essential Plants and Herbs for Your Magical Garden, by Harold Roth 

4. Sacred and Medicinal Beers, by Stephen Buhner 

5. Halloween, by Silver Raven Wolf 

6. http://www.witchipedia.com/herb:wormwood