Samhain

Have blessed samhain

Samhain is the third and final harvest festival of nuts and seeds.  It is pronounced “Sah-win” or “sow-in”.  Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. It is also known as “Day of the Dead” or “All Hallows Eve”.  It is celebrated from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November, which is nearly halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.  Some modern pagans consider it the “witches new year”, though other traditions simply recognize Samhain as the end of the year.  It’s energy is death and transformation.  Customs include jack o’lanterns, spirit plate, ancestor altar, divination, and costumes.  The colors associated with Samhain are orange, black, and indigo.  Tools used during this holy day are votive candles, magic mirror, cauldron, pumpkins, and divination tools.

Traditionally Samhain was a time to take stock of the herds and food supplies.  Cattle were brought down to the winter pastures after six months in the higher summer pastures.  It was also the time to choose which animals would need to be slaughtered for the winter.  This custom is still observed by many who farm and raise livestock because it is when meat will keep since the freeze has come and also since the summer grass is gone and searching for provisions/food is no longer possible.  In may places, Samhain coincides with the end of the growing season.  Vegetation dies back with killing frosts, and therefore literally, death is in the air.

Rituals include bonfires, dancing, divination, healing, honoring ancestors, thanksgiving, releasing old, foreseeing future, understanding death and rebirth.  Bonfires were lit on hilltops at Samhain and there were rituals involving them.  It is believed that the fires (as well as the smoke and their ashes) were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers.  In some places boys asked for bonfire fuel from each house in the village.  When the fire was lit, one after another of the youths laid himself down on the ground as near to the fire as possible so as not to be burned, and in such a  position as to let the smoke roll over him.  The others ran through the smoke and jumped over him.  When the bonfire samhain candlesburnt down, they scattered the ashes, competing eagerly with each other who should scatter the most.  Sometimes, two bonfires would be built side by side and the people, sometimes with their livestock, would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.  The bones of slaughtered cattle were said to have been cast upon bonfires.  People also took ashes from the bonfire back to their homes.  In northern Scotland, they carried burning fir around their fields to protect them.  In some places, people doused their hearth fires on Samhain nights.  Each family then solemnly re-lit its hearth from the communal bonfire, thus bonding the families of the village together.

Samhain is seen as a good time to perform any divination as well.  The bonfires were also used in divination rituals.  A ring of stone was laid around the fire to represent each person  and everyone who ran around it with a torch.  In the morning, the stones were examined and if any was mislaid it was said that the person for whom it was set would not live out the year.  At household festivities throughout the Gaelic region and Wales, there were many rituals intended to divine the future of those gathered, especially with regard to death and marriage.

Seasonal foods such as apples and nuts were often used in these rituals.  Apples were peeled, the peel, tossed over  the shoulder, and its shape examined to see if it formed the first letter of the future spouse’s name.  Nuts were roasted on the hearth and their behavior interpreted… if the nuts stayed together, so would the couple.  Egg whites were dropped in the water, and the shapes foretold the number of future children.  Children would also chase crows and divine some of these things from the number of birds or the direction they flew.

Herbs used at this time included: Rosemary, for remembrance of our ancestors, Mullein seeds, for abundance, Mugwort to aid in divination, rue, calendula, sunflower petals and seeds, pumpkin seeds, apples and apple seeds, turnip seeds, sage, wormwood, tarragon, bay leaf, almond, hazelnut, passion flower, pine needles, nettle, garlic, and mandrake root.  Stones associated with this time are:  black obsidian, smoky quartz, jet, amber, pyrite, garnet, granite, clear quartz, marble, gold, diamond, iron, steel, ruby, hematite, and brass.  Decorations include gourds, pumpkins, apples, Autumn leaves, and nuts.

pumpkin houseSamhain is one of the original festivals behind the holiday we know as Halloween.  Some of Halloween’s most common traditions are rooted in Samhain’s harvest festival roots, such as the carving of pumpkin and bobbing for apples.  The traditional illumination for guisers or pranksters on this night in some places was provided by turnips or beets, hollowed out to act as lanterns and often carved with grotesque faces to represent spirits or goblins.  They may have also been used to protect oneself from harmful spirits.  In some places, young people dressed as the opposite gender.  In Scotland, young men went house-to-house with masked, veiled, painted, or blackened faces, often threatening to do mischief it they were not welcomed.  This was common in the 16th century in the Scottish countryside and persisted into the 20th century.  It is suggested that the blackened faces comes from using the bonfire’s ashes for protection.

