Celebrating Samhain and Special Souls 🌜👻💀
From October 31st through November 2nd, people all around the world (especially in the Northern Hemisphere) are celebrating the end of the harvest season, and remembering and honoring the souls of those who have departed. For some, the three days are one long festival, the Days of the Dead. For others, yesterday is the only holiday they observe, as the modern, non-spiritual Halloween. Still others will be celebrating today and tomorrow as All Saints Day and All Souls Day. But no matter how you mark these days, chances are, you carry on traditions that come from the ancient Celtic festival Samhain, the last of three harvest festivals and a day to remember ancestors. Make sure you check out our blog post on how these holidays developed from Samhain: You can find that post here!
If you celebrate the Wheel of the Year, or you want to connect with the traditional roots of holidays such as Halloween, Days of the Dead, and All Saints/Souls Days, then celebrating Samhain is a great place to start. Samhain, which is the last of the three harvest festivals, after Lammas and Mabon (read a little bit about Mabon here!). Like many ancient festivals, Samhain began last night on sundown and continues to be celebrated today, the first day of November. For some, this is the first day of the New Year, because it is the end of the harvest season, and with the leaves and plants and earth, the year has died, and we have moved into a new one. The rebirth of the sun, on the Winter Solstice, is eagerly awaited.
Samhain is a time when the veil between this world and the next is believed to be closest, and that makes today a perfect day for magical work, divination, and connecting with and honoring ancestors. In general, Samhain is intended to be a recognition of the fact that life is filled with both light and dark, birth and death, and today is intended to be a day that death and darkness is recognized, not feared. This is a time to prepare and get cozy in before the winter months ahead, but not quite time to break out the holiday stuff! Before we begin to celebrate the season of Yule, Christmas, and the Winter Solstice, it is time to recognize the end of the harvest season: Enjoy goods made with apples, pumpkins, corn and guards. Breads are often included on the Samhain table. If you are not a vegetarian, Samhain was commonly a feast time that included beef, pork, poultry. Whatever your preference, enjoy a feast that marks the end of the harvest before the colder months of winter.
Herbs and spices of this time of year include Mugwort, Allspice, Catnip, Patchouli, Sage, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Clove, Mint, and Oatstraw. Enjoy these as incense, herbal teas, and as additions to tea, cider, and wine! My favorite tea to break out this time of year is Witches Brew, which is a delicious, spicy, and cozy mix of black tea, green tea, patchouli leaf, orange peel, jasmine flower, Vietnamese cinnamon and clove powder. I love starting to make Mulled Wine and Cider regularly, and of course, pies are in the oven! The scents of late fall are in my home as well: Witches Brew Room Spray and Soap, and Cinnamon, Sage, and Clove Essential Oil in my diffuser.
This time of year, people set aside time to reflect on death and what lies beyond the grave. It is natural for us to be reminded of our own aging as the earth ages and prepares to hibernate for the winter. Traditionally, Samhain was a time that people remembered their ancestors, and reached out to try and communicate with them. Remnents of these traditional beliefs still are celebrated in various degrees: from celebrating saints on All Saints Day to believing that one's relatives can, in spirit, come back for one more day during the Days of the Dead, remembering one's loved ones during this time is still a great practice to keep.
Pull out some pictures and videos of loved ones. Reflect back on their life, and what they taught you. Gather together these items, along with any heirlooms you may have from them, and light a candle. Gather around these things with family members and friends, and share memories about your loved one. Or, sit quietly with these items on your own, and journal about what you would say to this person if they were with you. Visit the graves of loved ones if possible, and clean and decorate the space that they are buried. Spend some time there, in prayer or meditation, and make sure to leave a gift when you leave behind, such as flowers.
Take this time to remember your own mortality as well. The reason that the image of the skull is so common during this time is not just because we remember those who have already died, but also because it is a reminder to think about our own life. What are the most important things in your life right now? Are you satisfied with where you are in life? Are there things you have not been able to accomplish yet? Reflect on all these things today.
Because the veil between worlds has draw close, Samhain is not only a time to communicate with departed loved ones: it is also a time that paranormal activity increases, and spirits, energies, and mythological entities are said to be most active. Often, people will use herbs in the form of incense or smudge sticks to either protect themselves and banish the restless spirits, but also to invite positive and friendly spirits into their space. Read more about using herbs and smudge sticks for this purpose here!
The thinner veil around Samhain is also said to help those with psychic abilities, those who practice scrying, use tarot cards, or use runes to try to gain a batter understanding of the past, sort through life at present time, and gain a glimpse of understanding into the future.
Scrying is the practice of using a dark surface to focus one's mind and consciousness. Whether images flash through your mind or on the surface, it is said that these images can grant the seer wisdom, or perhaps a hint of what is to come. It is common to use crystal balls for this purpose, but Window Quartz can also be used for this purpose. Window Quartz is a naturally occurring phenomenon: Stones are polished flat on one surface by a river, and this surface can be used for scrying. Mirrors can also be used for this purpose, or a clear bowl of water. Tea is a great source for this-especially when made with herbs such as Mugwort, which is said to increase wisdom.
Even if you do not practice any art of divination or use any tools to increase wisdom and understanding, Samhain is a perfect time for reflection and seeking greater understanding. Journaling, meditation, and pray during this time of year is a perfect way to explore one's own consciousness and seek greater knowledge and wisdom.
No matter how you mark this special time of year, it is important to give the end of the Harvest Season its own time and attention before jumping right into the winter holidays. In our modern culture, where Christmas decorations go up long before Halloween, let's slow down, enjoy the rest of the falling leaves, and listen to the earth as it curls and and prepares for winter. Take a walk tonight-enjoy the crunch of the leaves and the chill in the air. Make a bonfire, look up at the stars, and reflect on this past year. Remember fondly the summer and fall months, everything you accomplished, and how you grew. Then sit and draw yourself in, mentally and spiritually preparing for the colder, quieter months.
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