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Can you feel it? The veil between the worlds is thin and magic is in the air. Another year is coming to a close and soon it will be Samhain (pronounced ‘Sow en’ or ‘Sow Ween’), the ancient Celtic holiday signifying the start of winter. The word itself means “summer’s end”. It is traditionally observed November 1, but the true date is changeable, based on when the sun is 15* of Scorpio (November 8, 2014).
Samhain is the third and final harvest celebration on the wheel of the year. Lughnasadh was the grain harvest, Mabon the fruit and Samhain is the “harvest” of the slaughter. By this time of year all the crops and orchards have been harvested, food properly preserved in storage and the herds would be thinned for slaughter to keep people in meat throughout the winter.
Samhain is a beautiful celebration of death and life. It is a time to remember the sacredness of all life by acclimating to the natural forces of the cosmos. At this time, all of nature appears to be dying and we take her cues to retreat inward, both metaphorically and literally.
Leaves drop from trees, the extremities of the elements force us inward for warmth and security. This is the beginning of the dark season -- between now and Yule, the Goddess mourns the loss of her beloved consort. On Dec 21 he will return to shine brightly once again, but for now the energy is ripe for doing a bit of soul searching and shadow work.
Shadow work is a term coined by psychotherapist C. G. Jung, and is a way to get to know yourself on a much deeper level by addressing your personal fears and overcoming self-sabotaging behaviors. The custom of dressing up for halloween has its roots in shadow work. It is one day of the year at which society gives us permission to fully explore and express our alter ego. The idea of bringing these personas out into the open can be frightening to many, but on Halloween, anything goes.
Eliade's Encyclopaedia of Religion states as follows: "The Eve and day of Samhain were characterized as a time when the barriers between the human and supernatural worlds were broken... Not a festival honoring any particular Celtic deity, Samhain acknowledged the entire spectrum of nonhuman forces that roamed the earth during that period."
Faeries were said to enjoy making mischief on this night. It was also believed that because the veil between the living and the dead is thin, souls of departed loved ones would wander the earth on Samhain night in search of food and rest, so it was customary to leave bread and wine for the weary wanderers.
However, by the time the church tried to incorporate Samhain into its fold, it was not uncommon for children and the poor to go from door to door begging for food on this night, a custom known as “souling.” Soul cakes were offered as an almsgiving. This is said to be the origin of trick-or-treating.
But the Celts were not the only ancients to observe these energies. In Mexico, this day is known as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It is a joyous celebration of deceased loved ones, with ofrendas, altars and sugar skulls. Graves are decorated with marigolds and roses, candles, pictures of the deceased and offerings of pan muerto, sugar skulls, wine and the departed’s favorite foods. Grand processions are made through the graveyards at night with candle lights and torches and people will sit at their loved one’s grave well into the early morning hours telling stories and remembering their essence.
No matter how you celebrate, may you know the ancient wisdom of this season.
My name is Dawn Champine and I am the Creatrix of The Goddess Diaries. I am very passionate about helping women remember their REAL GODDESS selves.