Samhain. All Hallows Eve. Hallowe'en. Halloween.
While little (and not so little) people are out extorting candy from strangers (On the one night a year Mum and Dad aren't telling them NOT to take candy from strangers, and isn't that a mixed message?)(And if you don't think it's extortion, think about it - "Give me a treat or I'll play a prank on you" is exactly that - extortion), more than a few pagans are spending the evening in an entirely different fashion.
Samhain (pronounced "sawin") is sometimes called the Witches' New Year. It's thought to be the time of year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, and so best suited for speaking with our dead, with those who passed on in the previous year. On Samhain, our living God dies, and until he is born again on Yule the Goddess and all the world mourns him. Poor Goddess, carrying her child alone for the next two months, throughout eternity she must suffer this loss before she can know her joy once more. Don't worry if you don't get it - it's a cyclic thing, a nature thing, and a deeply, weirdly Pagan thing.
Some will have large meetings, solemnly chant and circle the fire, call upon the gods of old. Some will dance wildly around bonfires, drumming, singing, shrieking, leaping the flames, looking for all the world like the imps and devils we were once purported to be. Some will just hand out candy and let the night pass, and some will put out the lights, draw the blinds, and pretend not to be home. A few (Pagan and non) will look for and find trouble. Most will feast, drink, and hold the dumb supper - the meal placed out for the those who've gone through the veil - whether alone or in numbers. None who are truly Pagan will sacrifice anything more than a glass of wine and/or a plate of food to the fire, the earth, the old gods.
This year I will have a house-load of folks hanging about - Mum, my friends A, Kit (sans kids, perhaps), M (also minus child), and maybe K(perhaps she, too, will be kid free), B, and S. I've spent the last couple of days hollowing pumpkins and carving faces into them. I roasted the seeds and ate many of them still warm from the oven - I have a mad passion for roasted pumpkin seeds and will be...erm...eliminating sandpaper for as long as the seeds last because I can't just eat one or two...no, I eat them by the ton- but a few managed to get stored for tomorrow. I'm not done carving - I'll be at it right up until dusk (I save the fancier carvings for last so they don't dry or crumple but will instead look their best), and with any luck will have enough smiling, frowning, scowling, laughing, creepy and funny faces and scenes to line the driveway and go up my stairs. Bird has carved a face or two, and T has gotten in on the fun, too. Mum will do her share today, and my friend A has taken the day off work and will come add her own flair to the faces. Anyone who gets here soon enough will be given a large orange squash, a knife, and the edict "Go forth and carve - but save me the seeds!!"
If the night is fine, we'll light the candles at dusk, fire up the outdoor fireplace, and sit out on the drive reminiscing about the past, about family and friends long gone but not forgotten. I may or may not mull some cider and have some cups to ladle out portions for the adults trailing the kids who will start coming around soon. Heh - come and drink my Witch's Brew - you won't fly or turn into a newt, but it'll take the chill off.
T may have to take our little guy out trick-or-treating, or maybe we'll both go. Either way, there will be photographs.
I will make a special dinner for Samhain night. I don't have anything traditional - this year it's a crockpot roast, whipped potatoes, carrots, green beans, bread and butter, and made-from-scratch pumpkin spice cake with made-from-scratch vanilla, cinnamon, ginger buttercream icing. I try to make something that my ancestors or anyone I've lost in the previous year would like to eat. The first portion of each item is carefully plated and placed at the head of the table or on the altar. Wine will be served, and a chalice-full placed with the laden plate.
Later tonight, after we've eaten, handed out candy, taken the kid(s) out for some socially sanctioned begging, we'll take the plate of food and the glass of wine down to the woods and leave the content for our ancestors. We may or may not name them. We may or may not sing a song for them. We will honor them, wish them well, and remember. We will ask their blessing in the coming year. It will be short, but heartfelt - we don't need a lot of ritual, these days, just a few quiet minutes with our Gods.
It's an odd hodgepodge of a night - some modern traditions that were founded in the old, and some straight from the days (and nights) when our people could be openly themselves, could worship the gods of field and wood, or river and rock, without fear of censure or death.
Blessed be those who have gone before; blessed be those who live now; blessed be those who will follow after. The wheel turns once more, and blessed are we who turn with it. Blessed be.
Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!
"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
For old quotes, look here.
For old quotes, look here.