Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Celebrating Samhain!

Our current newsletter:

Celebrating Samhain!

Welcome to our seasonal newsletter! 

The northeast is decidedly breathing a sigh of relief that another massive storm did not visit our region yet again this year at the end of October.  In the weeks before October 29, we wanted to support the elemental realms - including the trees and shrubs - so at the suggestion of Ilona Hress of Growing Consciousness, we created a stone medicine wheel outside one of the gardens to lend an air of calm.  At the request of the crystal realm, we included tree agates at the cardinal points of the four directions, and placed a heart-shaped agate at the center.  When we remember that we are all connected, and that what effects one aspect of nature impacts the whole fabric of our collective Oneness, we begin to see and understand our interrelatedness with new eyes.

In this issue, we re-introduce the earth holiday of Samhain:

Autumn has arrived, and with it comes the advent of Samhain, a Gaelic holiday celebrated by Pagans and Wiccans, which is the year's third and final harvest festival. Unfamiliar with Samhain?  Brush up with these common facts:

1.  Samhain is celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1, halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
2.  Samhain is pronounced "sah-win" or "sow-in."
3.  It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals along with Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh.
4.  Rituals surrounding Samhain include bonfires, healing, dancing, thanksgiving, and honoring of the dead.
5.  It's considered a liminal time, when the veil between life and death grows thin. Food is set aside for ancestors and protective spirits, and rituals honoring the dead take place.
6.  Some celebrate Samhain with a ritual to guide the dead home by opening a western-facing door or window and placing a candle by the opening.
7.  Samhain is one of the original festivals behind the holiday we know as Halloween.
8.  Some of Halloween's most common traditions are rooted in Samhain's harvest festival roots, such as the carving of pumpkins and bobbing for apples. Later on, people began dressing up as these creatures and claiming the goodies for themselves, sometimes performing antics or tricks in exchange for food and drink. This practice evolved into trick-or-treating.
9.  As it was believed that faeries, witches, and demons roamed the earth on Samhain, food and drink were customarily set out to placate them.
10.  According to Kelley Harrell, author of
Gift of the Dreamtime, some modern Pagans consider it the "witch's new year," though other traditions simply recognize Samhain as the end of the (Celtic) year.

However you choose to celebrate this holiday remember to be gentle with the earth and mindful of her limited resources.

Green Blessings!
Donna at Willow Moon Herbals

In this issue:

Celebrating Samhain!

Imbolc/CandlemasIn addition to the Samhain basics listed above, in the agricultural cycles, this festival or time of year was the time when people gave a long hard look at what they had to last them through theh ocld days of winter.  They would slaughter and salt down any animals that they felt either wouldn't make it through the winter or which they couldn't afford to suort on the stocks from the harvest.  So Samhain was a major feast and often the last time some fresh foods, especially meat, would be eaten until new life started again in spring.

The themes of this festival are:  the end of the old year, and the start of the new; ;a ime when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest and spirits can roam; a time of remembering those who have gone before by setting a lace for them at our feast; a time of looking forward and trying to see what will come.

In traditional earth-based lore, the Goddess takes on her robes of Crone and the God becomes the Hunter who will lead the Wild Hunt throughout the Winter.

As Samhain has become more commercial through its modern counterpart of Halloween, we find newer ideas which also give us themes for the festival:  jack o'lanterns - which were traditionally carved from turnips - are now carved from pumpkins, and food is prepared to mimic all things ghoulish, ghostly or just plain scary.  The old colors of this festival were dark red, purple and black for the Crone and dark green and black for the Hunter, to which the orange of autumn and pumpkins has been added more recently.