November Folklore

‘November always seemed to me the Norway of the Year’

Emily Dickinson

November begins with the sun in Scorpio and ends in the sign of Sagittarius (Astrology). Astronomically speaking, the sun actually begins in the constellation of Libra, passes through Scorpius from approximately the 24th through the 29th and ends in the constellation of Ophiuchus, which is the only zodiacal constellation that is not associated with an astrological sign. The month itself moves much like its astrology, beginning with the dark energies of Scorpio and ending with the brighter arrow of Sagittarius pointed towards Yule, the New Year and general celebrations.

The birthstone of November is a Topaz, but much like the other birthstone correspondences this does not make any sense to me, and I think November should be Amethyst.  The flower associated with November is the Chrysanthemum and you can see this especially reflected in the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations (1st November) that use Chrysanthemums extensively for their Altars, Shrines and Grave Decorations.

November was known by the Anglo Saxons as ‘wind moanath’ – when the cold wind begins to blow and ‘blood month’ as this is when the cattle would be slaughtered for the winter months again. So much of the history of the first few festivals of November is actually Celtic/agricultural in origin and was adopted by the Catholic Church much later, it is impossible to enter November without thinking of the dead. This is a great description of development of the Samhain traditions……..

“This association of death with fertility provided the theological background for a great number of end-of-harvest festivals celebrated by many cultures across Eurasia. Like Samhain, these festivals (which, for example, included the rituals of the Dyedy (“Ancestors”) in the Slavic countries and the Vetrarkvöld festival in Scandinavia) linked the successful resumption of the agricultural cycle (after a period of apparent winter “death”) to the propitiation of the human community’s dead. The dead have passed away from the social concerns of  this world to the primordial chaos of the Otherworld where all fertility has its roots, but they are still bound to the living by ties of kinship. It was hoped that, by strengthening these ties precisely when the natural cycle seemed to be passing through its own moment of death, the community of the living would be better able to profit from the energies of increase that lead out of death back to life. Dead kin were the Tribe’s allies in the Otherworld, making it certain that the creative forces deep within the Land were being directed to serve the needs of the human community. They were, in Celtic terms, a “humanising” factor within the Fomorian realm.

Whatever the specific elements had been that determined the proper date of the end-of-harvest honouring of the dead in various places, by the ninth and tenth centuries the unifying influence of the Church had led to concentrating the rituals on November 1st and November 2nd. The first date was All Hallows, when the most spiritually powerful of the Christian community’s dead (the Saints) were invoked to strengthen the living community, in a way quite consistent with pre-Christian thought. The second date, All Souls, was added on (first as a Benedictine practice, beginning ca. 988) as an extension of this concept, enlarging it to include the dead of families and local communities. Under the mantle of the specifically Christian observances, however, older patterns of ancestor veneration were preserved.”
Sinquanon’s Journal, Samhain

November 1st – All Saints Day (All Hallows) to mark all saints. Traditionally the time that marked the end of Harvest and when the cattle would be slaughtered.

November 2nd – All Souls Day – This is to mark all dead souls, and would be the day when the souls of ancestors would return home to feast and visit loved ones. Candles would be left in windows and food left as offerings. You can see versions of this repeated in cultures all over the world. It speaks volumes of our ancient and continued desire to seek the human cycle in the natural world.

November 4th – Mischief Night – A night when general unruliness and restlessness would prevail as communities got bonfires and Guys ready for the following evening.

November 5th – Bonfire Night

November 11th – Martinmas Day – The Feast of St Martin, the time when farm labourers would seek other positions, traditionally a time to say goodbye to old faces and welcome new ones.



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