Monday, October 31, 2011

Reflections on Samhain

Today is Samhain (pronounced sow-in), celebrated by the ancient Celts and modern Pagans as the end of the cycle, the New Year, the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.  Those of us in the northeastern United States have already had our first taste of winter, bringing the reality of the darker half of the year even closer.  Here I will tell you what Samhain means to me.

From a religious standpoint, Samhain represents the truth of the seasons.  Seasons change, cycles go round and round.  The fields have been harvested and the food is preserved to preserve us through the harsh months to come.  The Lord, our God by whatever name has succumbed to the darkness and now journeys to the netherworlds.  This is a time to mourn, but also in a unique way, a time of hope.  Because we know that the land mourns for Her Lover the God as is evident in the cold bleakness of winter, we also know that the light will return again.  The Lord journeys but he does not go down to die forever.  At Yule, he will be reborn and the land will again grow and warm and we will return to the lighter half of the year.  I mourn the God more this year than i did the previous year.  I came to know Him more this year than I had ever known him before.  So I mourn Him, but His words give me comfort, he reminds me that He will be back and this ugly snow will not last forever.  Yes I hate the snow!

From a ritualistic point of view, the basis of Samhain also teaches us to remember those who have gone to die before us: our ancestors.  I have studied my ancestors from different branches of my family for the past 10 years.  From the Vikings of Scandinavia, to the Normans who invaded England, to the Scotman who faced exile, to the French, I have many roots.  And I yearn to know more about them every year.  And every year yields new findings and new mysteries to solve.  This is my history nerd side.  I love a good historical mystery, especially when it involves my own ancestors.

From the perspective of the last year, we lost two family members in the last year.  My brother passed away on Nov. 8, 2010.  I am still reeling from it and I have opinions regarding it that I dare not speak to anyone.  Lets just say that his crimes were unforgivable and I fully believe that he is not in a good place.  My aunt also passed away the week of Yule/Christmas 2010.  Her death was expected and I mourned for her fairly quickly, at least I feel that way.  It was something we knew was going to happen eventually, her health was already failing.  I suppose the shock of my brother's unexpected suicide the month before somehow lessened the blow of my aunt's passing.  The saddest part of that was that she left behind a teenage daughter who had just given birth to her own child and was now alone.  That was the greatest tragedy surrounding my aunts passing.

So as I prepare for the New Year in my home, I am going to remember each and every one of my ancestors, recent and distant, and thank them for their contributions to my life.  But I am also going to clear my house of unwanted feelings and negativity. 

Blessed Samhain everyone!  Good Journey my Lord!
May your New Year be filled with love, compassion, and grace.

"Fear is usually a sign that you are on the right track." - Michelle L. Casto


  1. Very thought provoking post on Samhain... thanks. :-) I had my own list of those to remember on this holiday and reading this reminded me to also reflect on two great grandmothers I lost when I was very young.