Tonight, many of us in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Samhain (SOW-en), while for others it arrives on the “true” cross-quarter date of November 7th. Whenever you celebrate Samhain, it is a sacred time, a time to honour our Wise Elders, Ancestors, and those who have transitioned in the past year. It is a time of reflection, clarity, divination, transformation, letting go… and starting anew: a new year, a new journey, and a new cycle of growth and renewal.
Samhain is rooted in traditions and beliefs that extend back close to 5000 years, with archaeological evidence of Samhain celebrations on the Hills of Tara and Tlachtga in Ireland. The Celts believed the day started at dusk, and the year as two halves of dark (Samhain) and light (Beltaine). They defined Winter by the arrival of the first frost and snows, and I see that many of us here in Canada have already seen those first snow falls in the last week! Winter is not just coming… it is here for many of us!
Samhain is the time of An Cailleach, the “Hag” of Winter. The Crone. The Wise Woman. She is immanent, the Divine manifested in the material world. She is the Ancient Ancestor, the Earth itself. The Dark Goddess — like those of other cultures such as Hecate, Demeter, and Kali — who celebrates the spiral dance, who creates and tames the chaos between life and death, dark and light. She was greeted with bonfires, fire representing both the return of light and the alchemy of transformation.
Renewal and Rebirth in Winter
Many of us think of Winter as a time when nothing is happening. The days are short and cold, the light diminishes, the ground is cold, little is growing. Yet it is in deepest winter that new life begins. The roots and seeds are protected and nurtured deep in the ground, drawing in the energy of Mama Earth, and awaiting the light of Spring to emerge once again.
And so it is for our human roots, the seeds of our Inner Garden. I use the entire week between “traditional” and “true” Samhain as a week of Inner Cauldron reflection and meditation…. looking back at the past year, what challenges I faced, what I overcame, where I needed support, and gaining a new perspective.
And because winter is also about new beginnings, during this week I look towards the New Year, and meditate on the Soul Questions I have for this new journey:
With what I have learned in the past year, what will I do this year to:
- honour Mother Earth and Grandmother Moon?
- enrich and engage my mind?
- honour my soul and my relationship with Spirit?
- honour and support my relationships with loved ones?
- nourish and support my physical body?
- create sacred space in my home?
Divination at Samhain
Because the threshold between the worlds is so thin at this time, we can communicate more easily with our Ancestors, guides and allies, and with those who have recently passed.
Be mindful of the messages or signs you receive on Samhain, and have gratitude for the communication and support given.
I use my divination skills to aid me in my meditation and journey work even more at this time, such as runes, tarot or oracle cards, tea-leaf reading, pendulum work, journeying and scrying.
Celebrating Samhain with Ritual
How can you celebrate Samhain today? There are so many ways!
- Light a candle for your ancestors, and for those who have recently passed
- In a fireproof container (your smudge shell, a cauldron, a metal pot), burn white sage leaves, to honour the departed, or a rosemary twig, for remembrance
- Add pictures or mementoes of loved ones who have passed to a home altar or special place in your home
- Make a prosperity charm for the New Year, and for Halloween. I love these suggestions from Silver RavenWolf.
- Create a Rowan Cross with rowan (mountain ash) twigs and berries, tied with red thread for protection and to honour the Ancestors
- Create a loose incense for your Samhain meditation, altar or bonfire, or for smudging the home.
- Carve a pumpkin or turnip, to light the spirits’ way back home to their world
- Hold 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)
- Carve 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.
- Take a journey with your Ancestors 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. This is a perfect way to close your Samhain celebrations. Click here for my Ancestral journey ritual.
Samhain Blessings !