Happy Samhain to all my readers! I hope that, no matter how you celebrate the day, you do so safely and with great enjoyment.
Amongst modern neo-pagans and magical types, Samhain is one of the two great gates of the year, the other being the festival of Beltane in May. As you may know, in the Celtic lands in more ancient times, this is the time when livestock were slaughtered to provide meat for the coming winter and and when preparations for the cold season were in full swing. With the nights lengthening toward the Winter Solstice, shadows growing longer earlier and earlier each day and the energies of the earth sinking into dormancy, it was only natural that humans might also seek to turn within as well.
As with Beltane, Samhain was seen as a time when the veil between the worlds was thin and one might more easily commune with the beings of the Otherside. Amongst the Celts, at least, this communion seems to have taken the form of honoring the Ancestors and keeping up good relations with the Faerie. It was well understood that spirits of all kinds walked the night during this season and one had to be particularly careful if one had to be out and about but this was also a time when, for example, an extra place might be set at the table for visiting relatives who were no longer in their bodies.
As well, gifts of food and drink were left in a prominent place out doors for the Fair Ones as they made their rounds on Samhain. While offerings could be left for the Fair Folk at any time and, indeed, they often were, it was absolutely necessary to leave something (and do so generously) at Samhain to avoid any hostility on the part of “them ones”.
There is more than enough information on this feast out on the Net. Wiccans, in particular, love this time of year with all its witchy associations so feel free to check out some of their sites and have some fun, even if you are not of a neo-pagan bent.
Even if you are not inclined to believe in the Faery or other spirits that wander the night, each of us has Ancestors and, as I mentioned previously, Samhain was a time of honoring those ancestors and communing with them. In this day and age when we avoid death, hide our dying in hospitals and nursing homes and bury or cremate the dead as swiftly as can be arranged, we sometimes forget that, if it were not for the Ancestors, we would not be here. As many magical workers will tell you, we literally stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before and it is up to us to prepare the way for those who have yet to come.
I urge you, on this night when the veil is thinnest to do some honor for your Ancestors. It may be something as simple as lighting a candle for them and saying a small prayer, setting a place for them at your dinner table or putting out a good cigar for your Uncle Vinny who loved a good smoke. Or you may decide to do something as deep as going to visit the ancestors in meditation. I am going to provide a link at the end of the blog to a resource that can help with this if you have never tried anything of this nature before. Andrieh Vitimus is a well known magician and priest in the Haitian Vodou tradition who knows a great deal about contacting the ancestors.
I wish you blessings on this most holy night. May you walk in peace as the dark half of the year begins and as your energies turn within may you find new aspects of your self to bring forward when the sun returns to the earth.