Monday, 16 November 2020

Lockdown Part 8 - Hallowtide 2020

I sit to write this piece at the end of the first week of November and I hope to have it finished by the end of the second. I sit looking at fog and rain, reflecting upon the slow change of Autumn to Winter. I reflect upon the Hallowtide, the Lockdown and the increasing darkness that is around us. 

As Halloween approached here in England the country went into a second Lockdown. This has caused some degree of confusion and it appears, some have been taken off guard. I cannot explain the panic buying. Other than to think people expect the worst but did not expect another Lockdown. I am perplexed by such behaviour, it is unnecessary. I am not surprised that there is a second Lockdown but I am surprised that so many are surprised. It had been a matter of speculation for several weeks, it should not have come as a shock to anyone. 

By going into Lockdown in those weeks immediately before the Hallowtide, we mirror the season of introspection. With the coming of November we withdraw into the Winter months. It is indeed a time of reflection, a time for nature to rest, for many animals to hibernate. A time for us to evaluate the year and to slowly prepare ourselves for the return of the warmer months, which seem so far away. 

It is my tradition that on Halloween night itself, I decorate my hallway and put out sweets for the local children. This year we faced the issue of social distancing and whether it is even appropriate for people to Trick or Treat. Locally there were 'pumpkin Trails' in the lead up to the 31st. Parents took their children on evening walks around the village, spotting pumpkins and giving chocolate to their child for each successful sighting. How to actually participate locally however, remained undetermined in that last week of October. I had ordered a carved pumpkin depicting a self-created version of my arms and this was delivered in plenty of time. I purchased chocolate bars prior to Halloween but far less than I would usually. These were to deposited in a decorated box outside my door but the house was not decorated. Not this year. 

Early in the month of October, I had found it necessary to embark upon a course of magical actions of a defensive and perhaps offensive nature. This I timed for the week leading up to the of 31st of October. It was a three step process that culminated with the Hallowtide full moon of the 31st. So on that Saturday afternoon, I was busy with that final step. This was the creation of a witchbottle or more accurately a witchjar, which was buried later that evening. Further actions can wait for the dark moon of November or December. Such actions are not of course, usually made public. The maxim 'To be Silent' is sadly ignored by many a 'wanna-be' witch today. Yet there are times when it is necessary to make public a warning. 

We the Hearth of the Turning Wheel, have not met physically since before the first Lockdown. It has been neither practical nor safe. Some are 'shielding' and others are concerned regards their children. Some of us who work in hospitals and has contact infectious diseases on a regular basis, are aware that we must both protect ourselves and others. This a loss of social devotion has been felt deeply by many of us and we have like many others, returned to our solitary observances. 

After depositing the chocolates outside my door, I watched the few Trick or Treat groups out on the street. I had less visitors than usual and this was no surprise. Sadly by the end of the evening, I still had many chocolates left. Yes, Halloween this year was a subdued affair. It was less active than usual and quite restricted. We are all so self-conscious and afraid. Once it was clear that no more visitors would be calling I packed up the remaining chocolates and withdrew for my private observance. This was a simple affair centred upon an ancestral shrine and a dumb supper. Here we take a moment to remember our ancestors, both known and unknown. I left everything in situ overnight. The next morning the remains were with the pumpkin, deposited in the garden next to my holly tree. 

That first week of November is of course Bonfire Night. This is our celebration of the delivery of His Majesty King James I/IV, the Lords and Parliament on the 5th of November 1605. This was the infamous Gunpowder Plot, when Robert Catesby and others intended to blow up the House of Lords during the state opening of Parliament. Much is made of Guy Fawkes and here in Britain, his effigy was commonly burnt on the 5th of November, in celebration of the plot's failure. In truth, Fawkes was one of several involved in the plot and certainly not the leader. His fame comes from his being caught red-handed in the under-croft, prepared and ready to light the fuses. 

Today he is a cultural icon and people make jokes that he was the only honest man to ever enter Parliament. The harsh truth is that whatever the provocation, he and his compatriots were traitors and in modern language, we would call them terrorists. The intention of the plotters was to kill upwards of a thousand people, including Royal children and to start a civil war. Their rationale was also somewhat deluded. The general opinion of the majority of historians today, is that the Catholic minority of England would have been wiped out and the suffering of that minority if the plot had succeeded, is perhaps beyond our imagination. Although the later Civil War and Cromwell's treatment of the Irish, may give us an idea of what could have been. 

On the morning of the 6th I looked out to see a mist. I knew there had been a light frost and I knew that today was the day for foraging. I have been planning on making more sloe liqueur after my previous success some years ago. Traditionally sloes should be picked after a frost because the skins will break. This aids in the imbuing of the alcohol with their flavour. A cheat is to put them in the freezer for a few days. 

I set off for a nearby country lane where many blackthornes grow and I was able to gather two kilograms of fruit. I also took the opportunity to stock up on actual balckthornes, as my stocks were getting low. By the time I had done gathering them both, some two or three hours later; my hands were cut and bleeding. When we pick sloes, we shall expect to bleed. The Blackthorne will take payment. This is normal. 

The countryside was truly a sight to see, a mixture of green, brown, orange and yellow as leaves turned and dropped. The fields were ploughed and the sloes themselves were a stunning dark blue. One could see and feel that the land itself, was going to sleep. This was the turn from Autumn to Winter, a preparation for the colder months ahead. 

All this was timely because under an alternative calendar, the 7th of November 2020 is Hallowtide and not the 31st of October. Measured astronomically this Old Hallowtide is a movable feast and will fall at 15 degrees Scorpio. The matter is further complicated by the calendar changes of the eighteenth century, which moved all dates by eleven days. Under this system Armistice Day, the 11th of November and the Feast of Saint Martin of Tours (Martinmas) is Old Halloween. Different Craft traditions will observe different dates. 

The calendar used by our Hearth follows the progression of the four tides of the year, with Lambtide or Candlemas as our starting point, the tide of lustration or sowing. Maytide or Roodmas is the tide of activation or growth. Lammastide is the tide of consolidation or reaping. Hallowtide is the tide of recession or death, thus leading to new growth and the start of the cycle once more. Like Hallowtide these other tidal dates can also be measured astronomically; Lambtide, Candlemas or Imbolc at 15 degrees Aquarius, Maytide, Roodmas or Beltaine at 15 degrees Taurus, Lammastide or Lughnassadh at 15 degrees Leo.

Calendars are fascinating concepts but they are abstract concepts. The true and more accurate calendar is that which is observed. My craft is seasonal, much of modern Paganism is but we sometimes forget that our calendar should be regional. Autumn comes with a harvest, Winter comes with a frost but the change is gradual. Look out at the land and the stars, watch the seasons turn and the planets journey across the sky. Appreciate the beauty that is around us, even the harsh beauty of the frost and then prepare for the winter. 

©Daniel Bran Griffith 6th October - 15th October 2020

Lockdown 24th March 2020

Lockdown Part Two & Clap for our Carers 2020

Lockdown Part Three – Clap for Boris & Easter Weekend 2020

Lockdown Part 4 – Maytide & VE Day 2020


Lockdown Part 6 – When this is over

Lockdown Part 7 – Autumn 2020

An Introduction to the Hearth of the Turning Wheel

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