Around this time of the year, the third and final harvest is celebrated. In October grapes and root vegetables are due. It is also global pumpkin season. Herbs gathered after this point were considered bitter and useless. Trees are finished with sugar production and shed their leaves during the wet season, providing less windage to autumn storms. Simultanously, rainwater now pours down unhindered along branches and stems, straight towards the roots and deeper. Trees turn barren, fields turn brown. November brings storms and cold, muddy weather. The nights are cold, and the first hoarfrosts are about to put nature to sleep. Yet, the grayness is lit up by colorful branches and fruits such as the purple beauty berry, orange firethorn, dark blue sloes, black privet or red holly berries, which provide food to overwintering birds.
In spiritual terms, the moon wins over the sun and the earth mother (vegetation goddess) returns to the underworld, where she resides besides Herne, the black hunter, who has captured the sun. It is Samhain, or modern Halloween.
Samhain probably comes from proto-Celtic samoni – meaning “reunion” or “assembly”. This could refer to an assembly of people, an assembly or renunion of the living and the dead. It could also simply refer to an assembly of harvest or the coming together of the months of the year, since Samhain marked the beginning of the Celtic New Year.
Now begins the darkest time of the year.
In need for light, warmth and protection against the dark, lanterns are set up around homes and properties. Whatever has been gathered up to this point and has not been processed yet, is being cooked, bottled up, stored or crafted into useful things. The ancestors are revered and the gods of the underworld are appeased.
On the evening of 31 October, also known as All Hallows Eve and Halloween, the gates to the underworld open and the spirits of the dead are believed to visit the living. The event is luciously celebrated during the Mexican Day of the Dead. The oppulent celebration includes bountiful offerings, music and dance, to welcome the beloved dead and keep the dark dead out.
Christians celebrate and honor their saints and the souls of their dead during All Saints, All Souls and Totensonntag. Candles and lanterns are placed on graves and light up the dark places of the dead, which are in addition covered with evergreen twigs and colorful flowers.
Children dress up for Halloween and play trick or treat. There is also the tradition of St. Martin’s day, when children gather to walk up and down the streets with self-made lanterns, singing songs and reenacting the legend of St. Martin, who cut his cloak and gave half of it to a beggar, who was shivering from the cold.
Samhain is a cross-quarter day on the pagan wheel of the year (and was originally a Celtic quarter day). It is oriented by the moon’s phase and falls on the November or October full moon, respective the full moon that occurs closest to the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, and when the sun moves into Scorpio. The October full moon is also known as Hunter Moon, Harvest Moon and Falling Leaves Moon. The November full moon as Beaver Moon and Freezing Moon or Frost Moon.
Main magical practices during this time are: protection magic, banishing magic, necromancy, black magic or nigromancy, rituals with masks and effigies, pact making and pact renewal (due the opening of the gates to the spirit world).
Here comes a another fresh batch of Samhain incense! This blend is was the first I created for the harvest festivals and closes the circle, being dedicated to the third and final harvest feast. At the same time it marks the beginning of the Gaelic New Year. On Samhain the living and the dead assemble and sacrifices are made. The blend is hence both protective and strengthening as well as suited for opening the gates to the spirit world and chthonic realms. It smells woody, herbaceaous and resinous.
Contains: amber, juniper, mugwort, pine + spruce resin from local forests, oak bark, rosemary, sage, thyme, vervain
Please remember my ordering deadlines for Samhain: 18 Oct. ’23 for international shipments 25 Oct. ’23 for orders within Germany
The third Samhain Celebration combined again both finest black metal as well as exclusive hand-made art fitting to the event. Ybenhain offered resin jewelry and items all made of bizarre forest finds, from crazy colored beetles, weird spiders to plenty of animal teeth, combined with flora and fauna from the forest ground and trees. You can check them out at the Ybenhain Instagram. In contrast, Black Arts of mine creates all things from metal. He contributed the etched copper pendants and pins with the Samhain Harvest Seal for the event. Besides that there were some pieces that drew my attention, such as the precision work on a copper hendecagram pendant (see below). There was also a weird metal chest with a fly engraving, housing a steel cased vial filled with a dozen dead flies. You can view the works in all their morbid glory on the Black Arts of Mine Instagram. Last but not least, I brought with me new art editions as well as an ever growing assortment of incense blends.