Irish and Scottish immigration, which popularized Halloween in North America, had a strong tradition of disguising and pranks.  As it was believed that faeries, witches, and demons roamed the Earth on Samhain, food and drink were customarily set out to make them less hostile or angry.  later on, people began dressing up as these creatures and claiming the goodies for themselves, sometimes performing antics or tricks in exchange for food and drink.  This practice called mumming evolved into trick-or-treating, or it may have come from the custom of going door-to-door collecting food for Samhain feast or fuel for Samhain’s bonfire and/or offerings.

Samhain (like Beltane) was the time when the doorways to the Otherworld opened, allowing the spirits and the dead to come into our world and this facilitates contact and communication with the Dead.  That is when it was believed that demons, faeries, and spirits of all kind would freely roam about.  Some would perform tricks, like the spirits of those who were murdered and who were looking for revenge.  The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes.  Places were set tat the dinner table or by the fire to welcome them.  Some celebrate Samhain with a ritual to guide the dead home by opening a western-facing door or window and placing a candle by the opening.  many pagans still follow this tradition to this day.

samhain AncestorsBut while Beltane is a festival for the living, Samhain is essentially, a festival for the dead.  In the simpler yet brutal times that so many early people lived in, death was commonplace, whether it was the death of livestock through disease, the extremely frequent deaths of women during childbirth, or the death of young infants from common childhood illness.  There was always a lot of deaths going on in a given year.  Samhain was a time to really sit down around the fireplace, connect with your surviving loved ones, and pay tribute to those beloved members of your “tribe” whom you lost over the past year.  For some, Samhain is when we honor ancestors who came before us.

It’s easier to talk to the dead, have lucid dreams in which you connect with the dead, and to spiritually commune with those who have passed during Samhain.  The connection or “veil” between the physical world and the spiritual dimensions is thinner, which makes this type pf psychic contact much easier.  The only other time when this is easy are the three days after someone dies, because for three days their spirit is still hanging out on the earth plane and they will often have a lot to say if you can sit down and get past your own grief and “listen” to them.  For those who have lost loved ones in the past year, Samhain rituals can be an opportunity to bring closure to grieving and to further adjust to their being in the Otherworld by spiritually communing with them.  This is the perfect time to celebrate their memory.  Hopefully, they will communicate back with you to offer any advice or guidance.

You could find yourself remembering people you have had major relationships with.  Relationships which have ended, even if that person didn’t actually die.  maybe the relationship “died” and you’re still processing the emotions related to the experience.  You could be going back and forth emotionally, feeling love for the person one minute and anger the next.  Try to center yourself, connect with “Great Spirit” or your “Infinite, Eternal Self”, or loving the energy of the Universe and reach a place of emotional equilibrium.  Let go of hatred, release fear, and try to expel the toxic energy of anger and grief from your system as best as you can.  Some words to meditate include: remember, appreciate, love, release, transform, and transmute.

samhain decoration

Autumn Equinox

autumn equinox

The Autumn Equinox, occurring around September 21-23, is the second harvest festival, of the fruits.  Its energy is appreciation and harvest.  It’s about seeing results from all the hard work and the “seeds” you have been planting through the year.  It’s a result-oriented time of year, during which, if you focus hard and remain clear many wonderful things can manifest in your life.

The colors associated with the Autumn Equinox are orange, red, brown, and purple.  Customs associated with the Autumn Equinox are offerings to land, preparing for cold weather and bringing in harvest.  The tools that symbolize the Autumn Equinox are cornucopia, corn and harvested crops.

Autumn food include:  squash, corn, pumpkin, grain, nut bread, apples, seasonal vegetables, and apple cider

cornicopiaDecorations include:  Autumn flowers, gourds, acorns, corn sheaves,and Autumn leaves

Incense and plants associated with the Autumn Equinox include:  pine, sage, sweet grass, myrrh, and marigold, passion flower and fern,

Stones associated with the Autumn Equinox are:  clear quartz, amber, peridot, diamond, gold, citrine, yellow topaz, aventurine, and cat’s eye

Herbs associated with the Autumn Equinox are: rue, yarrow, rosemary, marigold, sage, aloe, walnut leaves and husks, mistletoe, saffron, chamomile, almond leaves, passionflower, frankincense, rose hips, bittersweet, sunflower, wheat, oak leaves, maple leaves, dried apples or apple seeds.


