Samhain: Reflection and Ritual
The Final Harvest
At the end of the growing season, we gather in the final harvest. All the fruits, veggies, grasses and grains are harvested. Our lives are a reflection of nature because the Universe is a mirror, and because everything is a reflection of everything else, and because as above so below, as below so above. All those hopes, dreams, plans and goals we planted in the spring and nurtured over the summer, are coming to fruition now.
Some of those seeds we planted have grown and flourished and borne fruit in our lives. Some of our desires have manifested. Others, like some vegetables such as rhubarb or asparagus, will take more than one year’s worth of patient tending before they reward us with a taste. Still others, like apple and cherry trees, may take several years to produce a harvest. And some of the seeds we planted, either never sprouted at all, or withered and died somewhere along the line.
The days leading up to the final harvest are the time for us to gather our remaining fruits to us. It’s time to pick and pluck and harvest those projects and dreams we still have in progress.
And once we’ve gathered all our crops, literal and figurative, it’s time to celebrate them. It is so very important for us to truly revel in those areas of our lives that have done well this year.
From Samhain on we enter the season of taking stock and giving thanks. Basking in the manifestations we’ve brought into our lives over the past year is a crucial part of our cycle, just as feasting on the bounty of an actual growing season is an essential part of every Fall and Winter holiday of every faith and culture. The reason for this is simple. You cannot bring in bounty if you don’t stop to appreciate the bounty you have.
Appreciate means to increase in value. A bottle of wine or an ounce of gold appreciates over time. As in, it gets more valuable. When you truly appreciate, relish, glory in, what you have, you increase its value. And since the Universe is a mirror, you attract to yourself even more to appreciate.
By feasting on what you’ve grown and relishing what you’ve added to your life, you increase the value of those things and attract more like them.
Gratitude goes hand in hand with appreciation. Realizing what you have and delighting in it, is appreciation. Take a moment to say “Thank you” to the Universe that made us, to that which we call God by whatever name, to the planet for her bounty, to our friends and loved ones, to each other, to ourselves, to the sun and the moon and stars. Wake up each morning saying thank you, and fall asleep each evening saying it again.
This holiday of Samhain also marks the beginning of our deepest period of reflection. The dark half of the year is upon us, and the work of the growing and harvesting is done. The planting season has not yet begun. The time in between, the dark times, the cold times, are the season of introspection. We turn inward, bundle up in our warm cozy homes and mull on the year gone by. We think too on the loved ones who’ve moved beyond the veil, even feel them near, because the veil is so thin at this time. Don’t be afraid of those feelings, and don’t push them off to figments of the imagination. Those dear ones are real and they are always present. It’s just easier for us to sense them right now. Another reason to relish this season.
And we reflect on our lives.
Which areas of our physical and metaphorical gardens failed to thrive, or grew bitter fruit this year? What do we feel we need to do differently next year? Was it lack of attention that hurt the plants? Did we change our mind after planting the seeds? Was the tending of them too demanding? Not what we’d thought it would be? Or did we just get bored with them? Are they plants worth trying again to grow? And if so, what can we do to get a better result next year?
We reflect on what did work, too. Which areas really did thrive in our lives this year? And what did we do that resulted in that success? Was this the first year we’ve managed to manifest something we’ve been working on forever? What finally tipped the balance for us? How powerful does that make us feel? How can we apply what we’ve learned to other goals we haven’t so far managed to achieve?
The lessons of nature at this time of year are myriad. They’re everywhere you look.
Notice how the apple tree looses its leaves just as its fruit is getting ripe. The beginning of the tree’s dormant cycle, that thing we humans call death, begins just as the fruits ripen. There’s a deep lesson in this. When a desire for something in our lives surges from our hearts, that’s the seed being planted. As it grows and grows, we are tending it and nurturing it, our focus is on our wish. But eventually, we get tired and new desires start whispering through our minds. This is natural. Life brings them to us for this very reason. Our interest in the old plant begins to wane and as our focus shifts away, the leaves of the growing tree wither and die, and the fruit finally ripens and drops into our lives. We might not even notice it falling, we’re so busy now, tending and nurturing a whole new batch of seedlings.
It’s important, then, to stop, to turn our focus back upon the cycles that are dying, finishing, ripening, finding completion in our lives, and to appreciate them. To acknowledge that, “Yes, I planted that seed! I wanted it so much. And look, here it is, just as easy and natural as if it’s always been here! But I remember planting that seed. I remember feeding it with my longing and eagerness. And I remember watching it grow and how impatient I was at how long it was taking. So now I need to eat of its fruit, and taste its sweet juices as they drip from my chin. I need to close my eyes and experience this beautiful fruit I’ve grown in every part of my soul, and to let my heart sing with thanks and with praise for this perfect manifestation. This wonderful desire, this wish-come-true in my life.”
Without completing this appreciation and gratitude part of the cycle, we can’t move on to the launch of brand new desires.
