Halloween is nearly upon us, gentle readers, and for me this year, that means celebrating Samhain – the Pagan festival that marks the end of the light half of the year and the beginning of the dark half. Growing ceases and decay and dormancy begin – things in nature that need to die and break down into the earth so they can nourish the living do so, and the things in nature that need to shelter and rest so they can rise again prepare to go to ground.
Usually I write an article about the history and tradition of each Sabbat to help myself learn more about the season, but Samhain is the one Pagan holiday it seems I already knew a lot about due to so many people writing about its origins every year at Halloween – or at least writing about the superficial traditions we Americans follow. (Here’s as good an example as any at Mental Floss.)
I’m finding myself paying a lot less attention to the Halloween costumes and the trick-or-treating now that my son is older, though. We had a ball making some fantastic costumes (including those for our giant metal chicken, Vinnie), playing awesome games at class parties, and carving some epic jack-o-lanterns, but we’ve entered a new season of life and he’s moved away from those pursuits. It’s time for me to let that tradition rest for the time being – at least until I get some grandchildren to relive it with!
Samhain has plenty of themes other than the spooky-wandering-spirit element that are well worth exploring. Here are the ones I’ll be looking at this season:
In the nature-based God/Goddess tradition, this is the season where the God takes the form of the stag and sacrifices himself to provide nourishment for his people during the dark months to come, and this is the time when the Goddess assumes her Crone aspect and applies her wisdom and experience to nourishing the Earth with the remnants of the year’s harvest. In the practical application of this tradition, I’ve been working to process the last of my own harvest from my garden, preserving, drying, and making all sorts of goodies with the fruits I’ve harvested so I can nourish my family with them during the dark months as well. Celebrating harvest’s end during our traditional Thanksgiving feast with my family will be a fitting capstone to the Sabbat season, too.
This year, I’m also focusing more on the life/death/rebirth cycle. A big part of the Death portion of this cycle is taking out the trash – both figuratively and literally. I celebrated the Mother/life aspect of the Goddess all summer long by feeding my spirit through creation – my crafting, gardening, and nature connection – and now my work with her Crone/death aspect will continue as I turn to destruction and abandonment in forgiving old hurts, letting go of grudges, and banishing insecurities so they can become compost to nourish the growth of my wisdom, kindness, and confidence as the coming new year progresses. Practically, I’ll be preparing for the dark months to come by doing a thorough literal housecleaning and some spellwork to banish bad vibes and old bullshit and to guard my patch against new negative influences and attitudes with protection spells and a house blessing.
Since Samhain is the time of year when the veil between the spirit world and ours is the thinnest, I want to get more comfortable working with spirits in general. Allowing myself to accept and surrender to an actual connection with Something Else has always been the most difficult part of any “religious” experience for me, no matter how many times I’ve experienced it, so it’s a challenge, but I’m enjoying the struggle. I’m trying my hand at tarot reading, with very interesting results, and I’ve made my own runes to play with as well.
I also want to take some time this season to remember my ancestors and the lessons they taught me while they’re closer and easier to connect with. Many cultures celebrate and honor their dead during the dark half of the year – I always feel close to my grandma Gayle at Christmastime in particular – but the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico has really caught my attention. (Yes, the festival that might be visited by some of my very own monarch butterflies!) I don’t intend to appropriate that culture’s specific practices, but I will be preparing some special foods and doing some fun projects to connect with the memories of my grandparents and great-grandparents in much the same way Mexicans celebrate their late loved ones.
So those are my plans for the season – how do you plan to celebrate the Sabbat and explore its themes this year? Let me know in the comments or join in our conversation at The Half-Assed Circle on Facebook. Until next time!