Second thoughts on Samhain; as Spirit Night
The leaves have fallen from the trees, many flowers have wilted, the time for fruits and nuts is past, nature begins to recede and decay, which is all necessary for the cycle of life to continue. Nature succinctly demonstrates the decay, death and rebirth cycle. The festival of Samhain celebrates the death of the god, who will be reborn at Yule and also the goddess, Mother Nature, who protects him. Also, it is the time of the Cailleach – more of whom next time.
Here we look at Samhain as a time to remember those who have passed on, both recently and over eons. It is said that the ‘veil’ that hides this world from other realities is at its thinnest at Samhain (and less so at Beltane and Litha). Therefore, it is the best time for those this side to try to connect with other realities and particularly to reach loved ones who have passed. Also, Samhain it is a time for those who have passed to seek to connect this side with family or friends, or just other humans at this time of the year, for good or not so good reasons.
Many people set a place at their table for their loved ones that have passed that year or leave an offering of food and drink on the door-step for those souls that may still wander. This extract tells of the Mexican tradition. ‘An important part of the tradition of Dia de Muertos is the manner which we invite the spirit of our relatives to come and visit us. It is customary to form a path from the other worlds to this one, by scattering the petals of the beautiful zempoaxochitl, the Marigold flower, from the cemetery or the street to the altar inside our home. The zempoaxochitl symbolizes the rays of the Sun and the impermanence of life. With its multi-dimensional light, it forms a road that guides our ancestors and loved ones back to us, to visit and once again enjoy their favourite foods such as mole, tamales, pan dulce, cerveza, even cigarettes. They “eat” the ofrendas we’ve prepared for them by inhaling the aromas of the food and the drinks. Some families eat the ofrendas that are fresh and safe to eat on November 3rd; others will place them outside as an offering for our animal relations.’ (from Curanderismo, the Healing Art of Mexico)
It is the night of the Wild Hunt, lead by various strong and fearful people, differing according to traditions. For example, Gwyn ap Nudd, accompanied by his white owl, his white horse Du, and his favourite hound, Dormach, who eats the dead or negative energy or of Holda, patroness of spinners, who also leads the Wild Hunt and from whom snow comes from her shaking her feather bed. The Hunt and rituals are often now celebrated through the commercialised Americanised ‘Halloween’, with skeletons, zombies, vampires and ghosts, who go trick or treating.