Samhain, aka Samhuinn, is for me the most powerful point in what many call the Wheel of the Year (one could argue it is two wheels, but that is another story). It marks the beginning of a new turn of the Wheel and a new cycle that brings in the knowledge and wisdom of all previous cycles. It is also the beginning of the Dark Half of the Year. It is a time when the veil between our physical world and the Otherworld is thinnest, when the Fae — aka the Sídhe — may visit us (and even play some tricks on us, the source of many a Hallowe’en tradition!). At this time, we may feel our intuition increase and we may more easily connect with Spirit, spirits and our ancestral lineages.
It is a time to honour our ancestors, both those of our blood and bone, and those who have inspired us. It is a time to honour those who have passed since last Samhain. And most importantly, it is a time for release, forgiveness, and reconciliation . . . to release the “ghosts” of our past.
Samhain is rooted in traditions and beliefs that extend back close to 5000 years, with archaeological evidence of Samhain celebrations on the Hills of Tara and Tlachtga in Ireland. The Celts believed the day started at dusk, and the year as two halves of Dark (beginning at Samhain) and Light (beginning at Bealtaine), essentially two seasons: Summer and Winter. The two festivals were the “hinges” of the year, one of waning energy and one of waxing energy, reflections of each other.
Renewal and Rebirth in Winter
Many of us think of Winter as a time when nothing is happening. In the temperate zones of the world, in Winter the days are shorter and cooler the light diminishes, and the rapid growth of spring and summer slows down or goes into suspension.
Yet it is in deepest winter and always in darkness that new life begins. The roots and seeds are protected and nurtured deep in the ground, drawing in the energy of Mama Earth, and awaiting the light of Spring to emerge once again.
And so it is for our human roots, the seeds of our Inner Garden. I use the entire week between “traditional” and “true” Samhain as a week of Inner Cauldron reflection and meditation…. looking back at the past year, what challenges I faced, what I overcame, where I needed support, and gaining a new perspective.
Samhain and An Cailleach
Samhain is the time of An Cailleach, the “Hag” of Winter. The Crone. The Wise Woman. She is immanent, the Divine manifested in the material world. She is the Ancient Ancestor, the Earth itself. She is The Dark Goddess — like those of other cultures such as Hekate, Demeter, and Kali — who celebrates the spiral dance, who creates and tames the chaos between life and death, dark and light. She was greeted with bonfires, fire representing the alchemy of transformation.
More to come on An Cailleach lore and traditions in both Ireland and Scotland as we move through Samhain season!
Header Image Credit: Samhain Goddess, image by Angie Latham