As the nights draw in, and the clocks go back, and the temperature drops (in the northern hemisphere and particularly northern climes), it is a sure sign that Samhain is almost upon us.
Samhain (pronounced ‘soh-win’, though there are variation) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season, and is sometimes greatly misunderstood. It marks the beginning of winter, and is traditionally celebrated from 31 October to 1 November, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.
In Gaelic tradition and thought there is the idea of ‘thin places’. These are places, times or events where the spiritual realm seems even closer than usual, and Samhain is just one such time.
Ofcourse, the modern-day Hallowe’en’ is known as a time of ‘trick or treat’, a modern and commercial ‘interpretation’ of those stories of old about ghosts walking the earth at this time and annoying humans. Whatever your view is on this modern view and activity by children, the ancient understanding of remembering those who have ‘gone ahead’ is, I think, one to be cherished (and it has been adopted by many churches in the form of All Saints Day and All Souls Day for that reason).
My encouragement to you, then, is to use this time to give thanks to the Source of All for our ancestors who have given us so much (whether we know it or not, as we’re thinking of ancestors from one or two generations ago that we might have known, to those of many generations before us, and who might have an indirect influence on us).
It is a time of reflection, in giving thanks, as the Circle of the Earth moves into the darkness of the winter season, with the hope of Light. In thinking of our ancestors, we can be grateful to them, grateful to That Which Is Larger Than Us for them, and do something in their honour and remembrance at this time.
Below are some suggestions.
You might like to mark Samhain, remember the ancestors, and mark the moving into the winter season by:
- taking a nature walk in the country on in a city park. Observe and contemplate the colours, aromas, sounds, and other sensations of the season. Experience yourself as part of nature,
- decorating your home with Samhain seasonal symbols and the colours of orange or you might place an autumnal wreath on your front door. Create displays with pumpkins, cornstalks, gourds, acorns, and apples,
- lighting a token candle (and perhaps saying a prayer – perhaps one of those at the end of this page?),
- creating an ancestor altar or table, with, perhaps photographs, heirlooms, and other mementos of deceased family, friends, and companion creatures, to reflect upon. Thank them for being part of your life. Sit quietly and pay attention to what you experience,
- having a Samhain simple dinner, however you interpret it, to think deeply about the new season of winter, the ancestors, and to give thanks,
- sharing with others, or just remembering to yourself, a story about your ancestors or a particular ancestor,
- visiting a cemetery and tend the gravesite of a loved one there, or leave a flower on an old grave (perhaps worn over the years) if your ancestors are buried some distance away – in this way they too, are honoured, or
- reflecting on your life over the past year. Using journals, planners, photographs, blogs, and other notations you have created during the past year. Consider how you have grown, accomplishments, challenges, adventures, travels, and learnings. Meditate. Journal about your year in review, your meditation, and your reflections.
It is not necessarily a morbid time, but a time of thankfulness – a looking back, a taking stock, and a looking forward with hope.
You might like to consider the following prayers:
Oh Hallowed Three In One,
as Autumn turns to winter,
may we see you more clearly in nature,
love your sonlight more dearly today,
and follow you more nearly in all circumstances,
as the Circle turns.
Maker of time and space,
who is in all things and yet ‘above’,
be with all souls this evening.
Be with those who have lived on earth and are now ‘at home’ in Bliss.
Blessings be to my/our ancestors.
Be with those who live on earth now and journey onward in differing circumstances.
Blessings be to them and me.
Be with those yet to come, who, also, are part of the great family of humankind.
Bless them, too.
Maker of all time and space,
in gratitude do all souls, past , present and future, praise you,
and bless you this night.
Hallowed Spirit come with compassion this night,
and look upon all souls.
Darkness falls at your behest,
and winter closes in,
and yet the Circle turns.
In the darkness the Everlasting light still shines
in our hearts.
A beacon of hope to all.
Whatever you do, my prayer is that you mark this time in some way, and celebrate the season and the ancestors at this time is a deeply spiritual and wholesome way.
And may That Which Is Larger Than Us bless you and yours at this time, and all those that have gone before us. Light and Love be to all.