Samhain or Halloween on the 31st October is the time when the veil between the living and those living in spirit (the Otherworld), is very thin. We can take this time to remember and connect with, our close and distant ancestors. Death and those who are ‘dead’ or in spirit is the central theme of the Feast of the Dead. This does not have to be seen as morbid because it is part of the cycle of life, death and rebirth. It is not something to be feared. Old age is valued for its wisdom and dying can be accepted as a part of life as necessary and welcome as birth. This is a time for honouring, respecting and celebrating the lives of our ancestors and loved ones who have passed.
This is the beginning of the Celtic and Pagan new year and it is a time to consider what has happened since last Samhain. It is time to celebrate Nature's cycle of death and renewal. The Triple Goddess was worshipped by The Ancient Britons as Maiden, Mother and Crone. Samhain marks the return of the Crone bringing the winter and protecting animals through this season where the days are shorter and the sun is weak. The Crone represents respect for the wisdom that time brings, for the wisdom and love of our elders and the suggestion of a season of retreat into ourselves to assimilate and reassess our experience and gain greater self-knowledge. The Crone is turned back to stone on Beltane Eve in May as the cycle turns yet again.
Samhain is one of four fire festivals marking the Celtic quarter points in the year. At these times feasts with bonfires were held throughout the countryside. The bonfires warmed the friendly spirits and protected against evil spirits. They were also a reminder of the warmth of the sun and that the cold dark days would once more be replaced by longer days, crops growing and animals breeding.
Embers from the fires were taken home to start a new cooking fire and keep homes happy and free from any lost evil spirits. The term 'bonfire' is may have derived from the custom of burning the bones of animals slaughtered at this time: 'bone fire'.
The Catholic Church decided to use November 1st as All Saints Day around the eighth century. It was a church holiday superimposed on the pagan feast day. ‘All Saints’ became the festival to honor any saint who didn’t already have a day of his or her own. The mass said on All Saints’ was called Allhallowmas – the mass of all those who are hallowed. The night before naturally became known as All Hallows Eve. This eventually became ‘Halloween’.
Treats were offered for protection by appeasing any roaming evil spirits. It is thought that dressing up on Halloween comes from creating a disguise, misleading the spirits to see people as part of their own company. The custom of going from door to door ‘trick or treating’ may orignally have been to collect bread, cheese, nuts and apples in preparation for the feasting at Samhain.
This is a time to end old projects and plant the seeds of new projects, allowing them to germinate during winter. Leave any mistakes and regrets behind you and look forward to what the future holds. At this magical time you can let go of anything that has outworn its purpose: a relationship, a habit or any thing that no longer serves a positive purpose in your life. If you cannot move on that quickly, then at least take your first step and make a plan to follow your best path forward.