The Samhain season on the Wheel of the Year is halfway between the Autumn equinox and the Winter solstice. This usually occurs around the 31st October** in the northern hemisphere. It is a time when the final harvest takes place. So, the storage of root vegetables is very important. Also, preserving other vegetables and fruits is a must.
In short, Samhain is one of the ‘cross quarter days’. It is also directly opposite to the busy Beltane period on the Wheel of the Year.
For the majority of Wiccans, and Witches in particular, the Samhain is the most important period. In fact, most Wiccans also view the Samhain as the beginning of the Wheel of the Year. This tradition goes back to when Celtic religions divided the year into the dark half and the light half. Obviously the dark half occurred around the same time as the Samhain period.
** This is obviously for the northern hemisphere and can vary slightly. So, for the southern hemisphere go forward 6 months.
Just like other seasons in the Wheel of the Year, for example, Yule, the Samhain is visible within the mainstream. Most people are familiar with Halloween which also evolved from Paganism. The early Christians adopted many Pagan ways to ensure acceptance so people could relate to it and possibly ‘convert’. But, like all things we see now, most people accept blindly without questioning or challenging.
Furthermore, even when questioning the origins of ‘acceptable’ religions, the answers usually come from the religions themselves. So, your thoughts and opinions come from their side of things. However, to really find out the truth, you need to go back thousands of years. This is a time long before the ‘invention’ or ‘imposition’ of some religions.
For example, when someone imposes their way on others, in some cases by force, what happens to their ‘victims’. Well, they adapt to the new way of course. However, that never made the ‘new way’ right and it never will be right.
So, this period in the Wheel of the Year is a Pagan season and we can think of ways our ancestors would celebrate. Obviously, in Wicca or Paganism in general, there is no right or wrong way. Once you accept Wicca, you are free to choose the most appropriate spiritual path for yourself.
Samhain is a time when the impending death of the Sun God is upon us. Together with the fading heat and light, we have a position when the energy of the Universe is low. Therefore, we are in a period when the spirits of our ancestors can visit us a lot easier.
Vegetables that have their inner flesh removed, with a lighted candle inside, is a way of leading spirits to Earth. In many places, Halloween is a commercial event with different meanings. So, we go back to our ‘education’. While we are young, we can hardly challenge things can we?
Wiccans or Witches prefer to accept Samhain for what it really is and many reject Halloween. This is because of the persecution of Witches in the past and the fact that within Halloween, Witches are ‘evil’. This, of course, is part of the discrimination and persecution process. But, things are changing, the tide is turning and the Deity are ensuring that balance returns.
The Samhain allows us to reflect on the year and give thanks to the Goddess and God for everything. For example we saw life being born and then mature. We also saw how nature provided for us, and with careful planning, can see us through the Winter. Now we celebrate death because we see it happen, its a fact. But, this is only temporary because soon we will celebrate the rebirth.
Your altar, if you have one, can have many decorations from things which represent the temporary death in nature. But, always use brightly coloured items to create a balance. Your hollow vegetables complete with candles allows the spirits to find you easier. Therefore, you may leave pictures of your loved ones on the altar. But, don’t forget to leave a feast to give them strength for their return.
You can also ask the spirits to help to top up the charge of your ritual tools on the Samhain. Whichever way you celebrate the Samhain, don’t forget that there is no right or wrong way. There is no ‘bible’, commandments or rules and those who say there is are misleading you. Being a Wiccan or a Witch is a personal spiritual thing which can’t possibly be uniform. So, celebrate Samhain in your own personal way or if you are in a coven be a little more flexible.