Sabbat of SAMHAIN - HALLOWEEN, October 31
(Hallowe'en, Hallomas, Sauin, Samhuinn, Nos Galan Gaoef, Nos Kentan'r Bloaz)
is the traditional Celtic New Year's Eve. It is the beginning of the dark
period of the year which will gradually give birth to a new sun and new life.
It is the beginning of the gestation period for the coming year and of the
future. As such, the Horned God must leave the seed of life with the Great
Mother for the New Year. This is the last opportunity He will have to perform
this greatest of all magicks before He must depart the physical world and so
sojourn in the land of spirits and waiting souls. His departure at Samhain is
very dramatic and powerful as it opens the gates of the entire netherworld for
a brief period thus rendering Samhain a period of awe for all who have the
senses to feel it.
Samhain begins the rule of the Lord of Death - the God of change,
transformation andthe growth of the soul. He is also the God of rest and
This is a time to let old habits die and to meditate on who we wish to become.
The Winter months are months to muse inward, seeking one's Self. Spend this
time in your studies, calm meditations and gentle reverie so that, come
spring, you may rise renewed, rejuvenated, fresh and whole.
It is said that on this date, the Celtic God, Saman, judges the souls of those
who have left their bodies and decides if they may return to their loved ones
for this last evening before making their journey to the Otherworld. Bonfires
and solar symbols of all kinds are appropriate for this Sabbat. The carved
Jack'o'Lantern pumpkin with its lit candle inside is strongly associated with
this season as a solar symbol. The cauldron used as a scrying tool and as a
symbol of the regeneration of souls as well as the broom which sweeps away the
past are also both appropriate symbols. Pomegranates, nuts, apples and root
vegetables are all symbolic of this Sabbat.
Samhain is a time to remember, honor and commune with our ancestors. Their
wisdom and lore enriches our lives and gives us clear pathways to follow and
Samhain: The Start of the Celtic New Year
Samhain is still celebrated by
individuals following the Wiccan path. It is one of the four great Sabbaths
celebrated during the Wiccan year. Samhain translates as "summer's
end" and begins the dark half of the year. It is a time when the deceased are remembered and honored, the autumn harvest is
reaped and the preparation for winter begins.
marks one of the two great doorways of the Celtic year, for the Celts divided
the year into two seasons: the light and the dark, at Beltane on May 1st and
Samhain on November 1st. Some believe that Samhain was the more important
festival, marking the beginning of a whole new cycle, just as the Celtic day
began at night. For it was understood that in dark silence comes whisperings of
new beginnings, the stirring of the seed below the ground. Whereas Beltane
welcomes in the summer with joyous celebrations at dawn, the most magically
potent time of this festival is November Eve, the night of October 31st, known
today of course, as Halloween.
(Scots Gaelic: Samhuinn) literally means “summer's end.” In Scotland and
Ireland, Halloween is known as Oíche Shamhna, while in Wales it is Nos Calan
Gaeaf, the eve of the winter's calend, or first. With the rise of Christianity,
Samhain was changed to Hallowmas, or All Saints' Day, to commemorate the souls
of the blessed dead who had been canonized that year, so the night before became
popularly known as Halloween, All Hallows Eve, or Hollantide. November 2nd
became All Souls Day, when prayers were to be offered to the souls of all who
the departed and those who were waiting in Purgatory for entry into Heaven.
Throughout the centuries, pagan and Christian beliefs intertwine in a
gallimaufry of celebrations from Oct 31st through November 5th, all of which
appear both to challenge the ascendancy of the dark and to revel in its mystery.
the country year, Samhain marked the first day of winter, when the herders led
the cattle and sheep down from their summer hillside pastures to the shelter of
stable and byre. The hay that would feed them during the winter must be stored
in sturdy thatched ricks, tied down securely against storms. Those destined for
the table were slaughtered, after being ritually devoted to the gods in pagan
times. All the harvest must be gathered in -- barley, oats, wheat, turnips, and
apples -- for come November, the faeries would blast every growing plant with
their breath, blighting any nuts and berries remaining on the hedgerows. Peat
and wood for winter fires were stacked high by the hearth. It was a joyous time
of family reunion, when all members of the household worked together baking,
salting meat, and making preserves for the winter feasts to come. The endless
horizons of summer gave way to a warm, dim and often smoky room; the symphony of
summer sounds was replaced by a counterpoint of voices, young and old, human and
, people gathered at the ritual centers of the tribes, for Samhain was the
principal calendar feast of the year.
The greatest assembly was the 'Feast of Tara,' focusing on the royal seat
of the High King as the heart of the sacred land, the point of conception for
the new year. In every household throughout the country, hearth-fires were
extinguished. All waited for the Druids to light the new fire of the year -- not
, but at Tlachtga, a hill twelve miles to the north-west. It marked the
burial-place of Tlachtga, daughter of the great druid Mogh Ruith, who may once
have been a goddess in her own right in a former age.
at all the turning points of the Celtic year, the gods drew near to Earth at
Samhain, so many sacrifices and gifts were offered up in thanksgiving for the
harvest. Personal prayers in the form of objects symbolizing the wishes of
supplicants or ailments to be healed were cast into the fire,
and at the end of the ceremonies, brands were lit from the great fire of
to re-kindle all the home fires of the tribe, as at Beltane. As they received
the flame that marked this time of beginnings, people surely felt a sense of the
kindling of new dreams, projects and hopes for the year to come.
Samhain fires continued to blaze down the centuries.
In the 1860s the Halloween bonfires were still so popular in
that one traveler reported seeing thirty fires lighting up the hillsides all on
one night, each surrounded by rings of dancing figures, a practice which
continued up to the first World War. Young people and servants lit brands from
the fire and ran around the fields and hedges of house and farm, while community
leaders surrounded parish boundaries with a magic circle of light. Afterwards,
ashes from the fires were sprinkled over the fields to protect them during the
winter months -- and of course, they also improved the soil. The bonfire
provided an island of light within the oncoming tide of winter darkness, keeping
away cold, discomfort, and evil spirits long before electricity illumined our
nights. When the last flame sank down, it was time to run as fast as you could
for home, raising the cry, “The black sow without a tail take the hindmost!”
today, bonfires light up the skies in many parts of the
at this season, although in many areas of
their significance has been co-opted by Guy Fawkes Day, which falls on November
5th, and commemorates an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the English Houses of
Parliament in the 17th century. In one
village, the extraordinary sight of both men and women running through the
streets with blazing tar barrels on their backs can still be seen! Whatever the
reason, there will probably always be a human need to make fires against the