Home : Holidays : Shamhain
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 Shamhain (October 31)
Lore
Samhain (pronounced sa-ween) is the night when the Old King dies, and the Crone Goddess mourns him greatly during the next six weeks. The sun is at its lowest point on the horizon as measured by the ancient standing stones of Britain and Ireland, the reason the Celts chose this sabbat rather than Yule as their new year. To the ancient Celts, this holiday divided the year into two seasons, Winter and Summer. Samhain is the day on which the Celtic New Year and winter begin together, so it is a time for both beginnings and endings. It is the last of the three harvest festivals, the harvest of meat.

It is also the day we honor our dead. Now, while the veil between the worlds is thinnest, those who have died in the past year and those who are to be reincarnated pass through. The doors of the sidhe-mounds are open, and neither human nor faery need any magickal passwords to come and go. Our ancestors, the blessed dead, are more accessible, more approachable during the time of the dying of the land. Samhain is a day to commune with the dead and a celebration of the eternal cycle of reincarnation.

Shamhain would also be the time when the herds were "culled", which means that the farmer would have to decide which of his animals would most likely not survive the winter. These animals would be slaughtered, and the meat smoked and also used for the Feast. Reason being that if the animal would probably be too weak to live anyway, might as well eat it now, rather than waste fodder feeding it, and then have to kill it later, when it was tough and thin, or not be able to eat it at all if it suffered a long illness. Practicality was the most important survival trait. Thus it is that for us, this time of year is when we "cull" our habits, our possessions, and also our feelings. Getting rid of anything that we don't want to bring with us into the new year is what this is all about. Feelings of anger and resentment, bad habits that keep us from our desired goals, or even possessions can sometimes be holding us back from our spiritual goals. These are best evaluated and eliminated at this time of the year. 

Herbs
Rosemary (for remembrance of our ancestors), Mullein seeds (a projection for abundance), mugwort (to aid in divination), rue, calendula, sunflower petals and seeds, pumpkin seeds, turnip seeds, apple leaf, sage, mushrooms, wild ginseng, wormwood, tarragon, bay leaf, almond, hazelnut, passionflower, pine needles, nettle, garlic, hemlock cones, mandrake root

At Samhain, witches once gave one another acorns as gifts. During the Burning Times, giving someone an acorn was a secret means of telling that person you were a witch. Acorns are fruits of the oak, one of the most sacred trees to the ancient Celts. They are symbols of protection, fertility, growth, values, and friendship.

Rituals
Samhain Ritual

Food
Meat dishes (especially pork), rosemary (for meat seasoning), pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, roasted pumpkin seeds, mulled cider with spices, candy apples or other apple dishes, potatoes, roasted pumpkin seeds, nuts (representing resurrection and rebirth), especially hazel nuts and acorns.

Irish Soda Bread
Mulled Cider
Pumpkin Bread
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Spiced Hot Chocolate
Sand Tarts (Old German Style)
 

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