“We need to dream the dark as process, and dream the dark as change, to create the dark in a new image. Because the dark creates us." ― Starhawk
With just a few days left before Samhain, we wanted to provide you with some resources and inspiration to ground and serve you in your preparations for this holy time of the year.
Samhain is an ancient Celtic festival of the Dead occurring in late October and early November (usually celebrated on Oct. 31st and Nov. 1st). Meaning "Summer's End" in Gaelic and pronounced saah-win, Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest and the start of the coldest and darkest half of the year. For many, Samhain also is the beginning of the spiritual new year.
What Nature Has to Teach Us
Samhain's long association with death and the Dead reflects Nature's rhythms. In many places, Samhain coincides with the end of the growing season. Vegetation dies back with killing frosts, and therefore, literally, death is in the air. This contributes to the ancient notion that at Samhain, the veil is thinnest between the world of the living and the realm of the Dead and this facilitates contact and communication with the spirit of our ancestors.
This year is extra special and potent because Samhain will fall under the energetic influence of the FULL BLUE MOON in Taurus and is the first full moon to occur across all time zones since 1944. This is an important time for centering, grounding and harmonizing our energy in nature and allowing the full moon to recharge and restore us as we prepare for what is to come.
For those who have lost loved ones in the past year, Samhain rituals can be a wonderful opportunity to bring closure to grieving and to further adjust to their being in the Otherworld by spiritually communing with them.
“Hail the Ancestors,
You who walked the path,
Who lit the way before us,
Who gave the first sacrifice.
May your road be clear
As you return this day.
May we stand tall with you.
Making you proud in our work.
You stood against oppression.
You lifted up the downtrodden.
You welcomed the stranger.
We pray we have your strength.
Ancestors, we see you!
Ancestors, we honor you!”
Written by Rev. Michael J. Dangler
MAKE YOUR OWN SAMHAIN RITUAL
Below are different ritual elements that you can weave together in whatever way you choose, otherwise may this serve as inspiration to you as you consider your own Samhain ritual creation. The most important thing to remember is that there is no one or "right" way to do ritual. What is most important is that you take the time to consider why this time of the year is important to you given the season of life you are in, what is happening in nature's cycles, and the culture context at large.
This is for one who feels called to the energy of the Samhain as a threshold crossing. It's an opportunity to look back and reflect upon the journey you've been on, to honor the sacred teachings related to death and decay, and to honor those ancestors (blood, movement, or otherwise) who have already crossed the threshold from this lifetime to the next. These ritual elements are designed to bring you into your depths and into "death consciousness" as you contemplate your relationship to this time of the year.
Time Commitment: 2-4 hours (4 hours if you are following the template)
Create an altar: Work with symbols associated to this season. Here are some ideas:
Themes: Time of Harvest; Transformation; Letting Go; Paradigm Shift; Balancing Opposites
Symbols: Double Spiral - Illustrates the inbreath and outbreath, the point of balance between the worlds, the inner and outer journey; Fruits/Herbs - Apples, Heather Bush, Herbs fennel, marigold, hops, berries and mushrooms are in full power and ready to harvest
Creating an Altar Inside:
Identify a space in your home that feels safe for you to perform your ritual where you can be alone. Begin to think about designating an area in your home for engaging in your rituals. Ideally this can become a sacred space to return regularly. Your altar becomes your anchor. Nourishing it with your presence charges the bond and improves the quality of the connection.
Set up the area in a way that pleases you. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish to make it. At the least, you may wish to represent your relationship to the elements. Different cultures and faith traditions have their own interpretation of the elements. For example: In Taoist cosmology the five elements are: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water; and are generated by the interaction between Yin and Yang. The five elements can be understood as an expression of qualities and as building blocks of life and matter.
Creating an Altar Outside:
Identify a space that feels safe for you to perform your ritual where you can be alone. This area should provide you with a good feeling - a place you may return to foster a relational bond with.
Come prepared to offer something as a gift. It could be water that you have prayed over or spoken to kindly; perhaps a stone cleansed by moonlight; perhaps leaves and other nature treasures you've found; perhaps even a strand of hair. Take some time to form a connection with this special place and ask permission to perform your ritual there, to be witnessed and blessed by their presence.
Cleanse Your Space & Purify Your Mind
Herbs for smoke cleansing or saining (Celtic): rosemary, cedar, mugwort
If you do not have meaningful/authentic relationships to Indigenous culture and customs, smudging with white sage is considered cultural appropriation and is dishonorable to the Indigenous People of Turtle island. If you have been gifted sage by an Indigenous friend, use your discretion in how to engage with this medicine.