The other part of the evening, and a reason for people to travel as far as from the States, were the bands. I could not check out all of them, but at least caught a few snapshots of Turia, the Mosaic feat. Schwadorf set and Fyrnask. I would love to hear about your first impression of seeing Turia live and realizing a female is doing those ghoulish voces…
Signature feature and fundament for the evening’s special atmosphere appreciated so much by the audience is the stage set, annually adorned with reeds, ivy, chestnut garlands, corn dolls, carved skulls and this year’s corn sun. Connecting it all since three years is the Seal of the Harvest in the back, which I once designed for the event.
Initiating the Samhain magic
The Samhain Celebration in Gotha is one of those rare occasions where I can show presence with my work and art and meet people that are on a similar wavelength. It is a unique combination of art, tradition, music and spirit, which both is highly satisfying for the performers as well as the audience. Making it all possible are the people of The House of Inkantation, Eisenwald and a handful of helpers.
A quick reminder, to receive your order in time for Samhain/Halloween/Day of the Dead it must be placed until Sunday, the 21st of October!
Fitting incense blends for both occasions are available in the shop. For the first time I am also offering sample bags with 30 ml of each. Perfect for small budgets and one time use!
Next week I am participating again in the Samhain Celebration in Gotha and after that will travel on to Dresden for 2 weeks, in order to winter-proof the garden and work on new art. So please note, that any orders placed after this weekend may not ship before the 15th of November. Thanks for your understanding!
A blessed Samhain / All Hallows / Day of the Dead or however you celebrate this liminal time!
One week ago I took part in the second Samhain Celebration, hosted by the House of Inkantation, at The Londoner in Gotha. I attended bleary-eyed yet exited. I had worked until the very last minute on the artworks and merch, which included ink drawings of my sigilla magica, samples and glass jars with my self-made incense blends, the last Teufelskunst rosaries, postcards and the original art I had done for German doom band Werian.
The House of Inkantation folks prepared again a unique stage design, which was crowned by a horse skull, into which G. Bergfex of Kvlt&Knochen had carved and imbued with blood the official Samhain Harvest Seal. On the stage performed Rim Runa, Werian, Forndom, Sun of the Sleepless and Malokarpathan. Another special treat were the dedicated wooden boxes pyrographed by C. & M. Falkenstein.
My company, the photographer Anne Ida Helmer, has set herself the goal to document me for a photo series – by all means not an easy task. But I was glad to have her around. We spend the whole weekend in Gotha, touching base and forging future plans. It was nice to finally meet some of the people in person, whom I had done artwork for, and to get to know new faces. I was overwhelmed by the support and interest in my work. This made me forget the sacrifices of the past weeks. It was also refreshing to get to witness new music, bands I had and had not heard of before. I come out of this gathering with new art commissions, possible participation in new events and more.
With the arrival of autumn and in view of the last warm weekend for this year, I am delighted to share some seasonal musings and the most recent shop news with you.
As I am typing, my hands smell of fragrant cempasuchil flower… the day before though they were still sticky from the self gathered pine resin. Both are ingredients in incense blends individually dedicated to the season’s various feast days.
“End of Summer”
Samhain means “end of summer”. The Gaelic festival marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Today it is celebrated on the night between October 31st – November 1st. It is also associated with St. Martin’s day, November 11th. Some also connect it with the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice (or the nearest full moon), when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun reaches 225 degrees.
Samain is also the name of the Celtic god of death, who from this point on ruled over the land, while the goddess of vegetation was forced to decent into darkness until the coming spring. Her parting is accompanied by the honk of the geese leaving for the South. Any herb harvested after this point would be considered harmful, save for the grey mugwort. During Samhain the doors to the spirit-/ underworld opened, and the spirits that would enter, were not always friendly. In some tales, spirits of darkness and chaos (such as the Irish Fomorians and the Crom Cruach) would be given human sacrifices.
