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Sarita
10-22-2007, 06:08 AM
Here are the entries for our Pagan Writing Contest! Please read each one and then PM your vote to Sara (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/private.php?do=newpm&u=468) with "Pagan Contest Vote" in the subject line and the title or # of your favorite entry in the body of the PM. Please only vote once.

Voting will close at 11:59PM US Eastern on Monday, October 29, 2007. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, October 30, 2007. Our grand prize winner will select their prize from our list (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=77993). If you win and opt to receive your prize, I'll need a mailing address.






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#1 A Story of Samhain By Branwyn


I know it’s odd to start this true story, in which the main theme takes place on Oct.31st on the 24th of April. But that was the Big Day. Yes, with caps. My book Every Witch Way But Dead arrived on magickal wings of things that go bump in the night. Its synchronistic birth echoed murmurs from those beyond the veil. My sister’s birthday is April 23.

Let me explain. Two years ago in late August I lost my older sister, MaryAnn to breast cancer. Samhain is the time to remember our loved ones that have passed and I felt honored to be there and help her make the journey to that otherside, the Summerland.

The spirits of my father, grandfathers, and grandmothers, aunts and uncles were acknowledged by me, as their vibrant energy filled the hospital room while they waited for my sister to make the final transition, take her last breath. The doctors never expected her to make it through the night, yet here it was 11:20 AM. I honestly believe she waited for everyone to get there and I lived the furthest.

I held her fragile hand in mine and whispered in her ear that it was all right, she could go now. She would be okay and that Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa were waiting for her. I held onto her as my heart broke into a million tiny fragments. It was all so surreal. Within two minutes she took in her final breath. Her suffering was over and ours was beginning at breakneck speed.

In an effort to soothe my mother's broken heart—and mine—we went to see a well-respected psychic a few weeks before Samhain. Not John Edward, but one just as talented. This psychic woman was made known to us through a friend of my sister’s. This friend at the time of my sister’s passing was at the psychic’s house. The psychic asked if she knew a Marion or a MaryAnn? Yes, I do. She’s critically ill, in fact she’s making the transition to the otherside and wants you to know she’s okay. Her reading was done at the exact time that my sister passed. We found this out at my sister’s wake.

Most of us know that Samhain is the time when the veil between the spirits and us-- physical beings-- becomes incredibly thin. Sandie, the psychic, 'picked up' on my sister's energy as soon as we sat down. She told us things that she had no way of knowing, named my sister's daughters exactly, and told me to keep writing. I would be working with someone named Sam. I was in the beginning of the editing phase at the time, and had only begun to think about submitting Every Witch Way But Dead. I hadn't a clue who Sam could possibly be. Another interesting tid-bit the psychic told us was that whenever we saw a white feather it was a sign from my sister. I began looking for white feathers everywhere.

Every Samhain for the past six years, on October 31st at a gathering held at my home, we honored the dead. The house was decked out in pumpkins, mums, ghosts, witches, cornstalks and purple and orange blinking lights. Trays of delectable foods lined the dining room table. Baked ziti, Buffalo wings, Chili-cheese dip and a large salad were some of goodies, besides the apple and pumpkin pies. Buckets of candy waited for the hordes of children to come and take some… a handful at a time, while their parents warmed by the fire.

An altar was situated in the living room next to the fireplace where an indoor fire burned in addition to the outdoor blaze. Statues of deities ranging from Kuan Yin, Our Lady of Guadeloupe, Isis, Anubis and Hecate circled the photos of our friends and family in spirit.

We all stood around the bonfire. My mother, friends, nieces and neighbors stood solemnly. I handed out sprigs of rosemary and sage to my guests, both pagan and non-pagan. My older niece wanted to read the ritual I had written in honor of her mother. Frankincense and Myrrh popped in the fire as the words were spoken for my sister and all of those who we loved and were now physically gone.

As the ritual ended a few walked away wiping their eyes, while the rest of us stood staring into the flames. It was a beautiful night, clear skies that dripped with a wealth of stars. As I stepped on the first stair heading inside to offer comfort to my sister’s daughters and my mother, I saw a white feather swirl right in front of my eyes then disappearing into the night. My sister was there. I knew it.

Our saving grace was embodied in the tiny form of my sister’s first grandchild, a little girl. They were both on the earth plane together a little over a month. She’s a joy and a blessing and I also know my sister whispers in her tiny, perfect ears constantly.

