Chinese Whispers and Black Salt

In this modern age where everyone is offering magical advice, how do you know what is genuine and what has fallen victim of what I classify as “Chinese Whispers Syndrome” (a childhood game where a “secret” was whispered to one person who then whispered it to another which went around the circle to the last person who would vocalised the “secret” hoping it would reflect the original whisper). This year (probably reflecting the global situations and increase in social media usage), I have noticed an increasing about of “sage advice” about magical practices or techniques often gleamed from other spiritual traditions being incorporated into witchcraft practices. While I personally have not issues with adapting such magical practices or techniques, after all this is what my style of contemporary witchcraft is about, my issue is where the adaption is based on a lack of knowledge and understanding of the original magical practice or technique. I will use “black salt” as an example.

In a number of folk magic traditions, black salt (also known as “Sal Negro” and “Drive Away Salt” and should not be confused with the Indian black salt which is a mineral salt used for cooking) is a special salt blend used to drive away evil. It can be sprinkled around your property to keep your home safe from intruders or troublemakers, and even sprinkled in the footprints of someone who is bothering you, to make them go away.

Black salt can also be placed in closets and dark corners in a room to drive away evil or negative spirits. You can even sprinkle it on the floor and then sweep the salt out through the front door for a cleansing of your home or apartment. This protective salt can be added to witch’s bottles and alternatively, sprinkled in a circle around the perimeter of your house for protection, to banish evil and also to cleanse from any negativity.

More traditional recipes instruct that black salt includes salt (preferably sea salt), scrapings from a cast iron skillet or pot, ash from your fire pit (ritual fire), maybe some herbs (such as black pepper) and even powered black food colouring (although black salt is not necessarily black in colour). These ingredients are blended during certain phases of the moon and have specific chants and prayers recited over them for a period of time.

Modern alternatives to making black salt include adding additional protective herbs and even essential oils to the mix, such as rosemary (protection from harmful people or toxic relationships), cayenne pepper (dispel anger or toxic relationships), cinnamon (protection from a broken heart or pain in a romantic relationship) or even lavender (to block invisible ickiness).

I recently came across someone advising their followers to make black salt from Himalayan salt and the left over ashes from burnt incense sticks. This advice I personally consider to be a prime example of “Chinese Whispers Syndrome” in that while Himalayan salt does offer protection, this is more commonly during astral travel or when spiritually travelling between worlds as opposed to protecting your physical space. Sea salt on the other hand is used in purification and cleansing baths, as well as to help release and cleanse negative feelings. Further, I question the use of burnt incense ash as this has little if anything to do with ritual fire ashes or cast iron scrapings.

In this modern age, anything appears to go. While this may be true to a certain level, when you are making products or utilising practices or techniques that come from other spiritual traditions, ensure that you actually have some knowledge of what is required to ensure your success.

Gardnerian Wicca – A Reincarnation Cult

The following article is an abridge version of the one written by Sophia Boann, which can be found from the Cup of Wisdom, a Gardnerian coven residing in East Cork, Ireland. To read the entire article, please visit the above link.

Often Wicca is portrayed as a fertility cult, however, at its core, Gardnerian Wicca is a reincarnation cult.

Gerald Gardner believed in group reincarnation. An early hint is found in the way he concludes his book A Goddess Arrives, a story based on a personal experience: “Do you believe in reincarnation?” he asked, and began to tell her about Rudolph Steiner’s theory of group incarnation.

Gerald Gardner refers to reincarnation immediately in the introduction of Witchcraft Today, where he describes encountering the coven who brought him into the Craft: “and I met some people who claimed to have known me in a past life.” Reincarnation is a frequently recurring theme in the book, and there are such statements as: “The cult god is thought of as the god of the next world, or of death and resurrection, or of reincarnation, the comforter, the consoler. After life you go gladly to his realms for rest and refreshment, becoming young and strong, waiting for the time to be reborn on earth again, and you pray to him to send back the spirits of your beloved dead to rejoice with you at your festivals.” (Chapter III) and “What they wanted was prosperity and fertility for the tribe, a life after death in happy conditions, and reincarnation into their tribe or nation.” (Chapter VI).

Not all initiates believe in reincarnation, and even among those who do, there are varying views on the concept. There is no sense of “Karma” along the lines that you will have a better or worse next incarnation if you haven’t done enough recycling in this life. But all of us have this experience of coming home, a feeling that we belong here, in the greater scheme of things. Additionally, we often have a strong sense of recognition with other initiates when we attend larger gatherings, an instant sense of belonging together, and having known each other before.

