Hands up if you love Halloween? Honestly, I LOVE fancy dress so any excuse to don my best costume is fine by me! Having been brought up Catholic though, I've always known that there's more to Halloween than just candy and costumes (with the celebration of All Saints' Day) but it wasn't until I began observing the the 'Wheel of the Year' that I developed a much greater personal connection and deeper appreciation with October 31st, or Samhain as it is known.
Following the 'Wheel of the Year' has allowed me to embrace change with so much more ease and has supported me in releasing the constant pressure to be productive that so many of us feel. It gives me opportunities to pause, reflect, show gratitude and to plan and prepare. It's a built in alarm clock that's been present in our year for generations but one that has forgotten as productivity and output have reigned and cyclical living and a connection to nature have been disregarded.
What is Samhain?
Samhain (pronounced 'sow-when' or some variation of that but never 'sam-hane') is the last Harvest or Fire festival of the 'Wheel of the Year'. All of the harvest has been gathered - it is the end of the cycle of life and the point of death. The close of the Harvest signals the beginning of Winter and the 'dark' half of the year, where the nights continue to get longer and the days continue to get shorter.
It might seem strange to celebrate 'death' and the descent into darkness because it's not something we tend to value in our present culture. Many of us have even been taught to be fearful of it but for many cultures, death represents a universal experience and an opportunity to come together in remembrance. This is a time to remember and honour our ancestors, whether that is people we have known in this lifetime who have passed, relatives who have passed before our time or any and all of our ancestors that have come before us and with whom we feel a connection - they don't have to be part of our bloodline.
As with the 'Death' card in Tarot, Samhain represents the end of the cycle but also rebirth - there cannot be life without death. For the Celts, the new day began at sunset (not sunrise!) and as Samhain represents the sunset for the year, so too does it represent to start of a New Year. I really enjoy observing Samhain as my 'spiritual new year' because it feels less pressured than the usual January 1st. I don't know if this the result of all the collective energies pressuring themselves to commit to unattainable goals or what but I find it much gentler to set my intentions (not resolutions) for the following year at Samhain.
Rest & Reflection
Connecting with our ancestors and reflecting on death inevitably invites us to go inwards and reflect on our own lives and our own mortality. This invitation offers us an opportunity for deep transformation as we sit with those questions that we usually push to one side. The darkness that comes with this time of year gives us the perfect chance to rest as we reflect on the past year but to also dream about what will come and what we envisage for ourselves in the New Year and when the light returns.
How to Celebrate Samhain
Here's a few ideas of how you can observe Samhain:
1. Honour your ancestors
Create an altar and place their photographs/images on it with offerings like their favourite foods, drink, items etc.
Write a letter to them - thank them, fill them in on what you're up to, how you're feeling etc.
Just keep them in mind as you go about your days.
2. Celebrate your spiritual New Year!
Write down a list of your intentions for the New Year, you might like to make vison board!
Think about and write down what actions you can take to bring these intentions into reality
Take advantage of the veil being at its thinnest and spend some time on your spiritual practice. You might like to meditate, pull some cards, journal etc.
3. Rest & Reflect
Rest. Perhaps have a relaxing bath or do some gentle - take it slow
Go for a quiet walk in nature
Journal about the past year - what went well? what didn't? what would you like more or less of next year?
Be gentle with yourself and wear your comfiest clothes!
You can also use Tarot to create a spread for yourself based on the themes of Samhain - make your own or used the one that I've created for you!
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Have a blessed and restful Samhain!