This time of the year is not about death but the dead, honouring our ancestors with respect and love. This is their festival devoted entirely to them with honour, the Feast of the dead. As it’s the end of the agricultural year it reminds us that death is not an end, as once again we know spring is half a year away. As the earth renews itself, so does the spirits of our ancestors and our own souls, a constant cycle of rebirth. We say goodbye to the old things we no longer need and goodbye to the spirits of our ancestors that have passed in the last year. As we celebrate their life we ask that they have renewal of spirit and rebirth for the asking. We invite our dead to draw near and often food and drink is left out for them. As we have invited them to this party they are the guest of honour. The Crone or Hag Goddess starts her rule now from Samhuinn to Imbolc. She is an aspect of the triple Goddess, the wise ancient one.
Traditionally this was a three day festival and a time to commune with the departed. The veil has lifted and opened the doorway to the otherworld, the spirit world. This is the supernatural time of the year, when the boundaries were down. Many ancient people would dress up and cross dress, blacken their faces and pull mischievous tricks on others. Dressing up as spirits of the dead many young men would rally round the countryside blowing their horns. Housewives would run out with food and drink to appease these “spirits”, to refuse them refreshments would bring vengeance on their household hence the trick or treat of modern times. They often carried turnips or pumpkins with a candle inside, representing eerily glowing death heads.
In Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland it was the time of the faery or sithe, also a time when demons and dark spirits may come forth. Huge bonfires where lit to draw the good and helpful spirit near and to advert the eyes of the not so good. Thanksgiving offerings were cast into the fire in honour of the year’s harvest. The ashes from these fires were sprinkled on the fields to protect them in the winter months. But this festival is the most solemn one and the elders would draw away to commune and honour all that has passed away.
In parts of Britain the Lord of the Wild Hunt was abroad, leading the horde of dead. He is known also as the King of the Faery’s, Herne the Hunter or even king Arthur himself. In Scotland they carried hawks and were known as Gabriel’s Ratchets, riding westward to collect the newly dead souls to their place in the spirit otherworld.
Samhuinn was also a time for the stock to be culled for winter to stock the larder with enough meat for the coming winter. The fields have yielded their harvest and all grain has been stored, this is the time of change, from summer to winter from fertile fields to barren earth.
Associated also with this time of the year are letting go, divination, yew, garlic and angelica.
Pronounced as 'Sow'ain', the most important festival in the witches year and marks the end and the beginning of the wheel of the year, just the same as new years eve. Rituals begin after dark peaking at midnight and often go on into the next day, 1st of November, which is the new year.
Samhain is linked with the death process as the warm months die out and the cold winter months step in. In the past people often took stock of their supplies ready for winter, grain they had and animals they had. Where there were short supplies, animals which were thought unable to last the long winter months were slaughtered for meat and preserved. Farmers put their fields to rest for the winter and everything that was not needed was given back to Mother Earth to rot.
Samhain is also a time when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest, a time when the spirits of loved ones can return and so a special place is set at the table for any who so wish to join the feast. Traditionally a candle to guide the spirits of loved ones home is lit in the window and also deters any unwanted spirits and is the origins of the pumpkin or jack-o-lantern. The spirit of the loved ones recently departed are then guided to the Summerlands, which is where the spirit rest until it is time to move on. It is also a time when the spirits can talk through us more easily and all types of divination such as scrying, tarot, runes etc are used.
It is a time when witches celebrate the wild hunt and the Horned God gathers the lost souls who linger or are unwary. The Goddess takes on her role as the Crone or Wise One and so we look for wisdom and guidance. A time to tie up loose ends, pay unpaid debts, finish arguments etc, a time to put everything to rest. Look at the changes in the weather, changes in nature and how things now begin to rest and die and decay to make way for new life and growth after the winter months.
Ideas for celebrations-:
Alters can be decorated with pomegranates, marigolds, chrysanthemums and jack-o-lanterns. A black and white candle can be placed there to mark the old and the new year and divination tools are a good idea.
Ask the four elements to be present with you-: Air (east), Fire (south), Water (west, Earth (north)
Visualise the Horned God as hunter and the Goddess as Crone and ask them to join you.
Light the black candle that represents the past year and think about your life in the past year. Give thanks for all the successes and the good things. Consider the lessons you have learnt from failures and problems. If you have any bad issues or characteristics you need to dismiss write these on pieces of paper, think about them and burn them in the cauldron. Remember all those who have passed, animals, friends and family.
Light the white candle to represent the new year and think about what you want to achieve or happen. Ask the Lord and Lady to bless these endeavours. Now is a good time to use whichever divination tools you choose and any Magik you wish to conduct.
Put out the black candle and say farewell to the old year and goodbye to the sun as he goes to rest to be reborn again at Yule. Bid farewell to the elements and thank them in the order you invited them in and say thank you and farewell to the Lord and Lady for their presence. Let the white candle burn whilst you eat and drink something to ground yourself, but leave some to put outside when you have finished, for liberation, lastly close the gate between the worlds.
PLEASE NOTE-: NEVER LEAVE CANDLES BURNING UNATTENDED