The training or “Outer Court” is mostly an excuse to feel out that connection with the group spirit, and if the Seeker will be at home in the coven they are with. And that “feeling out” should go both ways; if the Seeker doesn’t feel like they belong, which isn’t a judgement on the coven, they should move on to find their own place within the greater scheme of our existence.

Contemporary Witchcraft – Pre-orders now being taken

I am delighted to be able to advise that pre-orders for my forthcoming book, Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life, will open on Saturday, 5 September 2020, with physical copies expected to be received by the end of the month.

Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life aims to set the series of foundational practices that will benefit any neophyte (beginner) interested in contemporary witchcraft (initiatory Wicca) or to magick in general. As I explain, how you design and build your practice is entirely up to you however with solid understanding of some foundational practices, you can be assured that you are effectively set for life, regardless of where your own path takes you.

 My initial instruction into contemporary witchcraft not only focused on the practical application of ritual and magick, but also the “behind the scenes” information, providing an insight into the psychological changes, as well as what is actually happening on the astral level. It is this understanding that enabled me to gain a stronger belief in the magical work that I was undertaking – a belief that also proved to be most beneficial during dark nights of the soul, the times of doubt when the logical mind saw me questioning what I had been dedicating much of my adult life to. 

Times may have changed, as have the needs and desires of people, and whilst spiritual practices also have changed, this does not necessarily mean that all of the original vision Gardner had is outdated and needs to be discarded. As the saying goes, we do not have to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. When it comes to magick, there are still aspects and techniques that simply can only be learnt over time through the practice of the magical art. Such things cannot really be taught through the pages of a book or the internet. There are other aspects of magick that are best taught under physical instruction of a trained practitioner as opposed to a handful of inexperienced novices boasting about their alleged successes.

You can pre-order your early release copy of Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life here for only $35 (includes postage within Australia).

The actual release date for Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life is not until July 2021.

The Power of Words

My initial magical training included a number of timeless pearls that I believe still hold relevance today, one of them being the power (or energy) that words have. This belief in the power of words is not one that has been wrapped up in ancient esoteric secrecy that is only disclosed through appropriate hereditary initiations, nor has it been randomly plucked out of all obscurity. All throughout history, the power of word (or language) has been evident, being one of the first things targeted by an invading power (ie, where the conquered is forced to forego their language and adopt that of the conqueror).

In various metaphysical, neuro-linguistic and even new age teachings, students are instructed on the “power of words” and how they shape our perception of things including ourselves. Within the various magical communities it is the carefully chosen words that crafts the spell in order to achieve a desired goal, or expresses our devotion and requests to the Gods.

Even beyond the magical, mystical and metaphysical realms, most of us know the power of words – from a young age we are encouraged to believe that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”.

Why then, are seekers of the Craft insisting on calling themselves “baby witches”?

Apparently this is not a new phenomenon despite me only first coming across someone (an adult) referring themselves as such a month or so ago (clearly I live under a rock). However, since a recent TikTok incident where so-called “baby witches” attempted to “curse” the moon, social media and blogs have go overboard.

Now, I don’t watch TikTok so have no real interest in whether the moon got “cursed” or not, not I have the energy to invest in ascertaining any logic as to why someone would attempt to do that is in the first place, what is getting my goat is the phrase “baby witch”.

There have been some popular bloggers who have openly stated that to call a seeker or novice a “baby witch” is rather insulting because we all had to start somewhere. However, the only people I have come across calling anyone “baby witches” are novices or seekers themselves. And it is this use of the phrase that, for the life of me, I don’t understand.

When I was starting to take my first steps on the path that eventually evolved into contemporary witchcraft, I was a “seeker” for I was seeking knowledge, experience, the answers to my endless questions, and possibly a teacher/guide. I was also a “novice” as I was still relatively inexperienced when it came to the art of magic and the Craft. Another word that was used was that of being a “neophyte”, again referring to someone new and starting out on the path.

The word “baby” conjures up impressions of an infant, someone helpless and totally reliant upon others (adults). Babies are incapable of acting on their own behalf, are unaware of things that are potentially dangerous due to their inexperience with the concept of harm, not to mention having an intellectual awareness of fully understanding what is going on around them.

While calling yourself a “baby witch” may sound cute, it also implies the avoidance of taking responsibility, and that you are simply absorbing whatever you are being told without displaying and discernment about your own education, needs, and desires. The negative use is further highlighted when compared to the term “novice” where the latter, implies having full autonomy of your spiritual path and the direction you wish to follow.

