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. These days, 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 don't know who will be hanging about - Mum, for certain, Someone, me. T has Bird but will bring him home in time to carve a pumpkin and go trick-or-treating (I am hoping both in out neighborhood and in one where there's a bit more action...it's gotten a little lame here). I don't know if anyone else will be about - I haven't been a proactive with the invites and folks are busy. The house is a little messy, but it'll do. At least one room is clean - the baby's. I have a few pumpkins to carve, one each for me, Mum, Someone, and Bird, plus a few small ones to be made into puree for cakes later in the year.
Of course we'll roast the pumpkin seeds because
We'll carve pumpkins, the lot of us, and nosh the snacks I've put out. I'll roast the seeds and may even share them. At dusk, we'll light the jack-o-lanterns and take the kids (or the kid, anyway) out for their bit of begging.
If the night is fine, we may 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. I may or may not have a bit of whisky or rum to add medicinal value to the drink.
I will make a special dinner for Samhain night. I don't have anything traditional - this year it's a crockpot roast, potatoes, carrots, and pumpkin spice cake with cinnamon spice 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. A bit of whatever's to drink will be placed with the laden plate - probably whisky for Snake and cider for B (she just got her one-year token before she died).
Later tonight, after we've eaten, handed out candy, taken the kids out for some socially sanctioned begging, we'll take food and drink down to the woods and leave the contents 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.
This year, I celebrate: one year ago, Someone made his first visit to Casa de Crazy, began the process of coming Home.
This year I honor: Aunt D, who passed last spring; my friend Snake; my friend B, and old friend from the track who died suddenly and unexpectedly last month; my grandfather, who passed many years ago but whom I still miss.