Well, it’s the big day itself. End of the witch-year.
See, the ancient Celts only recognised two seasons, Summer and Winter. Winter begins at sundown on October 31st. Summer begins at sundown on April 30th. This is why Hallowe’en – or Samhain – is a big thing in Pagan paths associated in any way with British tradition. (The other festival is Beltaine, or May Day, and it’s the other really big one – Maypoles, flowers, up before dawn, all that kind of thing. Samhain’s about death; Beltaine’s about life. Two essential sides of the coin. Enough about Belatine, we’ll talk about that in six months.)
As I have done previously, here’s my article on what Samhain’s all about. (I’m a writer and an educator, of coutrse I have articles on these things.) I meant to post the articles for each Sabbat – there’s eight in all – as the days arrived, but with one thing and another, well, life gets in the way. Samhain’s about clearing out the deadwood in your life and letting old things go, so maybe after this weekend I’ll be a little more focused. Who knows?
Anywhats. Article ho!
Samhain, also called Hallowe’en, All Soul’s Day, and Saveen, is celebrated on October 31, although the precise date varies year to year; in actuality Samhian arrives when the Sun reaches 15 degrees into Scorpio, which this year lands on November 8th. This festival is the end of what is called the modern Wheel of the Year. As the seasonal year is a circular cycle, this festival is also the beginning, as all ends hold within them the promise of a new birth.
Samhain is a festival which honours the dead. There is great emphasis placed on history and tradition in modern Paganism, and the ritual recognition of ancestors at Samhain is of great importance. As at Beltaine on the first of May, the veils between the worlds thin, which is to say that the otherworld or spirit realm seems much closer to us, allowing us to communicate with those beyond the veil, by offering them heartfelt good wishes and love.
However, Samhain is not a time to fool around with spirit boards, or to go roaming through cemeteries. Rather, it is a festival which allows us to examine our lives and say goodbye to those projects and people who are no longer with us for whatever reason, allowing them (and ourselves) to truly move on as we relinquish whatever grip we held upon them for various reasons – out of love, fear, or anger, for example. In the mythological cycle surrounding the Wheel of the Year, this is the time when the God descends to the Underworld, having been sacrificed along with the grain of the crops. The Goddess is in her Crone aspect, the Veiled Lady who gathers the dead to her bosom, She who holds the scythe and the knife.
Seasonally, this festival marked the beginning of Winter for the ancient Celts, who recognised only two seasons (Summer, of course, begins on Beltane). It is the third and final harvest festival, and marks the time of quiet and reflection that will occupy our minds and hearts until Yule, or Midwinter, when the God will once again be reborn, the Sun will begin to strengthen once more, and we will begin to plan our coming seasons.
Samhain is a festival that our modern society has truly grasped and brought into the mainstream. Dressing up in costume echoes folk practice of disguising children so that malicious spirits will be fooled into thinking they too are abroad to create mischief among men. Carving jack o’lanterns descends from either the practice of keeping a lantern in the window to guide the spirits of ancestors back to the bosom of their family for the night, or the practice of creating glowing maleficent faces to convince the evil spirits that the house had already been targeted by one of their brethren.
As this Sabbat revolves around ancestors, it is a festival that usually involves much storytelling. Some families perform a Dumb Supper: they lay a place at the table for those who have passed over, and serve them a portion of their meal. The meal is eaten in silence, allowing each family member to receive whatever impressions or message from the other side that the ancestors wish to communicate.
Main Samhain Concepts: the final harvest; altar decorations of apples; cauldron used as symbol of rebirth and transformation; honouring ancestors; night of divination; recognition of the essential presence of death within the life cycle.
A blessed Samhain from everyone at the Owlyblog!