In my forthcoming book, Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life, I explain that one of the underlying aspects of this spiritual path is that “it calls upon its followers to engage in active participation as opposed to being merely spectators; and where each individual is ultimately responsible for the development of their own spiritual journey.”

How responsible are you prepared to be when it comes to your own spiritual and magical path?

Ebbing and Flowing with COVID-19

Only last week I was delighted to announce a couple of forthcoming events that I would be running at the Riverdell Spiritual Centre – one to celebrate the gateway of spring, Imbolc, on 1 August 2020, and the second was to celebrate and honour the Goddess of the Crossroads, Hekate, on 15 August 2020. Due the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the border in Victoria, and the increasing risk of a potential resurgence here in South Australia, I have now decided to:

Cancel the Imbolc event at Riverdell Spiritual Centre altogether with much regret. If you have already booked through Riverdell, please contact them for a full refund.

The A Day with Hekate event will still remain at the Riverdell Spiritual Centre. Bookings are essential as there will be a strictly limited number of places available. Details of how you book your place can be found here.

At this stage, the August Gathering Around the Cauldron will also still be going ahead on Thursday, 6 August 2020. Booking are essential as due to social distancing observances, there are only a limited number of places being made available. You can book you place here.

A Little Book of Wicca

The latest offering from TDM Publishing is A Little Book of Wicca.

Consisting of some 60 pages, this short guide to Wicca, contemporary witchcraft, aims to be a perfect introduction to this earth-centric spiritual belief.

Commencing with a brief history of how Wicca came into being, it also covers the common beliefs and ethics found within Wicca, the perception of a dual deity (a God and a Goddess), sacred days and seasonal festivals, as well as information specifically to the Southern Hemisphere that is often overlooked in other books. A glossary containing some of the more commonly used terms is included as well as a recommended reading list.

A Little Book of Wicca is a perfectly priced introduction book for anyone interested in learning more about Wicca, or to being used as a guide to be given to family and friends in order to explain what this earth-centric spiritual belief is truly about.

Details:
ISBN: 9780244863067
Dimensions: A5 (5.83 x 8.27 in / 148 x 210 mm)

Cost: $15.99 (includes postage within Australia) available direct from TDM Publishing.

Some Myths about the Witch Trials

A 1655 pamphlet illustration of witches being hanged
In England witches were hanged, not burned. This illustration is taken from a 1655 pamphlet by Ralph Gardiner© Bettmann/Getty

Today I was rather surprised to be reminded of one of the misconceptions about the witch trials (or the “Burning Times” as it is often referred to within Pagan circles) that I had thought had been debunked by the 20th century – that some nine million people lost their lives after being accused of witchcraft. Apparently not.

As such, I thought I would share four of the more common misconceptions about the witch trials as discovered by Professor Diane Purkiss (Professor of English Literature at Keble College, University of Oxford).

1. Nine million witches died in the years of the witch persecutions: It is estimated that a more accurate figure is from 30,000 to 60,000 people were executed in the whole of the main era of witchcraft persecutions, from the commencement in 1427–36 in Savoy (in the western Alps) to the execution of Anna Goldi in the Swiss canton of Glarus in 1782. These figures include estimates for cases where no records exist.

Colour drawing showing people being burned in a public square as part of the Spanish Inquisition
The Spanish Inquisition persecuted those perceived as heretics by the Catholic Church, but witchcraft was largely regarded as a superstition, and wasn’t pursued as a heresy by officials except in rare cases© Prisma/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

2. Witches were burned at the stake: While people found guilty of practicing witchcraft were burnt at the stake across Europe and in Scotland, they were actually hung in England and America. In Scotland, they were straggled first before being burnt.

3. The Spanish Inquisition and the Catholic Church instigated the witch trials: Four of the major western Christian denominations (the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist and Anglican churches) persecuted witches to some degree, while the Eastern Christian, or Orthodox, churches carried out almost no witch-hunting. In England, Scotland, Scandinavia and Geneva, witch trials were carried out by Protestant states. The Spanish Inquisition executed only two witches in total.

4. King James I was terrified of witches and was responsible for their hunting and execution: More accused witches were executed in the last decade of Elizabeth I’s reign (1558–1603) than under her successor, James I (1603–25). The first Witchcraft Act was passed under Henry VIII, in 1542, and made all pact witchcraft (in which a deal is made with the Devil) or summoning of spirits a capital crime. The 1604 Witchcraft Act under James could be described as a reversion to that status quo rather than an innovation.

