Samhain marks the end, and the beginning, of the Pagan year. The end of a year, the start of a new one and the commencement of the dark half.
We remember and honor those we have lost, and acknowledge that without death there can be no rebirth.
With so much meaning held within, this is the most significant and sacred day of the year.
Samhain is a celebration, recognising the achievements and successes of the year just gone, and the promise of a new one beginning. Samhain is endings and beginnings, death and rebirth and remembering those that have gone before us.
Samhain marks the beginning of Autumn. Samhain is crisp and colourful autumn leaves, cooling days and chilly nights. It is the scent of smoke on the air, from wood heaters and farmers burning off the harvest stubble. It is the earth growing old, dark and still, shorter days and longer nights.
I love this time of year. The beauty of autumn, the end of the long, hot days of summer. But also because this is the season of the Witch, you can feel the magick in the air, can easily imagine the Crone Goddess, presiding over her cauldron. Her presence is everywhere, in the earth, the skies, the air and the trees.
Samhain is also the season of Hecate, now in her aspect of the Crone, aged, wise and ready to impart her mysteries upon those who seek them. Hecate is also known as the Goddess of Corpses, very fitting for the Feast of the Dead, as Samhain is sometimes known.
The Horned God has passed on, descended to the Underworld to take his throne . He is Hades, Pluto, God of the dead, Ruler of the Underworld. His trusty, three-headed dog, Cerberus beside him. As is his wife, Persephone. At the turn of the year, she returns to the Underworld, the Queen of Souls.
Samhain is a time for introspection and drawing inward. This is the time when the veil is thin, it is possible to catch a glimpse and gain knowledge from other realms. Tarot cards are especially insightful, this is a great time for readings. The Death card represents Samhain, giving Death its literal meaning at this time.
Scrying is another act of divination that works particularly well at Samhain. Using a black mirror is the best method for this Sabbat of darkness.
Samhain is also good for meditation and trance work. Looking inwards, contemplating your own mortality and what might lie on the other side of death. Samhain aids deep thinking and contemplation.
Samhain spans two days and nights, beginning on the 30th April. On this night, I lay out a great feast, where the close of the year is celebrated. I also set candles in the windows, one for each person, and animal, I have loved and lost. I think of the time I had with them as I light each particular candle. I scatter their photos around the house, a reminder of their life. Honoring the dead is my main focus during this Sabbat.
Bonfires are also a favorite. What better way to farewell the waning sun than a roaring big fire of heat and light?
Another Samhain tradition, and the origin of the epithet, Feast of the Dead, is laying a place at the dinner table for your deceased family members. It is never a good idea to actively invoke these souls, but it doesn’t hurt to lay open the invitation. They may just take you up on it.
If you choose to cast a circle on Samhain night, or eve, invite your ancestors to attend. But be sure to cast your circle with great intent and power, there are a lot of mischievous spirits roaming around on these nights.
The most obvious Samhain tradition, is the Jack-O-Lantern. These carved pumpkins are said to guide your love ones home, but they also scare away any unwanted entities.
In Australia, Halloween is catching on. But like all the other secular and mainstream religious holidays, it is held on the Northern Hemisphere date of October 31st. This is a bit of a challenge for Southern Hemisphere Pagans. Celebrating Halloween in spring, it just doesn’t work at all.
Unfortunately, this is the only time I can get my hands on pumpkins of the carvable kind. Carving a big ol’ Queensland blue pumpkin, now that takes some skill! Not to mention strength! Although, I have done just that, since Dad showed me how to do it as a kid. (Thanks Dad!)
Now, with Halloween catching on, the supermarkets import carving pumpkins from the USA. My carving skills get better each year, it’s just a pity it’s at the opposite end of that year!
Sadly, they don’t seem to grow here either. The seeds I have planted come to nothing.
The tradition of pumpkin carving actually started with turnips. So, this year, I think I might just give that a try. Though it sure won’t be my elaborate carving of pumpkins, it will have the same effect, welcoming and protecting my home from wandering spirits.
*Tarot Cards are from the ‘As Above’ Tarot