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Samhain - End of Summer

Samhain: Pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne. Shadowfest (Strega), Martinmas (Celtic/Scottish)

October 31 Northern Hemisphere / May 1 Southern Hemisphere


Samhain means "End of Summer". Its historical origin is The Feast of the Dead in Celtic lands. Samhain, popularly known as Halloween, is the Witches' New Year.

It is said to be the time when the veil between the worlds is very thin, when souls that are leaving this physical plane can pass out and souls that are reincarnating can pass in.
Darkness increases and the Goddess reigns as the Crone, part of the three-in-one that also includes the Maiden and Mother.

The God, the Dark Lord, passes into the underworld to become the seed of his own rebirth (which will occur again at Yule). Many Pagans prepare a Feast for the Dead on Samhain night, where they leave offerings of food and drink for the spirits. The popular chidren's custom of trick-or-treat stems from an Old English practice in which children went door to door begging "soul cakes" to feed the wandering spirits.

Divination is heightened this night. This is the time of year for getting rid of weaknesses. A common Ritual practice calls for each Wiccan to write down his/her weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment and toss it into the Cauldron fire. Jack-o-lanterns, gourds, cider, fall foliage can be used as altar decorations.

 

 

The Simple Facts Samhain: Shadowfest (Strega), Martinmas (Celtic/Scottish) Samhain, popularly known as Halloween, is the Witches' New Year. This is the last of the three harvest Sabbats marking the end of the growing seasons. Celtic custom decreed that all crops must be gathered by sundown on April 31st. It is a time when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. Deceased ancestors and other friendly spirits are invited to join in sabbath festivities and be reunited with loved ones. In Ireland it is still custom to leave candles in the windows and plates of food for the visiting spirits. Keep a fire lit or a candle burning all night to honour and welcome the dead. If clothes are left outside overnight, they will take on bewitching powers for all who wear them. Darkness increases and the Goddess reigns as the Crone, part of the three-in-one that also includes the Maiden and Mother. The God, the Dark Lord, passes into the underworld to become the seed of his own rebirth (which will occur again at Yule). Many Pagans prepare a Feast for the Dead on Samhain night, where they leave offerings of food and drink for the spirits. Divination is heightened this night. Jack-o-lanterns, gourds, cider, fall foliage can be used as altar decorations.
Samhain (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is generally celebrated on October 31st, although some Traditions prefer the date of November 1st. The various names for this sabbath are Samhain (Celtic), Shadowfest (Strega), Martinmas or Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), as well as Hallowe'en, Hallowmas, All Hallow's Eve, Halloween, Day of the Dead, Feast of Spirits, Third Harvest, Samonios, All Saint's Eve, Celtic New Year, Samhuinn, Celtic Winter, Samana, Festival of Pamona, Vigil of Saman, Vigil of Todos, and Santos. Though this Holiday is celebrated on October 31st, All Hallows Eve falls on November 7th, and Martinmas on November 11th. (Images to the left and below are by Anthony Meadows and from Llewellyn's 1998 and 1999 Witches' Calendars. Click on either image to go directly to Llewellyn's Web Site.) The symbolism of this sabbath is that of The Third (and final) Harvest, it marks the end of Summer, the beginning of Winter. It is a time marked by death when the Dead are honored - a time to celebrate and "study" the Dark Mysteries. "Samhain" means "End of Summer". Its historical origin is The Feast of the Dead in Celtic lands. It is believed that on this night, the veil Between the Worlds is at its thinnest point, making this an excellent time to communicate with the Other Side.
Symbols for representing this sabbath may include Jack-O-Lanterns, Balefires, Masks, The Besom (Magickal Broom), The Cauldron, and the Waning Moon. Altar decorations might include small jack-o-lanterns, foods from the harvest, and photographs of your loved ones who have departed from this world. Appropriate Deities for Samhain include ALL Crone Goddesses, and the Dying God or the "Dead" God. Samhain Goddesses include Hecate, Hel, Inanna, Macha, Mari, Psyche, Ishtar, Lilith, The Morrigu/Morrigan, Rhiannon, and Cerridwen. Key actions to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of the Year include return, change, reflection, endings and beginnings, and honoring the Dead. Other meanings behind this sabbath celebration include the Wisdom of the Crone, the Death of the God, and the Celebration of Reincarnation. Samhain is considered by many Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches (especially those of Celtic heritage) to be the date of the Witches' New Year, representing one full turn of the Wheel of the Year. This is the time of year for getting rid of weaknesses. A common Ritual practice calls for each Wiccan to write down his/her weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment and toss it into the Cauldron fire. Other activities might include Divination, Past-Life Recall, Spirit Contact, Meditation, Astral Projection ("Flying"), and the drying of Winter herbs. It is considered "taboo" by some to travel after dark, or to eat grapes or berries. Spellwork for protection and neutralizing harm are particularly warranted at this time of year, because Samhain is considered to be a good time to boost your confidence and security. Many Witches use their own personal Besom, or Magickal Broom as a part of their rituals. Some Besoms are structurally different in shape from the flat ones sold today, being round on the end and having a smaller sweeping surface. They can, however, be fashioned flat or however you personally desire. These Magickal Brooms are commonly used for cleansing and purifying Sacred Space, but can be used for many other things... such as using one in place of a Wand, Athame, or finger to project your personal energy when casting your Circle.


