Samhain is one of the four major Celtic fire festivals (the others are Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasad) and it is often considered to be the most important celebration of the wheel of the year, because it marks the Celtic New Year. Samhain is celebrated at the very end of the harvest season, when the cattle are brought down from the pastures, which is halfway between autumn equinox and winter solstice.
The celebrations used to last three days, surrounding the actual turning point, sunset on the 31st of October. Big bonfires were lit in the fields and atop sacred mounds and with that fire the hearth in people’s homes were ceremoniously lit, to cleanse their energies and the energy of their homes, chase the shadows of the past months and protect them from harm before entering the dark night of winter. Festive meals were prepared and families used to set a plate at the table to honour the deceased and invite the ancestors in sharing the festivities.
Samhain was, and is, a suspended moment in time, a window that opens between our world and the after world, when the veil between our reality and the invisible world becomes very thin and sometimes even entirely dissipates. It is a time of connection with deceased loved ones and ancestors and it is a time of supernatural phenomena, when fairies, gnomes, elves and nature spirits can penetrate more easily into our reality.
The Samhain portal prepares us for the winter months: we abundantly celebrate and anchor the light of the past months in our hearts, so that we can brighten our existence from within during the months where sunlight is mostly absent.
Nowadays, Samhain celebrations have been largely replaced by Halloween festivities, people dress up as witches, zombies, ghosts or demons and go from door to door to ask for candy. The reason people used to disguise themselves was to avoid being recognised by evil roaming spirits and show the darkness that they’re not afraid. There is nothing wrong with celebrating Halloween, as long as it is done in the spirit of joy and sharing. It should not, however, become a glorification of everything that is evil, dark and devilish. As it is one of the most important “windows” in time of the year, the consciousness we’re in and the energy we emanate while passing through this window is essential for how we’ll experience the coming winter months. To give a concrete example, we’re better off sharing a meal of pumpkin pastries and ghost-shaped cookies with our family than spending the night in front of a horror-movie marathon fuelling our minds with gruesome images and fear.
Typically, the period leading up to, and around, Samhain brings back many past life memories because of the temporal “suspension” and we can find ourselves feeling melancholic for no particular reason. If this is the case for you, it is important to pay attention to what arises during your dreamtime and write down your dreams. Strange dreams or weird moods in the morning, just after you wake up, are clear signs that you are processing memories and information from past lives during the night. They are part of the natural cleansing process before any period of introspection, you are evacuating memories and energies that weigh you down and reactivating memories that you’ll need in the future.
The Samhain portal confronts us as much with the best of existence as with the worst and the choice between those two lies very much in our own hands. This is why Samhain celebrations always included a cleansing ritual. It is important to part with, or appease, our inner demons before we enter the darker months of the year, for we will not have the distractions of the summer and spring, nor the energy of the sun and our primary source of energy will have to come from ourselves during these next couple of months. There are two ways in which we can experience the winter months: we can use this period to regenerate or we can lose ourselves in melancholia. We can create a time of inner struggle and let our fears and doubts get the better of us, or we can use the winter months to treasure ourselves and enjoy the silence, to pause our active, external existence to the benefit of our inner wealth and peace of mind and allow new ideas to take root.
During the winter months it is essential to meditate and pamper yourself. Feed the best in yourself. In a literal sense this means eating food that contains a lot of nutriments and indulging yourself and in a figurative sense it means nourishing your spirit and soul with books, art, movies, nature walks, etc. Do what makes you happy, go dancing, follow that cooking class or treat yourself to a retreat or workshop. Concentrate yourself on activities that bring you joy, healing and wellness and insert some alone-time as well. Take the time to listen to yourself, to your dreams and inspirations and write them down. Only when we feed the beauty within ourselves, can we bring out the best in ourselves as well.