Samhain is the time of year between the Autumn equinox and Winter solstice which is mainly seen in the Northern hemisphere as the month of Halloween.
For our ancestors they saw this time of the year with death and darkness as essential to move into rebirth and regeneration. It is the festival of marking the end of autumn and the beginning of winter.
In pre-Christian times it was the time of the year where the veil between this world and other worlds was at its thinnest. It’s the time of the crone or wise woman completing her final stage to once again be in her virgin aspect as the sun returns at the winter solstice.
Many countries celebrated and recognised female goddess at this time of the year – Hell was the Norse queen of the underworld, Kali the Dark Mother of the Hindu Triple goddess, Cerridwen the keeper of the cauldron of rebirth and regeneration and Skadi, in Scandanvia, the old woman, hag or Veiled One.
As we know from history in the Middle Ages the wise woman became a threat, an object of fear. Hag, originally meaning holy woman, soon incorporated women who were midwives and herbalists who quickly became labelled as witches and were ruthlessly persecuted.
Samhain is the time of the year, with darkness ever increasing, was believed that deceased family members returned to visit their loved ones. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead, is a holiday to be celebrated to receive back their loved ones.
The Samhain feast for Celts eventually became known as Christian All Souls Night and Halloween. Bobbing apples on Halloween is linked to the belief of apples being magical and sacred, linking death and rebirth.
The end of October and beginning of November we get the final fall of leaves, of animals starting to hibernate and the birds migrating. Energy slows down, forest floors decay knowing that there is rebirth again. It is a time to go inwards and make adjustments over the coming months.
Trees and Herbs of Samhain
The Yew also represents endings and beginnings and has survived from the Ice age in northern climes. Many Yews were planted in churchyards as a symbol of eternity. All of the Yew is poisonous but they can live for many thousands of years.
The Elder is the Queen of trees of wisdom and regeneration. There are superstitions around cutting down elder and bringing it into your home, in fact it does produce cyanide when burnt.
The Elder provides so much with flowers and then berries but as ever these should only be collected in small quantities so it continues to regenerate and grow. Elderberries contain high level of vitamin C so can ward off colds and boost the immune system. Don’t eat the berries raw but make them into a syrup, jam or wine.
The herbs of Samhain are Dandelion root which can be dried and then brought to the boil and the liquid stored to be drunk daily a great cleanser.
Mugwort is another cleanser especially of the blood and liver. I often burn Mugwort when I am doing shamanic work as it aids dream work. Do not use if pregnant.
Please consult your doctor before taking any homemade remedies.
Celebration during Samhain nowadays centres on Halloween and it is seen as scary and spooky so maybe this year acknowledge the passing of the year and maybe people in your life. Understand the witch, the old hag or crone as a wise woman with ancient wisdom. Reflect upon the year and write down any fears or insecurities, old patterns of behaviour and release them into flames.
Give gratitude for what you have learnt and brought about during the past year and then let them go so you are ready to bring in a new cycle again of growth.
Don’t fight against the darker nights, go within, recognise the importance of this phase for not only nature but yourself as you know that with darkness also comes light.
Extracts taken from Glennie Kindred “Sacred Earth Celebrations”