We have entered the time of the year when many modern Pagans celebrate Samhain. The holiday marks the start of winter and the new year according to the old Celtic calendar. It is a time to reflect on transitions 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, Dziady, the holiday whose name means “grandfathers” is commemorated by Slavic Pagans. Fête Ghede by Vodou practitioners, Día de los Muertos for followers of Santeria and several indigenous religions in Mexico and throughout Latin America, Diwali for Hindus (beginning Oct. 19 this year, ran for five days) and the astrological Samhain on Nov. 6 for some Witches and Druids. Finally, in the Southern Hemisphere, many Pagans are celebrate Beltane, honoring the turn to summer.
And of course, there is the secular celebration of Halloween.
Here are some thoughts shared by Pagans and polytheists about this time of year:
“Samhain on Gallows Hill in Salem Massachusetts was my entry point into Witchcraft, brought by a family friend who later turned into my first mentor in the Craft. Despite the public spectacle it was an amazing first experience with Laurie Cabot, Gypsy and Richard Ravish and The Temple of Nine Wells. For years after our little coven would host open Samhain rituals at my mother’s home—part Halloween party and part high Sabbat, holding open the door for other seekers and for family and friends wanting to better understand what we do. It was a wonderful intersection of different people coming together and part of the reason why I think making the sabbats available to the public is so important today. So Samhain has always had a special place in my heart as a gateway to both the ancestors of the Otherworld and to the path of the Witch.” — Christopher Penczak co-founder of The Temple of Witchcraft
“In the dark of the year let the witches rise! Our time is now. It’s a relief. A time to turn inward and begin to fill the cauldron with the raw material I need to work with. This is the deepest time of creativity.” — Kate Laity, is an award-winning author,award-winning author scholar, critic, and arcane artist.
“On this Vetrnætr we ask til árs ok friðar.” [Translation: On this winters night we ask for a good year and peace.] — Heathen, scholar, and woman of many talents, Gypsey Teague
Many people who have been active members of our collective community have crossed the veil this past year, including: Morwen Two Feathers, Hank Knaepple, Peregrine, Lady Circe, Lizann, Valerie Walker, Darrin Barnett, Doug Hoffman, Sandy Artsifair Kucyk, Vanessa Goldman, Andy Conn, Kathryn Hinds, Michael Harner, Sarah Lyter, April Cotte, Isaac Herrera, Lois Bourne, Rev. Dr. Principe Therion de Fira, Elaine Coleman, Lady Cybele, and Ken Laukant,.
There are also many others who have not been not named here but who have touched our individual lives, our practices, and our communities. This year we also take a moment to honor those many people who have lost their lives to terrorism around the world and to the brutal reality of violence, bullying, and harm in the spirit of hate.
What is remembered, lives.
May you have a blessed Samhain and a blessed holiday season. We hope the ancestors offer guidance and comfort during this time of transitions . May peace fall upon you and your beloved dead during this time. Let this be a new cycle of quiet joy and renewed blessings for each of you.
Happy New Year!