Here is a simple way to create your own, quoted from one of Edain McCoy's wonderful books:
"Making a Besom" If you would like a Besom of your own, they are fairly easy to find in craft stores, country markets, or folk art fairs. You can also invest your energies into making one, a good idea if you wish to use it in place of a Wand or other ritual tool. To make a Besom you will need a four-foot dowel one inch in diameter, a ball of twine, scissors, and straw or other long strands of pliable herbs. Take the straw, or another herb you have chosen for the bristles, and allow them to soak overnight in warm, lightly salted water. The water softens the straws to make them pliable, and the salt soaks out former energies. When you are ready to make your Besom, remove the straws from the water and allow them to dry a bit, but not so much that they lose the suppleness you will need to turn them into your Besom. Find a work area where you can lay out the length of your dowel, and begin lining the straws alongside the dowel. Starting about three inches from the bottom, lay the straws, moving backward, along the length of the dowel. Begin binding these to the dowel with the twine. You will need to tie them very securely. You can add as many layers of straw as you wish, depending on how full you would like your Besom to be. When the straw is secured, bend the top straws down over the twine ties. When they are all gently pulled over, tie off the straws again a few inches below the original tie. Leave the Besom overnight to allow the straw to dry. The dowel part of the Besom can be stained, painted, or decorated with Pagan symbols, your Craft name, or any other embellishments you choose. Dedicate your finished Besom in your Circle as you would any other ritual tool. (The above "Making a Besom" is quoted directly from Edain McCoy's book "The Sabbats: A New Approach to Living the Old Ways", page 36, Llewellyn Publications, 1994.)


The most common colors associated with Samhain are Orange and Black. However, Red, Brown, and Golden Yellow are also appropriate colors for this sabbath. Altar candles should be black, orange, white, silver and/or gold. Stones to use during the Samhain Celebration are Obsidian, Onyx, and Carnelian. Animals associated with Samhain include bats, cats, and dogs. Mythical beasts associated with Samhain are the following: Phooka, Goblin, Medusa, Beansidhe, Fylgiar, Peryton, Erlkonig, and Harpies. Plants and herbs associated with Samhain are Mugwort, Allspice, Sage, Gourds, Catnip, and Apple Trees. The traditional Pagan foods of Samhain include beets, turnips, squash, apples, corn, nuts, gingerbread, cider, pomegranates, mulled wines and pumpkin dishes. These are all appropriate as well as meat (especially pork) dishes (if you're not a vegetarian - if so, tofu seems ritually correct). Some Wiccans leave a plate of food outside the home for the souls of the dead. Placement of a candle in a window and burying apples in the hard-packed Earth is believed to guide them on their journey to the lands of Eternal Summer. According to Margie McArthur, in her book "WiccaCraft for Families", the following dates are celebrated by many for the entire week preceding October 31st, called "All-Hallows Week": October 24th - Festival Prelude and Night of Seers - decorate and remember those who have seen the future. October 25th - Night of Heroes and Martyrs - honoring members of families who died in war and peace, those who have died for their faith. October 26th - Night of Artists - for remembering those who speak of the Old Ways through the arts. October 27th - Night of Nurturers - those who keep the home fires burning, caring for those in need of care. October 28th - Night of Remembrance of Family Pets, recalled and cherished. October 29th - Night of Remembrance of Forgotten Ancestors, heritage, and origins. October 30th - Night of the Recent Dead - trip to cemetery. October 31st - Family Fire Festival


Next I will list several recipes appropriate for the Samhain turn in the Wheel of the Year. I have gathered these from various places, noted on each...

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