Have a Sacred and Blessed Samhain!

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Dark Waters
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Have a Sacred and Blessed Samhain!

Post by Dark Waters » Sun Oct 31, 2010 3:21 am

This is something I found about 3 years ago, recently revisited - so I thought I would share:

That's right, tonight is the night - All Hallow's Eve, Halloween, Day of the Dead, All Soul's Night, - Samhain!

It is properly pronounced 'SOW-in', 'SOW-een', or 'SAV-en' in the original gaelic, and literally means Summer's End. This Holiday is celebrated for the Last Harvest or the Year's End in most of the Old Religions.

The Samhain Holiday begins at sundown on October 31st. The nightide was always a time to be wary of walking alone in the countryside. So much more on this Night when the veils between the worlds of humans and spirits was at its thinnest. Traditional lore speaks of the dead returning to visit their kin and the doors to the Lands of the Sidhe (pronounced "shee") or Faery Realm being opened.

For early Europeans, this time of the year marked the beginning of the cold, lean months to come; the flocks were brought in from the fields to live in sheds until spring. Some animals were slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for winter. The last gathering of crops was known as "Harvest Home, " celebrated with fairs and festivals.

In addition to its agriculture significance, the ancient Celts also saw Samhain as a very spiritual time. Because October 31 lies exactly between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, it is theorized that ancient peoples, with their reliance on astrology, thought it was a very potent time for magic and communion with spirits. The "veil between the worlds" of the living and the dead was said to be at its thinnest on this day; so the dead were invited to return to feast with their loved ones; welcomed in from the cold, much as the animals were brought inside. Ancient customs range from placing food out for dead ancestors, to performing rituals for communicating with those who had passed over.

"The Feast of the Dead" ("Fleadh nan Mairbh") is laid out by many to welcome these otherworldly visitors and gain their favor for the coming year. Many folks leave milk and cakes ("Bannock Samhain" ) outside their door on Samhain Eve or set a place at their table for their ancestors who may want to join in the celebrations with their kin and family.

Communion with the dead was thought to be the work of witches and sorcerers, although the common folk thought nothing of it. Because the rise of the Church led to growing suspicion of the pagan ways of country dwellers, Samhain also became associated with witches, black cats ("familiars" or animal friends), bats (night creatures), ghosts and other "spooky" things...the stereotype of the old hag riding the broomstick is simply a caricature; fairy tales have exploited this image for centuries.

With the coming of Christianity in the 800s AD, the early Church in England tried to Christianize the old Celtic festivals. Pope Boniface IV designated the 1st of November as "All Saints Day," honoring saints and martyrs. He also decreed October 31 as "All Hallows Eve" and eventually Hallow'een. Scholars today widely accept that the Pope was attempting to replace the earlier Celtic pagan festival with a church-sanctioned holiday. As this Christian holiday spread, the name evolved as well. Also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day). 200 years later, in 1000 AD, the church made November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It is celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls' day, are called Hallowmas.

Divination of the future was also commonly practiced at this magically-potent time; since it was also the Celtic New Year, people focused on their desires for the coming year. Certain traditions, such as bobbing for apples, roasting nuts in the fire, and baking cakes which contained tokens of luck, are actually ancient methods of telling fortunes.

Other old traditions have survived to this day; lanterns carved out of pumpkins and turnips were used to provide light on a night when huge bonfires were lit, and all households let their fires go out so they could be rekindled from this new fire; this was believed to be good luck for all households. The name "Jack-O-Lantern" means "Jack of the Lantern, " and comes from an old Irish tale. Jack was a man who could enter neither heaven nor hell and was condemned to wander through the night with only a candle in a turnip for light. Or so goes the legend...

"Trick or treat" as it is practiced in the U. S. is a complex custom believed to derive from several Samhain traditions, as well as being unique to this country. Since Irish immigrants were predominantly Catholic, they were more likely to observe All Soul's Day. But Ireland's folk traditions die hard, and the old ways of Samhain were remembered. The old tradition of going door to door asking for donations of money or food for the New Year's feast, was carried over to the U. S. from the British Isles. Hogmanay was celebrated January 1st in rural Scotland, and there are records of a "trick or treat" type of custom; curses would be invoked on those who did not give generously; while those who did give from their hearts were blessed and praised. Hence, the notion of "trick or treat" was born (although this greeting was not commonly used until the 1930's in the U. S.). The wearing of costumes is an ancient practice; villagers would dress as ghosts, to escort the spirits of the dead to the outskirts of the town, at the end of the night's celebration.

By the 1920's, "trick or treat" became a way of letting off steam for those urban poor living in crowded conditions. Innocent acts of vandalism (soaping windows, etc.) gave way to violent, cruel acts. Organizations like the Boy Scouts tried to organize ways for this holiday to become safe and fun; they started the practice of encouraging "good" children to visit shops and homes asking for treats, so as to prevent criminal acts. These "beggar's nights" became very popular and have evolved to what we know as Hallowe'en today.

So now matter how you celebrate, be it a Silent Supper, A Harvest Festival or just plain old Trick and Treating - Happy Halloween and Sacred Samhain!
I'm living in the Shadows and the Night,
Wrapped in warm darkness, safe and sure.
My Path shines by the Moon's fragile light,
It frees my Mind and keeps my Heart pure.

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Re: Have a Sacred and Blessed Samhain!

Post by Crazy Healer Lady » Sun Oct 31, 2010 6:41 pm

Thanks for the history, Dark Waters!! All of you: Have a Blessed Samahin!!!!
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Health and happiness to you!

The purpose of a relationship is not to have another who might complete you, but to have another with whom you might share your completeness. -CWG

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Re: Have a Sacred and Blessed Samhain!

Post by Kitsune » Wed Nov 03, 2010 9:55 pm

That was wonderful, Dark Waters!

Samhain Blessings to all (Beltane Blessings for you on the other side )!
Trying to create a world, even in words, is good occupational therapy for lunatics who think they're God, and an excellent argument for Polytheism. -S.M. Stirling

http://www.bamatthews.comThe Writings and Musings of B.A. Matthews

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Re: Have a Sacred and Blessed Samhain!

Post by runewulf » Thu Nov 04, 2010 6:36 am

That means you aussies, always thought it was funny y'all are aussies when in Cajun, aussi means always, also, as well, etc, so are y'all alwayses? ;) come on, say it, crikey ... Bon temps, non ;)

Serious, I hope y'all had a good turning of the wheel, be it into summer or winter at this last one.

May you always find the peace and growth you seek in the practices you follow, be they spiritual or otherwise ;)
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Re: Have a Sacred and Blessed Samhain!

Post by white_harmony » Sun Nov 07, 2010 12:57 pm

Good goddess Rune .. You crack me up lol.

Just for the heck of it .. Crikey! :-D

We've had ourselves a wonderful turning of the wheel down this end of the globe, hard to believe another one has shot by us so fast, yet again.

Bright blessings, and much love to you all :hug:
~ The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death ~

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Re: Have a Sacred and Blessed Samhain!

Post by runewulf » Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:50 pm

I do aim to please, cher... Heh heh ;)

Glad y'all had a good holiday down there. It's been getting more and more chilly up here the last couple weeks. Time to move a little further south for a bit, je pense :)
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