samhain is here
The days are certainly getting colder and out at our house bus we are really feeling the nip! Like our ancient ancestors we are busy getting ready for winter, cutting firewood, improving waterproofing and installing an outdoor bath for star studded soaks! I'm definitely a summer girl but perhaps with a bit of preparation winter could be special in its own way. This year my honey and I will be having a 'Dumb Supper' for our deceased loved ones - see below for loads of ideas on how you can honour and celebrate this special time and year.
Samhain (pronounced "sow-in") is a Celtic festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It is usually celebrated on the night of April 30th in the Southern Hemisphere and October 31st to in the Northern Hemisphere.
The word "Samhain" comes from the Old Irish language and means "summer's end." It was one of the most important festivals in the ancient Celtic calendar and was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and other parts of Europe.
During Samhain, it was believed that the veil between the living and the dead was at its thinnest, and that the spirits of the dead could return to the world of the living. People would light bonfires and leave offerings of food and drink for the spirits, hoping to appease them and prevent any mischief or harm.
The festival also marked the beginning of the new year in the Celtic calendar, and it was a time for divination and prophecy. People would often hold feasts and gatherings, tell stories and play music, and engage in other forms of merrymaking.
Today, Samhain is still celebrated by some people who follow Celtic and pagan traditions. It has also influenced the modern holiday of Halloween, which is celebrated on the same date and incorporates many of the same themes and traditions.
There are many ways that someone can celebrate Samhain today. Here are a few ideas:
Honour your ancestors: Samhain is a time to honour and remember those who have passed on before us. You can create an ancestor altar, light candles, and leave offerings of food or drink for your loved ones who have passed away. You can also spend time in meditation or prayer, reflecting on the memories and experiences you shared with them.
Hold a feast: Samhain is traditionally a time for feasting and celebration. You can gather with friends and family and prepare a meal together, incorporating seasonal foods like pumpkins, apples, and root vegetables. You can also make a traditional Irish dish like colcannon, which is made with mashed potatoes, cabbage, and butter or a dish that your loved one used to make or enjoyed eating. A Dumb Supper is held in silence, a plate is laid out for the ancestors who are invited to attend and in that silence you might just hear or feel their presence.
Light a bonfire: In ancient times, people would light bonfires to mark the transition from summer to winter and to ward off any malevolent spirits. You can light a bonfire in your backyard or build a small fire in a fire pit, and spend time outside enjoying the warmth and light.
Practice divination: Samhain is a time when the veil between the worlds is thin, making it an auspicious time for divination and prophecy. You can practice tarot reading, scrying, or other forms of divination to gain insight into the coming year.
Take a nature walk: Samhain is also a time to honour the cycles of life and death in the natural world. You can take a walk in the woods or a local park, admiring the changing colours of the leaves and the beauty of the season. You can also take time to reflect on the cycles of life and death, and the lessons they can teach us.
Here is a poem for Samhain for us to use in New Zealand celebrations and festivities:
As Samhain draws near, the air grows cold,
The leaves turn gold, the stories unfold.
In Aotearoa, the winds doth blow,
As the spirits gather, with love aglow.
We honour the ancestors of this land,
Whose wisdom and guidance doth ever stand.
The Māori spirits, the Pākehā ghosts,
We welcome them all, with open hosts.
The harvest is done, the crops are stored,
The earth is resting, its bounty adored.
We give thanks for the abundance we've gained,
And honour the cycles of life, unchained.
In the forests and hills, the spirits roam,
The taniwha, the fairies, find their home.
We light the fires, and the candles bright,
To guide their way, on this Samhain night.
The veil is thin, the spirits do come,
We hear their whispers, their songs, and their hum.
As we gather together, with love and with light,
We honour the spirits, and embrace the night.
So let us dance, and let us sing,
As we honour the ancestors, with everything.
For Samhain is here, and the veil doth lift,
In Aotearoa, our spirits doth shift.