The warmth of Summer is only a
memory; the cold and dark of Winter approaches. We
have reached the third and final harvest. A perfect time for
Halloween or Samhain may also be referred to as the
Eve of all Hallows, Hallowmas, Day of the Dead, Feast of Spirits, Third
Harvest, Samonios, All Souls' Day, All Saint's Eve, Martinmas, Celtic
New Year, Samhuinn, Nos Galon Gaeof, Celtic Winter, Samana, Festival of
Pamona, Vigil of Saman, Vigil of Todos, Santos, Westwind Sabbat, and The
Witches New Year.
Samhain, meaning "Summer's End" in Gaelic, has
several popular pronunciations. "So-en" is probably the most popular
'correct' choice. Others are "sew-en", "so-vain", "sav-een", "shav-nah",
"sha-ma-ayn", "sahm-hayn". It is the New Years Eve of Celts and Druids
and for many who call themselves "witch", including Wiccans. For some,
the day marks the end of the rule of the Goddess and the beginning of
the rule of the God.
Many Christians celebrate the day as the eve
of All Saints' Day (All Hallows). "Halloween" is a contraction which
comes from "All Hallows Eve" --> "Hallowe'en".
night the veil between our world and the world of spirits is thought
to be very thin. So, Samhain or the Eve of All Hallows is nearly
universally viewed as a time for honoring the dead and, even, possibly
seeing them. (Some people believed you could go to a graveyard and, at
midnight, see the 'ghosts' of those destined to die in the coming year
wandering about.) In the Celtic tradition it was believed that all who
died had to wait until Sanhain before crossing over to the the world of
the spirits. It is believed by some that the future can be more easily
seen at this time.
The practice of carrying a lantern carved or
masked to show a scary face to ward off bad spirits in such places as
graveyards may be fairly old. However, since the pumpkin is strictly a
new world plant, carving one to make a "Jack-O-Lantern" for Halloween is
clearly an American invention. Most likely, the name comes from the
moralistic tale of Jack, a clever scamp who, having tricked the devil
into rejecting his soul, is welcome in neither Heaven nor Hell. So, he
wanders endlessly carrying a hollowed out turnip (or pumpkin) as a lamp
with a lump of Hell's coal lighting his path.
Going "Trick or
Treating" for sweets on Halloween night is chiefly an American innovation, too. It
combines European masquerades and the late medieval Christian practice
of "souling," when poor folk would go door to door seeking food in
return for prayers for the dead as well as much older pagan traditions. Take care this night!
Carve faces in apples and pumpkins Make a Jack-O-Lantern Cook up a Samhain pumkin pie Honor the dead, remember those you loved who have passed on Display a collection of photos etc of loved ones who are dead Set a place at the table for the departed Place a light in the window to guide the dead Give food to travelers Leave food outside as an offering to the dead Wear costumes and Go trick or treating Give out candy to trick or treaters Watch scary movies Have a bonfire Burn a Wickerman Mix up some hot mugwart tea Scry by the fire, smoke, or your scrying mirror Some clans do testing for psychic and magickal talents on this night.
One tradition is that burying apples in the hard-packed earth "feeds" the passed ones on their journey.
Belgium an old custom was to prepare "Cakes for the Dead" small white
cakes or cookies. A cake was eaten for each spirit honoured with the
belief that the more cakes you ate, the more the dead would bless you.
was also customary to light a fire on the household hearth which would
burn continuously until the first day of the following spring. (In lots
of places this made good sense because by All Hallow's Eve it was cold
and people needed a fire anyway.) Huge bonfires were lit on the hilltops
at sunset in honor of the old Gods and Goddesses and to guide the souls
of the dead home to their kin.
Samhain is a fine time for
getting rid of bad habits, too. Write down bad habits and weaknesses you
wish to be rid of on a piece of parchment. Meditate upon how much
better off you will be once rid of the weaknesses; then, burn the
cakes for the dead, pumpkin pie and other pumpkin dishes, cranberry
muffins and breads, apples, corn, beets, turnips, hazelnuts, cider, ale,
herbal teas, and mulled wines are appropriate, as are meat dishes.