Healing Stories and Articles by Alannah
Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash
Long before Jack-o'-lanterns, costume parties and trick or treating, the ancient Celts of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man celebrated the coming of winter, the dark half of the year, with a fire festival known as Samhain, (pronounced SAH-win). Samhain marks the end of the harvest season and occurs at the end of October - beginning of November, about halfway between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice.
Samhain is thought to be the ancient precursor to our Halloween or Hallowe'en, also known as All Hallows' Evening, All Hallows' Eve and All Saints' Eve. Depending on the source, it is believed that our Halloween is the Christianized version of Samhain; others think that it began solely as a Christian holiday.[i] Whatever the origin of Halloween, it is intriguing for us to take a look at the ancient seasonal celebration of Samhain from the standpoints of spirituality, alignment with nature and honoring of the ancestors' ways and practices.
Believed to have pagan Celtic origins, there is evidence that Samhain has been an important occasion since ancient times. There are Neolithic passage tombs in Ireland that are aligned to the Samhain sunrise, there is mention of it in early Irish literature and it figures prominently in Irish mythological tales.[ii]
"In Modern Irish the name is Samhain [?s?aun?], in Scottish Gaelic Samhainn/Samhuinn [?sa?.i?], and in Manx Gaelic Sauin. These are also the names of November in each language, shortened from Mí na Samhna (Irish), Mì na Samhna (Scottish Gaelic) and Mee Houney (Manx)."[iii]
Today, while Samhain is traditionally celebrated on October 31-November 1, historically the celebration could last for a number of days, and there are those who choose to celebrate the occasion on the astronomical midpoint between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, which occurs on November 7th in the northern latitudes in 2017.
It is thought that at this liminal time of year around Samhain the veil between this world and the Otherworld is thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through[iv] and that it is possible to communicate with the spirits of the departed. In ancient times as today, ancestors were honored with mute or "dumb" suppers, an extra place being laid at the table for the departed. Spirits thought to be harmful were warded off with costumes and masks[v] and people in Ireland carved turnips with ofttimes grotesque faces that were then placed in their windows or outside their doors to keep malevolent spirits at bay. Both of these traditions paved the way for our modern day habit of dressing up as something other for Halloween, and the turnip carving tradition, brought to the United States in the Irish diaspora, started our practice of carved Jack-o'-lanterns. The immigrants found that our readily available pumpkins were much easier to carve than hard turnips!
The importance of Samhain in the Celts' time was very much rooted in their pastoral lifestyle and there is little question that Samhain "was the most important of the four Celtic Festivals. Samhain was a crucial time of year, loaded with symbolic significance..."[vi] Cattle were brought down from the highland pastures and preparations for winter sheltering began. It "was a time to take stock of the herds and food supplies."[vii] Bonfires were lit on hilltops and rituals were enacted in accordance with the custom. It is thought that the fires had protective and cleansing powers.[viii]
It was also a time when "a dissolution of the established order" made "way for re-creation and, as such, was a transition during which a degree of chaos and destructurizing reigned as realities merged." "The Druids employed both vision seeking and shamanic spirit-flight in their work as spiritual mediators, and these skills may have been used most easily at times such as Samhain. Fires were quenched, then relit from the sacred Samhain fire."[ix]
For people who lived very closely with the land and had none of the comforts and protections we take for granted in our modernized world, the coming of harsh winters and long, cold nights presented a challenge of body and spirit. "The perceptible, and apparent, decline in the strength of the sun at this time of year was a source of anxiety for early man and the lighting of the Winter Fires here symbolised man's attempt to assist the sun on its journey across the skies. Fire is the earthly counterpart of the sun and is a powerful and appropriate symbol to express mans helplessness in the face of the overwhelming sense of the decay of nature as the winter sets in."
