A Pagan's Blog

A Pagan's Blog

Preparing for Samhain

I’ve been busy polishing our ritual
script for Samhain (pronounced “Sow-win”), which we will celebrate the 30th.  I hope every other Pagan reader of this
blog will have an opportunity to observe and celebrate this time as well.  I think it is one of our two most
important Sabbats.

Wicca celebrates and honors the
Sacred in all its manifestation throughout life, for it is the Divine as it
manifests in the world that serves as our “sacred text.” We focus on the
meaning within phenomena as
of a larger context toward which
they point.  Life is a cycle, and
we see it symbolized throughout the course of a year here in temperate
zones.  On the equator we would
need different symbolism to bring this insight alive, a sign that variety is
itself Sacred. Along with the Sacredness of variety, I believe our world’s
other most fundamental teaching about the Sacred is its eternal linkage of life
and death.  Everything that lives,


Samhain is when we honor death, as
six months previously we honored life at Beltane.  Then light was rapidly increasing, each day longer than the
one before.  Now night is becoming
dominant, each night longer than the one before. 

In NeoPagan and Celtic traditions
Samhain is the last day of the year, as sundown is the end of the day and the
beginning of the next.  For Wiccans
such as myself, the time between Samhain and Yule is the time when death is the
dimension of Spirit most present at least symbolically. 

Here in Sonoma County both our main
altar and our ancestor altar will be decorated with marigolds, and the central
candles will be atop a wonderful Mexican ceramic skull, for we are blessed with
the near coincidence of Samhain and Day of the Dead.  These two celebrations are particularly harmonious for both
honor those who have passed on. Both connect with that part of existence we
usually most avoid.  And Day of the
Dead is celebratory towards those who have passed, helping us connect with our
ancestors, something far less prevalent in NeoPaganism than in indigenous traditions. 


Day of the Dead is indigenous to
America, particularly Mexico.  Its roots are thousands of years old.   Its celebration has moved north as Mexican people have come here to
work and to live, in the process enriching our own appreciation of this time.  To me its is fitting that we integrate
their wisdom and beauty into our practice.

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posted October 26, 2010 at 9:48 pm

I think the juxtaposition of Samhain/Beltane as Death and Life respectively is a little too dualistic, personally. After all, there is a lot of overlap as seen beautifully in the Voodoo Baron Samedi. The Baron not only guards cemeteries and the dead, but is a patron of eroticism and protector of children. He even has an uproariously sexual sense of humor when he posses a host, making good natured jibes and performing outrageous actions to remind people of the connection between Life and Death (and of course to get a good belly laugh)!

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posted October 26, 2010 at 10:27 pm

One idea I try to incorporate in our ritual each year is that life and death are not separate endpoints in some linear process: they are intertwined, part and parcel of each other. They are the equal weights on a flywheel that keeps the whole engine of creation moving. It’s no accident that the burial mound resembles a womb. Nor is Beltaine all sweetness and light, if we realize that its new life is dancing on the grave of something which was just as beautiful a few months before.
Yes, this time of year is a sad and solemn one as we notice the loss of summer and the loss of people we love, but it’s also a very beautiful and hopeful time as well. It’s very much a time of reunions. When we sit down for a dumb supper, our ancestors are THERE with us, as real a presence in the room as any of us. This Sabbat has a richness and depth and power to it unlike any other.

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Gus diZerega

posted October 27, 2010 at 12:08 am

I did not mean to suggest dualism. Samhain honors death, Beltane life, but the reality to mr id like a yin yang – there is never completely one or the the. The seeds of death are in life, of life in death.
But that is the wonder of there being many traditions. Voudon developed in the French speaking Caribbean from traditions mostly African and tropical or from Indians native to the tropical islands. The Celtic/Wiccan symbolic cycle does not fit so neatly there. They did it differently, and if it works for someone, wonderful.
I certainly enjoyed the Voudon ceremony I was invited to when I visited New Orleans years ago.

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Cheryl Hill

posted October 27, 2010 at 10:38 am

One of my favorite themes for Samhain is also remembering that it is our “New Year”. And as such, a time to decide what to discard and what to save. To look back at our accomplishments and the goals we’ve achieved. It’s a time for Dumb Suppers and other activities to revere our beloved Dead, and to welcome their Spirits back to us.
Our ancestors had to decide which domestic animals had to be killed because they could not be kept alive over the Winter, and which would be saved for breeding stock. How much of the grain could be used for food and how much needed to be safely saved for planting in the Spring – and even some degree of back-up in case they had to re-plant those crops in the event of a sudden Spring storm. Likewise, I look to see which ideas, behaviors, relationships, etc. need to be eliminated from my life and which need to be protected and nurtured next year.
That sort of soul-searching activity can be done at any time of year of course, but just as working Magick in accordance with the waxing/waning energies of the Moon will yield better results, coordinating with the Wheel of the Year this way will also help manifest the changes one wishes to make. Also, as the Veil between the Worlds is thinnest at this time, it’s a good time for divination and also contacting our beloved ancestors and friends who have passed on for any advice and insight into our lives.

