Thursday 31st October traditionally marks the end of the harvest and the beginning of the Celtic and Pagan New Year. Samhain is Irish-Gaelic for 'the Summer's end', and is pronounced 'sow-in'.
Samhain represents the death of the summer sun god, Lugh. This festival celebrates Nature's cycle of death and renewal. This is traditionally known as Halloween and is considered a time when the veil is thin between ours and other dimensions hence we can sense the presence of our ancestors more easily.
Samhain is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals; along with Lughnasadh, Imbolc and Beltane.
In the Northern Hemisphere, Samhain heralds the beginning of Winter when the world starts to darken and the days are getting shorter; the 'dark half' of the year and the demise of the sun's uplifting influence.
The crone, personified as Cailleach - the Queen of the Winter - was reborn on every All Hallows Eve, returning to bring the Winter and protect animals through the coldest months. She turned to stone on Beltane Eve, Beltane being 1st May.
According to Edwin Courtenay:
On Halloween (Samhain), the veil between the worlds is thin because the old Celtic year is ending and the new Celtic year about to begin. This day and night - not one thing or the other - is a luminal space used by the Spirits of the Dead to visit those they love who they have left behind.
In the Witches circle a door is opened in the East and the dead invited to walk through and commune with the living. In ancient days, plates were laid at the table and filled with food for the dead (a tradition still followed by some) the plate placed outside at the end of the night for the phantoms to feast on. On this day candles are lit and the loved ones gone before are remembered, grieved and loved. On this night the Horned Lord of the Witches rides with his ghostly troupe rescuing the lost and Earth bound Souls seeking peace.
The ghosts of Halloween are not Gouls and monsters but our relatives and friends, come not to terrify but to love. Welcome them then and share this night together and know that there is nothing to fear from the dead.
Edwin also explains what is meant by the 'veil is thin':
Midnight has always been known as the Witching Hour ... but why?
Midnight is a luminal space - not quite one day or the other but rather a space between, a betwixt between and therefore a space close to the Spirit world and the Gods! There are other luminal moments of course - dawn and dusk and also luminal spaces such as thresholds, archways, wells and lakes. Places that are natural gateways, that harbour unseen things (like the evil eye - which is why we lift brides over thresholds - so the evil eye doesn’t see them) and other powers!
These moments are powerful then and the times when witches weave their spells - especially on Halloween night!!!
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