Samhain Meaning and Ritual
Samhain: “Sow’-en” Gaelic word meaning Summer’s End.
Samhain was the final harvest festival of the ancient Celts, a time when the crops were all in, animals were slaughtered to provide food for the coming winter, and the Veil Between the Worlds was believed to be at its thinnest point of the year. Most of our Halloween customs, from wearing costumes to carving jack-o-lanterns, are based on the beliefs and traditions of the Celts. If you want a book that covers them all and then some, I think the best you can get is Silver RavenWolf’s Halloween. (Click the image to view in print and e on Amazon.)
Samhain's Meaning Today
I’m more interested in what this time of year means for us today. We are evolving forward, not backward. And while the traditions of the old Holy days gives them their flavor and a lot of their fun, we are more now than we were then.
Today, we still observe the end of the light half of the year. We, in the northeastern US and elsewhere in the world, bring in our lawn furniture, store our outdoor grills, take down our wind chimes, and move our lives inside, for the most part. We prepare our homes for winter. We break out the warmer clothes. We switch from salads and bbq to chilis and stews and hearty soups. Our lives undeniably change.
We know our sunny, warm days are ending, and that the short, dark times of winter are upon us.
The Season of Gratitude
As we leave Samhain behind, we enter our official season of gratitude. This is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and truly appreciate all it has brought us, the good and the bad.
Let’s try not to dive directly into the demands of holiday chaos and stress. It doesn’t have to be chaotic or stressful. Do what’s fun. Make all of it as fun as you can. But before you do, take a pause to appreciate the year gone by. A pause between the seasons, a moment between the worlds, is what Samhain is all about, after all.
In last week’s post I gave you some suggestions for reviewing the big events of your year in life and in business, and told you some ways to look at both the good and the bad as beneficial. I asked you to take notes. I hope you did, because you’ll need them for this. If not, review that post and come back. You have time. Samhain officially falls halfway between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, and that date falls on November 7th this year. When you’re ready, there’s a ritual of gratitude and release below.
Remember, ritual is just a formalized prayer. Humankind needs ritual. It’s why we created it.
The Samhain Ritual of Letting Go
To begin, create sacred space in any way you prefer. If you have no strong feelings or traditions on this, any quiet space is fine. Nature is as sacred as it gets, so outside if you can. Doing spiritual things outside in nature lends an energy that really should be experienced.
*I'm writing this with a week to go before the actual cross quarter date of Samhain, so you have time to buy supplies. I think this ritual kicks ass if you use flash paper to write the events on.*
Get very relaxed and breathe deeply. Light the black candle.
Pick one of the major events you noted in last week’s exercise, and write it down on its own slip of paper or flash paper.
As you write it, think about what you learned from it and how it pushed you forward. How was your life better after, than before? How did your understanding grow? How much joy did it bring you? Or if it was a loss, how much did you appreciate having this person/place/thing during the time that you did? And how did that experience enrich you and make you grow? And how grateful are you for all of that?
Give thanks to the event, and especially, to the person or thing you lost. Speak from your heart. Feel your deep appreciation for them. Share that with them. Thank them.
Crumble the paper and drop it into an iron cauldron or other fireproof container.
Repeat this for each event, good and bad.
Take your black taper candle in your hand. Hold it and close your eyes. Say words of your own, or use these.
In joy, in pain, new seeds were sown
For all I’ve lived, my soul has grown
The past is gone, the future bright
Though shorter days bring longer nights
More, I am, than at year’s birth
A wiser, kinder, child of Earth
Because of you, because of you,
I am more, because of you
As you say the final line, lower the lit candle into the cauldron or fireproof dish and touch the flame to the papers. If you used flash paper, you’ll get a lovely, dynamic whoosh. (So no flowing sleeves or long loose hair!) If you use regular paper, just watch the papers burn as you reflect on how you’ve grown, and the gratitude you feel.
It’s wonderful to make notes in your business journal, if you keep one (I recommend it!) about all the conclusions you’ve reached during this period as you’ve contemplated your year and what you learned from it. Note all those things you tried that worked, as a reminder to do them again. Note the things that didn’t work so that you needn’t repeat them.
Need a business journal?
I highly recommend Leonie Dawson’s Planning Calendar, and I also LOVE her annual Biz and Life Workbooks. When she has her 2017 editions up for pre-order, I’ll post links here. I love her so much I’m an affiliate. She’s all about a more spiritual approach to creative entrepreneurship. It’s like we’re soulmates! 🙂
Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain. May you enjoy a peaceful respite right now.
And then let’s buckle up. I have a feeling it’s gonna be an exciting winter.
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