A Blessed Samhain

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Tonight and tomorrow is when most modern Pagans celebrate Samhain. Samhain is the start of winter and of the new year in the old Celtic calendar. This is a time when the ancestors are honored, divinations for the new year are performed, and festivals are held in honor of the gods. It is a time of final harvest before the long winter ahead. It is perhaps the best-known and most widely celebrated of the modern Pagan holidays.

Samhain candlelight labyrinth.
Photo by Readerwalker, CC License

It is a time when some communities acknowledge the Mighty Dead.

“The Mighty Dead are said to be those practitioners of our religion who are on the Other Side now, but who still take great interest in the activities of Witches on this side of the Veil. They have pledged to watch, to help and to teach. It is those Mighty Dead who stand behind us, or with us, in circle so frequently.”

This has been a heavy year, as many notable members of the broader Pagan community have crossed the veil, including Sequoia Greenfield, Tara Webster, John Lyon Burnside III, Tom K. (Phoenix), Frederick McLaren Adams, Denessa Smith, Sgt. Joseph A. Ford, Paula Gunn Allen, Cora Anderson, Alan Miller (aka Dr Christopher Hyatt), Susan Grace Falkenrath (aka Susan Wolf), and Brenda Henson.

“I love that story about Susan Anthony that Zsuzsanna Budapest tells in her book. Some journalist asked Susan Anthony, because she didn’t believe in orthodox religion, I suppose, “Where do you think you’re to go when you die?” She said, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stay around and help the women’s movement.” So even if I don’t live long enough to see these things, I’ll be around to make a nuisance of myself.”Doreen Valiente, the Mother of Modern Witchcraft.

Below you’ll find an assortment of quotes from the media and from fellow Pagans on the holiday.

“Samhain. All Hallows. All Hallow’s Eve. Hallow E’en. Halloween. The most magical night of the year. Exactly opposite Beltane on the wheel of the year, Halloween is Beltane’s dark twin. A night of glowing jack-o’-lanterns, bobbing for apples, tricks or treats, and dressing in costume. A night of ghost stories and séances, tarot card readings and scrying with mirrors. A night of power, when the veil that separates our world from the Otherworld is at its thinnest. A “spirit night”, as they say in Wales.”Mike Nichols, The Witches’ Sabbats

“This night brought excitement to our European ancestors. They believed that this night was the time when the “Veil Between Worlds” was at its thinnest, and a time when the love of the living and the dead could transcend through that thinned Veil, and each side could reach to the other, to express that love.”Terry Smith, The Town Talk

“Halloween’s constantly evolving traditions originated about 2,000 years ago in the Celtic culture that thrived in what is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France. Oct. 31 marked the end of the Celtic year and the annual ancient festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). This event celebrated the end of both the summer and the harvest. It was a pivotal time for early pagans whose lives were so closely linked to the land.”Laura Krawczyk and Eric Sever, The Cauldron

“In A.D. 43 the Roman war machine rolled through Britain and conquered a large chunk of the Celtic population. But the Romans, always the master conquerors, cleverly blended two of their own holidays with the Celtic Samhain to make the transition to Roman rule more seamless. One holiday was a celebration of the dead — easy enough to mix with Samhain — and the other was a celebration of the Pomona, goddess of fruit and trees, where, apparently, the tradition of bobbing for apples takes root.”Streeter Seidell, CNN

“Set up an altar in your home to honor departed loved ones and ancestors, or, if you already have such an altar, place offerings and light a candle there. As done in ancient times, set a place at your table for your spirit friends and relatives, and serve them some of the food and drink you share at your Samhain feast. Throw a Come as You Were Party and have everyone dress up as they were in another life. Set lighted carved pumpkins around your home to bless it. Magically make a resolution to break out of a negative habit pattern and begin a healthier way of being. Do divination on the year ahead.”Selena Fox, Celebrating the Seasons

May you all have a blessed Samhain, blessings to you, and your beloved dead on this season. Let this new cycle be one of great blessings for all of you.