Blessed Samhain

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Tonight and tomorrow 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, divinations are 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.

Samhain Altar [Wilhelmine, DeviantArt]

Samhain Altar [Wilhelmine, DeviantArt]

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 Asatru, Foundation Night in Ekklesía Antínoou, 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 (Nov 11 this year) and the astrological Samhain on Nov 6 for some Witches and Druids. Finally, in the Southern Hemisphere, many Pagans are currently celebrating Beltane.

This season is a gift for pop culture practitioners, as the trappings of magick are just about everywhere hidden in plain sight in friendly pop culture packages. Everywhere you look things are draped in spiders, bats, witches, cauldrons, and cobwebs. Every television show has a Halloween special and spooky movies play on every channel; at least one channel seems to be playing nothing but Tim Burton movies. – Emily Carlin, Exoteric Magick: Pop Culture Practices for All

As I reflect on my fourth Samhain, I notice how profoundly my relationship with my community and Witchcraft has changed. While I had hoped to find new friends and power, I received more than that. I found loved ones whom I trust with my very life and I found empowerment. Each year I have grown more deeply into who I am. When I look back upon the desperate, abused wife wanting to end her life seven years ago, I hardly recognize her as my younger self … This year I am allowing myself to fall in love with Samhain. – Annika Mongan, Born Again Witch

In the faces of old women, these days, I see a lot of unfinished business. And in a few such faces, I see the bliss of knowing everything that needs doing has been done. As I go about my days, I am blessed to see families engaged in the important, loving work of saying everything that needs to be said; of holding one another in times of great emotion; of allowing each person to manage change and challenge in their own way … It is good to give honor to what must be lost before we let it go. – Maggie Beaumont, Nature’s Path

This is a nature-based holiday that celebrates the passing of fall and the onset of winter, the lengthening nights, the dying earth at the end of fall, and the relating of this death to our own mortality and the honoring of those who came before. My thoughts are on the seasonal change and the veneration of nature the whole time. It’s a beautiful thing. – Mike Ryan, Humanistic Paganism

Samhain is also 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. – M. Macha Nightmare

Many who have been dear to our communities have crossed the veil this past year, joining the ranks of the Mighty Dead, including Deborah Ann Light, James Bianchi, Kim Saltmarsh Deitz, Barbara Doyle, Michael Howard, Lola Moffat, Brandie Gramling, Max G. Beauvoir, Keith James Campbell, Lord Shawnus, Brother Flint, Heather Carr, Terry Pratchett, Andy Paik, Mary Kay Lundmark, Brian Golec, Maureen Wheeler, Pete Pathfinder, and many others who have not been not named here but who have equally touched our lives and our communities.

And, finally, in the spirit of Alley Valkyrie’s 2014 article, we also take a moment to remember the forgotten dead.

Grief is work. If you don’t know that, then your experience of grieving has been very different from mine. Grief is hard work, as hard as lifting a thousand pounds of emptiness, over and over again, with every breath, every moment of every day … This led me to thinking about how we could make this a sacred kind of work instead of a bare necessity? – Literata, Works by Literata

To honor Samhain let us live for a day as though it is our last. Let us see dawn and sunset and the beauty of the sky as though we might not see them again. Let us listen to the song of the birds as though they might not sing for us again. Let us live for a day, focused intensely in the absolute reality of the present, as though past and future do not exist. And then let us step forward on our journey around the Wheel, hopefully, purposefully, and with the courage and strength to live, to embrace, and to change the world. – Vivianne Crowley, Greening the Spirit

May you all 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.

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