Samhain is Coming!
Kidding aside (and yes, I am a Game of Thrones fan, for those who recognize Jon Snow!), Samhain IS coming, representing the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the New Year (the dark half of the year), the new Wheel of the Year… and the time of year when the veils between the worlds are said to be the thinnest.
This and Beltaine (around May 1st) are my favourite times of the year. And if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, you will soon be celebrating Beltaine, the start of the light half of the year.
Samhain (pronounced sow-en, so-ven or sah-wen) is traditionally celebrated beginning at dusk — the start of the day in Celtic traditions — on October 31st and throughout November 1st. Its meaning is rooted in the Gaelic words for “summer’s end”, and it is the last of the three Celtic harvest festivals (Lughnasadh, Autumn Equinox, and Samhain).
There are four special days in the Wheel of the Year — including Imbolc, Beltaine, and Lughnasadh — that fall on the cross-quarter days, which are defined as the midpoint between a solstice and an equinox. Although many celebrate these on traditional fixed dates, the actual dates may vary somewhat, as do the dates and times of the solstices and equinoxes. For instance, “true” Samhain this year is actually November 7 at 23:42 UTC (15:42 here in Vancouver). You can celebrate on either day… or both!
There are many elements to Samhain celebrations, including honouring the past and our ancestors, honouring The Crone energy of the coming winter, and the deep work of meditating / reviewing our own past year and the lessons learned, which will help us determine how we can move forward in the coming year.
At Samhain, and at the end of Autumn, those who work with Goddess energies often look to Cerridwen, Hecate, and The Cailleach (KAL-y-ach). These goddesses may be known by so many other names too… the Wise Woman, The Crone, The Grandmother and The Hag… the psychopomps that help us move from the summer and autumn into winter, from life to the other worlds… and share their ancient Earth wisdom with us.
In Celtic traditions, The Cailleach is also part of the Triple Goddess (Maiden-Mother-Crone) and transcends any one “power”… she is connected to the Earth itself, in all its aspects…. the waters, the mountains, the animals, the storms, the winter, the cold. She is immanent, the Divine manifested in the material world. She is the Ancient Ancestor, the Earth itself.
But there are many ways of celebrating Samhain if the Goddess work does not speak to you. Samhain celebrations and rituals can include:
- Lighting candle for your ancestors, and for those who have recently passed
- Adding pictures or mementos of loved ones who have passed to a home altar or special place in your home
- Taking a journey with your guides to examine the past year and receive messages and wisdom from your ancestral guides, to help you see through the darkness into light, and to use your inner strength and courage
- Having a “silent supper”, with a place and chair set for those who have transitioned in the last year or for the ancestors. Mark a portion of the dinner time for silent contemplation, perhaps with a bell rung to signify the beginning and the end of that period (it can be as short as 10 minutes)
- Making a Samhain loose incense for your altar, or for smudging your home
- Carving the initials of the recently departed into a candle, and lighting it in their honour
- Tip: Let the candle extinguish naturally. Any colour may be used, but many people prefer black or white for this ritual.
How do YOU celebrate or observe Samhain?
I’ll be sharing some of my favourite practices over the next two weeks until Samhain including a very special ritual for An Cailleach, The Crone. 🎃