What is Samhain?

Samhain (SOW-wain)  Oct 31- Nov1

Samhain is a special time of year for all kinds of people.  It is filled with tricks and treats for many and for others it is the beginning of the New Year.  It is the third harvest of the year and a time when the seeds can again rest in the earth before springing forth once more when the sun warms the earth.  It is a magical time and the veil between the spiritual world and the physical world thins, allowing for easy passage and exchange between the realms.  For many pagans and other cultural practices it is a time to connect with ancestors.  Whether you call it Samhain, Halloween, Dia De Los Muertos, All Soul’s Day, or any other of the numerous holidays world wide surrounding this time of the year, it is a celebration, and a pause to give thanks for abundance of family, food, and friends as well as the beginning of the new darkness.  It is the time of year when we can begin our introspective journeys into the self and work on goals for the up coming months.

Many are afraid of the darkness, whether it is the night time, the shadow side of the self, or the ages old fears of things that go bump in the night. However, the darkness is where the most work on the self is to be done.  It is a place of rebirth and greatest growth so that one can emerge refreshed and renewed in the spring.  It is full of opportunity and peace if one chooses to embrace the darkness rather than always resist its energies.

This is the doorway to the sanctum sanctorum,  beyond this doorway lies the deep cavern of the Earth Mother’s Womb, the creative abyss, from which grows all that is intuitive, contemplative, and natural on this earth.

It is the beginning of the New Year, as witches, we burn away in ritual fire the images of the old year, freeing us from the fears and worries of the past.  I always include this component in my ritual for Samhain.  I take a paper and write down all that no longer serves me, that which is not for my highest good, and what I wish to be rid of.  I read them aloud and cast them out, then fold my paper thirteen times and put them to fire.  Sometimes I add herbs or oils to increase the cleansing energies to release those items.  It is a freeing activity in ritual with your ancestors and guides there to witness and support you in this release.  It can be quite powerful and at times, I have found myself in tears during the letting go, a cleansing of its own in salt and water.

On this day, the world of our physical reality and the world of our spiritual reality come together and communicate.  It is a time of connecting with our ancestors and offering gratitude for their part in our lives. I always incorporate a knotting / braiding activity in my ritual.  I take three pieces of red yarn or ribbon about 20” long and begin braiding them and knotting in groups of three, with each knot, I invite and say aloud the name of the ancestor to my ritual celebration.  I recount how they have positively impacted my life and offer gratitude for their presence in my life now and when they were alive.   When I am done, I place the braid on my altar for the year to represent how they are woven into my life and to keep that energy alive.

I also like to incorporate a goal setting activity in my ritual.  I do this, adding and reviewing energy to the goals with each point of the wheel.  I take some time to write down my goals for the year, whether they are spiritual, metaphysical, physical, emotional, or whatever ever kind of goal I put it to paper.  I fold it 8 times, once for each of the directions, E, S, W, N, above, below and within, and once to seal the goal and then I bind it three times with three knots with a red thread or yarn.  This I keep on my altar until the spring when I review and reaffirm the goals or change them as needed.  As part of my altar, it becomes a focal point of my spiritual practice.  I have a special box in which I keep this paper to maintain energy on it.

In addition to these activities, every year I keep as part of my ritual a question and answer about why we do the things we do at Samhain.  There are three simple questions with answers that explain aspects of ritual and I’d like to share them with you.

The first question is: Why do we light white candles at ritual? The answer is: We light white candles to shine the light on the path so that the Spirits can find the way to the celebration. We leave the candles burning for at least an hour after ritual so that it can lead the way.  We always snuff candles when we are finished rather than blow them out in case we might blow away the energy and intentions of the candle.  We can expect visitations from the spiritual world for the next 24-48 hours in a sort of open house.  All that we have invited are welcome.

The second question is: Why do we put candy on the altar? The answer is:  We place candy or other sweets on the altar to sweeten the journey of the spirits into the next life.  Even if the spirit is reborn, it will ease their life just a bit.  Every year we do this, it makes their life easier as well.

The third question is: Why do we light black candles? The answer is: We light black candles to honor the new darkness.  It is honor and respect for our own darkness, the womb of the earth and the spirits or beings of the darkness that work with us and help us.  We always use new candles for this celebration as it is the marking of the new year and new beginnings.  It marks the end of a cycle. The seed now begins its time of gestation in the dark, rich earth.

It is now a time of rest.  I was taught that you never plant anything past Samhain as the spirits can become entangled in the roots and it is not a growing time. The focus is of contemplation and intuition, entering into the bear cave and allowing for that hibernation.  I live in the desert where it is still in the 80’s and 90’s this time of year, so the ideas of cozy hibernation are not seemingly congruent with the outside weather. However, energetically, it is easy to put things to rest and allow for more leisurely activities than the bustle of the spring and summer.  I often allow the changes of the year within myself to settle and set in during this time and spend time thinking about how they have affected me in my life.  I find I spend more time writing about deep connections now than I do any other times of the year.  I often review my journals for the year to evaluate my shifts in thinking.  Some good questions to ask yourself are, how do I evaluate my own progress in life?  Am I growing in areas that I am happy with? What areas do I need to focus more on?  What am I afraid to look at?  What can I create as a game plan to focus on these areas?

For me, this is one of the most powerful times of the year.  I take advantage of the energies and work with them to help me focus for the rest of the months.  Whether you do a formal ritual, something smaller, or more modified for the season, the key is self work. Set about introspection and align yourself with your guides for help reaching those goals through intention and plans for the spring ahead.  Blessings to you and your ancestors this Samhain.

2016 copyright by Katie Pifer http://www.witchpetals.wordpress.com

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7 thoughts on “What is Samhain?

  1. Pingback: What is Samhain? – ~PaganKnot ~

  2. Pingback: Blessed Samhain | Cek the Space

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