Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Proper Samhain

Bribes might change our opinion of your numptiness.
Exactly one year ago, someone posted a post on one of the forums wishing everyone a Happy Proper Samhain--which made me aware of this particular issue that was silently bubbling in the magical community. So what the hell is "Proper Samhain"? According to some people, Samhain should be celebrated on the day that falls exactly between the Fall Equinox and Winter Solistice--or when the Sun is in the fifteenth degree of Scorpio (the "astronomical Samhain" or "astrological Samhain")--November 6 or 7 this particular year (depending upon where you live).

And my response to this idea that everyone, other than these enlightened armchair occultists, are doing Samhain on the wrong day? Poppycock!!!

Honestly, my opinion is that the "Proper Samhain" theory was created by a bunch of people who decided that they have to be smarter than practicing Wiccans and pagans, especially the sainted Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca. The theory sounds good on paper, but really does not hold water when it comes to actual practice? No, it does not.

For one thing, the "solar-astronomical" Sabbaths, the Equinoxes and Solstices, are known as "Lesser Sabbaths." The "Greater Sabbaths" are all planting/harvesting/fertility holidays. Therefore, a proper astrological correct Samhain instantly becomes a Lesser Sabbath, a mere point on the journey of the sun though the zodiac--in other words, something other than solar position makes Samhain what it is--a Greater Sabbath.

Secondly, the theory ignores the non-universality of the observance of the Sabbaths. The holidays that the Sabbaths are based on were not practiced everywhere; and more importantly, when they were practiced, they were based on local agricultural conditions...or some local religious observance.

In other words, local conditions trump (override) the astrological theory. Your first harvest ritual corresponds to when your first harvest actually happens in your local neighborhood--not when the sun is in a particular degree of the zodiac. Likewise, your last harvest (aka Samhain) occurs when your local growing conditions cease to be suitable to leave the majority of the crop out in the fields (please note that there are some winter crops that can be harvested or planted despite the drop in temperatures). In fact, last harvest can vary from year to year--last year, my own last harvest occurred in late November--this year, it was mid-October. The only reason that modern-day Wicca gets away with fixed dates for the Sabbaths is that most of us are not farmers or gardeners anymore--but that still does not make the astrological version more valid than the farming/fertility version of the Sabbaths.

And in the case of Samhain (All Hallows Eve--Halloween), it occurs on a day that several cultures (including the much-hated Catholic culture) consider preceding a feast day celebrating the honored dead. This is another form of local condition overriding the astrological theory. Then again, that may be the real reason that certain armchair occultists want to move the celebration to a different day--in their minds, we can't share anything in common with the hated oppressors of the pagan religions...despite the fact that the Church lifted that particular feast day directly from the pagans themselves with us merely reclaiming it as our own in modern times.

So Happy Proper Astrological Samhain! to all the armchair occultists. And stay out of my garden!

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