Samhuinn/Samhain and Halloween have always been my favorite holidays and time of year. The build-up towards this time is one of the most enjoyable things for me. The trees start to turn, cooler temperatures and winds whisper faintly of the coming winter. The smell of soil and decaying leaves mixes with a feeling, a subtle and hard to describe feeling, that the veil is thinning. It’s a whole change of atmosphere and anyone attuned to nature and their local environment probably knows exactly what I’m talking about.
This year, like the last, I attended a charming circle and potluck organized by a few members of a local Gardnerian coven and hosted at a local metaphysical shop. At this time, it has been over a full year of attending their Sabbat circles. Although I’m not a Wiccan, it is nice to find a little fellowship in others on a similar path and it’s a great time for making connections in the local community of Pagans and witches. It is a much welcome change from no covens or organized Pagan activities at all that I experienced in my teen and young adult years growing up.
Last year one of my cousins was murdered, though I wasn’t very close to him in relationship or age, he was still honored among my deceased family. This year Samhuinn had even more meaning with the passing of my grandmother early this year. She was an important figure in our family and she and I were pretty close. With her in mind, I made my way to the circle with ritual garb and a barley soup contribution for the potluck.
Once there, the wonderful organizers gave a basic introduction course to the holiday to all who attended, followed by circle etiquette so there wouldn’t be any hiccups in the ritual. The clouds were dark and gloomy and halfway through the class, they opened up and pounded down on the building. There was concern that we would need to move the ritual inside to a much small space, but about 10 minutes later the rain stopped and allowed us to continue on.
I changed into my white robe wrapped with a golden yellow cord belt and made my way with the others outside to the circle. The main altar along with one for each direction was set up as usual, but this time a large cauldron centered in a fairy ring also accompanied them. The cauldron was filled with sand and was set to house candles for everyone to light in honor of their deceased loved ones and ancestors. At the foot of the table holding the altars were pictures of loved ones attendees brought to honor and connect with.
We started the ritual by constructing the circle and calling on the elements, followed by purification of all attendees. Once those tasks were completed, libations and food offerings were made to divinity. Then came the main event of the ritual, a dancing of the circle followed by the ancestor ceremony. We all took turns taking a candle to light and dedicate to our respective loved ones. Once this was done, the protocols for closing the circles were completed and we made our way inside for food and fellowship.
Although I enjoy the fellowship, I do still hold my own rituals and works outside of this circle that aligns more with my personal practice rather than Wicca. On the day of Samhuinn, I took the day off from work to give a brief video conference lecture on the history of Revival Druidry to a wonderful group of students in a Pagan society based out of a university in Wales. It was a fun experience and I hope to be able to do it again in the future. After that, I spent the day making offerings and tending closely to my family ancestor altar. Food and drink were provided, incense burned, and many candles lit to light their way.
Halloween for many is a time for candy and fun, but to many of us, it is also a time of reflection and mourning. It’s a time when the spirits return to visit and maybe even whisper secret messages to their living family. It’s a time of final harvest and preparations for the winter when the lands die to be reborn again in the spring and we are reminded that all things come to the end of a cycle and we too will someday perish.
May the Old One bless us with good health and fortify our minds and bodies.