"In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter."[x]
As we move in our round of seasonal celebrations, we can see that Samhain was an event of great import for the ancestors, and carried forward, it enhances our alignment with and understanding of the cycles of nature. Recognizing and celebrating this seminal time of year can be just as important for us in the 21st century as it was for the ancients, 2000 years and more ago. It is reconnection with the earth, with our basic selves, with the powers and elements that shape our world.
[vi] Excerpt from Tlachtga: Celtic Fire Festival by John Gilroy
[ix] Loren Cruden, Walking the Maze (Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books, 1998), 96.
[x] Excerpt from Tlachtga: Celtic Fire Festival by John Gilroy
“Quartz is a chemical compound consisting of one part silicon and two parts oxygen. It is silicon dioxide (SiO2). It is the most abundant mineral found at Earth's surface, and its unique properties make it one of the most useful natural substances.
Quartz is the most abundant and widely distributed mineral found at Earth's surface. It is present and plentiful in all parts of the world. It forms at all temperatures. It is abundant in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. It is highly resistant to both mechanical and chemical weathering. This durability makes it the dominant mineral of mountaintops and the primary constituent of beach, river, and desert sand. Quartz is ubiquitous, plentiful and durable. Minable deposits are found throughout the world.
Quartz is one of the most useful natural materials. Its usefulness can be linked to its physical and chemical properties. It has a hardness of seven on the Mohs Scale which makes it very durable. It is chemically inert in contact with most substances. It has electrical properties and heat resistance that make it valuable in electronic products. Its luster, color, and diaphaneity make it useful as a gemstone and also in the making of glass.” (http://geology.com/minerals/quartz.shtml)
Clear Quartz resonates with the element of light. It is applicable for all healing situations, being the crystal equivalent of white light. Due to its structure, quartz is a good conductor of energy & intention and is compatible with most all other stones in healing applications. Clear quartz can enhance mental clarity and strengthen inner vision. This stone is harmonious with all chakras.
The most abundant mineral on earth, strong energy fields can be created where there is a concentration of quartz in the landscape. Set in a grid, clear quartz can create a field of intention.
Clear quartz is self clearing given time and enjoys being refreshed in sunlight.
“Rutilated Quartz is a transparent Quartz with golden yellow Rutile inclusions that are in hairlike growths. The Rutile inclusions range from thin, sparse, and parallel, to thick, dense, and crisscrossed, and everything in-between. Each Rutilated Quartz gemstone is unique in its pattern of Rutile inclusions.
Rutile comes in a surprising contrast of distinct habits and colors, making it a very interesting mineral. It has multiple unique crystal forms as well as several telltale colors, styles, and associations. Rutile can range from mirror-like metallic-looking crystals, to dark reddish sub-metallic crystals, to bright golden-yellow needles. Even the opaque metallic-looking forms are somewhat translucent on edge under backlighting, with a dark red translucent tinge.
Rutile is well known for its habit of forming needle-like inclusions within other minerals, especially Quartz, in the form of long and slender yellow straw-like crystals. These inclusions can range from scattered needles to dense parallel fibers within a host mineral. This combination is known as Rutilated Quartz, and is used both as a collectors mineral and gemstone.
Rutile inclusions are also responsible for the asterism or chatoyancy effects on some gemstones, such as Star Sapphire. The thin, parallel Rutile fibers that formed within the host mineral provide these unique optical effects.
Rutile is the most common mineral composed of titanium dioxide. Rarer polymorphs include Brookite and Anatase, both which also form unique and distinctive crystals. The name Rutile is derived from the Latin "Rutilus", in reference to a common color habit of this mineral in dark red but lustrous crystals.”
Rutilated quartz carries all the characteristics of clear quartz. Additionally, the inclusion of rutile gives specific energy to enhance medicine for bodily systems. It is good for all major organ health & the immune system. It can increase resistance to disease organisms and is a "tonic" stone.
Like its clear cousin, rutilated quartz enjoys being refreshed in sunlight.