In Scotland, where he had ruled as James VI since 1587, James had personally intervened in the 1590 trial of the North Berwick witches, who were accused of attempting to kill him. He wrote the treatise Daemonologie, published in 1597. However, when King of England, James spent some time exposing fraudulent cases of demonic possession, rather than finding and prosecuting witches.

Sources:
Witch: Eight Myths and Misconceptions by Professor Diana Purkiss
“Witch Hunts”: Now and Then, Myths and Realities by Morgan Lamkin
Professor Pavlac’s Witch Hunts by Brian A. Pavlac

Further Reading:
The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present by Ronald Hutton (Yale University Press, 2018)
A New History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans by Jeffrey B Russell and Brooks Alexander (Thames and Hudson Ltd, 2007)
Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History by Alan Charles Kors (editor), Edward Peters (editor) (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000)
The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic by Owen Davies (Oxford University Press, 2017)
The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-Century by Diane Purkiss (Routledge, 1996)
Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, Volume 4: The Period of the Witch Trials by Bengt Ankarloo (editor), Stuart Clark (editor) (University of Pennsylvania, 2002)

A Witch’s Familiar

In European folklore and folk-belief from the Medieval and Early Modern periods, witches and cunning folk were believed to assisted by certain supernatural entities that were known as “familiars”. These spirits would appear in numerous guises, including as in a humanoid figure, but more commonly as an animal. When they served cunning folk, familiars were often thought to be somewhat benevolent, however when they were in the service of witches, familiars were considered to be rather malevolent.

The role of the familiar is the topic that will be discussed during the July Gathering Around the Cauldron which will be taking place in the format of a Zoom call on Thursday, 2 July 2020 at 7pm ACST.

If you would like to participate, you will need to register through Paypal in order to receive the Zoom meeting code. The meeting cost is $10 AUD.

Alternatively, you can email our High Priestess for the appropriate bank account details. Your payment must be received by 1 July 2020.

All participants will be receive a detailed fact sheet about the topic as well as go into the draw to win a prize.

Cosmic Happenings in June 2020

We are already two weeks into the month of June so the timing of this article may appear somewhat irrelevant. According to many astrologers, however, there are still more pertinent cosmic activity to come, so the following incorporates a reminder of this journey that many of us are undergoing, starting at the lunar eclipse that coincided with the full moon back on 6 June 2020.

As a number of sources were used in the compilation of this article, please refer to these listed at the end of the article.

There is a lot of cosmic activity occurring throughout June 2020, especially with there being a rather powerful solar eclipse taking place at the winter solstice and six planets in retrograde.  It is almost as if the universe is asking us to assess the paths in front of us, for there are many options being presented. As this month progresses we need to keep in mind that each and every one of us has their own route to follow.  As such, this is the month of becoming aware of our own personal path and not to be distracted by what other people are choosing to do.

June is the month where we may feel a pull to judge others or deem things as good or bad. Instead of jumping to conclusions, the astrology of June is like a light turning on that shows all the dust that has been collecting. Many things are coming to light this month. It is important to remain passionate and take action. But it is also important to stay true to the peace that exists in our hearts

Friday, 6 June 2020 (4:42 am ACST) – Full Moon Lunar Eclipse in Sagittarius
This full moon lunar eclipse kicked off a month of transformation. It was the beginning of a new journey, and was the first eclipse of a series of three that will occur. This is a time of feeling our limits. Even though we might be ready to expand there are still some things that need tuning. During this full moon eclipse we should allow ourselves to become aware of our limitations and learning from them, instead of ignoring or fighting against them. We have to be willing to expand our opinions or perceptions; while knowing that growth takes commitment and dedication.  The full moon coupled with the lunar eclipse in Sagittarius is a great time to see where you’re at and make an inventory of your assets. 

Friday, 19 June 2020 – Sun Conjunct North Node
With the Sun is our identity and the North Node is our purpose in life, on 19 June the sun will be conjunct the North Node at 29° Gemini.  This event occurs only once a year and as such it is the best time to ask:  “Who am I really?” “What is my true purpose? What is my life path?”

When you ask yourself these questions, become aware of the very first answer that comes to you. Gemini has a curious, open-minded vibe. It is important that you don’t try to seek confirmations or validations to existing assumptions during this time.  Like Gemini, be open minded and welcome new perspectives. Now is the time to also accept that you do not yet have all the answers. 

