Tuesday, October 22, 2013



Samhain is known by most folks as Halloween, but for Wiccans and Pagans it's considered a Sabbath to honor the ancestors who came before us.  The fields are bare, the leaves have fallen from the trees, and the skies are going gray and cold. It is the time of year when the Earth has died and gone dormant. Every year on October 31, Samhain presents us with the opportunity to once more celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth.  It is a time to reconnect with our ancestors and honor those who have died. This is the time when the veil between our world and the spirit realm is thin, so it's the perfect time of year to make contact with the dead.
For the Norse it is Winter nights.  In the old calendar, winter begins about Mid-October; however this holiday may move about in the calendar depending on your seasons, many match it with Samhain. It is a time to celebrate the completed harvest and honor the ancestors.  It marked the beginning of a time of indoor work, thought and craftsmanship.  It also honors God Odin in his Wild Hunt. The mood is one of conserving resources against the scarcities of the coming cold season. This is a time of the year when the animals which could not be fed through the winter are killed and preserved. Usually at least one such animal was the subject of sacrifice with the kin, eating the held meat during the feast.  Libations of ale, milk or mead are traditionally poured onto the Earth as an offering.  Apples may be offered to the fallen ancestors.  Hay may be left out for Odin’s horse Sleipnir.  Odin’s mighty steed thus marks the kindred home as one of welcoming.

To the ancient Germanic people, death was never far away and it was viewed as a natural and necessary part of life.  Starting on this night, the great divisions between the worlds was somewhat diminished, which can allow the forces of chaos to invade the realms of order, the material world conjoining with the world of the dead.  At this time began the Wild Hunt in which the restless spirits of the dead walked amongst the living.  The dead could return to the places where they had lived and food was provided in their honor. 

Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Samhain, but typically the focus is on either honoring our ancestors or the cycle of death and rebirth. This is the time of year when the gardens and fields are brown and dead. The nights are getting longer, there's a chill in the air and winter is looming. We may choose to honor our ancestors, celebrating those who have died, and even try to communicate with them.


All Hallows’ Evening is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31.  Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving jack-o'-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, watching horror films, as well as the religious observances of praying, fasting and attending vigils or church services.


Dumb Supper

The dumb supper is one way to acknowledge the presence of our ancestors on the night of Samhain. It is believed that on this night, the veil between the realm of the living and of the dead is extremely thin and that our ancestors can come back to visit. The dumb supper consists of setting an extra place at the dinner table to welcome them back and to share in their company as we used to when they were living amongst us. It is a great family ritual that teaches that death is a passage and that the ones who have passed on are never really forgotten.


Jack O' Lanterns

The Irish and Scottish people began making lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away the wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets were used. Immigrants from these countries brought the tradition to America where they found the pumpkin, a fruit native to America that made the perfect jack o' lanterns.

New Year

Sunset on Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The old year has passed, the harvest has been gathered, cattle and sheep have been brought in from the fields and the leaves have fallen from the trees. The Earth slowly begins to die around us.  This is a good time for us to look at wrapping up the old and preparing for the new in our lives. Think about the things you did in the last twelve months. Have you left anything unresolved? If so, now is the time to wrap things up. Once you’ve gotten all that unfinished stuff cleared away, and out of your life, then you can begin looking towards the next year.


Fire Festival

The bonfires were to warm friendly spirits and ward off evil spirits and also represented the Sun which they wished would return, bringing heat and growth. It was custom to give an ember from the fires to attending families, who would then take it home to start a new cooking fire. These fires were believed to keep the homes happy and free from any lost evil spirits.


A Prayer to the Ancestors

This is the night when the gateway between
our world and the spirit world is thinnest.
Tonight is a night to call out those who came before.
Tonight I honor my ancestors.
Spirits of my fathers and mothers, I call to you,
and welcome you to join me for this night.
You watch over me always,
protecting and guiding me,
and tonight I thank you.
Your blood runs in my veins,
your spirit is in my heart,
your memories are in my soul.

No comments:

Post a Comment