(Stone medicine interpretation by Alannah Hudis - Geological information https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page)
"Himalayan salt is rock salt or halite from the Punjab region of Pakistan. It is mined at the Khewra Salt Mine in Khewra, Jhelum District, Punjab, which is situated in the foothills of the Salt Range hill system in the Punjab province of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It is located about 310 km (190 mi) from the Himalayas, 260 km (160 mi) from Lahore, and 298 km (185 mi) from Amritsar, India.
Himalayan salt is chemically similar to table salt plus mineral impurities. It consists of 95–98% sodium chloride, 2–4% polyhalite (potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, oxygen, hydrogen), 0.01% fluoride, 0.01% iodine, and micro-amounts of numerous trace minerals.
The salt crystals have an off-white to transparent color, while impurities in some veins of salt give it a pink, reddish, or beet-red color
It is commonly used in cooking, in place of other table salt, and in brine. Numerous claims have been made concerning ingestion of Himalayan salt, but no scientific evidence proves it provides more health benefits compared to common table salt.
Blocks of salt are also used as serving dishes and in the preparation of food. Fish and some meats can be preserved for use in certain dishes, and blocks of salt can be slowly heated to a temperature around 200°C (392°F) and used as a cooking surface thereafter.
It is sometimes used in bath salts.
A salt lamp consists of a large salt crystal, often colored, and lit with an electric light or candle inside. Most of such lamps on the market are made of coloured salt rocks mined in Pakistan (the area of Punjab).
Numerous claims have been made concerning salt lamps, but no scientific evidence proves these claims."(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himalayan_salt)
While technically not a stone but a mineral, Himalayan salt is deserving of our coverage in these articles on the mineral world for the medicine it brings.
With its heart centered medicine and its range of soothing pink colors due to iron oxides in the mineral, Himalayan salt has a calming, peaceful energy and resonates with the elements of earth and water. The presence of this mineral can soothe the energy of a room.
Himalayan salt can be beneficial for the organs of elimination, stomach health and may help balance the mineral and slat levels in the body.
Salt lamps should be kept dry as they will absorb moisture from the air. They should have a coaster under them to protect furniture and always take care to monitor electrical cords and plugs for safety.
interpretation by Alannah Hudis - geological information http://www.geology.com)
"Emeralds are gem-quality specimens of the beryl mineral family with a rich, distinctly green color. They are found in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks in a small number of locations worldwide. For over 5000 years, emeralds have been one of the most desirable and valuable colored gemstones. Ancient civilizations in Africa, Asia, and South America independently discovered emeralds and made them their gemstone of highest esteem. Today emerald, together with ruby and sapphire, form the "big three" of colored stones. The "big three" generate more economic activity than all other colored stones combined.
Beryl, the mineral of which emerald is a variety, has a chemical composition of Be3Al2(SiO3)6. When pure, beryl is colorless and known as "goshenite." Trace amounts of chromium or vanadium in the mineral cause it to develop a green color.
Emerald is defined by its green color. To be an emerald, a specimen must have a distinctly green color that falls in the range from bluish green to green to slightly yellowish green. To be an emerald, the specimen must also have a rich color. Stones with weak saturation or light tone should be called "green beryl." If the beryl's color is greenish blue then it is an "aquamarine." If it is greenish yellow it is "heliodor." Emerald has a Mohs hardness of 7.5 to 8... Even with that hardness, emerald has a durability issue. Most emerald contains numerous inclusions and surface-reaching fractures. These weaken the stone, cause it to be brittle, and make it subject to breakage." (http://geology.com/gemstones/emerald/)
Luscious green emerald has long been a stone of royalty. Revered for its pleasing green color, it also has a reputation as a stone of prosperity. A lovely stone for the garden, emerald balances energies in the garden and helps brings plants into harmonious relationship.
A stone of nature spirituality, emerald amplifies our ecological awareness and our connection to nature. Physically, emerald helps regulate the heartbeat and keep arteries clear and flowing freely. Emerald is also beneficial for liver health, having a cleansing influence.
Emerald enjoys being refreshed on moist earth in sunlight.