Friday, 19 June 2020 (2:29 am ACST) to 12 July 2020 – Mercury Retrograde in Cancer
Mercury retrograde is nothing to fear or worry about. It is a time to get in tune with ourselves and our thoughts. This Mercury retrograde will be occurring in the sign of Cancer, which invites us to become kinder with ourselves and others. This cycle will show us where we can nurture ourselves, but also where we need to step up our self care.

With Mercury turning retrograde this means that four out of the five planets visible to us (being Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn) are all now retrograde, which is rather unusual. This is a time of deep introspection.  As a Mercury cycle lasts for 116 days, this means that during the next four months it is a favourable time to start a project that connects the qualities of Mercury (writing, communication, learning, commerce, DIY) with the qualities of Chiron (healing, spirituality, astrology, herbs, alternative healing, shamanism, working on the family/karmic wound).

Sunday, 21 June 2020 (7:14 am ACST) – Cancer Season
As the sun travels through Cancer for 30 days we are all washed with the light of this sensitive sign. It is a time to listen to our feelings and our emotions. This means acknowledging what we are sensing. It is been a massive year of shifts and changes. We are like caterpillars that have transformed into butterflies. This Cancer season is our first chance at spreading these new wings. However, we have had to say goodbye to the caterpillar which can bring up grief. Honouring our emotions and letting them flow like the tides of the ocean is the key.

Sunday, 21 June 2020 (4:11pm ACST) – Solar Eclipse Solstice in Cancer
This solar eclipse is occurring in tandem with the solstice, which sets the scene for the next three months.  (This is something that occurs at each solstice and equinox).  This winter solstice however coincides with what is considered to be the most powerful eclipse for 2020.  The impact of this eclipse will be that the upcoming three months will have a fated flavour. The solar eclipse in Cancer is a North Node eclipse which offers opportunities to rewrite the script of our destiny. South Node eclipses on the other hand tend to have a more karmic flavour.

The North Node is like a vortex and with a North Node eclipse, anything is possible.  Be mindful however of what you do as there is always a reaction – usually occurring at a future South Node eclipse.  We may feel like a crab, with one foot we go in one direction, and with another foot in another.  This push and pull Cancerian approach give s us room and time to assess the environment, to take calculated risks, and still get to our destination. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 (2:02pm ACST) until 28 November 2020 – Neptune Retrograde
Outer planets such as Neptune are at their most powerful when they change direction, ie more keen to implement their “agenda”.  As such, Neptune wants to dissolve our ego so we can be at one with the source. Neptune’s message is that separation is an illusion and that we are all one.

This transit is very spiritual and invites us to explore the magic within ourselves. The inner realms are fertile and ripe with miracles. It is when we look outside of ourselves for hope that we might be disappointed. Instead this is about having faith in our inner universes.

When Neptune is direct, we look for experiences of “oneness” outside ourselves. When Neptune is retrograde, we seek oneness within ourselves.  At the Neptune station, you may have some experiences, insights, or intuitive messages (pay attention to your dreams) that will reveal how you can access those Neptunian resources within yourself.

Thursday, 25 June 2020 (4:18pm ACST) – Venus Stations Direct
Venus ends her retrograde which began on 13 May 2020. Even though this cycle is ending, there are ample amounts of wisdom to carry forward. This is the time to walk our talk and make the changes we know we need to make. Venus wants us to stay true to our hearts and not fall back into old patterns. If you have been feeling confused, emotional, divided, torn between different directions, Venus direct will come with the much-needed relief and clarity.

Sunday, 28 June 2020 (11:15am ACST) – Mars in Aries
Mars enters Aries where it will remain for the rest of the year. Usually Mars speeds through a sign, but because of a Mars retrograde occurring from 9 September 2020 to 13 November 2020, the planet of action will have an extended stay in Aries. This means there is no rush or urgency. In fact the lesson is to become patient, calm down and prioritize peace.  Now is a great time to take bold action on any projects you are wanting to undertake.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 (3:16pm ACST) – Jupiter Conjunct Pluto
This is the sequel to the Pluto and Jupiter conjunction on 4 April 2020. The systems of planet Earth are changing and transforming. We can see it in our individual lives and on a collective level. Things are not the same as they were and there is a lot of room for improvement. Because both Jupiter and Pluto are retrograde during this conjunction it is time for us to make changes within ourselves. The new paradigm is born when we take responsibility for ourselves and the worlds we are creating.

