Traditionally celebrated on October 31, Samhain also called So-wein, Sow-in, Sabbath that marks the third and last harvest. This day marks the end of the summer, the death of the Solar God and the return to the underworld of the Goddess who regenerates in the hollow of the earth matrix for her winter gestation. As the legend of Demeter and Persephone teaches, the Goddess is confined to the underworld for the winter, symbolizing the infertility and gestation of the Earth until spring and its renewal.
The theme of this Sabbath is therefore to honor death, the cycle it engenders and its eternal mystery. Pagans greet and respect all those who have disappeared from the world and are living in the immaterial world. The old tradition stated that you must have everything before Samhain or be at the risk of losing your harvest after this time. Samhain is a time to reflect on the past year, to accept death as a phenomenon of life that escapes our control. This also brings a form of hope because the cycle continues.
Samhain, also called Halloween, was once a sacrificial time. It was at this time that cattle were slaughtered to obtain food for the winter season. The God, who was identified with animals, ensured the continuity of existence. Today, sacrificial rites are no longer practiced, of course, but the tradition of getting ready for the winter continues.
The door between the two worlds is very thin on this day. It’s the perfect day to take tarots, clocks, runes and magic mirrors, stones and companion crystals in order to connect to the memory of our ancestors, to dedicate a loving thought to them and to ask them for protection and strength to continue to advance. Afterwards, it is better to leave the dead in peace so that their souls end their journey to reincarnation.
A little history…
The Celts believed that Samhain was the night of the big hunt. The gods passed through the “gate of the worlds” running to the fields in search of food, which had not been harvested. These gods were not visible to all, but those who could not see them “felt” a chill or a freezing wind. It is said that the Gods Cernunnos and the Queen of the Fairies commanded this great hunt through the night sky.
The Celtic tradition placed a generous portion of the evening meal on the family altar in respect for the Gods and Spirits who followed them. This gave them a blessing for the tough season ahead.
On the arrival of Christianity, death was considered a macabre event and the people began to be afraid of spirits, ghosts and death itself. Superstitions developed and hideous lanterns appeared in the cottages, carved in turnips especially, to frighten the dead on that day and drive them away. This tradition is reflected today by the pumpkins that are carved for Halloween.
This Sabbath, although solemn, is a ritual of celebration because we know that everything that dies comes back to life, that nothing is lost and nothing is created, everything is transformed. It is therefore a manifestation of hope and joy and respectful contemplation for those who always accompany us even when we can’t see them.
Activities to practice during Samhain
* Make masks and costumes to represent the Gods
* Pay off debts and settle conflicts
* Get rid of a bad habit; for that cut an apple into half then while being focused on your wish, gather the two parts and bury the apple as a sacrifice and a union with the earth
* Meditate on the past year by making a drawing of Tarot, Runes
* Welcome children and give them sweets to celebrate their youth
* Place offerings and flowers on the graves of ancestors
* Make a board for the clock
* Make the wheel of the lunar year
* Make a broom
* Make your wish
Some Traditions Of Samhain
Samhain’s recipes include; apple cakes, roasted chestnuts and chestnuts, mashed squash, potatoes, onion confit, hams, dried fruits, nuts, almonds, honey etc…Honor the ancestors, during the meal; place a plate more at the table. Serve a generous portion of each prepared dish and then invite the spirits to its table. While eating, think of those you loved and who are gone. Talk about them during the meal; at the end of the meal, thank the spirits for their presence and take the full plate and a glass of wine to the front door. Leave them there all night.
Another way to honor the ancestors is that each one presents himself by mentioning his lineage during the ritual. For example: “I am a girl, daughter of …, grandchild of …etc. In mentioning the ancestors, you should recall great great grand lineage. Men will present their male lineage in the same way. Finish this tradition with a song in honor of the ancestors. For that, use your imagination to compose it.
Make the wheel of the year; take a plate or a shallow dish where you will paint a large circle. Make a point in the middle of this circle and draw eight lines radiating from this point to the circumference of the circle. Obtain the symbol of the wheel of time, symbol of the Sabbaths, symbol of eternity.
Turn off the fire of the year. Samhain is the New Year for Pagans, witches and wizards. To symbolize the end of the year, we extinguish the fire of the past year. This is done by lighting two symbolic lights, one for the year that ends, and one for the year that will begin. The New Year’s fire is blessed during the ritual. That of the past year is extinguished and then relighted from a fire that will be the fire of New Year.
In the night of Samhain, it is customary to place a candle on the window sill to guide the souls of the deceased to Summerland and bury apples in the packed earth that will be used to feed them during their journey. In Wicca, November 1st is referred to as a new year and irrespective of what might have happened in the past, the wheel of life continues.