Samhain / Halloween

Samhain / Halloween – October 31st

(Southern Hemisphere – April 30th / May 1st)

HWC Graphics.006Halloween is when the veil between this world and the other is thin; it’s a time for remembering our loved ones who have passed into the summer lands. It’s also a time for parties and spooky fun by welcoming people to our bonfires with food and drink to warm us through the winter nights ahead. Put on your altars pictures of all those relatives who have died as a way of remembrance for they are now the ancestors. Find time to celebrate and have fun, for although this is the festival of the dead if we do not laugh in the face of death, fear can come along and too often consume us. This is not a time to be afraid it’s a time to be humble and honor the precious gift of life so that we can move forward into the darker months with strength and courage.

Halloween is one of those festivals that still makes us tingle at the thought of it, it takes us back to a more innocent time when as children we dressed up in costumes and went out trick or treating. I remember it was always a cold night, the dark had drawn in and we had carved out turnip lanterns to carry around with us. In England in the 1970’s we had never seen pumpkins, these have been a more modern introduction here in the UK. There was always something supernatural about the night, it felt different from any other of the year as we walked from house to house knocking on doors and collecting goodies and money in our bags. As the evening got late we would gather at Grandmas house and empty everything out on to the floor. There would be sweets, apples, money and cakes, everything would be divided up and once we were all satisfied it was time for bed. Before going to bed Grandma and I would put the turnip lantern in the porch ‘To welcome the dead’ she would say and then off to bed.

The nice part of carving a turnip lantern is it took a long time; Pumpkins can be made in minutes while turnips take hours. It became almost meditative as you cut and scraped away at the hard flesh inside, slowly cutting it away so you could get to the best bit, carving the face. The inside of the turnip would go into a pot, to be used for next days lunch and when finally finished I would be so proud of my creation. I always made my lantern at Grandmas house, she sort of just understood and as I carved away she would chat to me about all manner of tales that the gypsies had told her. I remember Halloween as a happy time; although it was fuelled by the thrill of seeing a ghost it felt safe and warm with the smell of rotting leaves and burning root vegetable.

That was over thirty-five years ago now and still the memories are strong, everyone’s dead, grandma and granddad, aunts and uncles and even my father so Halloween becomes a different time of year now as an adult. It’s a time to remember the past, my ancestors, all those people who are my own kin and community. I have photographs of them all and on the night before Halloween I put them all out on the Altar and for an hour or two I sit and just remember the happy times we shared together. There’s still a lantern carved, I have never missed a year but today it’s a pumpkin, its eyes alive from the dancing fire within. It reminds me about the life-force and how important or own life is, one day we will become someone else’s ancestor and it’s important to keep these traditions alive as it helps us to connect, to keep alive the memories of those who have gone before. For most people it will be an evening that will come and go, but for us here at Hedgewitch Cottage it’s a time of remembrance. Halloween starts with the first cold winds and the night of the 31st is just one night of many to honor the dead and ancestors. It’s a time to bring people together and share food, have parties and most of all laugh. Life is like the candle flame within the pumpkin, while it burns strong the face is alive, but as soon as it burns out, it looses all its luminous life. Remember that life is impermanent and it passes by quickly so embrace it and enjoy it have fun again like you did when you were a child, because it’s in those moments we can reconnect to something deeply healing that can restore so much that is often lost in the modern pace of life.

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