Halloween, Samhain, New Beginnings
Halloween, Samhain, New Beginnings! Talking about new beginnings in the middle of autumn might seem a bit strange. The clocks have just gone back, the nights are drawing in, the weather is cold, windy and wet, but in the Celtic Pagan Calendar, Halloween or Samhain actually marks the ending of one year and the beginning of the next.
In modern Irish Samhain literally means “summer’s end,” harvesting is over and the cold and dark season of winter is beginning. This is a signal of death and rebirth as one year ends and another begins.
It was believed that at Samhain “the division between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.”At Samhain the Celts’ family ancestors were welcomed and invited, but there was a fear of harmful spirits that must be protected against, so masks and costumes were used to disguise themselves from the harmful spirits and so avoid harm. When Christianity came to the UK and Ireland it incorporated Samhain into its traditions with All Saints or All Hallows on 1 November and All Souls on 2 November.
Halloween, that we celebrate today is derived from these traditions, we still dress up in costumes and the trick or treating is said to have been derived from ancient Irish and Scottish practices in the nights leading up to Samhain. In Ireland, mumming was the practice of putting on costumes, going door-to-door and singing songs to the dead. Cakes were given as payment.
Entering the winter months can be daunting for some, it can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. For ideas on how to prevent this please take a look at our blog on Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, it is worth remembering that underneath the cold earth there are plants that are starting their journey of growth, and even though the leaves are falling from the trees, an act of the trees letting go, they are doing so to ensure their survival. In the cold and the darkness there is change and growth. For more ideas around this please see our blog on Change and Changing of the Seasons
For the Celts the day started at sunset, not at midnight, and carried on until the following sunset. As the light begins to fade and we enter a period of darkness our day begins. As is often the case with our new beginnings, we start them sometimes in confusion and uncertainty groping around to find our way until the light of understanding or confidence comes and illuminates our path. New beginnings can start at any time and any day, it doesn’t have to be January First, or a Monday or tomorrow morning, it can be right now, in the darkness and the uncertainty, knowing that we are moving towards the light and warmer days.
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