This sacred plant medicine is being abused, exploited and mass-harvested for commercial and consumer use which perpetuates the violence of white supremacy and settler colonialism.
Take some time to locate yourself within a settler-colonial context interwoven with the land you currently occupy. Check out Native Land to learn the name and more about the territories you occupy.
Contemplate the narratives you enact and the spells you cast through ritual. Be mindful, strive for integrity always. Learn from the ground beneath you.
Craft an Intention:
An intention is a guiding principle for how you want to live, and a way to bring heart and mind into alignment. The intentions we set around this time will stay with us through the winter.
Reflect on you and your life over the past year. Review journals, planners, photographs, blogs, and other notations you have created during the past year. Consider how you have grown, accomplishments, challenges, adventures, travels, and learnings. Meditate. Journal about your year in review, your meditation, and your reflections.
As we come to the end of a cycle it can be an important and liberating practice to cut away any energetic and psychic ties that you sense may be holding you back or binding you. Being energetically connected to people, places and spirits is not necessarily a bad thing (since this is how we form healthy bonds) unless that connection or energetic tie is no longer serving you. Cord cutting allows you to let go of people, stories you might carry about yourself and/or patterns of relating and being that you’re ready to let go of.
To perform this portion of your ritual, first get clear and spend some time journaling about what cords you will be cutting. Set intentions. When you are ready, bind your hands, feet or other areas of the body that you sense need releasing with black cord/yarn. Cut the ties to symbolize an energetic release. Complete this portion of your ritual by burning the bindings.
There are many other ways to celebrate Samhain including some of the following examples offered by Selena Fox from Circle Sanctuary:
This is a good time for us to look at wrapping up the old and preparing for the new in our lives. Think about the things you did in the last twelve months. Have you left anything unresolved? If so, now is the time to wrap things up. Once you’ve gotten all that unfinished stuff cleared away, and out of your life, then you can begin looking towards the next year.
SAMHAIN NATURE WALK
Take a meditative walk in a natural area near your home. Observe and contemplate the colors, aromas, sounds, and other sensations of the season. Experience yourself as part of the Circle of Life and reflect on death and rebirth as being an important part of Nature. If the location you visit permits, gather some natural objects and upon your return use them to adorn your home.
Gather photographs, heirlooms, and other mementos of deceased family, friends, and companion creatures. Arrange them on a table, dresser, or other surface, along with several votive candles. Kindle the candles in their memory as you call out their names and express well wishes. Thank them for being part of your life. Sit quietly and pay attention to what you experience. Note any messages you receive in your journal. This Ancestors Altar can be created just for Samhain or kept year round.
FEAST OF THE DEAD
Prepare a Samhain dinner. Include a place setting at your table or at a nearby altar for the Dead. Add an offering of a bit of each beverage being consumed to the cup at that place setting, and to the plate, add a bit of each food served. Invite your ancestors and other deceased loved ones to come and dine with you. To have this as a Samhain Dumb Supper experience, dine in silence. After the feast, place the contents of the plate and cup for the Dead outdoors in a natural location as an offering for the Dead.
Learn about family history. Contact one or more older relatives and ask them to share memories of family members now dead. Record them in some way and later write accounts of what they share. Give thanks. Share what you learned and have written with another family member or friend. Add names of those you learned about and wish to honor to your Ancestors Altar.
Visit and tend the gravesite of a loved one at a cemetery. Call to mind memories and consider ways the loved one continues to live on within you. Place an offering there such as fresh flowers, dried herbs, or a libation of water.
Select an area of your home or life as a focus. Examine it. Re-organize it. Release what is no longer needed. Create a better pattern. Celebrate renewal and transformation.
Kindle a bonfire outdoors when possible or kindle flames in a fireplace or a small cauldron. Write down an outmoded habit that you wish to end and cast it into the Samhain flames as you imagine release. Imagine yourself adopting a new, healthier way of being as you move around the fire clockwise.
Here is a list of items to incorporate into any of the following ritual ideas listed above. These
Fire: is the symbol of transformation and is associated with thcan be rep
Carnelian: Healing, peace, protection, sexuality
Moonstone: Balance, divination, feminine influence, the Goddess, healing, hidden knowledge, insight
Obsidian: Depth, divination, grounding
Onyx: Protection, self-defense, self-discipline
Herbs / Plants