We make ready for the thinning of the veil, make space and way for our ancestors to visit and bestow upon us their wisdom and guidance. The earth has given all she can and we have gratefully plucked the fruits and lovingly given thanks to her for her hard work and sacrifice. Now we prepare to say farewell to her beauty- to the green leaves, the hot sun and warm breezes, the fields which give us life; and the barren earth gives way to the reign of the Crone.
Samhain was celebrated in ancient Ireland and the British Isles circa Oct 31 and is pronounced SOW-in or Saa-ween & most scholars agree that is means “Summer’s end”. To the ancient Celts of this region it marked the end of the harvest season and ushered in winter, the threshold into the dark half of the year. The Celtic day began and ended at sundown vs. sunrise. Samhain is celebrated sunset 31 Oct – sunset 1 Nov. The rituals of Samhain are as figurative and metaphorical as they are literal. Rituals and customs were our ancestor’s way as much as they are our way of putting imagery to the realities of life and death, to make sense of and honor the cycle of life in its final stage.
Old Lore states that at sundown Oct 31st the Veil between the worlds is at the thinnest, and spirits of not only the dead but of all kinds are more accessible on this night, spirits of those who have passed, the fae & elementals as well. Food Offerings were often left out for the Fae on 31 Oct in hopes they would grant the land their favor over next years growing season. It was the date which the Cailleach took the reigns from Brighid. The Cailleach is often described as an old hag and ruled the winter and dark half of the year.It should be noted that the Irish Celts often inferred their deities as Fae, a race of Gods who retreated into the earth during modern times. It can be difficult if not impossible to separate beings we would consider Gods from elemental type beings in Irish folklore.
Traditional Samhain Rituals to our ancient ancestors would have been tribal gatherings, as this was likely the last time travel was easy for such get togethers. Judgements would be passed by leaders, performances and competitions would take place as well as feasting. Religious ceremony with the invocation of deity would have also taken place along with divination with apples and hazelnuts, as this liminal period is best time to peer through at ones future.
While we currently place Ancestor veneration at the forefront of Samhain, this was not in fact an activity our Irish ancestors would have engaged in at this time. Ancestor worship became associated with this date when the Church turned Nov 2nd into All Souls Day. Regardless, It is a time to honor our dead and our ancestors. To ask them for advice, protection and guidance, To forge connections with the very people from which we owe our existence to.
We also see polarized rituals on Samhain as compared to Beltaine. Within the Celtic Ritual year Beltaine is the opening, the beginning of the growing season. Fires are lit at dawn & men (symbolizing the seed planters) created the ritual cakes, but during Samhain the Fires are lit at sunset & the women (those who bring the seed to fruition) created the ritual cakes. This dichotomy symbolizes the opening and closing of the ritual & growing year. Samhain also began the New Year for the ancient Celts, for beginnings often start in the Darkness.
Processions, Guising (costuming), Revelry, pranks and other sorts of behavior not normally tolerated was completely allowable on Samhain even among the ancients.
While our traditions have been added to and subtracted from over the millennia, the root cause for celebration of Samhain remains the same. Honoring the Liminal period, Guising, Revelry, Feasting all remain a part of our Modern Samhain and reach back through the ages. When you connect your modern rituals to ancient ones, you are maintaining that sacred space and participating in rituals that echo back through the ages. There has always been something MAGICKAL about Oct 31st.
Be sure to check out our Samhain Collection for all the tools you need to connect, celebrate and welcome the Dark Half of the Year.
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