Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Blessed Samhain

I know a lot more about Samhain now than I did back in 1978.  The Wiccan/Neo-Pagan holiday, that is, not the ancient Celtic one, though I suspect they have much in common.  

On the surface, Halloween and Samhain have much in common --  the date, the colors (orange and black), the jack-o-lanterns, the ghosts about, and so on.  It makes sense, both having their roots in the Celtic Samhain.  But while secular Halloween involves scaring ourselves, and the Celts thought (and the Church would have you believe) that evil spirits roam the night and you must protect yourself against them by wearing masks and lighting candles in scary gourds, Pagan Samhain is much, much more.

The date is a significant one in the Wiccan Wheel of the Year-- it is considered the Wiccan New Year.  It is also one of the four Greater Sabbats, occurring across the Wheel from Beltane, on the midpoint between the Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice.  As a Greater Sabbat, it marks a significant change in the seasons.

Instead of fearing the dead, we Pagans often welcome lost loved ones, who can come close on this, one of two nights in the year when the Veil between our world and the spirit world is at its thinnest. (The other is at Beltane.)  We, too, light candles in gourds (most often pumpkins in North America), but these lights are not meant to scare away evil spirits, they are meant to guide our ancestors to our homes.  We decorate in black and hold Dumb Suppers.

Many of us also take this night to celebrate various gods and goddesses of death, again taking advantage of the thinness of the Veil.  Some believe that it is the first night of the Wild Hunt, as the Fey can also come across the Veil at this time.

 We decorate in black, also, to mark the coming of the death of the earth, which must happen before it comes to life again in the Spring.  In doing so, we celebrate darkness.  As such, it marks a time of rest and renewal, and many Pagans spend the time between Samhain and the Winter Solstice in meditation and reflection, preparing for the next year. 

But we also decorate in orange, for while this is a night to celebrate death and the dead, it is also the 3rd Harvest Festival, which marks the final harvest.  It is a time for feasting one last time before we batten down for Winter.  A time to celebrate the harvest--whether that harvest be crops or relationships or knowledge gained.  Or anything else that you have reaped in the past year.

We also, of course, dress in costumes, but that has more to do with secular fun than Samhain.  :)


Willow Silverhorse said...

Hi, I hope you had a wonderful Samhain! I'm stopping by to let you know I gave you a couple of blog awards. Check them out here:


CousinLinda said...

Thank you! My first awards!