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posted October 27, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I celebrate Samhain (pronounced Irish-wise ‘Sahv-ven’) on the first full moon in the sunsign Scorpio; so my sabbat is already finished!
I am extremely eclectic in my approach, with strands of Hellenism, Vanic worship, and some Celtic aspects to my practice. Samhain is the end of my ritual year and the entry to what we call “The Fallows”, a period of introspection and quiet between October and the calendar New Year on January 1st.
Samhain, itself, here is a time of special attention the the Labyrinth (the Walk of the Fallen) and the war dead. The counting beads are brought inside with ritual procession for the winter. We honor ancestors and consider those we will one day be ancestors unto. We usually make it a three day event with ritual of various sorts, votive offerings, and a great deal of quiet relaxation built in to the time.

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Cheryl Hill

posted October 27, 2010 at 2:44 pm

“The Fallows” – I like it! As a field at rest.

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Darkmoor Ravenscry

posted October 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Happy Irish New Years everyone!

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Sorn Skald

posted October 29, 2010 at 10:05 am

I don’t really do Samhain, but in a little over a week, the group with whom I worship will be celebrating Winter Nights (many heathens have already celebrated Winter Nights or a similar holiday, either because winter arrives earlier in their area or because their celebrations are tied to lunar or other cycles). In addition to reflecting on the meaning of winter’s onset for ourselves and our ancestors, we incorporate a disablot, which for our group is a blot mainly for the remembering and worshipping of our female ancestors and related figures. Some other groups out there perform their disablot around February or March and instead do an alfablot for male ancestors and similar wights this time of year.
Personally, in my individual practice, I worship those who came before on a regular basis. It’s almost formulaic; whatever other reason I may have for making an offering, the honored dead always get some mention. Most heathens I know are similar in their individual practice.
You mentioned that you’re polishing your ritual script, Gus. If you don’t mind, and if it’s something that can be made public (not protected by initiatory secrecy or anything like that), would you mind sharing it? I’d be interested in seeing what you do.

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posted October 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Wishing all a Blessed Samhain!
I always look forward to samhain for many reasons. It’s the New Year to me, the veil is thin and I look forward to communing with those loved ones who have passed. It’s also the meat harvest or third harvest. While I don’t have animals that need to be culled for the winter, I realize that it was done at this time.
I am disappointed that Bnet didn’t have anything to recognize Samhain though I’ve become jaded with this site so I’m not too terribly surprised.
I don’t want to end this on a negative note so again, I’d like to wish everyone a Blessed Samhain. However you celebrate the holiday, may it be blessed!

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posted October 31, 2010 at 8:36 am

As with Skorn Skald I worship my ancestors on an individual basis, and encourage it in my co-religionists. I come from an eclectic practice, but I especially work with the Northern European Gods as my general focus. As my group is eclectic and most come from a Wiccan background we’ll be celebrating our eclectic version Samhain. So Blessed Winter’s Night and Merry Samhain to you all!

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posted November 5, 2010 at 1:57 am

We five Pagans held a long and wonderful Samhain circle with some of the New Age cowans, here in the North Bay. Conducted by three seasoned priestesses from diverse Pagan/Wiccan traditions, a senior priest of Gaia, and my humble self, opener of the East, it was a dynamic Samhain ritual with diverse elements, tailored to the collected consciousness.
Then we ate, of course.
This is a good time to bring our ritual art and magical imagery to the world, I think. People are amazed and inspired by it. Minds open like flowers…

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posted November 13, 2010 at 9:40 am

My tradition began calling and honoring ancestors about 8 years ago, inspired initially by African diasporic practices, but then doing it ritually in a way that harmonizes well with our somewhat ceremonial group.
Before invoking Goddess and God, we light an Ancestor candle on the altar (between the Lady and Lord candles & images). We stamp three times on the ground, and call/recognize “Ancestors of Land” — those who walked that Land before us and whose bones and dust are in it. We tap 3 times on our chest in a heartbeat rhythm, and call/recognize our “Ancestors of Blood” — those who begat and bore us on down through the ages. Then we clap three times above our crown and call/recognized “Ancestors of Spirit” — the Mighty Dead, the Master Souls: teachers, Witches, priests, priestesses and even people of science and learning and ingenuity on down through the ages, including people in our own Tradition who have died.
We strengthen this connection by wearing a black, red, and white beaded Ancestor necklace in ritual, and we always give them libations of the cakes and ale.
This has been a profound and beneficial practice for us, really helping knit us more closely to those who came before us, and those who will come after us, by keeping us mindful that someday we also will be Ancestors.

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