Have A Blessed Samhain

Samhain (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin or SAM-hayne) means “End of Summer” or “Summer’s End”. October 31st begins this Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of Winter or the “darker half” of the year. Samhain is traditionally celebrated from October 31st to November 1st, beginning and ending at sunset. Since ancient times, this Celtic pagan holiday has been documented and celebrated by many. Several Neolithic passage tombs have been noted to be aligned with the sunrise around the time of the festival in Ireland as well.

Historically, cattle and livestock were brought back from the Summer pastures and slaughtered for the Winter. Afterwards, special bonfires were lit and used for protection and cleansing while rituals were conducted. The Aos Si, meaning spirits or fairies, were said to be able to enter our world easier during this time. To ensure that the people and their livestock would survive the Winter, rituals were held for the Aos Si and offerings were left out as well. Many also believed that the souls of dead relatives and loved ones would revisit their homes so the feast was often had with a place set for these visitors.

Halloween actually gets a lot of its roots from Samhain, even down to trick-or-treating. “Mumming” and “guising”, dressing in costume, and going door-to-door to recite versus for food was also very common on this day. Although, receiving food was not the only purpose of dressing up. Many would also put on these disguises as a way to imitate and hide from the Aos Si.

Modern-day Samhain still holds many of these traditions but has also been adapted by religions such as Celtic neopagans and Wiccans. Today, thousands of Witches, Wiccans, Druids and other Pagans around the world will observe this sacred time of year. Although, current celebration varies according to spiritual tradition and also geography. Some celebrate over several days and nights while others celebrate from sundown October 31st through November 1st. Others may even wait until the weekend, the next full or new moon or even wait until November 6th, which coincides with the astronomical midpoint between the Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice.

When Christianity became the dominant religion throughout Europe, Samhain was changed to “All Saints’ Day” or even “All Hallows” to honor Christian saints and martyrs on November 1st. This is a notable trend with the good majority of Pagan traditions and holidays – getting overtaken by Christianity that is. Now, Halloween is often confused as the same holiday as Samhain – which is not true. Samhain has long been associated with death and nature, and also that during this time of year the veil is thin between the world of the living and the realm of the dead.

To conclude, here are modern rituals and practices that are done to celebrate Samhain:

 

1. Samhain Nature Walk:

Taking a walk in a natural area around where you may live while paying attention to the environment. This is also used for reflecting on the circle of life, death and rebirth as well as nature. Also, taking objects, if allowed, from the area to decorate your home is also common

2. Setting up an Alter:

Either by using an already established alter or if new to the pagan tradition setting up an area to leave in place for the three days prior to the holiday. Decorating the alter with foods, dried leaves, mulled cider, wine or mead and much more.

 

3. Ceremony:

Often started by preparing a meal that focuses on fruits, vegetable and wild game. The table can be set with candles, a centerpiece and also a cup of apple cider or wine. The food is put down all at once and the table is often considered to be a sacred space. Words are also often recited as well as the ceremony is continued outdoors before the meal and the offering are given.

 

4.Ancestral Altar

Made to honor the deceased and is often accompanied by mementos or heirlooms, candles and anything else the family may want to add.

 

5.Guiding the Spirts

This is often done by placing candles in the window to guide the spirits to the Spirit world while words are spoken to aid the process.

 

Other important traditions include; visiting a cemetery, taking time to reflect, holding a séance, bonfires, divinatory guidance, divine invocations, transforming expressions and also community connections.

Have a blessed Samhain.

 

 

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