I’m going to have to have a little rant. Because to be frank it’s been bugging me. I love Halloween as much as the next person, but please by all that is orange and pumpkin like don’t confuse the modern holiday of Halloween with the festival of Samhain, or Nos Calan Gaeaf for that matter.
Please don’t go round running rituals where everyone dresses up as the Worst Witch, or a reject from Twilight or Potter world. It actually cheapens many peoples beliefs and practises. By all means have a party, invite me along I love a bloody good knees up. But don’t pretend that what you are doing is pagan. Particularly if you then plaster pictures of yourself all over Facebook. It totally misses the point of guising, which was to be unrecognisable.
If you want to combine reverence and mirth, how about a dumb supper eaten in silence, food brought to share, an empty space laid out for those that have gone before. Each person lighting a tea light for their ancestors. After the solemn meal songs and laughter may ensue, and when the last tealight burns out then the last ancestor has departed and the party is over. Another excellent practise is a vigil, take time to process to your local cemetery. Find the oldest graves there, for quite truthfully they represent the ancestors of the community. Take time to clear their graves, light a votive candle and thank them, sit vigil for a while before departing silently, not looking back.
If you aren’t squeamish about mixing a bit of ancient Christian lore you could even make soul cakes. A medieval tradition. Sweet biscuit like cakes made with cinnamon and nutmeg, which would have been almost prohibitively expensive and therefore a true sacrifice of time and resources. They were set out on All Hallows’ Eve, sometime with an alcohol libation as well. Very reminiscent of the Hekate’s suppers practised on New Moons. You can find a nice recipe for souls cakes here it’s a recipe from the Welsh borders so quite authentic.
I love Samhain, it’s possibly one of the most important festivals of the year for me. I genuinely feel the Magick in the air. The light has an eerie quality. Your skin prickles. You can almost smell the feral musk of the creatures of the hunt slowly waking from their summer slumber. Leaves skitter along the paths leaving you feeling like something is just a few steps behind. Whispered voices travel on the wind and you can almost hear small scampering feet. Waiting for the moment when the final shift happens. When, for another cycle Gwyn ap Nudd gains the upper hand in his eternal battle with Gwythyr ap Greidawl. The hounds of Annwfn bray and the hunt rides forth. Ready to sweep the unsuspecting human with eyes to see along, helter skelter into the night.
A sight both fearsome and truly wondrous to behold. A feeling that brings you to tears of awe and fear and love. And worth far more respect than some parody in black lipstick and a nylon costume bought from a superstore.