A Blessed Samhain

Tonight and tomorrow is when most modern Pagans celebrate Samhain. Samhain is the start of winter and of the new year in the old Celtic calendar. This is a time when the ancestors are honored, divinations for the new year are performed, and festivals are held in honor of the gods. It is a time of final harvest before the long winter ahead. It is perhaps the best-known and most widely celebrated of the modern Pagan holidays.


An ancestor altar.

This time of year also sees the celebration of Velu Laiks (“the time of spirits”) by Baltic Pagans,Winter Nights by Asatru in mid-October, Foundation Night in Ekklesía AntínoouFete Gede by Vodou practitioners, Día de los Muertos for followers of Santeria and several indigenous religions in Mexico and Latin America, Diwali for Hindus (October 26th this year), and astrological “true” Samhain on November 7th for some Witches and Druids. In addition, Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere are currently celebrating Beltane.

It is a time when some communities acknowledge the Mighty Dead.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLfB3Pp_wG4

“The Mighty Dead are said to be those practitioners of our religion who are on the Other Side now, but who still take great interest in the activities of Witches on this side of the Veil. They have pledged to watch, to help and to teach. It is those Mighty Dead who stand behind us, or with us, in circle so frequently.”

Many who have been dear to our communities have crossed the veil this past year, joining the ranks of the Mighty Dead, including Jehanah WedgwoodPeter ‘Sleazy’ ChristophersonShakmah WinddrumJanine Pommy VegaKenneth Grant, Bone Blossom, Merlin StoneLord SenthorBronwen ForbesSilva JosephBrian Fairbrother, Arthur Evans, and Lord Merlin.

“I love that story about Susan Anthony that Zsuzsanna Budapest tells in her book. Some journalist asked Susan Anthony, because she didn’t believe in orthodox religion, I suppose, “Where do you think you’re to go when you die?” She said, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stay around and help the women’s movement.” So even if I don’t live long enough to see these things, I’ll be around to make a nuisance of myself.”Doreen Valiente, the Mother of Modern Witchcraft.

You can also find a list of departed pioneers, founders, and elders at the Green Egg Zine.

Below you’ll find an assortment of quotes from the media, and fellow Pagans, on the holiday.

“Folklore holds that liminal times and spaces (crossroads, thresholds, midnight, Samhain) bring us to a closer relationship with the Otherworlds, lands of enchantment and imagination. The Veil between our everyday world and the Otherworlds begins to thin. The inhabitants of the Otherworlds reach out to us and make themselves felt.. The nature of those inhabitants varies across stories and traditions – they may be the Good Folk, the puca and the bean-sidhe, the kelpie of the well and the hinkypunk of the marsh, and other kinds of creatures as well. Many of the secular traditions of Halloween are inspired by the tales of these creatures, playing on the possible relationships between humans and spirits.” - Literata and Morwen, The Slacktiverse

LGBT writers, such as poet Judy Grahn, have written of Halloween as a “great gay holiday.” Grahn wrote in her history of gay culture, Another Mother Tongue, that Halloween came to be observed by gay people as their special night because LGBT people had served as priests, witches, shamans, healers and intermediaries between living and spiritual worlds in many societies throughout history. [...] Jesse Monteagudo, a gay South Florida writer, wrote in Halloween: the Great Gay Holiday, that he believes LGBT people adopted Halloween as their special night because it had “a lot to do with our role as outsiders in society; our propensity for cross-dressing and gender-bending; our love for the unusual and the fantastic; our ability to find humor in the absurdities and misfortunes of life; our fascination with festive costumes and the world of make-believe; and our special capacity to have fun.”David Webb, Dallas Voice

In his book The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween, Jean Markale describes Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”) as an important festival that served to unite the tribe. To commemorate the New Year, fires all over the Celtic world were extinguished the night of Samhain, then relit from ceremonial blazes kindled by Druids, the religious leaders of the pre-Christian Celts. Animals were slaughtered and sacrificed to Celtic deities. “In marking the onset of winter, Samhain was closely associated with darkness and the supernatural,” adds Nicholas Rogers, a York University history professor, in Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. “The festival was closely related with prophecy and story-telling.” It was a time out of time, “charged with a peculiar preternatural energy.”Chris McGowan, The Huffington Post

