New Posts on Wednesdays and Saturdays -- er generally

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Samhain

For me, one of the pleasures of the winter season has to be fires in the fireplace. The house is dark, sometimes we are watching a movie and the flames as they flicker. No warmth sinks in deeper as I sit on the hearth than that of a fire. This is also my season for lighting white candles, lots of white candles to somehow keep the darkness out perhaps or appreciate it in the only way I can.

The Celtic people broke their seasons with more a sense of nature. I guess that's not surprising as we are a people who often seem oblivious to nature as though it can be ruled or ignored. Their holidays and celebrations hence though are more tuned to the rhythms of the year and not a religion as such.

Samhain, the end of the year, is one of the major fire festivals from their tradition. It is celebrated, at the same time as Halloween and All Saints Day, the latter two significant days in western culture but often with no clue from where they originated. This season though is the beginning of dormancy and the end of the harvest. Celts and other religions today have chosen it as a time to remember the ancestors. All Souls Day October 31 and All Saints Day November 1.

If someone has a garden, they know that in the northern climates at least, the garden is being put to bed for the winter. The last food has been harvested. On a farm, especially when the people were dependent on what they could store to get through the winter, the weak animals will have been slaughtered, the meat dried or preserved. Living with nature and by its provision tends to make one very aware of seasons. City people get some taste of that when the farmer markets are closed down for the winter. Otherwise grocery stores keep produce coming due to shipping.

Spiritually if we think of Samhain as a time to assess our own weaknesses, putting them away, it can be used as a time to put behind us what is not working. Because the pagans believe this is a time when the veil between life and death thins, many make altars to their ancestors, not to worship but to recognize with gratitude. Some would say it's a time to connect with those on the other side and out of that we see where most of our Halloween traditions arose. It's surprising though how the knowledge of from what it has arisen can be so distorted as to be a time associated with the Devil where some fundamentalists see it as a very bad time-- not at all what it is for a Pagan who celebrates nature as the path to god.

I have read it relates to the death of the god Lugh who will be reborn with Beltane but whether it's come out of that or simply is a recognition of what this season truly feels like, the time of dormancy and dark is here and the time of growth and new sprouts is half a year away.

Besides possibly creating an altar to family members on the other side, another way to celebrate the night is with fire which can mean candles or a fire in the fireplace if a bonfire is not practical. A person with a garden could go outside that night to offer thanks for its bounty.

Now is a good time to plan new projects for the coming year even if the weather is not making implementation of them practical just yet. Planning time can be good as it lets us think about what we will be doing to get it right.

For more on ways to celebrate Samhain and what it means, I found this link:


It is by the way not pronounced like you'd think but rather sow-en. Or so I hear as some say other possible ways. It's from the Celtic.

7 comments:

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

What a lovely informative post, Rain. I know so little of these traditions--I found this really fascinating. I am going to go read that link now, and Thank You for all of this, my dear.

mandt said...

Love the Samhain posts....delightful!

Kay Dennison said...

I loved this -- especially the photos!

Anonymous said...

this is really cool, I like here!

Celia said...

I've been thinking about how the dead are honored this time of year and your post was timely! It's kind of amazing the traditions have held on so long even in the commercially altered form (same as Christmas). Many, if not most of us, come from a farming, peasant history in antiquity, mine certainly did. Don't think there's any Celtic or Scandinavian princesses in our hertitage. As a family we've been trying to turn those commercialized events around in a more nature respectful way, at least when we not trying to hibernate.

Rain said...

celia, I think it's surprising how often what we feel the natural inclination to do is seasonally, astrologically or spiritually backed by a long tradition that we didn't even have to know about to feel the vibes. I had been feeling this desire to rethink a lot of my ideas and clean up my act before I thought wait it's Samhain that there is a natural seasonal reason for my desire now.

robin andrea said...

I think of today as the real first day of winter. Now we are in the time of waning light, halfway between equinox and solstice. The garden sleeps.