Home » Samhain

Tag: Samhain

Image of two pumpkins surrounded by lit candles on a forest floor

Samhain Reflections

October 31st marks Halloween or Samhain (or even All Hallow’s Eve), depending upon your personal tradition. Halloween has always intrigued me, since long before I began to explore the history and culture behind it. But the more I have learnt about it, the more it has held a special place in my heart. This is particularly true of the more Pagan roots of Samhain.

Within the Wheel of the Year, Samhain falls at the third and final harvest of the year, and so marks the end of Summer. It is a time of giving thanks for the warmth and light of the Summer months, and preparation for the cold and dark days ahead as Winter draws in. And as today was one of the first days we had to de-ice the windscreen before the school run, I am painfully aware of how long the Winter can be!

(As a side note, Little Man refuses to put on his new Winter coat until December 1st, no matter how cold it gets, because for him it can’t possibly be time for that until the month when Winter officially begins comes around.)

But it’s not just the changes within the physical world that we celebrate at this turning point in the year. For many, Samhain is also about going within and reflecting on the changes in our personal lives. And at a time when the outer world is slowly dying away, we can choose to look at the things that are falling away within our own being. Whether that’s old habits, thought-patterns, or actual physical things like ending a job or moving home, there is always some change we can focus on. Because if there’s one thing we can be certain upon in this life, it’s that change will always happen.

In the past, my reflections at this time of year have often focused on the things which I wanted to let go of, or hopes for a kinder future after months of testing times. And had you asked me about this a couple of months ago, when I was completely bed-ridden by the affects of the Summer heatwave on my health issues, I’d have told you that’s where I thought I’d be right now, desperately hoping for change. But here’s the thing, I’ve spent so much of my life waiting and hoping for things to change within my outer world, that I completely underestimated just how powerful inner change could be.

This Samhain I find myself still in a battle with the DWP, back in debt and desperately trying to manage our finances whilst we’re both too sick to work, and frustrated by so much that is happening in the outer world (don’t get me started on what’s happening in the political world right now). But, I am feeling so much more content than I have done in such a long time, and that means that instead of hoping for change to my circumstances I am able to accept them and live my without the high level of fear and helplessness that have been my constant companions for the past decade.

Because, for the first time ever, I have become aware of harmful patterns of behaviour that have affected so many of my decisions and allowed me to end up in some of the most painful situations. It started with the sudden realisation, as the Summer drew to an end, that I have spent my entire life seeking approval. It seems silly to say that I hadn’t realised this before, but as much as I had known I had issues with “imposter syndrome” and never feeling “good enough”, I hadn’t made that additional step to realising that my behaviour was one of seeking approval from others. And, more importantly, seeking it from people who would never be able to give it.

I realised that there is a true beauty in the way that I view the world, and that my inability to accept the status quo had led me to trying to create change whilst simultaneously trying to “fit in” so that I gained that approval. I was torn between walking my own path and towing the line. And it was so incredibly painful that it’s no wonder I got as sick as I did. Nobody can live like that.

Coming out of that initial realisation were several further lessons. The first was that I had spent a large part of my life playing out certain roles which didn’t feel right. No wonder I’d never managed to stay in a role for more than 18 months, and had changed careers completely on so many occasions. What I wanted to do (i.e. write), felt like something that other people got to do. I honestly believed life had to be hard. Even when I chose to write a book, I didn’t have the confidence to just do it. I sought approval for it. And even though I knew how hard I had worked on it, not to mention the quality of that work, I enabled a situation where this would be questioned.

That same pattern is reflected in all areas of my life. I felt like I had simply “bluffed” my way through university, instead of realising that I am simply very good at languages. My tutors were right when they told me I wasn’t ambitious enough, and was capable of achieving more. But, instead, I felt like a fraud for receiving the results I did! The same goes for my blog. I’ve spent years feeling like I wasn’t “good enough”, because I don’t get the kind of page stats that others do. And yet, as I said before, I know I am a good writer, and that stats aren’t everything.

