Thursday, March 31, 2011

Samhain and the New Year

"Set sail, set sail, over the waves where the spray foams white, into the night, into the night; set sail, set sail, turn your face to where the veil grows dim, beyond the rim, beyond the rim; set sail, set sail, follow the twilight to the West, where you may rest, where you may rest; set sail, set sail, make of your heart a burning pyre, build it higher, build it higher; set sail, set sail, pass in an instant through the open gate, it will not wait, it will not wait; set sail, set sail..."  ~Reclaiming ritual verse

© The Witches Garden;
     October 31st is a high holy day for witches. It is Samhain (sow-een)--not Halloween. We gather together in circles all over the world, and create altars in memory of beloved dead; we journey from this land of the living to the Western Isles-Afallon (the Isle of Apples)--the land of our dearly departed to visit them.
     One definition of magick is changing consciousness at will. Ritual work requires expenditure of energy, for it is the energy of our will brought together with the energies of our desire that makes magick occur; personal energy is the foundation of craft work, which is why one needs to be healthy in body, mind, and spirit to practice strong and ethical magick. 
     We don't eat before ritual, so afterward we gather for a meal to ground us again here in the world and in our bodies. High holy days require a feast, and the feast of Samhain is one of my favorites. We create altars around the house in remembrance of our dead loved ones. We set one place at the head of the table for all of our dearly departed. We cook their favorite foods, and we eat in remembrance of them.
     The veil between the worlds is thin on Samhain. If our beloved dead wish to return for a visit, this is the time they often choose to appear. In the old world turnips were hollowed out and a bit of candle stub was lit inside; the lantern was set near the door to guide the soul of a loved one home.
     When our immigrant relatives came to America they brought their practices with them and made use of such as this new land provided. Now we use pumpkins as lanterns to light the way for the souls of our dearly departed.
     The first day of November is our New Year's Day. It marks the beginning of a fallow time when all things in nature go to bed and to the earth, in preparation of the arrival of the The Cailleach--the winter hag who brings the killing frost and the winter storms.
     In the ancient traditions of the Americas, November 1st is El Dia de Los Angelitos (for dead children) and the 2nd is El Dia de Los Meurtos--the Day of the Dead.
El Dia del Lost Muertos offrenda
     Over a three day period graves are cleaned and decorated with Marigolds, toys, food, and candles; sugar skulls are decorated and eaten, and altars or offrendas are built in remembrance. Feasts are prepared and eaten at the graveside, while stories of those dearly departed are shared, to encourage the souls of the dead to visit. Ancestor worship has been an integral part of every ethnic culture on every continent on earth since humans have loved--and mourned.
     This Samhain I will remember Valerie Biggs, and welcome her spirit in love. Meanwhile Les and I cope with various family issues that arise amongst our children, and mechanical problems on NB Valerie...
1 am hysteria: Spark and me waiting for her train
     When my favorite youngest daughter Shiery (aka Sparky, Spark, or Sparkala) was six she came up to me, wrapped her little arms around my knees, tilted her face to look at me with her wide, chocolate chip brown eyes filled with love and adoration and said, (through her missing front teeth): "Mama I love you tho much I'm gonna' live with you until I'm thirty." She is a mama's girl through and through.
     By early November Sparkala has been told about the seriousness of my relationship with Les. She--not knowing Les and I have been emailing one other regularly for an entire year previously--is convinced I've gone off my rocker over some mad English Lothario I've only known for one week.
     Panic sets in and anger; my lovely Sparkala is worried sick I am ready to throw off my current life in the next breath and allow Lothario to whisk me away to England--bibbity, bobbetey, boo! Phone lines were busy in my house late into the night.
     Across the Atlantic Dear Sir is grappling with his own family issues, and life five thousand miles away from the one he loves...

From: les biggs
To:Jaqueline Almdale
Sent: Sun 10/31/10 5:09 PM (9:04 AM in Pullman)
Subject: tried to phone
Hello my little Peach,
     Our clocks went back 1 hour last night and the evenings now seem pretty grim with darkness closing in so much earlier. Still January is on the way and a big metal bird will place me in your arms once again only this time the hugs will be special. 
     Is it really another 3 months? I feel like `wee man`, trapped, but unlike him only needing to get through a door, i have 5,000 miles to get across to reach my desire. 
     You are right of course that it would be pointless me being there only to see you go off each morning to Uni` and as is said `absence makes the heart grow fonder` but in the meantime it breaks a little each day.
     All i keep thinking is how perfect it would be with you by my side cruising the canals and showing you all that l have discovered since being afloat.
     I now have a little gizmo on the clock in the bottom right of my computer screen that pops up to tell me the time where my loved one lives. I have it set on Pacific time and until your clocks change you are only 7 hours behind me.
     Wow just thinking, have you put a spell on me because i feel so much love for you? Naaaaaaaaaah even a Witch as nice as you wouldn't want a captive love; no it's the human part of you that has cast a magic mist enveloping me in love and warmth.
     Tell you what Jaq, when you said you were a Witch i had no thoughts at all other than that if you were a Witch then my definition of one was seriously flawed. I want to know more of everything in your life as i'm sure you do of mine, the ups and downs, happiness, sadness but not by e mail or phone.
     No now we are--can i be old fashioned and say courting--i want to be next to you when we can talk under different rules; the rules of love where nothing is taboo and truth is paramount with no subject too hard to discuss.
     Next time you speak to Sparky please assure her i`m not a big ogre trying to part her from mum and do in fact care for her feelings as much as i do my girls here.
     Give wee man a stroke from me and tell him he can sleep on my head next time i'm in his territory.
     Now i'm gonna press send and try and get through the political garbage and give you a bell on the blower: slang for i'm going to ring you on the phone or at least try.
Love and hugs as usual,