Miguel de la Torre, Professor of Social Ethics at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, relayed a story told to him by a Protestant pastor. This man was in Mexico doing missionary work and had, for many years, refused to participate in annual Day of the Dead celebrations. He complained about the money that the people spent on candles and lamented their engagement with what he saw as “evil.” However, the year his father died, he reluctantly went to the cemetery. As the night went on, the pastor “lit candles, told stories of his father, and saw that as a healing moment and began to develop relationships with the people.”Mary Valle, Religion Dispatches

“Halloween or the Festival of Samhain for Wiccans is by far Salem’s biggest holiday of the year. There are all kinds of parties, celebrations like the “Temple of Nine Wells Samhain Magick Circle,” eerie séances, magic shows, concerts, readings and other “haunted happenings” to experience throughout October leading up to the big night. Ask around and you might get invited to some of the spookier, more exclusive events. Salem gets crowded during late October, but the spirit of the city is most alive during the sliver between our world and the next. This otherworldly revolving door is said to be the thinnest on All Hallows Eve.”Bob Ecker, Napa Valley Register

“The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, honors departed souls of loved ones who are welcomed back for a few intimate hours. At burial sites or intricately built altars, photos of loved ones are centered on skeleton figurines, bright decorations, candles, candy and other offerings such as the favorite foods of the departed. Pre-Columbian in origin, many of the themes and rituals now are mixtures of indigenous practices and Roman Catholicism.”Russell Contreras, The Associated Press

May you all have a blessed Samhain, blessings to you, and your beloved dead on this season. Let this new cycle be one of great blessings for all of you. Also, in recognition of the holiday, I’ve created a special edition of my podcast chock-full of Halloween and Samhain-themed music! Enjoy!

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • Crystal Kendrick

    Blessed Samhain, Jason, and Wild Hunt readers everywhere.

  • http://twitter.com/Mjausson Apel Mjausson

    A blessed Samhain to you too, Jason, and to all who celebrate it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/C-Marcel-Gomes/100002880266083 C Marcel Gomes

    Blessed Samhain!

    The way i see it the Winter nights is more of a period than a festival, including the Alfablot (which most resemble Samhain, being very ancestral), the Disablot and Yule between them.

    To me they have always been very distinct and the ceremonies even more so (“winter” as such,as well as cold, ice and so on is often having rather dire symbolic meaning in our mythology).

    I just had a wonderful Alfablot with me as Ölvir (officiant….”beerholder”).

    I wish everyone a great festival (by whatever names and practices), full of beautiful memories and renewed contact with those who went before us!

  • Daniel SnowKestral

    And a Blessed Samhain/La Fheille Samhuinne/Nos Calan Gaef/Fheille na Marbh (Festival of the Dead/Ancestors) to you and yours and everone else as well! :) Sliante!

    • Lyradora

      You’ve piqued my curiosity: is Fheille na Marbh … Gaelic?

      • Anonymous

        indeed it is. “Feast of the Dead” is the translation.

      • Daniel SnowKestral

        Yepp, Eran is right; it means Festival of the Dead :)

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Braw Nos Galan Gwaf / Happy Halloween / Blessed Samhain!

  • Lyradora

    Does anyone else remember that episode of Babylon 5 when part of the station was ritually encircled, as it were, and beloved dead returned for a few hours to interact with the living? If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you track it down — even if you aren’t a B5 fan. It was wonderfully done. :)

    • jjlynxcat

      yes, it’s one of my favorite episodes,was called “The Day of the Dead” and was written by Neil Gaiman. :)

  • Kilmrnock

    I would just like to take this time to say …….A Blessed Samhain to all my friends and cohorts here . I consider all of you here my freinds and altho we disagree from time to time , we are all part of a larger close knit community . Good intelligent discussion is hard to find , and i cherish when we can have one , disagreements and all. Happy Samhain all. Kilm

  • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/31/for-growing-ranks-of-pagans-october-31-means-more-than-halloween/

    Congratulations, Jason, and Michael York, and the others who participated – one of the most positive articles on the growth of Paganism I have read in recent memory.

  • Stef

    Wishing you, and all, a most holy Samhain.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for including November 7th. It’s heartening to see that being mentioned more and more. And a blessed holiday to you, Jason. Thank you for your work.

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

    A Happy Kekri for any Finnish Pagans out there and a happy Halloween/ Samhain/ New Year/ etc for everyone else.

  • Ladywhitewolf1111

    Have a Blessed Samhain everyone! May you have a safe and Happy one.

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    Thanks for including a summary list of the passings for the past year. It inspired me to create my own list of my Mighty Dead in my blog.


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