You know it’s that time of year when the supermarket shelves are stocked with blood stained costumes, disembodied limbs, ghastly ghouls, ghosts and demon costumes. But Samhain isn’t necessarily a creepy, morbid holiday obsessed with death, as modern celebrations would suggest. Instead, it is intimately connected to Nature’s rhythms and touches on themes far deeper than we have been led to believe. I aim to uncover some of the true origins of Halloween so that you can celebrate consciously and more meaningfully this year.
Despite its gruesome nature, Halloween is one of the most popular holidays on the calendar. However, the reasons for celebrating the holiday bear almost no resemblance to its pagan origin, rooted long before Church changed it to Halloween. Maybe its because we live in a Christian country that we completely ignore the true meaning of Halloween, choosing instead to dress up in the skimpiest outfit we can legally get away with, cosmetically imitate a murder victim and scoff our faces with sweets!
Call me overly sensitive but what is ‘just a spot of harmless fun for the kids’ is somewhat psychologically disturbing me. And I feel that glorifying that which represents evil, such as dressing up as a murder victim, only serves to further desensitise our children to the horrors of our world. It isn’t dissimilar to the effect of violent video games and horror movies which normalise horrors such as war and murder.
Besides, the ecological impact of mountainous piles of waste generated by throw-away plastic merchandising does nothing to help our already ailing environmental crisis. And yet each year the Halloween shelves seem to lengthen, following in the commercial footsteps of American style celebrations.
What saddens me most is that the true meaning of Halloween has been completely lost in a sea of commercialisation and sales hype. In attempt to inject some meaning back into what has become a soulless celebration, I share this post in to inspire others to celebrate mindfully and consciously this year. Rather than robotically going along with the Halloween hype, why not consider its true origins, connect with the season and inject some meaning into your celebrations as you uncover alchemical magic that lies within this sacred time of year.
TRUE ORIGINS OF HALLOWEEN
Long before Halloween came about, pagans celebrated the Gaelic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-ein) marking the end and the beginning of the Celtic New Year. Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year, and followed on from Autumn Equinox on the spoke of The Wheel of the Year. Much of my knowledge of this subject comes from the wonderfully wise Glennie Kindred, whose books I have listed at the end of this article. I was fortunate enough to study with her recently to really anchor my knowledge of Earth Cycles and celebrations.
Glennie describes Samhain as “a powerful time of deep transitional alchemy when the veil between the seen world of matter and the unseen world of spirit becomes thin.” This signalled a time to reflect, honour and commune with the ancestors and the spirit realms. Ancestors were revered and death acknowledged as an inevitable and crucial stage in the ever renewing cycle of life. In this respect death and darkness were not feared but revered. When Samhain became the Christian All Souls Night, All Hallows Eve (Halloween) of 31st October and All Souls Day of 1st November, fear and superstitions replaced the potent power inherent in this celebration, and true meaning dissolved. We see this expressed with sensationalised costumes portraying death as gruesome and frightening, symptomatic of a society in denial about the inevitability of death.
Deeply connected to the natural cycles of life, pagans observed the behaviour of nature at this time of year and saw the reflection in their own lives. It is the darkest time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere where life dies back and returns to the earth. As earth is plunges into darkness, seeds germinate in the womb of the earth, ready to emerge in spring strengthened and renewed by their time in the dark. This time was acknowledged as an affirmation of rebirth in the midst of death and darkness, just as as leaf fall forms nutrient rich compost, which provides the best conditions for new life. Without the death of the old leaves, new life could not emerge. Without a prolonged period of darkness (known as dormancy) the tree could not survive the winter. By observing the regenerative powers of death, it was not feared, but revered as a bringer of opportunity for renewal and new beginnings.
“Death is the stratagem nature employs in order to have as much life as possible.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
DRAWING FROM THE WISDOM OF SAMHAIN:
Since we are an interconnected part of nature, these cycles of death and rebirth exist within us too whether we are aware or not. Just as nature withdraws inwards, we too can benefit from going within – to explore the darkness of our subconscious, to examine our fears and outworn baggage, and to nurture our inner world. To acknowledge death in all it’s forms – not just that of our physical bodies, but the endings of cycles, relationships, jobs and so forth. By realising that every ending leads to a new beginning, helps us deal with change in our lives, to let go of what no longer serves us and as such our souls grow, mature and strengthen greatly. We can also take some time to appreciate the memories of our loved ones in spirit, and reflect upon the wisdom, beauty and lessons they brought to our lives.
Below are the lessons I have personally drawn from this time of year. Why not use this potent time to embrace some of Samhain’s lessons in order to transform, transmute and alchemise your lead into the gold of your dreams!
Traditionally Samhain has always been seen as a time to explore the inner mysteries, a time for divination, omens, portents, for communication with the ancestors and the spirit realms. It is a time of reflection, resting, drifting, dreaming and connecting to the wisdom within ourselves. ~ Glennie Kindred.
- DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: Samhain can represent moving through this challenging time, facing our fears and overcoming trials. It is a time of transformation, meditation, reflection, secrets and surrender to inner wisdom.
- REGENERATIVE POWER OF DEATH: Affirmation of rebirth in the midst of death and darkness. Embracing endings in all their forms, realising they lead to new beginnings. DEATH is a continuation of life – a transformation – life creates new life in the midst of death. Each death is a new beginning, opportunity for transformation, leaves need to die before new life can begin and be born out of the old.
- NURTURE YOUR INNER WORLD: Its’s vitally important to go inside periodically for rest and renewal, ready to incubate seeds for new beginnings. This is a great time for:
- Reflection, resting, drifting, dreaming and connecting to the wisdom within.
- Reviewing and assimilating what you have learned in the active phase of the year’s cycle. Explore your Lead in order to transform into Gold. What weighs you down and stops you moving forward? What dampens your fire? What blocks your joy? These things will eventually manifest as illness if not transformed. Once we have identified these things we can begin to transform them into our Gold.
- Go within – dream, meditate, cultivate inner stillness, nourishing our spirit.
- Rest – in balancing active phases with rest, we find rejuvenation and renewal.
- INCUBATION: Nurture new visions, dreams, ideas and direction, so that they may incubate in the dark winter months ready to be named and birthed at the Winter Solstice. Nurture new dreams and seeds in the dark. Incubate and strengthen our hopes for the new year.
- ACCEPTING DARKNESS: By accepting the inevitability of pain and challenges in our life helps us deal with them.
- PLANT SEEDS of hope (new ideas, dreams and visions) that will re-emerge in spring, strengthened and consolidated by their time in the dark.
- HOPE: Out of difficult situations comes power, hope, rebirth, inner strength, wisdom and maturity.
However you choose to celebrate this powerful time, I hope you enjoy a blessed and magical Samhain, that leads to the gold of your dreams and fruitful new beginnings.
The Earth’s Cycle of Celebration ~ Glennie Kindred
Earth Wisdom ~ Glennie Kindred