|The Spirit Journey|
Samhain is a harvest festival with ancient Pagan roots celebrated on October 31-November 1. The Old Irish name Samhain, means "summer's end." The festival became associated with the Christian All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, and has hugely influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween, a name first attested from the fuller Scottish name All-Hallows-Even, from the 16th century.
Samhain marked the end of harvest, the "lighter half" of the year, and the beginning of the "darker half." It was traditionally celebrated over the course of several days. Many scholars say that it was also the beginning of the Celtic year.
The Celts believed that on this night the border or veil between the dead and the living was at its thinnest because some animals and plants were dying. It thus allowed the dead to reach back through the veil that separated them from the living. The dead could rise out of their graves and roam freely on the earth. It was once called the “festival of the dead” because of this.
This was the time of year that the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered, for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and were left as offerings to the Nature spirits.
Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual. Bonfires were originally called bone-fires because after the feast, the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year.
Stones were marked with people’s names and also thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person's fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.
In an attempt to copy the spirits or placate them, Celts had a custom of wearing costumes and masks. In Scotland the dead were impersonated by young men dressed in white, with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Turnips were hollowed-out and carved with faces to make lanterns. They were also used to ward off harmful spirits.
Samhain continues to be celebrated as a religious festival for both Wiccans and Pagans. It is one of their most sacred days. It is a fun time for them; however, it is also a time to honor the dead, communicate with the spirits and observe some of the rituals below.
• Celebrate the Harvest's End. Since Samhain falls on October 31, they also celebrate it as the end of the harvest, and honor the return of the King of Winter.
• Honor our Animals. Man's relationship with animals has evolved over thousands of years. They were once only a source of food. Now they are much more, our companions and friends. They honor the animal spirits in a ritual for Samhain.
• Honor their Ancestors. For many Wiccans and Pagans, the honoring of ancestors is a key part of their spirituality. This ceremony can be held by itself or as part of a group of Samhain rituals.
• Host a Dumb Supper. In many Pagan and Wiccan traditions, Samhain is celebrated with a Feast with the Dead, or Dumb Supper as it’s called. This is a solemn and sober occasion, and includes place settings for relatives and friends who have crossed over in the past year, as well as a chance to tell them what you never got to say.
• Celebrate the Cycle of Life and Death. Samhain is a time like no other, in that they can watch as the earth literally dies for the season. Leaves fall from the trees, the crops go brown, and the land becomes a desolate place once more. During Samhain, they take the time to remember the dead. They contemplate about the endless cycle of life, death, and eventual rebirth.
• Hold a Séance. Samhain is the night when they believe the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest. Many take advantage by holding a séance and contacting the spirit world at this time.
• Honor the God and Goddess at Samhain. Some Pagan and Wiccan traditions and rituals include honoring the God and Goddess of their choosing.
Here is a blessing and meditation ritual anyone can do. Meditation is a great tool no matter what your Spiritual Practice or personal beliefs are.
Stare into the flame of a lighted candle; thinking about the goals that you are setting for the upcoming year. When done, say:
As you say "Blessed Be!" stretch out your arms out as if to embrace all of your ancestors, your departed loved ones, and everyone on Earth. As you say "Blessed Be" again, embrace yourself with a reborn love and pride.
We can all benefit from setting goals, asking for guidance and protection along with blessing each other during Samhain and all year long. I hope you all have a Blessed Samhain!
Note: I was asked to 'Ghost write' this article for a well known web-site that helps people with both 'historic' and modern 'holistic' ways of helping people. I was thrilled and hope you like this too! ~ Coreen xoxoo