Fast forward to the present and here I am and I now know who Sam(hain) is…Samhain Publishers. I know it's pronounced Sow-en, but to me you'll always be Sam. For those of you out there that believe in the immortality of the soul-- keep believing. I’m glad I never gave up writing even when all the rejections poured in. My sister whispered in my ear as well, prodding me on. MaryAnn thought it good enough; after all, she didn’t give up on me pushing from beyond the veil to get it done.

Thanks, sis.
I miss you.






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#2 Treat yourself to new traditions for Samhain by Plaidearthworm


Samhain has several meanings for those who celebrate it: the event represents a fresh beginning with a new year, and an opportunity to remember the past—and possibly reconnect—with those who have passed on before us. At the core of this belief is the recognition of old and new, life and death, and the understanding that the veil between our world and the spirit world is thinnest upon this night. For many, Samhain is acknowledged by invoking the dead, divining the future and dealing with the dark. It’s a time to examine your inner self, your past and your future, but it doesn’t have to be something that scares the wits out of you.

If sťances and high rituals aren’t quite your style, there are other ways to celebrate the season. These observances are family-friendly, and can even be done with those who don’t believe in the Wiccan and Pagan ways, although it’s more powerful if they do.

Skip the sťance, and pull out the photo albums. Gather the family in one room; light some candles for atmosphere if you so desire, or just go with regular lighting. Pass around old photos to spark conversation, then have everyone in the family, one by one, tell a story about a relative. While each person tells their tale, concentrate on the person in the story, especially if they’ve passed on. Older relatives are especially wonderful for this, as they can remember farther back, and their stories come with ease. With everyone relaxed and concentrating on family members, remembering how they looked, sounded and the interesting things they did, the bonds between the living world and spirit world pull tight. Often with this exercise, people will start to feel the presence of their loved ones around them; those who are sensitive are often the first to notice, but as the evening progresses, many may feel the spirits. Those who are extremely sensitive may receive messages or notice more paranormal activity.

It’s best to keep the tone light and warm during the first performance of this informal ritual, so everyone is comfortable and receiving. If there are darker stories in your family history, take the precaution of cleansing and protecting the room before everyone gathers, then state, either silently or verbally, that all who come in love are welcome. If the atmosphere begins to feel oppressive, (again, either silently or verbally, depending on your situation) ask the Goddess to bless the space with the white light of protection, and draw down the light. Break for refreshments, cleanse the space while others are out of the room, the lighten the mood when everyone comes back by pulling out your high school yearbooks, an action that always draws a laugh, no matter how cool you thought you looked in those pictures at the time.

A family story ritual on Samhain is also an excellent way to prevent children from being unduly scared of ghosts, spirits, and other forces that are part and parcel of the Wiccan path; the evening’s activities can illustrate to kids a calm, comfortable connection with the otherworldly side. At the other end of the spectrum, if you are part of a blended Pagan/Christian family, or the only Wiccan in the room, this ritual allows you to celebrate your heritage and share a special time with your family and friends. Any contact with spirits you may have, either during the story time or afterward in dreams, is your personal holiday gift.

Take it to the next level. After all the family stories are shared, start mapping out a family tree together. Start with the info you have from family histories, or do a little pre-gathering research on one of many genealogy websites. Read the names of your ancestors aloud, with everyone taking a different name, and discuss how life might have been for them, who they were as a person, and what they might have experienced. Write down their names on the family tree list and thank them, either out loud or to yourself, for their contributions that brought you here to this time and place. Keep the family tree going, continue the research, and you’ll start to collect new bits of information and stories to share at each Samhain, creating a tradition that saves your family history for future generations. Honoring your ancestors is a tradition that goes back thousands of years, and grounds you in your personal history. Some people have found out that they aren’t the first witch in the family by doing this ritual, and others have finally understood why they are drawn to different cultures, and driven to explore Celtic or Native American heritage; those sensitive to the spirit world may actually feel, hear or see their ancestors during this time as well.
Leave a few treats, no tricks, for traveling spirits. Have no desire to invite a few relatives from the spirit world into your home? No problem. Chop up some apples, mix with nuts or a bit of birdseed, and leave a small offering outside after the Trick-or-Treaters have gone home, or place it outside your back door where flesh-and-bone visitors are less likely to turn up. Some folks who have lost four-footed family members leave out a bowl of kitty or doggie kibble in honor of their departed feline and canine friends. These offerings not only feed the various feathered and furred children of the Goddess, they also remind us to be thankful for our current companions or familiars, and show compassion for traveling spirits. One tradition states that an empty bowl in the morning means good luck for the household, for the spirits have been fed and met with kindness.

