Halloween is just around the corner and many houses are decorated with carved pumpkins, ghosts, and spiders.
But did you know that Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic festival “Samhain”?
“Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Traditionally, Samhain is celebrated from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November. The festival falls approximately halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, which are also celebrated approximately halfway between the two yearly solstices and equinoxes: Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh.” ~ Source: Wikipedia
Traditionally Samhain marked the parting of the fruitful seasons and the arrival of God Samhain, the Celtic God of the Dead.
In many countries (Ireland, China, Japan, etc.) it is believed that around this time of the year the veil between our world and the afterworld/beyond/other side becomes very thin. People give offerings to the deceased, hoping to commune with them and ask for advice.
Nowadays the Christian tradition devoted November 1st to deceased saints, asking them for communion and protection for the living. The second day of November is dedicated in memory to all deceased and traditionally prayers are being offered in church or/and at the graveyard. Both are strong reminiscences of the invocation and appreciation of the deceased in the pagan tradition.
The spooky part of Halloween that was created in England and America has its roots in the fact, that it has become scary and weird for us to commune with the afterworld/beyond/other side.
Children are dressing in scary costumes and go “trick or treating” from house to house, hoping for big amounts of candy.
This custom points to the aspect of the celebration of the unborn. In the pagan tradition children are the result of incarnated souls. Therefore Halloween (or Samhain) has always also been a festival for the children. In many countries small children honor the Saint Martin on November 11 by carrying handmade lanterns and singing songs. The lights of the lanterns are the allegory for the soul light.
Pumpkins originated from North America and Asia. They were regarded as a gift from the ancestors, as pumpkins provided nourishment in the seasons where food was rare. The color of the pumpkin, ocher, was regarded as the color of life after death.
Today, many of us are still enjoying pumpkins/squash as a warming meal in autumn and decorate our homes with pumpkins. Putting lights inside carved pumpkins again symbolizes the light of the soul.
The falling leaves in autumn remind us of transience and impermanence, yet even though we might not be able to see it, a bud has already formed for the next year where a leave just fell off.
Many cultures and traditions believe in a life after death and the importance of connecting to our ancestors, and all beings that have been here before, getting us to where we are today. By appreciating and remembering our ancestors (and all beings (incl. your pets) that have passed on), we can ask for guidance and encouragement to support us to face the challenges that life can throw in our way.
Here are some ritual suggestions for this upcoming Samhain.
Appreciation of the Ancestors
Find a nice sheltered spot in your garden, on your deck, room or windowsill and place a candle in appreciation of our ancestors. You may choose to do this for several days or even weeks.
If you wish, you may specifically invite an ancestor to get in touch with you, maybe asking for their advice, guidance or support.
Planting the Seeds of your Dreams
Step outside and gather some fresh soil. You may like to bring a pot with you to place the soil in or start by just holding it in your hands. As you hold the soil or the pot of soil, envision your hopes and dreams for the future as small seeds that you plant deep into the soil. Now, place the soil in a pot (if you were holding it in your hands), find a nice spot for it in your house and care for the seeds of your dreams during winter. As spring arrives, it is time to place the pot outside and watch the sprouts of your dreams emerge.
~Tanja Alexandra Kern