Recalling Samhain

Can it be that Samhain (pronounced sow-in) was almost half a month ago?

As I put away all the decorations from this years holiday I was struck how wonderful it had been to be with my family including a new member of the family; my brother’s girlfriend.  Everything seemed that much more exciting because she had never been part of such festivities before. It also made it brand-new for me too.

In my life as a witch I have been through many Samhain celebrations. Next to Yule (which is a part of the Christmas celebration) it is our biggest holiday. It has always held a great deal of meaning to me, because it was a month of being a witch very publicly and I always enjoy that opportunity. When you can walk into the local Barnes & Noble and see witchcraft books on display, front and center – it is a GOOD thing.

I’ve been to enormous celebrations deep in the woods where a bonfire would rage in a clearing for three days! I have been to huge parties in cities that took place in a hotel ballrooms. I’ve been to every manner of Halloween party and just dressed as myself – a witch!

This year I chose the theme of the Goddesses three incarnations: Maiden, Mother, Crone. Since we were welcoming a new female to our circle it seemed appropriate. There is immense power in the number three; and our celebration reflected that.

We dispensed with some of our regular traditions in order to have a bit more of a party atmosphere. Some things were the same – the spells I cast, the ritual to celebrate the sabbat, all the decorations, candles, abundant feast, candy, dressing up like witches (always fun for the kids who come to my door trick or treating) and the toast to the Goddess with our sweet honey wine.

We didn’t do the dumb supper this year (where we celebrate our ancestors who have passed on with a silent supper) or communicate with the dead. I felt a little raw on that, since someone I had a great affinity for had passed on the day before. I felt far too close to their passing and knew with so much energy being pulled by the witches present that it would be too much to call upon the dearly departed. Also when someone dies you want to give them time to cross over. In Buddhism it is three days. There are many stories about monks and bodhisattvas who die in meditation and they are not moved physically for three days. The body does not degrade during this time, either.

Thus without the death component to Samhain we celebrated life and in doing so we had a rip-roaring feast!

We had Scottish meat pie (a recipe from the Highlands), Colcannon (a Celtic specialty of mashed potatoes and cabbage – the most authentic of all the dishes prepared), maple glazed baby carrots and pumpkin cheesecake. Usually we have Soul Cakes too but this year we just had shortbread. Soul Cakes are also very traditional to the original Samhain holiday. They were the “treat” that was given to beggars as they passed from house to house on Halloween night. They would sing this song:

A soul cake, a soul cake,
Please good Mistress, a soul cake,
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for him who made us all.

~The Cheshire Souling Song