The Cailleach and Symbols of Her Power

First thoughts on Samhain (sow-in). Samhain means ‘summer’s end’ and one tradition says it takes place at the full moon nearest the midpoint between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice, however the ‘fixed’ date is usually acknowledged to be October 31st – 2nd November. The Sun sign is Scorpio; fixed water. It is both the third Harvest and the Greatest of the Spirit Nights, after Beltane and Litha, more of the later in the next post.

The third Harvest after the grains, then the fruits, is the meat harvest; the time to hunt or slaughter animals to be preserved for the winter. A poor harvest now would mean a difficult time for all, and the vulnerable tribe members, the very young, old or infirm, would not see the winter out.

Deer Meat

Samhain is often seen as the end of the pagan year; ‘A year is finished, a year begins’. It brings death (of animals), decay (of plants) and potential difficult days (lack of food or fuel over the winter); not the best of times then, but it is also the time to be together, to look after each other and tell stories around the fire of people and events long past and so family/tribal traditions and myths are perpetuated.

Samhain Feast

It is a time to celebrate and rest after the hard work of bringing in the harvest. For now there is enough to eat, the harvest is in, all are warm and safe, and the rigours of winter are still a way off. Later weeks provide time for thinking of plans for the spring.

What stories would you pass on to your family/tribe? What ‘harvest’ can you celebrate? What will you sacrifice to help those around you? Who or what, will you help this winter? What thoughts are waiting in the depths to emerge into plans for the spring?

Samhain: Second Thoughts: Spirit Night

Posted on 29th Oct 2019 by mhcweb01

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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.

El Dia de Los Muertos

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)

Offering Table for the Dead

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.

Gwyn ap Nudd

Third thoughts on Samhain: Associations


Samhain has many items associated with it, with the now ubiquitous pumpkin instead of the traditional turnip or suede, which was harder to carve. Any of these correlations can be used to decorate your home during this time.
Animals: Cat, Crow, Deer, Raven, Reindeer, Sow (pictures or carvings are easier to manage than the real thing!)
Colours: Black, Orange, Purple, White
Flowers: Marigolds, Chrysanthemums, Rose Hips
Foods: Apples, Bread, Chestnuts, Garlic, Gourds, Honey, Pomegranates, Pumpkins, Salt, Wine (burnt as offering)
Incense/Smudge: Bay. Frankincense, Mugwort, Myrrh, Patchouli
Symbols: Antlers, Arrowheads, Bones, Hammer, Skeleton, Skull, Stones, Sword
Tree: Elder, Ivy, Moss, Yew

  • Here is a list of some things to do during Samhain
  • • carve a turnip or pumpkin, to make a lantern
  • • de-clutter your home or work-space
  • • make a reading of cards or cast stones
  • • hold a dumb supper – set a place at your table for loved ones that have passed
  • • extinguish all fires/light except the bonfire (bone-fire), then light a torch from this to light your home
  • • hold a family gathering
  • • light a black candle and meditate on the past – what was done, what was not, how it would have been different, where to go now
  • • make a mask
  • • place food outside for passing spirit
  • • plant seeds (of a new idea, project etc)
  • • put a candle in a window to guide the souls/spirits
  • • release anything unwanted, give away items or write thoughts or feelings down to burn the paper in the Samhain fire
  • • remembering those who have died with photos, stories, items etc.
  • • make a scrying with a crystal, mirror or water
  • • visit barrows, standing stones (at night)
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