What Samhain is all About

The sun hasn’t risen over the horizon yet and the cedars and houses are but silhouettes. It is a lovely time of day. A time of contemplation and memory. And today is Samhain; an entire day of contemplation and memory. So many have lost touch of what this holiday is really about. Candy and ghouls didn’t come until much later.

Samhain is the last harvest festival in the agricultural calendar. Also known as the Day of the Dead in Mexico and by many other names by the thousands of spiritual paths around the world throughout time, Samhain is the name of the Celtic festival. It is a day of remembrance.

Samhain is the last of the three harvest festivals. In August, we celebrated the harvest of grains and herbs. In September, we celebrated the harvesting of autumn crops and the joy of filling our larder. In October, the animals that would be used as sustenance to get through the cold months are harvested.

Now, the days are shorter and colder and the farm work is done. Days went by in a whirl and it is already October. The deaths of loved ones the previous year stay heavy on our hearts at this time with less to do. Their memories with us and grief present.

I find it rather difficult not to believe in spirits and ghosts doing the work I do, but many people shut it out. Perhaps Hollywood movies have scared us too much. But our loved ones are within earshot and all around us, in a slightly different realm, but sometimes still visible. They come to us in dreams and sometimes you can hear them. As I was moving, I was so overwhelmed with packing and stress. Twice right before we moved, as I walked through my garden, a strange white mist filled an area near my Hawthorn tree. All we have to do is pay attention.

Well Dears, today the veil is thinnest. One might note that a lot of folks seem to pass away this time of year. One also might note cupboard doors open, strange songs playing, and lots of “coincidences.” It is Samhain and our loved ones are very, very close.

Grandma Nancy and Aunt Donna

Today we remember those that we have lost this year. Last Halloween morn, Doug and I heard and saw two small owls screeching and making quite a racket outside our window. The owls only come to me when there is a big event. Great-Aunt Donna had died. Grandma waited until after Ayla was born on her and Grandpa’s 70th anniversary, then went and joined her sister. For them and the countless other loved ones we have lost in our lifetime, we will light candles and place an extra plate at the table. A candle will go into the west window so that the wandering spirits out visiting will be able to find their way home. A fire in the wood stove with chairs around to greet those that come. That is what Samhain is about.

May your loved ones visit and your heart heal from grief. May your pantries be filled with food and your homes filled with laughter and family!

Samhain (remembering and new traditions)

samhain

I am intrigued by history.  Fascinated by it.  I learn from it and am entertained by it and live by it.  So many modernized things were not for the best, in my humble opinion.  Of course with my long flowing skirts and aprons I, myself, look as if I skipped out of another time period.  There is so much to be learned from the history of our people and so many lovely things that if added to our life would make it all the more sweet, meaningful, magical.  Samhain is one of them.

Now I do not consider myself wiccan or pagan.  If I were to put my spirituality in a box, I am Catholic.  A Catholic married to a Jew.  We raised our children in a Christian church and they are now oddly Atheist.  One of my best friends is Catholic married to a Buddhist who used to be, along with his parents (also our dear friends) Mormon.  Our family and friends are all different races and religions and in the end we are all connected to one source.  I am fascinated by the similarities in religions and histories across the world.

celt

If you are like me and had most of your family come over to America in the 1700’s you will find that you are missing customs that would have been brought over.  I am a bit saddened that we have zero cultural ties left.  Most of my DNA will lead back to a strong Celtic heritage mixed in with some Dutch, Yeopim and Cherokee Indian, and Black French, but what they used to celebrate has been lost.  So we create our own customs.

house

Samhain (pronounced Saw-win) dates back long before the Christian festivities (and the Hollywood made festivities too) and was an agrarian holiday.  Now that we are homesteaders we understand these holidays so much more.  Homesteading has become our lifestyle, our day in day out, our entire life is marked by nature and the seasonal shifts all around us.  Instead of a smart phone, the changes in the natural world around us make our schedules.

Samhain is the end of the calendar season.  The beginning of rest.  The livestock were humanely butchered, the pantries were full, the fields were empty and the weather kept farmers indoors more.  The folks that died over the past year were now mourned.  Agrarians kept so busy during the late spring and summer that once things slowed down things really started to sink in.  That is the case with us as well.  And if we were all honest it is not just losing folks to death that bothers us, it’s any regrets we feel too.  My friends and animals are in a better place, I know this.  I am heading their same direction.  It is the natural cycle of things.  Not a new phenomenon for things to die.  But I feel bad that I didn’t return Rollie’s phone call.  That I nitpicked everything with Nancy so much during our time together pursuing our Farmgirl business, that we didn’t achieve her dream of a large farm to table dinner, partially because of my attitude.  I feel bad that there are two more young widows out there who lost husbands.  That I didn’t hold Loretta when she was dying.  That I was so frustrated with my old dog.  That I chose to put to sleep (so feel as if I murdered) my beloved cat.  These things start to settle in as I spend more time on the homestead with less to do.  If I knew they were going to die….or that I was responsible….these things set heavy on the soul.

Samhain was a time to light the bonfires as protection from evil spirits, the veil was thin between October 31st and November 1st and you could talk to your lost loved ones and perhaps they could communicate with you as well.  It was a time of contemplation and respect.

In our modern world we do not take time to contemplate anything.  The crafts and chores that were done that created a methodic rhythm have been replaced with fast shortcuts, things that do it for us, and no time to actually think.  If we could take some time to work out our sorrows and talk to those that left, we could free up our hearts and minds and allow more joyful living to take place.

candle

I will spend Halloween day with Emily and Maryjane trick-or-treating at a local mall then in the evening I will light candles.  I will commemorate and talk to and say goodbye to those I have lost.  My animals are our roommates, farm mates here.  They are my people.  Their loss, even the farm animals, is just as sorrowful to me as losing an old friend.  They are included in my festivities.  I will set some extra plates and invite them all to dinner along with Doug (who is thankfully still with the living) and give thanks for my life and ask that my friends and animals that left say a prayer for me, forgive me, and that they be at peace.  I will be thankful for the harvest, all those still here, my own life, and for the year ahead.

Who will you light a candle for?

My friend, Nancy, my partner in crime in many of these blog posts, passed away suddenly from cancer.

My friend, Nancy, my partner in crime in many of these blog posts, passed away suddenly from cancer.

Our fun friend, Ken, died way too young of cancer.

Our fun friend, Ken, died way too young of cancer.

A friend from middle school high school, Rob, died in a car accident.

A friend from middle school and high school, Rob, died in a car accident.

Our friend, Rollie, who lost his battle to cancer.

Our friend, Rollie, who lost his battle to cancer.

 

Our sweet goat, Loretta, and baby.

Our sweet goat, Loretta, and baby.

My favorite chicken who used to like to sit on my lap, Shirley, along with Ethel and Mahalia and their crazy antics are missed.

My favorite chicken that used to like to sit on my lap, Shirley, along with Ethel and Mahalia and their crazy antics are missed.

My sweet cat, Snuggles, who I will forever miss.

My sweet cat, Snuggles, who I will forever miss.

Windsor, our eighteen year old loyal farm dog.

Windsor, our eighteen year old loyal farm dog.