Samhain, or summers end, originated with the ancient Celtic celebration of the end of the “light” part of the year represented by the harvest, and the beginning of the dark portion of the year as daylight hours become shorter and the weather grows colder. The day was celebrated starting at sundown on October 31 and through the day on November 1. The final harvest is in, and the flock and herd have been brought in to shelter for the winter.
It is believed that Samhain is when the veil between this world and the spirit world is thinnest, and departed spirits can return to mingle with the living. People would often clean house to clear the way for the coming year. For one of only two times a year, hearth fires were extinguished, and relit the next day to celebrate the new beginning. This happens at Beltane and Samhain, and at no other time.
Samhain is also a time for reflection on the year just past and on goals for the future. Samhain is one of the best times of the year for divination and looking to the future. Just as the ancients inventoried their stock and the last of the harvest, it is time for us to take stock of our accomplishments and goals, our beliefs and rituals. What is working for you? What is not working for you? What changes can you make, and keep, that will make your beliefs, rituals, and life work better for you.
I’m not talking about making “New Year’s” type resolutions. We all know how well those usually work. What I’m talking about is more subtle. Review your grimoire or book of shadows, or start a new one. Revisit the teachings you have been living by, and look at new teachings and ideas. Expand your outlook. Are there other ideas that would fit with your belief system? If your focus has been on crystals, read about herbs. If you’ve been studying the tarot, learn something about runes..
Every skill and idea we add to our repertoire of knowledge and philosophy, gives us that much larger a spiritual harvest to carry us through the winter months. Like the ancients would harvest crops and herds to feed themselves through the winter months, so should we do a spiritual harvest of knowledge to feed our souls. There are many ways we can approach this; however, the ones I prefer are through study, meditation, and ritual. I make the decision based on how my heart leads me at the time.
Sometimes, I will spend the entire evening reading and exploring new ideas to find out what I want to study over the winter. Some of my favorites are Wicca: Guide for/Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham, Celtic Magic by D.J. Conway, and Practical Guide To The Runes by Lisa Peschel. It doesn’t really matter what path or paths you explore, as long as you expand your knowledge and look for something new to learn.
Other times, I will conduct a divination ritual, or depending on the position of the moon, a moon ritual outdoors. For divination, I use the Motherpeace Tarot deck because I like the more feminine and peaceful images, but whether you use a tarot deck, angel cards, or runes, any divination ritual will let you look within and reassess what has passed, what is to come, and how you can manifest in your life the things you want and need.
If you choose to perform a moon ritual, any number of factors can affect the one you choose. The moon phase, the weather, and what you hope to accomplish. I generally do ritual work around the new and full moon, and for Samhain, I like to use a renewal ritual. Think carefully about the type of ritual you want to perform on Samhain as the veil is thinnest at this time, and carelessness or lack of preparedness can have severe consequences.