Let your resolutions fly. Celebrate the coming of the Witch’s New Year with a daytime trip outdoors before the evening Samhain celebrations. Grab a handful of felt-tip pens in different colors, and head out to the trees; if you live in an urban area, find a city park or a safe area with lots of open space and leaves on the ground. Collect several leaves that have fallen, and write your resolutions, dreams and goals for the new year in one color, then use a different color for habits or situations you would like to leave behind, but remember to use separate leaves for drawing and banishing. Banish the negativity first. When the wind whips up, let go of the bad habits and watch them fly over the ground. Say a little mantra if you like, such as ‘Be gone to bad feelings, I need you no more,’ or whatever you prefer. Sit in the sun or just feel the wind in your face for a while, thinking about the possibilities that can now open up in your life. Then, release the leaves with your positive goals on them, and watch them fly into the sky. Say a little mantra if you wish, then go home and start working to make your dreams come true.

This ritual is perfect for children of all ages; while it may not lift otherworldly spirits, it will certainly lift your own. This is also a great ritual for writers, poets and other artistic types who struggle with creative blockage; just write a line or a poem on each leaf, and let the breeze take it away; the wind will seed your words across the miles, and new creativity will blow into your life.

Samhain can be a time of exploring the dark, and looking for a bit of a thrill, or it can be something more meaningful and personal than just a ritual on a page. Feel free to take these methods or create your own rituals and celebrate the turning of the wheel as it fits your life best.






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#3 What The Golden Apple Wrought By Yanallefish


I am the secret nighttime, I am the great warrior. Dammit, I am spring and I refuse to die!

Spring eternal, I will be. . . .


Changing

Growing.
Yes, that's what I want:
To heal.
Let the squirrels throw all the acorns they want at me; I am still spring.
Summer must have noticed by now; she's so picky about things while being so finicky. I'm sure of it. Of course, I am speaking in a metaphor, but I truly do embody the seasons. Doesn't every witch, as the seasons pass by? Well, when I was young I chose to be this way. . . It's sad that youngsters today are taught to hate the Earth as they are and then to be good to it as well -- just today I found a site on the Internet about recycling plastic bags, one of a hundred such sites. Better that plastic had never been invented. . . but there I go on a tangent. I am spring, and that means tangents.
Would you touch the dust if you had a choice?
The thought of it makes me shiver; no it isn't the silly marketing ploys of America, but something much more real, more painful.
Death.
I mean, real and tangible, the loss of self. I am still clawing my way out of the coffin, my shoots only yet a pale facsimile of the strong brilliant budding greens they once were. My limbs only faintly touch a keyboard, my lover, the wheels of my chair. My eyes see depth differently, though they have seen The Depths just fine.
And I still remember.
Fairies came to me as I was getting so sick, so sick, and I -- faded, for a while. I don't remember much, but I know I was given a choice. "the orb that holds your dreams, or the golden apple," said the Lady who came forth, who was both young and old, silly and wise. "The orb will give you sanctuary from your pain; you will never feel grief or sadness or any ache in the joints or anywhere in your body, not ever again. The golden apple, on the other hand, is beautiful, but hard -- as life always is. It's your choice."
I took the golden apple, and so I am here.
These are not things I'd ever say to a doctor, of course. Not even here at the rehab clinic would I tell of them. Not to the medical people, the institutional folk. They have their own rules, which do not follow those of my spirituality, my lifestyle.
But I must follow them while I am here. And I am dying, therefore.
Not literally, of course. I chose the apple, after all.
I am still here, I cried silently to the darkness. Still here!
And so, I called upon Brigit and her fires, her warrior strength, to help me heal -- again.
So, this year I got stuck on spring. She came to pass in the usual way, whirling into my cold house with the song of the robins outside and my boyfriend touching me (mm, that was nice). And I just couldn't stop, all of a sudden! Candlemas came and went, Kalevala Day, Beltane -- not even the Summer Solstice could change my mind. As days grew hotter outside and different things bloomed -- as the chickadees left and the house sparrows mated and started eating the ivy outside my window, as hurricane season commenced and the first of the Harvests came and went -- nothing could shake this feeling of newness.
I am stuck in spring. My mind keeps on singing of new leaves and delicate flowers as the temperature gets colder outside, and it's been months since I honestly felt the world! So, baseball season has even come and gone without my mind acknowledging the Fall. Maybe that's for the best: I chose the apple, not death.
Still, it isn't natural, and I know it.
Am I, too, to become in the end like a glass or crystal, something only those that can will be able to see through? Because I refused to give in and die?
What would happen, I wonder, if there was no End to the Year? What if the Holly King reigned on, forever the same? Oh, I know I am stuck in a rut, but it's quite a rut.
So, I am spring, but it's the middle of fall outside. In fact, Samhain is fast approaching. The Lords of Samhain will meet up with the Lady of Imbolc for once. An interesting concept. I fear the worst; a pale, delicate maid used to the Young Lord of the year, who dances with and then lays with her at Beltane -- she is the one who will meet up with the Wild Hunt this year, instead of the Crone, the Dark Maid of Samhain, who knows the death of the Year and can see it coming. What will they do to this frail flower?
But there is no hope for it. I am getting better, say the doctors at this rehab clinic where I reside; my limbs are strengthening, but they have no idea of the harm that has been caused to me in a spiritual way. I am still in this wheelchair, only getting better slowly, as time moves along outside my window -- I can see it but cannot feel the change of seasons. You know what they are like; you dance with your lover at Beltane and hold trees close, owl at the moon in summer. You breathe the tang of autumn in and can smell snow and know the trees are quiet in winter. But I, in here, only smell medicine and putrefaction and sadness, even as I press my nose to the window to see leaves falling. I remain spring, because that is when I started to get better.
The Wild Hunt of Samhain will pass me by this year, I know. I refuse to acknowledge it, and anyway I can't do so here; I can't focus. I remain stuck in spring, holding on to the idea of getting better, leaving this place of death and disease.
Even Persephone managed that, if only for a little while.
And so, I remain spring, till something better comes along and I am fully well again. Even as the dark of the year comes and the Crone and her Lord fail, upon their cold thrones. I shut the night away.