Moon Phases and Their Meanings
(Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash)
Awareness of, and practice with moon phases can pleasingly augment spiritual practice, especially if that practice is aligned to the natural world and its cycles. Every month, or approximately every 29-30 days, we have an opportunity to observe and interact with the various phases of the moon.
As the moon, the closest celestial body to Earth, influences the tides of the oceans, so does it influence our personal tides. As mammals we adult humans are comprised of 50-65% water, so it is reasonable that the moon might assert an effect on our emotions and physical vehicles.
One way to work with the phases of the moon is to first become aware of them and mindful of any effects you might notice as we move through the lunar month. Keeping a moon journal, writing down impressions, feelings and occurrences over the course of several months can reveal patterns that can then be worked with for personal growth and insight.
Loren Cruden provides an excellent overview of the moon phases and their meanings in her book Spirit of Place, so we will turn to that text for some illumination on the moon's place in our spiritual practice.
"The moon, with its mysterious silky light, pulls us with the tides and influences of its cycles. The moon's influence is something you can work with consciously or be an unwilling party to. Tuning to the moon cycles increases the effectiveness of your endeavors.
The moon has a fairly short cycle, making it easy to use as a transformative vehicle and easy to keep track of with its visible nightly changes. A moon cycle, or lunation, takes about twenty-nine days. It begins (if a circle can be said to begin) with the new moon. At this time the moon rises and sets with the sun, so it isn't seen at night. The new moon represents beginnings. It is a biological high tide, when the moon's gravitation is strong; it is a good time for planting or starting things, including inner seeds that you want to see flourish during the coming cycle. There is potential at this phase for sending healing energies. It is a space for clearing, and solitude is helpful with this. Avoid impulse and emotional outbursts or brooding.
Each night after the new moon, the moon rises and sets and hour later. As the moon waxes, or grows, the horns of the moon face left. This crescent phase is a time of realignment. The first quarter moon, which looks like a half circle, is a good opportunity for revitalizing your personal energies. You begin to nurture the seeds of the new moon and make sure the momentum culminates in positive forms.
The gibbous moon, shortly before full, brings forth the fruit of what has been sown. It is when the inner realms become illuminated and creativity is expressed.
The full moon rises and sets opposite the sun and thus is fully present in the night sky. The seeds of the new moon come into completion. It is a perfect time for making medicine, for dreaming, for magical sexuality – a phase of fulfillment and completion. If you are stressed, the full moon will amplify this; if you are centered, the moon will boost this also – it is a matter of resonance.
After full moon comes the waning part of the cycle. At its onset, you can release and disperse energies of the past. This third quarter is a time for change and making decisions.
Balsamic moon, with its horns pointing right, is when you can attend to unwanted patterns and prepare for renewal, the fresh start offered by the new moon.
The moon cycle, like all natural influences, does not control or victimize. It presents a framework for harmonious growth and alignment, constant in its circle, in it's opportunity."
It has been my sense, for some time now, that the moon and her cycles very much mirror the turning of the seasons on the earth, making her the lunar counterpart, if you will, of the solar cycle. New moon, with her womb-like darkness echoes the darkness of winter husbanding her seeds in the soil until the warmth and light of the spring encourages them to come forth. First quarter moon, like springtime, holds the promise of those seeds as they struggle to the surface, embracing the bounty of summer in their husks. Full moon in all her glory, lights up the night with silvery splendor, emulating the high noons of summertime when golden sunshine bathes the landscape in light and warmth. Last quarter moon has an autumnal feel; the waning of light, energies pulling in, reflecting the inward turning of activity and thought during the fall.
Honoring the cycles of the moon, like those of the turnings of the seasons, lends a framework to practice and a richness to our walk on the earth. It creates a rhythm of practice and of living that keeps us in touch with our natural selves; born of the earth, nurtured by her, supported by her, ever our guardian and nourisher.
 Loren Cruden, Spirit of Place: A Workbook for Sacred Alignment (Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books, 1995), 99-100.