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The three aspects of Samhain – honoring our ancestors, the last harvest & the Celtic New Year

The three aspects of Samhain – honoring our ancestors, the last harvest & the Celtic New Year October 30, 2021

Celtic New Year
Samhain altar at Sacred Wheel CUUPs 2019 ritual at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, NJ. PHOTO BY ANN TRIP

Samhain, the time when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest, we can connect with our ancestors. It is commonly known by the mundane as Halloween. This sabbat though has two other equally important aspects people tend to forget. It is the last harvest and to Druids it is the Celtic New Year.

Many Celts believe that between sundown Oct. 31 and sundown Nov. 1 time “stands still.”  It is the “day” in the Year and a Day promise we make, between honoring the ancestors and newly dead, and the beginning of the Celtic New Year that is the “time out of time” we may reference during ritual.

This has me thinking of the past two years of the pandemic. Time seems to have stood still. Sure things happened in the world – earthquakes, fires, an end to a war, and a presidency. In addition, on smaller scales, there were weddings, births, and loved ones that passed on… However, for the most part, for a long time, even after the shutdown ended it felt like time stood still. At least for me it did.

Celtic New Year
Stone image of Cailleach Béara in Ireland.

On Samhain night, the Celtic crone Goddess, Cailleach, takes the trees’ leaves, speeding up the decline of the year. Additionally,  you can ask her to take away personal aspects of the year you do not want to carry over to the next.

This concept seems like a good idea to me. A lot of this year and last I would like to forget and not carry over to the next. The whole pandemic would be a good start, I am sure many can agree. Maybe we can go back to 2016 and forget those four years. Okay, I know those are not personal, but I am sure most can agree on one or both of those.

There are personal aspects I would like to forget though. Those times when I was too scared to do something relatively harmless, especially during the pandemic. I say it like that because I have some fears that are years before the pandemic such as my fear of dogs. A fear that I am finally working on, thanks to a certain music director’s dog at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, NJ literally pushing me with his head into my leg on more than one occasion.

So many personal facets I would like to rid myself of though such as my procrastination; but I am a work in progress. Asking the Goddess for help in this is a good starting point. The acknowledgement of what wrong we may have done or a bad habit we need to break and willingness to change is important. Clearing out the detritus of the past, gives us time, room, and energy to invest in growth. It is the Celtic New Year, let us start anew.

As the colorful leaves fall from the trees baring their branches, it is time we too let go of parts of our past. This will not be an easy task for us. What worthwhile action is ever easy? We cannot grow if we are stagnant, stuck in our past. By making time to examine ourselves, sort through the good, the bad, the ugly, and determine what would best serve us by shedding ourselves like last year’s leaves, we free up time and space in our lives to grow anew.

The trees bare it all and come spring, they will blossom with new green leaves and some will produce flowers and fruit. We can too. Prepare for the winter: get ready to work new ground, plant the seeds for new growth in the spring and we can blossom too.

Now, while Samhain has these serious aspects to it, there is nothing wrong in having fun too. Partake in Halloween events or sabbat activities. Dressing up in costume is in fact an old Pagan custom. The intention is to keep the spirits of the newly dead or the Seeley Court from being dragged off during the Wild Hunt. So yes, put something from your last harvest on your altar, have a dumb supper, ask Cailleach to help rid those aspects for year’s end, honor the Celtic New Year, and enjoy the mundane holiday too.

Blessed Samhain!

See also: It’s Mabon – there is much to be grateful for this year

About Ann Trip
I am an UU Pagan and leader of the UUCM Sacred Wheel CUUPS chapter at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair in New Jersey. I have been following the Pagan path for almost 20 years and Druid for the last 10. I am also a journalist and a photographer covering local town news. You can read more about the author here.
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