Havdalah As Magical Ritual

I just wrote this piece for my Ritualist page and felt called to share it here as well.

I am excited to hear your thoughts on this matter!

I have been listening to an audiobook called, “Witch” and it is about both waking the witch that lives within women, but more importantly for this story here, it relives some of the history of witches and witchcraft.

As I was out and about the other day, running errands and listening to said book I was fading in and out of paying attention and studious focus. All of a sudden Lisa Lister was listing off the tools of a witch… and all of a sudden the tools we, as Jews, use to celebrate Havdalah jumped in to my mind. They felt so incredibly similar….

I have since been researching the inception of the Havdalah ritual and it’s tools, but haven’t quite found what I am looking for. I mean really, I haven’t even gotten a straight answer about where Havdalah originated …. but of course, that’s how it seems to work when researching Jewish Lore…

In this instance Rambam (Maimonides) holds that Havdalah comes from Torah directly. He believed that Havdalah comes from the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day, keep it holy” — Exodus 20:7.

Without fail, others disagreed and claim that rather, Havdalah was a rabbinic decree.

And now I have found a third argument that states that Havdalah was created by the Men of the Great Assembly (Anshei Knesset Ha-Gedolah), which was a group of 120 sages that worked as a legislative body. They were founded by Ezra the Scribe in the fourth century BCE. They were convened following the completion of the Second Temple and lasted until 70 C.E. when Rabbinic Judaism took over (when the second temple was destroyed)

“There are three theories as to how the Havdalah blessing was incorporated into the Jewish prayer service: (1) that the Havdalah blessing originally formed a supplementary part of the 4th Blessing in the evening Amidah (the central prayer in synagogue prayer services) in Ma’ariv or Arvit (evening prayer service) on the outgoing of Shabbat, or the Sabbath, and later on in time, was recited over a cup of wine; (2) that the Havdalah blessing was originally said over a cup of wine and later on in time, was added as a supplementary part to the 4th Blessing in the evening Amidah (the central prayer in synagogue prayer services) in Ma’ariv or Arvit (evening prayer service) on the outgoing of Shabbat, or the Sabbath; or (3) that reciting Havdalah over a cup of wine and including it as a supplementary part of the 4th Blessing in the evening Amidah (the central prayer in synagogue prayer services) in Ma’ariv or Arvit (evening prayer service) on the outgoing of Shabbat, or the Sabbath were instituted at the same time.

There are also two theories as to how the Havdalah ceremony began: one theory states that it began as a home ceremony. Since it was a Jewish tradition to close out meals with the bringing in of burning incense in the form of spices that were placed on hot coals, and since this could not be done on Shabbat, then the spices were instead brought in after the end of the third and final meal on Shabbat in the late afternoon on Saturday. Therefore, the Havdalah ceremony became associated with the end of Shabbat. A second theory states that the Havdalah ceremony began in the synagogue but, “for the sake of the children” (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot), the Havdalah ceremony early on became a home ceremony by itself.

Although Havdalah is traditionally attributed to the Men of the Great Assembly, its content and structure were still being debated during the time when the Talmud was being compiled (about 10 B.C.E. until 500 C.E.). It is believed that the addition of light and spices to the Havdalah ceremony began in the 2nd century C.E.” (http://www.angelfire.com/pa2/passover/havdalah/#havdalah-faq-3)

What is Havdalah and how do we perform it’s rituals? 

Havdalah translates literally to “separation” and is the marking of the ending of Shabbat and the beginning of a new week.

It is performed by lighting a special, multi wicked Havdalah candle, drinking wine, and smelling spices while reciting specified prayers. (which in my world, are often sung)

Some believe that following:

YaKNHaZ

I am left wanting more.

The witches tools Lisa Lister was discussing were goblets for wine, candles, herbs, cauldrons for burning incense and I can not now extricate the visual of these two groups of things being nearly identical.

What are your thoughts about this?

Any idea where I can find more information?

Excited to hear your thoughts!

Rakia/ Sky

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