From: les biggs
To: Jaqueline Almdale
Sent: Mon, November 01, 2010 12:45 AM (Sun 4:45 PM in Pullman)
Subject: Bits and Bobs
Hi there gorgeous Peach,
     Hope you have had a better day than i have. Nothing tragic so don`t fret. It seems every thing seemingly going wrong. After speaking to you in the early hours i went to bed at about 4 am on a high, which is always the way after hearing your voice, with the intention of going into town and getting your photos printed.
    As i told you on the phone the video copying was not working so that was swirling about in my head as i was trying to get together some little snippets of my journeys on disc to send you.
     I got a bit of shopping and happened across a computer shop. The chap inside gave me a couple of ideas to try and that perked me up a little. Now i've just remembered the Cherry pie i bought, so the kettle is on to help wash it down and it's 12.30 am, what am i like eh!
     Anyway the tips i picked up had no effect so down a notch went my confidence and the laptop was left at the dinette on it`s own while i sulked in the armchair.
      Poor Joanne is on the phone stranded with a broken down car but as she had a cell know what fits where the dots are so Jesse and l won`t say it! Kev was soon on the scene sorting things out.
     Getting my passport application completed and ready for mailing plus talking to you here via cyberspace makes me feel closer to you and has lifted me up again.
     Anyway the wind is blowing some electrickery into my batteries via the wind genny and i have had the washing machine going earlier and plan now is to go back into town tomorrow and get the computer man to sort out the video problem.
     Still keep thinking about Sparky and was looking this afternoon at the pictures you sent me months ago. Have you spoken to her lately?
      I was going to stay up tonight and phone you but i only slept 5 hours last night. Normally that wouldn't matter, but the day has worn me out a bit. I must say just talking to you on the keyboard makes me feel good. Thanks for being there Jaq, but wish you were here.
     Just glanced across the table and the 3 remaining photos of the five i had done for my passport are staring at me. God i look old; are you sure about me? I can hardly give them to anyone as the government insists i don't smile, so who would want a picture of me looking like a convict on the run from San Quintin.

From: Jaqueline Almdale
To: Les Biggs
Sent: Mon, November 01, 2010 6:36 AM (2:36 PM in England)
Subject: Bits and Bobs
Hello Les, 
     Sorry to hear your day went off the rails a bit...Sorry to hear Jo’s car broke down…glad to know Kev came to the rescue, bless him. I'm going to ignore that cheeky remark you didn't make about my not having a cell phone!! :)
      Ooh! Cherry pie! I do love pie—better than cake I think. Peach pie is my very favorite but whoever hear of a bad cherry pie, yeah? 
     Yes, Spark and I have been talking on the phone and emailing and Facebooking. I reassured her that I was not whisking off to fair England next week, never to be heard from again. These things take time and anything worth doing is worth doing well and right. 
     She wants me to design a tattoo for her and me and we’ll get them done together before I leave for England. I'm thinking of a dainty tattoo of forget-me-nots. 
     It’s just as well you didn’t call as I am working on the book. I turn off the phone when I’m writing. And I need to write like a fiend just now. 
     No worries Les; I’m for you and you are for me—down and dusted. As for your age, the man I spent a week with larking about all over the Palouse seemed ageless to me. 
     Although I do remember the winter I turned forty two; I looked in the mirror and all of sudden a good night’s sleep wasn’t restoring anything but my sanity. I could watch myself age that year. That’s okay. We wear the faces we earn in life; yours is so very dear to me. I miss you so,
Jaqueline XXXXX0000