This is the second of three occasions where Jupiter is conjunct with Pluto.  The first conjunction occurred on 4 April 2020 when the Corona virus was in full swing, and the final conjunction will occur on 12 November 2020.

Pluto had been in Capricorn since 2008.  While Pluto has a reputation of being overly secretive and working behind the scenes, Jupiter has the reputation of exposing, magnifying and inflating. We have a conflict of interest. In 2020, Jupiter is asking Pluto to do what he dreads the most: to reveal his hidden agenda.

Both Jupiter and Pluto are known for blowing things out of proportion. However there is always a positive side to everything. This second conjunction will likely come with a solution or alternative route to the problems that have been brought to our attention at the time of the first conjunction.

It is up to us to do our homework and act from our highest selves. Because the third conjunction in November will come with the final outcome. The good news is that Jupiter and Pluto have a reputation of being extremely generous. Now is the time to act wisely in order to reap the rewards later this year.

Source:
Moon Omens
Astrology King
Refinery29
AstrologyZone


Why Samhain is not the “New Year”

The following is adapted from Dancing the Sacred Wheel where I brought to the reader’s attention that the assumption that Samhain was the Celtic “new year” and therefore has been adapted as such into modern paganism.

The “new year” assumption is believed to have originated from an interpretation made by 19th century antiquarian, Sir John Rhys, in his “Hibbert Lectures” presented in 1886. In these lecture, Sir John interpreted comments made by Julius Caesar on Gaulish Druidic timekeeping as Samhain being perceived as the Celtic New Year due to “the Celts reckoned Dis the father of all and regarded darkness and death as taking precedence over light and life.  So in their computation of time, they began with night and winter and not with daylight and summer.  This is probably the key to reckoning years as winter.”

Being the first scholar of Celtic studies at Oxford University, Sir John’s interpretation does not appear to have been questioned, despite P.W. Joyce commenting in A Social History of Ancient Ireland (1903) that “O’Donovan stated in 1847 (Book of Rights 1ii) that the season with which the Pagan Irish began their year could not be (then) determined”.

Sir John’s incorrect interpretation was never challenged resulting it appearing in what today are now considered to be “classical” works, including The Golden Bough where Sir James Frazer recorded that “… the Celts would seem to have dated the beginning of the year from [Samhain] rather than Bealtane.”  Sir James also concluded that “ … we may with some probability infer that [the Celts] reckoned their year from Hallowe’en rather than Beltane.”

By the 1950s, this inaccuracy was considered fact, as pointed out in T.G.E. Powell’s The Celts (1958). 

Jon Bonsing of Caer Australis however has not only queried Sir John’s assertion but also attempts to correct it by pointing out that was no indication whatsoever of Caesar stating that the Celts considered “that winter, death and darkness took any precedence over summer, life or light” as Sir John talked about in his “Hibbert Lectures”.

Caer Australis further indicate that there is a considerable amount of evidence to suggest that Bealtaine was actually considered to be the start of the Celtic year, at least within the Irish tradition.  It was on the eve of Bealtaine that the Tuatha de Danaan arrived on Irish shores, as well as being the time when the great gathering of chiefs occurred at Uisneach, Co. Westmeath.  In 405 CE, during the reign of Dathi, conflict arose between the Pagan Irish and the Christians, resulting in St Patrick lighting his famous Paschal fire at Slane just prior to the lighting of the sacred Bealtaine fires.

Various Celtic heroes were believed to have been born around Bealtaine, providing further evidence of the importance of this festival, and in particular that of the “divine son”.  For example, within the Mabinogian, an entire episode is devoted to the birth of Gwri Golden Hair at Calan Mai (the first day of summer).  Caer Australis indicate that this epithet for Pwyll was given “ … because ‘what hair was on his head was as yellow as gold’.  No wonder his hair is ‘golden’, for no other imagery would be appropriate for the symbolic birth of the sun.”

If that is not evidence enough to at least query the assumption of any historical evidence of Samhain being the Celtic New Year, within the mythos contained within contemporary witchcraft relating to the sabbats do not allow for this. The sabbats, as I explained in Dancing the Sacred Wheel, follow the journey of the God. It is at Samhain when the God descends into the Underworld take up his guise as the Dreaded Lord of the Shadows at Samhain. As his rebirth occurs at the winter solstice coinciding with the renewal of the solar cycle, it makes more sense for the winter solstice to be considered the “new year”.