Samhain Lore (October 31st)
Samhain, (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) means “End of Summer”, and is the third and final Harvest. The dark winter half of the year commences on this Sabbat.
It is generally celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st. It is one of the two “spirit-nights” each year, the other being Beltane. It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands. It is a time to study the Dark Mysteries and honor the Dark Mother and the Dark Father, symbolized by the Crone and her aged Consort.
Originally the “Feast of the Dead” was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the “wandering dead”. Today a lot of practitioners still carry out that tradition. Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Extra chairs were set to the table and around the hearth for the unseen guest. Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them. Turnips were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this was a night of magic and chaos. The Wee Folke became very active, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. Traveling after dark was not advised. People dressed in white (like ghosts), wore disguises made of straw, or dressed as the opposite gender in order to fool the Nature spirits.
This was the time that the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits. Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones were marked with peoples names. Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person’s fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.
Various other names for this Greater Sabbat are Third Harvest, Samana, Day of the Dead, Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), Vigil of Saman, Shadowfest (Strega), and Samhuinn. Also known as All Hallow’s Eve, (that day actually falls on November 7th), and Martinmas (that is celebrated November 11th), Samhain is now generally considered the Witch’s New Year.
Symbolism of Samhain:
Third Harvest, the Dark Mysteries, Rebirth through Death.
Symbols of Samhain:
Gourds, Apples, Black Cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, Besoms.
Herbs of Samhain:
Mugwort, Allspice, Broom, Catnip, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Oak leaves, Sage and Straw.
Foods of Samhain:
Turnips, Apples, Gourds, Nuts, Mulled Wines, Beef, Pork, Poultry.
Incense of Samhain:
Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg.
Colors of Samhain:
Black, Orange, White, Silver, Gold.
Stones of Samhain:
All Black Stones, preferably jet or obsidian.
The Wheel turns inexorably from Dark to Light and to Dark once more. We see the days grow short, as gentle breezes turn to stiffening gales. Day is weak and wan while night is strong, solid. The God is dead, and so for this interval the Goddess mourns the loss of her consort. We irresolute mortals feel alone, forsaken in a great cosmos filled with Cimmerian black and teeming with chaos. The veil that separates our world from the next is thin and rent in places, allowing those things which we fear to enter our lives and haunt the ever lengthening nights. As we behold the birth of an infant year, we seek refuge from the cold cruel night and the fell creatures harbored within the purpled shadows. It is a time of introspection, of solitude; a time to remember those whom we have lost, and to contemplate new direction for our coming year. As the Samhain fire burns, we toss into it all of our failures, our fears and our faults, expelling them from our lives even as the fire quells the dark, relegating shadows to the corners where they can no longer disturb us.
This is the third, the final harvest, the harvest of the soul, when we reap what we have sown. Hopefully, it has been a good year, and we have gathered enough to sustain us through the long dark, cold. We hold the laughter and love close for warmth, keeping the fear and trepidation at bay with the light of friends and family. If our harvest is meager, we are alone, huddled into ourselves to wait, hoping the light will be soon coming, and that the next harvest will be more abundant.
This is the time of the season which the Crone rules. She is one aspect of the triple Goddess, made up of Crone, Maiden, and Mother. It is She who opens the Western gate for those who have departed to travel into Summerland. She rules areas of death and regeneration, occult sciences, healing, and the wisdom of the ages. She comes in the form of Cerridwen, Hecate, Arianrhod, and Persephone, among many others. We use the Crone to assist us in transition from one life to the next, leaving one level of our existence and entering the next. This brings us into the Womb of the Mother to assist us in being reborn once again. For it is through Her Wisdom and guidance we learn lessons from experience past and begin life anew from the wisdom gained….
The time between Samhain and Yule is the time of the Crone, the Dagda, Calleach, Morrigu, powerful, dark and wise… imposing and compelling at once. The cycle remains faithful to nature’s laws: to all that lives, comes death. While some threads are long seeming and others cut short, in the end, we all enter the eternal cauldron. Just when the dark seems all powerful, the Goddess begins life anew at Yule, with the rebirth of our fledgling Sun, God of light and warmth. The light grows in strength with each passing day and soon begins to warm us with His ever maturing presence. Hope is freshly kindled as we see that from the cauldron of death springs life over and again with every turning of the Wheel.
And so the Wheel turns back into Light, from Yule to Imbolc to Beltane, through Midsummer and back into the Harvest Time again. As we follow the Wheel, we can see clearly that from Dark springs Light in an eternal spiral of birth, death and rebirth.
All of the above from http://www.mythinglinks.org/Samhain.html