This festival marks the Celtic New Year and the most important festival of the Year. Its usual date is 31 October. It marks the transition from the Western Quarter of the Wheel to the Northern Quarter. The time of the Ritual is dusk, or 9pm.
To the Celts, everything had its beginning in darkness. Darkness and death held the promise of new Life, like the dark of night holds the promise of a new day coming. The Celtic day started at dusk, and their New Year at the dusk of the Year. At the festival on the last evening of October, they honoured their ancestors and their beloved dead. In Catholic countries people still decorate the graves with flowers on this day, like a promise of life at the dark time of the year.
Hallowmas usually occurs in the Crone Moon, with the Full Moon in Taurus. During that Moon, I evaluate the past year. I look inward and turn what I have learned into wise lessons for life. Hallowmas is the point at which I let go of what is no longer valuable, in a ceremony of thanks and surrender.
But Hallowmas is also the quintessential Witchy holiday. At this time, the veil between the Worlds is thinnest, and we can receive guidance from the Otherworld. As it is the New Year, I ask the Goddess what my task for the coming Year will be. She speaks to me through the Tarot cards, and shows me what I will have to learn.
This element of divination and looking forward really gives a joyful feel to an otherwise quite dark festival. I also like it because I feel close to my father, who passed in 1999. I can be closer to him at this time than I was for many years of his life.
Hallowmas corresponds with the North Western point on the Wheel of the Year, and that is where I place my altar. As well as the usual things, I place my Tarot deck on it, and the ingredients for an incense of the dead.
I cast the Circle and invoke the Elements. Then I state the purpose of the Ritual and invoke the Goddess of the Festival. At Hallowmas that is the Cailleach, the Goddess of Winter, who reigns from now until the next Fire Festival. Hallowmas 2001 was the first time I invoked her, and I was quite weary because I knew how powerful she is. But she came in peace and oversaw my ritual with her strong energy.
Then I raise power dancing around my cauldron to the words of a chant. I usually write the chant myself, with words that are appropriate to the purpose of my rite. When I feel ready, I direct the power into my cauldron. There I light a charcoal block, ready to burn the herbs. Herbs are very important to my practice. I use them in virtually every ritual.
I burn the herbal incense, and as it burns I remember the dead, my ancestors physical and spiritual, known and unknown. During most Hallowmas rites, I can feel the presence of a couple of my relatives who have passed on.
When the past has been honoured and remembered, I look to the future. I ask the Goddess about my path for the coming year and lay a Tarot spread. I meditate a little on its meaning, but I will work more deeply with these cards through the rest of the Year.
To finish, I have communion of bread and wine, affirming my connection with all things on the Web of Life. I then thank the Goddess and all the spirits who came to visit and I open the Circle.
Hands & Apples copyright Ed Webb. I used to have a link to his web page here, but he seems to have disappeared. Ed, if you see this, let me know where you are.
Pumpkin Lantern from the Halloween site
Leaf drawing by Alex