Monday, October 30, 2017

The Witches New Year: Samhain

The days have grown short and cold, leaves that were once a lively green have started to descend to the ground in vibrant reds and golds and the very air itself carries the first frosts that indicate the beginning of Winter is not far off. The third and final harvest comes on October 31st, one in which we all know as Halloween but that's only one of many names that this day holds sacred.

Also known as Samhain ( Sow-ain, Sam-Hain) this day is a very popular sabbat amongst Pagans. It marks both the death and rebirth of the year, the beginning of dormancy until once more Spring finds itself on our doorstep. As such, many Wiccan's celebrate this time as a New Year despite what the calendar year might dictate.




Traditions of Samhain

On Halloween, it's not uncommon to find children dressed up as monstrous ghouls, ancient figure-heads, or even their favorite superheroes. It's also not surprising to find decorations that display and even celebrate death or pumpkins with candles lighting up the faces carved into them. That's because all of these are traditions that have been upheld for centuries, passed down from our ancestors into modern times.

This time of the year marks the final breath of life in the land. Crops can no longer be grown in the soil, animals had to be slaughtered for winter and times of uncertainty would loom just on the horizon. Crops that had not been harvested by this time were left for the Fae-folk, and once the sun had set for the day, it was advised to stay indoors until the morning.

The veil thins dramatically around this time of the year, and it was believed that the Fae would be about to find unsuspecting mortals to torture or play pranks on. To fight back, people would dress in strange garb, wear frightening masks or masks that simply would look confusing. This practice became the origin for our costumes today. Families would also carve faces into turnips, placing a candle inside to ward off bad luck and ill fortune and when families moved to America to colonize, they replaced the turnip with pumpkins.

The veil thinning also meant that ancestor spirits would roam the earth once more, and our ancestors were happy to welcome them back. Tradition dictated that a family would light a candle and place it in the window to welcome their ancestors into their home. They would leave out a modest meal for them and a place to sit by the fire until they were comforted enough to return to the spirit realm. Spirits without descendants were sated by druids who would bury offerings of apples for them to find, other cultures would leave food out on the doorstep for wandering spirits to entice fortune to fall on the family. Those who did not lay out food for the dead would find their family and property befalling misfortune.

Unwed girls who had come of age would burn a lock of hair into a fire lit for Samhain to see if they could receive a vision of who their future husband to be would look like. Divination would be amplified during this time and those who understood how to would take full advantage of it.


Samhain in Modern Times


Very little has differed in the time of our ancestors to present day in regard to how we celebrate this season, granted many things are much more watered down, however, the basic concepts still hold strong. If you're looking to bring a little old-time magic into your modern day celebrations, you can do a few things to achieve that motion.

Honor your ancestors

You don't have to have Pagan ancestors to honor them at this time. It's always important to remember family members who have passed and hope that they can instill some advice or good will your way for the year to come. If you have children, it's a good time for them to learn some valuable family history too.

Perform readings/ Have a reading done for you

Something that's always fun to do is to perform readings for friends and family if you're comfortable with your divination tools. If you're not as savvy, have a friend do a reading for you. The results may surprise you!

Carve a Pumpkin

Yes, this in itself is a fun way to get the spirit going. Don't forget to light the candle at night!

Set up your altar

If you have an altar, it's a good time to have it set up to give thanks to your patron deity(deities) for the good that occurred to you over the year. Hecate is generally the deity of choice for this season but any that you best identify with will work just fine.

Dress up and have fun.

It's still Halloween everything considered, dressing up is just par for the course. So dress up, hand out candy or join the band of kids in their trick-or-treating adventures.


Decorating Your Altar

This wouldn't be much of a pagan holiday if there wasn't a little bit of altar decorating. Here are a few suggestions to help inspire your altars' look for Samhain.

Colors:

  • Black
  • Silver
  • Orange
  • White 
  • Gold
Herbs:
  • Hazel
  • Wormwood
  • Allspice
  • Cat Nip
Symbolism:
  • Black Cats
  • Gourds
  • Apples
  • Photo of deceased ancestors (Optional)
  • Pumpkin
Deities:
  • Hecate
  • Persephonie
  • Osiris
  • Hel
  • The Morrigan
And Finally...

Just have fun. We're fortunate to have a holiday that hasn't been too horrendously misconstrued by time, and by doing a little research you can celebrate this sabbat in a more magical way. I hope everyone has a very fun, spooky (And safe) sabbat.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any Samhain traditions you celebrate with your family. Bright Blessings!


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