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#4 Alternative to Blood Sacrifice By Maddest Vagabond


The night approaches when the veil between the realms is thinnest. On this All Hallows Eve, rites and rituals prevail. Put on your costumes or Pagan robes and go out to run amok. This is one of our most active times of year as far as Magick is concerned. When you are out this year, in this new day and age, consider this.

Sacrifices, human and animal alike, have been a part of Pagan ritual and ceremony since the dawn of man. Blood spilled for gods and spirits in hopes of fair weather or a good harvest and to dispel fears or heal sickness. The blood is the life. A special thing happens when blood is spilled. A force, or The Force, is released into the space. Used for good or for evil, the spilling of blood nowadays is frowned upon.


That force, power or energy is still quite useful. We are, after all, working toward a specific result. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. For all you witches and wizards and spell casters: Are you rich? Happy? Healthy? Are you getting that promotion or that new car? What good is a spell, ritual or ceremony if it cannot influence, or does not have an effect on your physical world? Peace of mind perhaps? It’s kind of pointless if there is no proof in your pudding.

So what are real world alternatives to a blood sacrifice? Saint Vagabond says, “Adapt and overcome”. In basic terms, the blood that carries life is elemental. It is special in that it is a mix of all the elements. Blood cells are carbon based, as is all organic life. The membrane around the cell? That is Earth. Blood carries oxygen and other minute amounts of gasses throughout the body. That is Air. The blood cell has its own power source. A bioelectric synapse allows the cell to take in nutrients, and expel waste. That is Fire. And most organic organisms, especially those that bleed, are made up of large amounts of water. The gel inside the cell, where all this stuff swims together, is made up of mostly...Water.


The last part, the most important element here, is Spirit. Spirit is your conscious effort; your willingness to go as far as it takes to have some proof in your pudding. As a Pagan, this should not be news. It should be a way of life. The times have changed, since back in the day. Now, we do things differently. The next time you feel the urge to take on that particular activity which can actually produce results, don’t spill blood. Instead, feed The Force. When you get to the point in your work when it is time to feed the spell, do just that. Feed it. Feed it well. For if not, your results will be minimal at best.


Burn some incense. Air incense works pretty well. A camp fire or open flame set for your specific purposes. Have ready a cup, goblet or glass of clean water for your altar. Use a brick, a clay pot or a handful of dirt to represent Earth. Feed your desires, Give all you can give. Offer to the spirits that be everything they need in hopes that they will be potent enough to effect your physical word. Get some proof for you pudding and leave the blood where it was intended. If the spirits wanted us to be able to spill blood, they would have given us...spouts.



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HAPPY VOTING!