During the equinoxes the plane of the Earth’s equator passes the center of the Sun.  At that instant, the tilt of the Earth’s axis neither inclines away nor towards the Sun.  On the Equinox the Sun rests above the equator and day and night are equally divided giving us 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of moonlight.  In actuality though, the balance of light and dark occurs a couple days after the Autumn Equinox and precedes it a couple of days before the Spring Equinox.

Each equinox and solstice period is a “power time” and loads of intense spiritual energy or “Earth chi” comes flooding forth. It’s really easy to access this energy in prayer, meditation, or psychic work.  It’s also a great time for any creative work whether you come up with grand ideas or and it’s a super time to do healing work or receive healing work.  There are multidimensional gateways of energy that open up at these times and the indigenous people celebrated and used the energies that are available at those times.

cherokee autumn equinoxThree days before and three days after the Autumn and Spring Equinox, the ley lines of the Earth give off a heightened electromagnetic charge.  This can make you feel a bit hyper or unsettled but if you can ground the energies and apply it correctly, this is an amazing time for healing, meditation, cleansing, and any type of power prayer, manifestation, and/or psychic work.  These cosmic occurrences  are interpreted as the need to seek balance in ones life, find your center, and re-align yourself.

The Autumn Equinox is a very powerful time when subconscious messages, information from your spirit guides, and spiritual  information can easily break through and inspire you.  It’s also a lot easier during this time to do any type of psychic work which requires finer sense perception.  Psychic readings will be uncannily more accurate.  Holistic health treatments will be more effective and on target.  The truth seems to penetrate more readily  during this time where too often we can become mentally cloudy or emotionally unbalanced.

The Autumn Equinox signals the beginning of Autumn.  It signals the need to balance light and darkness within us.  Far too often we only adore the light and fear the darkness. But when you can befriend your inner darkness it becomes less of an enemy and more of a place of nurturing for slow and steady growth. The sun is moving into Libra, a balanced and measured sign which is famous for being fair in issuing balance where blame is due.  It is a time for harmonizing what is off balance before the end of the year.  I find that this can be a challenging time because it may come out weird and unusual, especially if you have been off balance for a while.  It may bring up anger, especially with people that need to be addressed.  You may feel resentment and a sense of “you can’t take it anymore”.  This is how your stuff is showing up.  This is what you need to focus on because this is what is calling your attention to seek balance.

autumn equinox sun centerAs the plane of the earth’s equator passes the center of the sun this too is an opportunity for us to re-align and find your center.  Far too often, we get so caught up in our life and forget to center ourselves.  We lose track of our directive and may steer off course for a bit.  This is an opportunity to re-align yourself with your purpose, dreams, and goals, or even just to re-align with yourself.  Spending time around people is great but their beliefs, thoughts, actions, and even language can become imposed on you from being around them so much.  So it’s very important to re-align yourself with your true nature… who you really are and all you were meant to be.  Re-align yourself with your intention or change and integrate new information or experiences to re-define your intention.  Center yourself.  Find your center.  Define your center….your connection to Source, the magick within, your spiritual connection.

For centuries, the Autumn equinox has been a way to recognize the blessings of life.  Before the days of supermarkets and the convenience of readily available food, life was hard.  People farmed the land and provided sustenance for themselves. Weather, as always, has often been unpredictable as one of the many events that could destroy an entire mainstay of existence.  Other problems such as mass insect infestation may have left weary crop farmers wondering how they would survive.  So it’s no wonder that when harvest was bountiful, gratitude became important.  Hence, many celebrations of thankfulness cropped up.  These were heartfelt sources of joy.  This is the time of rituals regarding thanksgiving, harvest, and introspection.

We have been actively working and expressing… putting ourselves and our ideas out into the world, growing and changing. Now is the time to pause and go within, and take stock of how far we have come.  Our inner work, our growth, is our harvest.  Time to honor our journey and the rebalancing that has taken place within us.  Notice the seeds we planted and how they have blossomed thus far.  Lets open our hearts in gratitude.

mabon altar