Samhain (pronounced sah-win) falls midway between the fall equinox (Mabon) and the winter solstice (Yule), and is commonly celebrated on Oct. 31st. It celebrates the end of the harvest season, and many believe that at this time of year the barriers between worlds are at the thinnest, allowing for easier contact with our ancestors, and nature spirits. It also marks the beginning of the “dark” half of the year as days are getting noticeably shorter. Some traditions mark this as their spiritual new year.
It’s a time for thankfulness and remembrance; to reflect back on the year. It’s also a good time to wrap up any loose ends.
Some popular Traditions/symbols include:
- Carving Jack o’lanterns to ward away mischievous nature spirits.
- Bonfires (often two of them which then are danced around or though as an act of purification.
- Telling “ghost stories”
- Dressing as a nature spirit (or monster, ect, ect, ect) to “blend in” with the spirits.
- Honoring our ancestors by leaving a plate for them at supper (this is often moved to the front step after the meal).
- Ritual slaughter and curing of livestock for the upcoming winter.
Some traditions consider the time between Samhain and Yule to be a kind of “dead space” spiritually speaking, and that you should not begin any new (large) projects or contracts during this time.
Feasting is common at all the High Days. Traditional foods for Samhain include squash (pumpkin are indigenous to the americas but there are many other squashes and gourds that would have been available to our ancestors), turnips, apples, nuts, meat, grains in the form of porridge or bread, and wine.
The list of deities associated with Samhain include (but are not limited to): Goddesses: Hecate, Isis, Kore, Hel, Arianrhod, Inanna, and Baba Yaga. Gods: Dagda, Cernunnos, Odin, Osiris, Tammuz, Pan, and Thor.