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Monday, October 31, 2005

Samhain - A Time for Pagans to remember..

Back in September, I did an article about the Pagans and Wiccans in this area. I discussed Mabon, one of the Holy Days, or Sabbats that they celebrate. As a companion piece to that article and the Halloween article below, I wanted to do something from Pagan perspective about this time of year, since it is such an important day for Pagans.

Samhain (sow-en) marks one of the four Greater Sabbats celebrated by Witches and many other Pagans, and is the dark counterpart to the more passionate Sabbat of Beltane (a Fertility festival held around the 1st of May). The Celts, like many other cultures, saw the dark of the day or year as the beginning. Thus their days began at sunset and the winter half of the year, starting on November 1st, was the beginning of their new year, just as it is for many Wiccans or Pagans.

The Celts were a pastoral people as opposed to an agricultural people. The end of summer was significant to them because it meant the time of year when the structure of their lives changed radically. The cattle were brought down from the summer pastures in the hills and the people were gathered into the houses for the long winter nights of story-telling and handicrafts. In the Druidic calendar this was the time when barriers between man and the supernatural were lowered. Fires were lit to honor the descending sun god. On the eve of Samhain, the gates of the Abyss were unlocked and spirits from below flew free. Human souls that had been trapped in the bodies of animals were released by the Lord of the Dead* and sent to their new incarnations.

With the coming of Christianity, the early Church in England tried to Christianize the old Celtic festival by making the 1st of November "All Saints Day," and making October 31 "All Hallow's Eve" or more commonly "Hallowe'en." The reason many Christians associate Hallowe'en with Christianity is that in the eighth century Pope Gregory III established November 1st as the Roman Catholic feast day honoring the dead. Later, in the ninth century, Pope Gregory IV decreed that the day was to be universally observed by the Roman Catholic Church which, at that time, held the greatest influence among the Christian populace because of its political strength. But the attempt to discourage the Pagan celebrations were so unsuccessful that the holiday was eventually banned from the Church of England's calendar until its reemergence in 1928.

To Witches and Pagans, Samhain is the Festival of the Dead, and for many, it is the most important Sabbat of the year. Although the Feast of the Dead forms a major part of most Pagan celebrations on this eve, it is important to remember that nearly all Pagans consider the disturbance of the dead immoral, and at Samhain only voluntary communications are expected and hoped for. The departed are never harassed and their presence is never commanded. The spirits of the dead are, however, ritually invited to attend the Sabbat and to be present within the Circle.

Samhain represents the threshold between the world of the living and the realm of the spirits and is a time when the veil between the worlds is very thin. The acknowledgement of the nature spirits that walk the earth on this eve can still be seen in the observance of children and some young-at-heart adults, wearing masks and costumes and "trick or treating," a time honored ritual many of us have done and probably more than once. The spirits are represented by the children as they walk the earth in their many guises celebrating, albeit unknowingly, an ancient tradition of this Sabbat.

In honor of Samhain, many Wiccans and Pagans offer a plate of the harvest fruits to the spirits in attendance, along with a goblet of wine. Candles are burned in remembrance of loved ones who have passed on. Apples and pomegranates are eaten to represent the opposites of life and death. (Try cutting an apple cross-wise to see the pentagram of seeds within!) Many feel that this is the best date of the year to perform scrying, either with crystals, fire or a bowl of water, especially in the moonlight. For some, Samhain is the time when the Wicker Man, created and charged at Beltane, is ritually burned in the Sabbat fire, sending him to Tir na Nòg for rest and renewal; as the gates open for him, the other spirits then cross over to visit.

A great focus for many modern Pagan/Wiccans is on remembering those who have crossed "through the veil" during the past year. It is a time of reflection and thought on what was, and what is to be. It is a time of family and friends.

Peace and Light


*- The Lord of the Dead is NOT Lucifer/Satan/The Devil. These are Juedo/Christian beliefs and have nothing to do with Wiccan/Pagan beliefs

-With many thanks to Lance at PagaNet News

-More Info Goto The Witches Voice website. the largest Pagan site on the web


At 6:37 AM, Anonymous Serena said...

Another interesting article. I would rather be enlightened by knowledge than traipsing along with suppositions and prejudices.


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