High Days: Samhain

Samhain is a time of reflection and honoring the past, as it begins the new year. Not just the past turn of the wheel, but also continuing to remember the ancestors that came before us so that they and their lessons are not forgotten. During this time of year, the last of the harvest is gathered and put away for the upcoming winter months. To me, this time of year is also when I can feel the earth falling asleep and my survival instincts begin to kick in, much like my animal brethren. We begin chopping wood to save up for the coming cold, we begin to hunt for meat to hold us over during the poverty of winter.

Traditionally, Samhain was celebrated by the Celts of 2,000 years ago, who celebrated their new year as November 1st. It was a time when the veil between the physical world and spiritual world was the thinnest. October 31st was thought to be when unruly spirits would cause trouble and damage what was left of crops. To honor, costumes were made and hearth fires were lit for protection over the winter.

The Iroquois native tribes also celebrated a “Feast of the Dead”, which was held every 12 years in honor of departed loved ones. Though the Iroquois held regular funeral rites to honor their departed with feasts and emotion, their “Feast of the Dead” was the most important. A large grave was dug and lined with their sacred beaver skins, where they removed the bodies from their graves and reburied them into their new home. Many other Native traditions do not speak of their dead except during festivals to honor them, for they feel it is rude.

Samhain, to me anyways, is the ending of the three harvest festivals, following Lughnasadh and Mabon. Like all things that begin and end, they symbolize stages in our lives. Samhain symbolizes the ending of one stage and the beginning of another.
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Not included in the dedicants essay, but I thought was important:
In the 600’s, Pope Boniface IV appointed November 1st as “All Saint’s Day” as a time to honor saints and martyrs, no doubt to supercede the Celts Samhain with a more Christian oriented holiday. Eventually the church made November 2nd “All Soul’s Day” as a time to honor the dead, somewhere around 1000 A.D., though this is not as widely celebrated. Ironically the modern day equivalent, Halloween, is currently deemed by some Christians as evil and a time where the Devil has influence over children.

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