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This is Hallowmas, This is Hallowmas

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

Hallowmas, Hallows, Halloween, Samhain and many other names are all talking about the same thing. This is the High Holyday of Wicca and many other pagan and neo-pagan faiths, a central part of these religions, often referred to as a Sabbat.

Nowadays it’s often observed on October 31 by tradition and the fact that you can find the day on an ordinary Calander. But Hallows is a Cross-Quarter day and astrologically, that means it’s actually on the day that the Sun enters 15° of Scorpio. This year (it varies by year) this happens on November 7th. But still, most will go for October 31st.

There’s a lot of wild talk and speculation about this sacred festival, most often from people who have no idea what they are talking about and often have a political axe to grind. From one time to another, I’ve heard or read tales of Satanic worship (witches don’t worship Satan. Hell, even Satanists don’t worship Satan), demonic possession, drinking blood, evil curses being hurled and of course, the kind of sexual escapades you might find in the obligatory orgy scene of a 70’s porno film. If this sounds unlike what you saw at your last Sabbat, me too!

Hallows is a harvest festival, the last of three such festivals, the others being Lamas and the Autumnal Equinox. The Wiccan and pagan year is based on the cycles of the seasons, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and then around again. During the Spring we start out with goals or “plant seeds” to be worked on or “grown” over the Summer and then reach fruition or are “harvested” in the Fall. Then over the winter we rest and evaluate our year’s work and harvest, and make plans for the next year.

So what kind of things might you see at an actual Hallows rather then in a Hollywood movie or novel? There’s a lot of variety in various groups as these faiths have no central or standardized liturgy, preferring instead to create their own to fit their own needs. These can also vary greatly in the same group on different years. Let me give you some generalized things you could find at a Hallows Sabbat and then I’ll share some traditions from my own group.

Many groups, covens or whatever they may call themselves are fairly casual about the Holydays and may have something not much more then a big extended family feast. Often, they just wear their everyday clothing. They’ll gather in a circle, maybe around a central altar or bonfire, cast a circle and thank their Gods and Goddesses for what transpired during the last year, drink a toast and then go eat at a big feast where everyone brings something to share. There’s a lot of comradery and fun, laughing and singing. I’ve seen groups like this have some members entertain people with song and musical instruments. These are a lot of fun!

Another group may have such traditions as jumping over a bonfire while visualizing dropping any regrets, bad feelings or anything negative left over from the last year into the fire as you do. (These bonfires are pretty small, as you can imagine. It’s the thought that counts.) They may or may not wear robes or some sort of ceremonial clothing. Some may have a guided meditation where people are guided to a place where they can release any negative thoughts, feelings or connections left over from the previous year, allowing people to start the new year with a clean (or at least cleaner) slate.

My tradition approaches the Holydays with a very serious, somber attitude. Everyone would be robed and hooded, wearing the cords of their grade. We would begin out of the circle with everyone grounding and centering, a practice designed to focus one’s intent and attention on the upcoming ritual.

Once inside the empowered circle, we would invoke the Gods of the Sabbat, and ask their aid in reviewing the year. We would perhaps be given a stalk of wheat as a symbol of the harvest, sit down with our hoods raised. Slowly we would review our past year in our minds, assessing the gains and losses, admitting victories and failures. As we did, we would separate the wheat into grains, some for the gains and some for the losses.

After this we would each go, one at a time, to the altar and place the different groups of wheat into baskets, the one for the Goddess contaning the easy lessons and the on for the God containing the hard or unfinished lessons. After this we would return to our places in the circle and face outwards.

We would be given a small plate of food, veggies, cold-cuts and such. Once everyone was served, we would begin what is called a Dumb Supper. This is a time to commune silently with our ancestors, those who have gone before us, particularly those who passed in the last year. We share a small meal with the, remembering being together, other times and maybe meeting spirits we hadn’t previously. This is often a time of many tears, and often great joy.

After this there might be a time to ask the Gods for something, or to thank them for their gifts. Each Sabbat was written by different people so there was a lot of variety with each ritual reflecting the personalities of those who wrote it. We wouldn’t have a feast afterwards but often many of us would get together the next day at a restaurant and just eat and enjoy being with each other.

So lots of pumpkins, carved and not, lots of harvest décor, lots of autumn colors, but no Hollywood nonsense. Maybe we just don’t have enough of a SFX budget to pull it off. But make no mistake about it. Whatever your Hallows traditions might be, wiccans and pagans as a general thing LOVE hallows.

We love the decorations, we love the spooky tee shirts, we love the Spooky Season! When else can we be ourselves in public? On Halloween I can walk down the street in my full ritual regalia, cord, staff and blade, without anyone noticing or caring. It’s really the only day that I DON’T have to wear a costume!

Let me ask you what your experiences have been Have you ever been to a Sabbat? Did you like it? I’d love to have you share what you saw or what traditions your group or family might have. Or anything else you’ve got to say on this most sacred of pagan Holydays.

Blessed Be!

Sterling Knight


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