Thursday, October 29, 2009

Samhain (pronounced Sow-een) October 31st

This Celtic holiday is the final harvest festival of the year. The word means “summer’s end,” when people gather resources for the coming winter. It is also the start of the Pagan New Year, the day when “the veil between this world and the next is thinnest and communication with our ancestors is easiest.”

There are many ancient and contemporary traditions, lore, and symbols including altars, chants, divination methods, cemetery blessings, bonfire magic, and more. You can devise your own ceremony with a votive candle, a photograph or memento of someone who has died that you wish to honor, and a Samhain symbol to energize.

Symbols that represent Samhain may include: Apples, Balefires, Black Cats, Besoms (magical brooms), Cauldrons, Jack-O-Lanterns, Masks, and the Waning Moon. Ghosts being a symbol for Samhain makes perfect sense since Samhain was the festival where the Gates Between the Worlds were open wide and departed friends and family could cross over in either direction.

In Scotland, people would place stones in the ashes of the hearth before going to bed Samhain night. Anyone whose stone had been disturbed during the night was said to be destined to die during the coming year.

In this country, we celebrate Halloween or All Hallows Eve with many of the ancient traditions like masks and symbols. In recent years, some schools have attempted to curtail Halloween parties as pagan rituals. This year, with the threat of the H1N1 virus, kids may stay home and not risk exposure to lots of strangers. We’ll put up the usual decorations of skeletons and pumpkins. Ember will be a Fairy Princess/Snow White/Ballerina (this involves multiples layers of skirts and sparkly doo-dads). She will answer the door and pass out candy to the Trick or Treaters.


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