Samhain- A Connection to the Past
A lot of witches view Samhain (October 31st) as the beginning of their year. This has a great deal to do with the agricultural cycle in the northwestern part of the Northern Hemisphere. While we may intellectually know that night will grow longer than day after the Autumnal Equinox, by the time Samhain rolls around, we have seen and felt that undeniable fact. It’s also getting colder, and the harvest is winding down. Tools that have served busy hands in fields and gardens are cleaned, sharpened, and put away. Livestock that farmers have chosen not to keep over the winter is typically slaughtered to feed the family in the coming months, or sell at the local butcher shop. The Full Hunter’s Moon in October stays visible all night long, and is a traditional time to hunt in preparation for winter. Even in the cities and suburbs, everyone is getting prepared for the onslaught of winter weather – gathering firewood, digging out sweaters, coats, and boots, bringing in lawn and deck furniture, putting winter tires on cars, swapping screens for storm windows, etc. There is an urge to batten down the hatches, stock up on soup and cocoa, and make sure we have enough blankets in the house.
A good way to get into the headspace of Samhain is to imagine what it was like to live off the land before all the modern conveniences of electricity, telephone, television, internet, trains, planes, automobiles, and mass surveillance. If you managed your land and livestock well - and there wasn’t some sort of plague, drought, or other natural disaster over which you had no control – you would now have a root cellar filled with foods like apples, potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, squash, salted meat, and dried meat, a storeroom filled with hanging herbs, onions, garlic, and grains, and possibly an additional cold storage space for the cheese you made when milk was plentiful in the spring and summer. The woodshed would be filled with firewood, and the house roof and windows checked and repaired. Other than the daily chores and care of any remaining livestock, the physical, outer work of preparing for the winter would be done. Now would be the time to pause for a moment, take stock, appreciate what you have and what you’ve accomplished, and embark on the mental, spiritual, and inner work of preparing for the winter.
Part of this inner preparation entails going into your own darkness, so to speak. Who are you? What do you really want? What is your way forward? These are all valid and appropriate questions, and one time-honored way to find the answers is with divination. Divination can take many forms: Tarot, I Ching, Runes, and a pendulum are popular choices that are readily accessible, and fun to explore. It’s a good idea to write down the answers you receive while divining, so that you can refer to them later. Comparing your own questions and answers from year to year can be very informative, and is a great way to gain insight into your own inner workings, and discern any patterns you might want to address.
Samhain is the time of year when life energy is receding in earnest, but hasn’t yet gone. It’s as if a door has opened, and the spirits of the harvested plants and animals are making their way through to the Otherworld. Doors open both ways, and some witches take advantage of this fact by communicating with the dead. Other witches take this time to acknowledge and pay respect to those who have gone before with a simple toast the honored dead.
What do you have planned for Samhain this year? Will you be connecting to the past?