Samhain, An Ancestral Celebration
Deep dive into deep soul healing with your shadow as your guide
In days of old, before the age of freezers, Samhain was the third harvest, the last harvest of the year, the meat harvest. A time to gather the flocks and herds and preserve the meat so that food would be assured until crops could grow once more in springtime.
This is the dark half of the year, the light is dimming and the night is the time for celebration. The trees are losing their leaves in droves of reds, russets, browns, gold’s and coppers, creating a wonderful kaleidoscope of patterns as they fall, covering the ground underfoot. Autumn is now truly here and nature is dying, retreating into the bulbs and roots awaiting the return of life at Imbolc bringing new life and hope to the land.
Honour the Ancestors
This is the Celtic festival of New Year when the Samhain fires are lit and celebrations last through the night. The veils between the worlds are thin allowing ancestors, spirits and loved ones, recently lost, to draw close to us, speaking to us from beyond the veil, sharing the feast with us. Giving us the opportunity to say goodbye and honour them for their lives and deeds and by doing so, clear the way for a new cycle, an new year to begin.
The word ‘Samhain’ means ‘Summers End’ and is normally pronounced ‘Sowain’. Marking the end of the Celtic summer and the start of the long winter season as darkness and longer nights creep in and the land becomes barren. In the Celtic year this was a time for remembrance and withdrawal and a time to say goodbye, especially to the sick and elderly as they would not make it through the harshness of winter. In Irish mythology the Bean Sidhe or Banshee, would howl over houses where someone was dying, ready to take their soul onward at Samhain.
At Samhain we face our own shadow, which is always attached to us but mainly walks behind but sooner or later we all have to turn and accept this darker aspect of ourselves into our personality, allowing us to grow and move further in life. For if you accept the darkest part of yourself you can also accept the lightest.
This was a time for divination and skrying to foresee what the future holds for us and our loved ones. Because the veils are thin the truth is far easier to divine and using tools like tarot and crystal balls we are able to look to the future and a new year to come.
The Apples Story
The apple is another symbol of this season. The apple is considered the fruit of the underworld, food of the Gods and the dead. If you cut an apple crosswise it will reveal a pentagram in its heart, which is a symbol of the divine feminine. In the Greek myths, Paris, a mortal man, must choose which of 3 Goddesses – Hera; Athena and Aphrodite – is more beautiful.
Overcome by the beauty of the Goddess of Love and seduced by her promise to give him a woman as beautiful as herself, he gives the prize of the Golden Apple to Aphrodite. In return Aphrodite gives Paris, Helen of Troy and so begins the Trojan war as Helen is already married to someone else.
In other stories apples are the food of the Faerie and anyone entering the otherworld must avoid them or they shall never return to their own place and time. Because of this apples are also known as the ‘Food of Transformation’.
Apples also mean fertility and 13 apples were buried at Samhain to ensure a good harvest the following year.
A Halloween Celebration
In Britain a large turnip or swede would be hollowed out and a candle set inside to symbolise that life still exists, hidden in the earth in the bulbs, seeds and tubers. Another reason for carving a face into the turnip or swede (or the more recently American import, the pumpkin) was to create a mask, which was to assume the identity of the God/Goddess and take on their traits. Later on, pumpkins were used to scare away evil spirits on Halloween night.
The Halloween custom of ‘Trick or Treat’ also has its origins in older European traditions. The ‘Trickiness’ of the season is marked by children dressing up and demanding a ‘treat’ and if one wasn’t forthcoming then funny noises would come through the letterbox, strange creatures would lurk on your doorstep and it was in this way that children came to terms with their own shadow or darker side.
Elder trees are linked to Samhain although they also have connections with Beltaine. This is because they are linked to the menstrual cycle and the divine feminine for when an Elder is cut it bleed red sap like menstrual blood and this is a time when a woman’s darker half can appear. Elder flutes where also carved to summon the spirits at Samhain.
Mythology and Legend
This is the dark half of the year, the Goddess has descended into the underworld and taken the God into her body to be born once more to the world at Imbolc. The light is dimming and the night is the time for celebration. The trees are losing their leaves in droves of reds, russets, browns, gold’s and coppers, creating a wonderful kaleidoscope of patterns as they fall, covering the ground underfoot.
Autumn is now truly here and nature is dying, retreating into the bulbs and roots awaiting the return of the Goddess at Imbolc bringing with her new life and hope to the land.
In Irish mythology the Bean Sidhe or Banshee, would howl over houses where someone was dying, ready to take their soul onward at Samhain.
There are many Gods and Goddesses called upon at Samhain, amongst whom are the Welsh Goddess Ceridwen with her cauldron of rebirth; The Greek Goddess Hekate holding the keys to the underworld; The Morrigan, Queen of the Faerie returning to her winter realms and the Horned God, Lord of Death and Rebirth known by many names – Gwynn-Ap-Nudd; Cernunnos; Herne the Hunter leading the Wildhunt are some. So come and share the feast with us and drink the health of all who have passed, share your foresight and practice your magick and join our celebration of Samhain.