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Today is when many modern Pagans celebrate Samhain. This holiday marks the start of winter and the new year according to the old Celtic calendar. It is a time when the ancestors are honored, divination is performed, and festivals are held in honor of the gods. Samhain is also recognized as the final harvest before the long winter ahead. It is perhaps the best-known and most widely celebrated of all the modern Pagan holidays.During this season, other celebrations and festivals are also being held such as Velu Laiks (“the time of spirits”) by Baltic Pagans, Álfablót or the Scandanavian Sacrifice to the Elves, Winter Nights by Ásatrú, Foundation Night in modern devotional practices to Antinous, Allelieweziel by the Urglaawe tradition, Fete Gede by Vodou practitioners, Día de los Muertos for followers of Santeria and several indigenous religions in Mexico and Latin America, Diwali for Hindus (beginning Oct. 30 this year, it runs for five days) and the astrological Samhain on Nov. 6 for some Witches and Druids. Finally, in the Southern Hemisphere, many Pagans are currently celebrating Beltane.
Here are some thoughts shared by Pagans and polytheists about this time of year:
On this day, the world of our physical reality and the world of our spiritual reality come together and communicate. It is a time of connecting with our ancestors and offering gratitude for their part in our lives. I always incorporate a knotting/braiding activity in my ritual. I take three pieces of red yarn or ribbon about 20 inches long and begin braiding them and knotting in groups of three, with each knot, I invite and say aloud the name of the ancestor to my ritual celebration. I recount how they have positively impacted my life and offer gratitude for their presence in my life now and when they were alive. When I am done, I place the braid on my altar for the year to represent how they are woven into my life and to keep that energy alive. –Katie Pifer, What is Samhain?
In Urglaawe, the Wild Hunt is Holle gathering up the souls of the Dead, and then on Walpurgisnacht she grinds them in her mill so they can go on to the next life. I like that better than the idea of Vallhalla, which I always thought seemed too Christian-influenced. The thing is, once you’re ground in the mill, what is left of you? Is it anything recognizable as being you anymore? The person you were still becomes just a memory. –Amanda the Conqueror, Celebrating Allelieweziel this year
I got up early and before going to work I shaved my head, as I often have on this day as well. I like hair on one’s scalp–mine and others (other hair? Not so much…!), and so I didn’t want to do it, and in fact I really don’t like doing it (and I like doing it even less on-my-own/without assistance), but it wouldn’t be a sacrifice (in the modern colloquial sense) if it weren’t difficult. But, it is an important sign of mourning, an important aspect of Egyptian sacerdotal practice (though I am not entirely hairless at the moment, like they were), and it also ends up giving me a small pile (and smaller every year, sadly) of materials to give in offering at various places in the future. –P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, Sacred Nights of Antinous 2016–Death of Antinous
And, Siobhan Johnson suggests 10 things to do on Samhain.
Many people who have been active members of our collective communities have crossed the veil this past year, including: Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, Marc Pourner, Scott Walters, Richard Reidy, Daniel Kaufman, Jean Williams, Crystal Tier, Morgan McFarland, John Belham-Payne, A.J. Gooch, JD Taylor, Gavin Frost, Lydia Miller Ruyle, David Babulski, Nikki Bado, Michael Wiggins, Scott Symonds, Lady Epona, John Ravenmoon, Charlie Murphy, Margarian Bridger, Tisha Gill, Fallon Smart, Seb Barnett, Lady Flora, Bryan David Zell, Carole Kitchenwitch. There are also many others who have not been not named here but who have touched our individual lives, our practices, and our communities. What is remembered, lives.
May you have a blessed Samhain. May peace fall upon you and your beloved dead during this season. Let this be a new cycle of quiet joy and renewed blessings for all of you.