Rural people’s survival depended on the harvest. The fear of loosing the harvest, fierce autumn storms, the long nights etc. was real. It was essential to secure the harvest and protect the home, barn and family. It was custom to cleanse and protect the home by burning herbs. Herbs associated with protection and healing, as well as the opening of the gates to the spirit world, are hence part of my Samhain incense.
From the need to protect oneself may also have sprung the latter-day custom of placing candles in hollowed out objects. Readily available were turnips or pumpkins, then turned into figurative lanterns sporting demonic grimaces. Similar to the scarecrow, the lantern was to ward of the ‘evil’ and at the same time its flame lit up the long nights. This “light in the dark” is embodied by the amber, fossilized tree resin. Amber is called Bernstein in German, from Low German börnen, meaning “to burn”. The Greeks knew it as ḗlektron, from ēléktōr, meaning “shining sun”.
Samhain also marks the time when deciduous trees have shed most of their leaves. The leaves fall to the ground, decay and nurture the cycle of life. The wood keeps men warm, the bark heals. The evergreen conifers deliver in addition aromatic resins with cleansing and healing properties. An important part in this incense is thus the rosy red resin gathered from pine trees in my area, as well as fragrant juniper wood and needles from my own garden.
When burnt, the blend develops a strong white smoke and is best used outdoors or in a well ventilated area. If used indoors, air the room and then enjoy the scent, which will last for days.
Contains: amber, juniper needles and bark, mugwort, oak bark, pine and fir resin, rosemary, sage, thyme, vervain
Use: Use this incense blend for cleansing, healing, protection and communication with the spirits. Its fragrant ingredients evoke in particular the spirits of the wild/ sylvan realm and may aid in re-connecting with the spiritual world of the forests and wilderness. It can also be used on the “Totensonntag“, for contacting one’s ancestors and for protection from “Wiedergänger” (revenants).
“Day of the Dead”
The pagan festivities surrounding Samhain have been substituted by Christian feast days throughout a large part of the Western world. Folkloric customs are a part of marketing schemes. From the pagan Samhain to the Christian All Saints day, the modern world celebrates “Halloween” with plastic skulls, led pumpkins and dressing up as corpses. Everyone can be a zombie for one day and night and feel more alive than the rest of the year. Halloween gives a good example for cultural appropriation gone wild, every year a little more. But I blame none. Because it is part of human nature, both to adopt other traditions as well as to defend one’s own culture and rituals.
One of these traditions that have been sinking into the Western world and heavily influence our aesthetics, is the Mexican Dia de los Muertos. As the festival in Mexico grows bigger and becomes more impressive every year, so grows the fascination with it outside of Mexico. Just like the cult of Santissima Muerte grows in numbers both in and outside Mexico. Death worship is real and prospering. It is nothing extraordinary.
All over the world people venerate their ancestors and spirits of death, with altars at home, at their graves or in temples or chapels dedicated to them. And often there are special festivals dedicated to the veneration of the dead. In some countries these celebrations fall in the months of July and August, such as the Japanese Obon or the Argentinian feast for San la Muerte. In other countries they center around the days and nights spanning from All Hallow’s Eve (October 31st) to All Saints (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).
A funny exception is Germany, where it is custom to visit and adorn the graves of family members on the Totensonntag (the “Sunday of the Dead”). It falls on the last Sunday before the first Advent (usually at end of November) and, though of Protestant origin, is a protected holiday in all of Germany. And death is no funny affair in Germany, as the day is meant to be spent in silence, e.g. it is forbidden to dance or play loud music in public.
So, for me “Halloween” is not the time to commemorate my ancestors. But it is still a special time of the year, during which I am free to explore and find light in other traditions.
In Mexico the celebration starts on All Hallow’s Eve, when children make altars for the angelitos (the souls of dead children). November 1st is referred to as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) or Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”), which is when the souls of dead children are honored. On November 2nd, the actual Dia de los Muertos, the graves of dead family members are visited. The graves are adorned with cempasuchil flowers, the flowers of the dead. Between the orange sea of flowers, candles are lit and Muertos (the bread of the dead) and sugar skulls are placed as offerings, along with favorite food, beverages, photos etc. The dead are greeted and welcomed back to the world of the living for one day and night. Dancing and intoxication are welcome and encouraged.