This is the meaning of Thanksgiving. And to me, Thanksgiving begins on the day of the final Harvest, Samhain, November 7th, and lasts until the Winter Solstice, December 21st.
Until Samhain, then, we continue gathering our harvest. This is so perfectly reflected in our childhood tradition of trick-or-treating. Going around the known Universe, asking the Gods for last minute treats before Samhain Eve passes away. “The harvest is almost complete! Give me some more sweet gifts before the end of the season!”
So scramble to complete your projects, to collect your manifested desires (your treats) as this season winds down. And at Samhain, revisit the dead. Those desires you launched so long ago that you forgot to keep renewing your wanting of them. When you check in, you will find many of them arrived while you weren’t even looking!
A Final Harvest Ritual
*Your Wish List From the Previous Year (Most of us make these around December-January in the form of New Year’s Resolutions, Goals and Plans for the coming year, etc.) If you don’t have one or didn’t make one, try hard to think back and remember the things you were most wanting during the Christmas/New Year’s season, the things you most intended for the new year.
*An orange candle and a black candle, any shape.
*A Cauldron or other flame proof bowl. (unless you can have an actual fire outside for this rite, another excellent option.)
*A charcoal tablet or small flammable kindling for your cauldron if indoors.
*A pen and several small pieces of paper. (Flash Paper is really nice for this, but entirely optional.)
Preparation: You’ll want to have a tiny fire burning in the cauldron, or a piece of charcoal pre-heated and glowing red when you begin.
Begin your ritual in whatever way is your custom. (Meditate, say a prayer, cast a circle, whatever makes you feel spiritually attuned and ready.)
Then, light the black candle. Think about the black candle representing that place where wishes go, the darkness of the void in which they live, not yet in our world, but growing, like seeds in the dark fertile soil. They grow through our attention until they can manifest in our world. Look at the black candle flame and see in it all the things you’ve ever wished for that have not yet come. They are there. They are real. They exist. And they will come to you when you are ready.
Light the orange candle. And think about the orange candle as the wishes manifesting in our reality. All your hopes and dreams become physical in its flame. Stare into that flame and see yourself basking in them. See in it, all the wonderful things that you have manifested in your life, and feel the wonder of knowing you did that. See the things coming next. Clues will appear in the flames.
Reflect on the energy of the final harvest, the energy of Samhain, of Halloween and All Hallows, the energy of endings, of cycles completed, of harvesting the rewards, and of being one with this world and the world of spirit.
Say: “This is the time when the veil between what is, and what is not, is at its thinnest. It’s so thin now that what is not, can become. Birth and death are one on this night. I can connect with those who’ve gone on, with all who’ve ever been, and yes, even with all who ever will be. The veil is thin, and I move freely between, gathering the strands of my desires from the void, and weaving, weaving, weaving them, for they are the threads with which I create my life.”
Next, take out your list of the things you wanted last year. As you do, notice all the ways that many of those things have come to be in your life. Know that you did that. Feel the power of that.
Write each fulfilled wish down on the piece of paper. Take a moment to just mentally relish having each one. Think about all it adds to your life. Give heartfelt thanks for it, and as you do, drop it into the flaming cauldron. Flash paper adds a nice bit of flair to this spell.
When you finish, add a final slip of paper on which you write piece “for everything else.” Aloud say, “this is for everything I haven’t yet realized or remembered or maybe even noticed yet. I know there are millions of tiny manifestations, microscopic ones, that are leading me toward what I need.” Think about the infinite possibilities you set into endless motion with every choice you made, every thought and word and deed in the past year. And where they might lead. It’s mind blowing! The possibilities are limitless.
What an adventure!
Drop that final piece of paper into the fire. As it burns, sit and feel your heart signing its gratitude to All the Is.
Now, if there are items you wanted or intended or hoped to manifest this year that haven’t yet come true, hold them (figuratively) in a ball of energy in your cupped hands, getting yourself very clear in the knowledge that all fruits must ripen in their own time and that you must change yourself into a match for those things before they can come to you. Dance in a circle, imagining the energy ball glowing and pulsing with power. You are going to surrender it to the Universe. You’re going to trust completely that what is meant to be, will be, and that you don’t always know best. This is a ritual of release. Dance, spinning and jumping, faster and faster until you feel your hands just tingling, and then throw that ball of energy into the fire. (If you have flash paper, use all remaining pieces for this final surrender, wadded up together in your palms and representing things not yet manifest.) As you do, relax your entire body, sink to the floor or ground, and let go of all tension. It is done.
At the end of the rite, you might want to sit in silence and think of loved ones who’ve gone to the other side, speak to them and ask them to come to you for a visit. Hear them in your heart, feel their presence in your sacred space, see their smiles in your memory. The experience of them is real. They have not gone anywhere. They might even have a message or two that you need to hear.
When you’ve finished with this Final Harvest Ritual, give thanks once more. And then end your ritual in whatever way is your custom.