What is Samhain? Its not Halloween. They are two separate festivals that just happen to occur at the same time.
Samhain has been celebrated by different cultures in different ways around the world for centuries. Falling right in between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice, some regard it as the true start of winter, with the Solstice being seen as the peak of the cold season. Many pagans celebrate Samhain at sundown on the 31st of October. Some choose the new or the full moon that is closest to the 31st. Still others pick the exact center between the Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice. In the Northern Hemisphere this would be celebrated in late October, early November. In the Southern Hemisphere its late April into early May.
Samhain literally translated from the Celtic means “Summer's end” (the Celts recognized only three seasons, summer, winter and spring). While it's often heard pronounced as “sam-Hane or sama-hain, its actually “sow-ween” or “sah-win”.
Samhain is the celebration of the end of the harvest season. Everything is stored ready for the cold season. The work for the year is done and now its time to withdraw inside away from the coming weather and concern ourselves with quieter tasks. It's also believed to be the time when the veil that is between our life and the after life is at its thinnest. Making it a perfect time to remember those who have already passed on, and to seek guidance from them in the form of card readings, or other divinations.
Since not many of us are bringing in a harvest (other than from the grocery store), how is Samhain relevant to our modern life?
It is the start of what some traditions call “the dark of the year” meaning shorter, colder days. This makes it a great time for us to slow down as much as the modern world allows. It's time for introspection and quiet reflection.
Your harvest is the plans that you made during the year. Now is the perfect time to look back on these. How did you do? Did you reach your goals? Did you wander off course somewhere? Samhain is the perfect time to sit and journal about this, getting it all out fo your heart and letting you see how much you succeeded and grew over the last year.
It's time to say goodbye to those who have passed on. One of the Samhain beliefs is that the souls who died during the year finally cross over into the afterlife on Samhain Evening. As you sit down to your Samhain dinner, set a place for those that are no longer with you. Invite them to join you for one more meal.
If you have lost friends, family, fur babies or other loved ones during the year, now is the perfect time to reach out and tell them how much you love them. The traditional way to do this is to collect some leaves and write on them the name of the beloved and anything you want to say to them. Then burn those leaves to send the message through the veil with love.
There really is nothing morbid or scary about Samhain, its not obsessed with death. Rather it celebrates life and love and the close of the cycle that allows for the birth of a new cycle.