From: les biggs
To: Jaqueline Almdale
Sent: Wed, November 03, 2010 2:30 AM (Tues 6:30 PM in Pullman)
Subject: Bits and Bobs
Hi there my darling,
     Have attached a video of Braunston in what is the first of my reports to you of my travels, hope it's not too painful seeing what you are missing but take it from me i will fret until you are standing next to me seeing all this with your own eyes. There is a piece of video attached, hope it works, and when i get the video laptop problem sorted my intention is to send you a disc on a regular basis with live moments of my travels.
     OK so possibly this will be my last e mail for a few days unless the computer man fixes things quick.
     I just need to occupy my mind...I know in my heart you and i are made for each other. I will phone you........sod it gonna phone now i want to hear your voice......phoning...
     Dear Sir and I talked late into the American nights and early into the English dawns. Our emails flew back and forth across cyberspace throughout November. Sparky wondered what in the name of the Goddess we found to talk about for three hours every other night. Jesse didn't ask--married twelve years, she knew how every day details could assume great significance when they occurred in the life of a loved one.
     Les created videos of his travels near Braunston and Rugby, putting them on CDR's and mailing them to me. Narrated by him, the sound of his voice talking gave me warm shivers and an achy heart. Seeing him cruising aboard NB Valerie made me feel deleriously happy and unbearably sad in the next moment. I felt like I had come down with emotional flu.
     Mid November Les emailed to say the drive plate in NB Valerie had broken apart in situ. A call to River Canal Rescue (for Americans this is the canal and river equivalent of Triple AAA for drivers), sent an engineer to confirm Les' suspicions. 
NB Valerie at Hillmorten locks, courtesy L. Biggs
      Stuck at Hillmorton, Les was concerned about stocking up on tinned groceries in case the canals froze solid. He was using a different grade of coal hoping he would soon connect with working boat Hadar, and NB Valerie was cold, as was he. While I knew Dear Sir could and would sort it all out, I still worried about him.

From: Jaqueline Almdale
To: Les Biggs
Sent: Wed 11/10/2010 9:29 PM (Thurs 5:29 AM in England)
Subject: re: News & Stateside memories
Hello my love, 
     Jesus wept; when it rains it pours. While my Welsh grandmother Lilly George always said the whole world hasn’t turned entirely to crap if you can still get a decent cuppa, that will only take one so far.
     I’m sorry to hear about the boat but thank the Goddess it is a small £ repair and not a thousand £ repair, and that you are safe. I don’t blame you for not wanting to crawl around the wet and cold, tinkering in a tight, dirty space looking for bits and bobs and trying to effect a repair.
     I don’t worry about missing your calls Les. You know if I don’t answer I am otherwise engaged: an occasional evening out with friends or I have the phone switched off because I’m writing. If I am writing I always have my email open so if something comes in I can view it and answer immediately or wait till later. If it’s from you it takes precedent—even over the work of writing. 
     Sorry the coal is shite. Wish desperately I were there to keep you warm. 
     I am so glad you have really good memories of the people here and not just of places visited. There are more folks to meet who will fold you into their lives and families...Cheri’s mom and dad are really fine folks—the epitome of kindness, love and fabulous good humor.
    And Patti and Steve. If you need to stay over in Seattle a night to make a decent connection on Alaska Airlines to Spokane or Pullman let me know when and I can ask Patti and Steve to collect you for the evening. They would love to meet you and you will find them to be kindred spirits—like us.
      You are correct, I choose my friends very carefully, and I take my friendships seriously. I am blessed indeed to be surrounded by so many good friends including those you've met like Chrisi, Keith, and Sandy, as well as those you've yet to meet like Cheri, Jerry, the collective feminist power of The Wednesday Women, my oldest and dearest college mate Adelina Gonzales, Karen and Jim Barron, and others...
      Karen Barron is my very special friend. I am forever grateful to her for taking me up to Kamiak Butte-and I am so happy you feel as I do; Kamiak Butte is our place—yours and mine. 
    I do remember the squeaky lamb fondly. Every time I think about it I laugh out loud and there we are—you and I--laughing together until we are silly with it. I miss you more than words could ever convey,
Love Jaqueline 

From: les biggs
To: Jaqueline Almdale
Sent: Thursday, November 11, 2010 7:18 AM (Wed 11:18 pm in Pullman)
Subject: Keeping my loved one informed
Hello my beautiful Jaq,
     Just a quick update on the boat. I have just arrived at a very slow pace in the Willow Wren Marina in Rugby. The parts have been ordered and all being well will be here Friday. I have TV signal plus Internet and Rugby town centre is just a short walk as is a very large Supermarket so the original plan to stock up for winter still stands. Oh and the good coal is now in use.
Bye for now my darling.

From: Jaqueline Almdale
To: Les Biggs
Sent: Thu 11/11/2010 7:40 AM (3:40 PM in England)
Subject: Keeping my loved one informed
Hello love,
I’m so GLAD to hear you are moored somewhere near civilization and its necessities. And good coal! YES!! I slept miserably last night thinking of you shivering in the dark, on a silent boat. Also relieved to hear the parts will be there and should be fitted in as well—on Friday.
Talk with you on Saturday Les.
     My thoughts and heart continually flew to England and Dear Sir. As November rolled on toward Thanksgiving, we both attempted to stay busy in an effort to keep our mutual loneliness and sadness at being apart from one another at bay.


  1. Hi Peach
    Since you published my little video i`ve been offered a contract by the BBC to do the voiceover on some documentarys`.......i wish. They wouldn`t dare unleash that voice on the british public.
    Thank the goddess you downloaded the right video.
    etc etc etc LOL

  2. LOL
    I happen to love that voice and the man who belongs to it; its the voice in my dreams, etc. etc. etc. :)

  3. Great Post,
    I thought that you might like my machinima film of
    The Song Of Amergin, A Samhain Story,
    Blessed Samhain
    Celestial Elf ~