Three Facets of Samhain

Tuesday, September 28, 2010
It’s difficult to imagine that Samhain is just around the corner, especially when you take into consideration the boiling hot weather we’ve been having over the past few days (114? Really?!?). It’s only about a month away. Our Samhain comes from the Celtic cultures, and their holiday celebrating the end of summer. Here in southern California, we’ve experienced Samhain in a variety of temperatures- from comfortable mid-upper 70s, down to the 40’s. Samhain tends to be the one sabbat each year where the weather is completely unpredictable. By Samhain, the night’s have visibly grown longer, and it gets dark much earlier. Samhain is a dark and spooky time of year, and this holiday has three main facets.

At Samhain, it’s believed that the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. This makes Samhain a perfect evening for ancestor honoring and worship, as well as communication with other spirits, and the fae. Our modern customs of Hallowe’en evolved from old Celtic traditions. Jack O’ Lanterns used to be carved out gourds with faces carved in to scare aware spirits from darkening ones doorstep. In old times, one used to dress up in costumes to blend in with the dead that they believed literally walked the earth on this night. It’s also believed that this evening is the best time of the year to do divination. One of our covens’ traditions for Samhain is to include an ancestor altar with photos and mementos from those who have passed, in addition to our ritual altar.

In the agricultural harvest cycle, Samhain is the third and final harvest holiday, the meat harvest. Thankfulness is one theme of this facet of Samhain, much like at Lammas/Lughnasadh- the first harvest of the year- for grain, and Mabon/Harvest Home, the second harvest- for fruit. During Samhain, the animals were slaughtered, and their meat treated so that the people would be able to survive the cold winter. Many people celebrate this part of the holiday by making sure meat is part of the post-ritual feast, particularly pork. While several people in our coven are vegan/veggie, I usually try to bring a pork dish to our coven potluck for the meat-eaters, for traditions sake.

The third facet of Hallowe’en is found in the Wiccan theological cycle of the God and Goddess. At Samhain, the God dies, to be reborn at the Winter Solstice- in ritual, this also can be tied up into the first facet- the thinning of the veil. Some Pagans believe this to be the beginning of the new year. This tends to be the most popular and biggest ritual of the year in most Pagan groups, and while it can be very emotional (depending on the central focus of your rite), it can also be a very joyous occasion.

Colors correlated with Samhain include black, yellow, orange, silver, gold, white, purple and red
Foods associated with Samhain include: meat of any sort (especially pork), fruits (especially apples), root vegetables (coming from the ground makes root vegetables especially perfect for Samhain, as they are associated with the underworld, and death), pomegranates, and nuts

I’ll be writing a future piece on ideas for your Samhain ritual, and stay tuned for some recipes perfect for your post-circle feast.

September's All-Coven Meeting: Kitchen Witchery

Thursday, September 09, 2010
Our inner court meetings are all about housekeeping, and ritual planning. Our dedicants join us for our all-coven meeting, where inner court sisters take turns presenting workshops. Last month Aislin presented an awesome workshop on archetypes, and we worked them into astrological charts for ourselves. This month, Beth presented the first part of her Kitchen Witch workshop (she wants to do a second part), and we worked with herbs. Each sister made a cooking oil, a tincure and a sachet- it was a really fun, hands-on workshop.