This way of approaching the dead is very different from the official German custom. Since a few years I have joined in the tradition of baking bread of the dead and incorporating some of the Mexican elements in my own worship practice. I can tell it kept me busy! This year I am forced to cut down a bit. I hence created this incense blend for the day of the dead, with favorite ingredients and my own Calavera design.
This incense blend is foremost dedicated to the Mexican tradition of venerating the ancestors, but may also work in the contexts of European ancestor veneration, as it simply pleases and honors the beloved dead. Alternative incense blends for these occasions can be found in my shop.
Contains: cempasuchil (marigold) flower petals, dark copal, myrrh, palo santo wood, patchouli, red rose, rosemary, tobacco, yauthli, yerba santa
Use: celebrating the day(s) of the dead and honoring the beloved dead
Teufelskunst contributes to the Samhain Celebration on November 4th, in Gotha (Germany). Teufelskunst provides the central part of the visual concept in the form of the “Samhain harvest” seal, which is featured on various merchandise articles. Teufelskunst also provides the incense of the night. A sample of the blend comes with each of the 100 merchandise kits. Included in this special offering is also a journal, the “Samhain Herald” featuring my essay about Samhain and the Wild Hunt, paying special attention to the European and Germanic traditions associated with the darkest time of the year.
Support: Soth Arts
Soth Arts created unique qliphotic rosaries for the night, eight of which are adorned with our blacksmith’s Teufelskunst bronze amulet. The rosaries are made of ebony and black wooden beads. Besides this will also be available seven rosaries with sawn-out twin-serpents as well as one rosary with a black Calvary cross pendant:
Date: November 4th
Location: The Londoner – English Pub, Gotha
Entrance: 6 pm
Begin: 8 pm
For the past weeks (and with interruption due to sickness), I have been working meticulously on the set-up for ritually blessing this year’s harvest. Of course it is not possible to pile up all the herbs and seeds gathered over the year. So instead I created a new, dynamic working sigil, which can be adopted and rearranged for different needs. In my own ritual the sigil is constructed from different plant parts and seeds, each corresponding with one of the four elements and esoteric symbolism. I.e. the sickles are made out of fennel stalks and vervain herb. For the stang in the center was used a thorn-apple stalk with pods and thornapple leaf and seed for the triangle symbolizing the spirit housed within the green. Of course you could use other herbs, real sickles, or simply trace the lines in the soil.
My offerings given to the spirits included self-gathered pine tree resin, Samhain protection incense, four beeswax candles, water and rum. The operation can be performed in silent contemplation or you call upon specific crossroad spirits and deities of your tradition. When done, all parts of the sigil can be gathered and employed to different sorcerous ends. Important is, if the ritual is dedicated to a certain spirit or deity you should stick with it.
Now I mentioned this was a dynamic sigil. As you can see in the above picture, the ritual aimed at blessing objects (in this case my seed boxes), which are placed inside the blades of the four sickles. A different ritual setting would consist of placing links to the four elements inside the sickles, e.g. offerings corresponding to each or your main altar tools. The point is, that you can construct and arrange the set-up in different ways suiting your needs. Now here are a few suggestions how to go about it:
Recently someone pointed out that the placement of the four elements inside my sigil was “wrong”. He was reasoning from the viewpoint of Western Mystery Tradition / Tarot. Well, as you can see there are different versions that all can be worked with. It is entirely up to you if you want to employ a tradition-specific succession and which you chose. Important is, if you do, that you contemplate and know why you chose one option over another.
Btw. I am looking forward to use the earth-bound altar again. It was altogether a very powerful experience employing sorcerous herbs and soil in this way.
PS: Please remember, I will process any new orders by the 2nd week of November. Until then I am preparing for my stall and exhibition at the Samhain Celebration on November 4th in Gotha (Germany).