Basically, the past couple of months of my life have been a massive unfurling of the layers of personas I have tried to fit into throughout my life. It has reached every part of my soul, to the point where so much deconstructing has been happening that I feel like I no longer know who I am. And yet, I’m okay with that. At times it is intensely painful, and I scramble desperately to figure out who I am if I am not all of these things I always thought I was. Especially when I question whether people will like the “real me”. But mostly, it is a joyous unravelling of a tangled web which has held me captive for far too long.

And so, this Samhain, I am celebrating the falling away of these old masks I have worn. I am saying goodbye to the patterns I have allowed to rule my life, thanking them for the lessons they have given me along the way, but grateful to see them finally go. And I am welcoming the darkness of the coming months, as a time of quiet hibernation and reflection, as I allow the spark within to begin to grow in warmth and brightness. Today I am grateful for change, because it means that healing is always within our grasp!

Happy Samhain.

 

The Family Patch History of Halloween

The History of Halloween

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Halloween is thoroughly embedded into our modern day calendar as an exciting time for kids to dress up, have fun, and enjoy a bit of trick-or-treating! When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, it wasn’t as common for kids to celebrate Halloween here in the UK, but I remember always wishing we could celebrate it and so Tim and I have made it a big celebration every year since we met. We’ve never missed a year of decorating the house, playing games, and handing out sweets to those who knock on our – we even dressed up when WB was just a few weeks old!

The Family Patch Happy Halloween

But as much as we love the modern day secular celebration of Halloween, we also love to celebrate the spiritual side of its history too. And its history is really rather interesting, to say the least. It amuses me slightly when I hear people saying that they don’t like or agree with Halloween because of its origins, because it has changed and developed so much through the years that it’s neither one thing nor the other now. By all means dislike Halloween because you don’t like kids knocking on your doors or the commercialisation of it, but don’t dismiss its very colourful and complex history as the reason for not liking today’s Halloween celebrations.

Because it is constantly evolving! In recent years I have seen more and more churches offering “Light Parties” as an alternative to dressing up as ghosts and ghouls to go trick-or-treating. Whilst I personally don’t feel the need to do that (I have never seen Halloween as “dark” or “menacing” in any way – death is not something to be feared, but rather a part of the cycle of life) I love the fact that people are allowing the celebration to evolve to better reflect their own personal and/or religious ideas. Surely that is what it has always been about!

So what is the History of Halloween?

Well, most sources of information talk about the origins of Halloween lying in the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced Sow-een). This day marked the end of one year and the beginning of the next, and was also considered to be a day in which the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was particularly thin. It was a time of passing between two worlds, the old and the new, not just about connecting the living and the dead. And so it was a time of reflection on the past, the present, and the future in all areas of our lives.

As Samhain fell at the end of the harvest and before the long Winter months, death and scarcity were clearly things to consider. Not only would more people be susceptible to death during those bitterly cold months ahead, but the world itself seemed to die away as the trees lay bare and the fields barren of most crops. The bounty and joy of the summer months had passed, remaining purely as a memory, just as those loved ones who had passed before us did. At this turning point in the Wheel of the Year it’s no wonder there was an emphasis placed on those no longer with us.

And yet, as I mentioned before, death was not something to be feared but rather accepted as a natural part of life. The beauty of The Wheel of The Year is that it reminds us of the cycle of life, that brings us from birth, through life, to death and right back to birth again through renewal as the wheel turns once more. We may well fear the dark mystery of death now that we are so far removed from it in our day-to-day lives, but when we accept it as part of the cycle we can look back and honour our ancestors and those who have gone before us, especially at a time like Halloween as the year draws to its end.

The Christian church later carried on this tradition in its own way, with the introduction of All Saints Day or All Hallows, which also remembered those who had passed into the next world. It focused on those who had given their lives to spreading the love of Jesus to the world, which (as far as I understand it) is the focus of the Light Parties thrown by many churches. Whilst this may not have had quite the same emphasis on a thinning of the veil between the two worlds, there still remains a time for reflection on life and death., particularly on the promises of ever-lasting life offered to those who follow Christ. That light in the dark, and eternal life, are only a stone’s throw away from the reflections made by the ancient Celts at Samhain.

But what about Trick-or-Treating? Where did that come from?

Again we have to look back at the ancient celebration of Samhain and the idea of this thinning of the veil. Traditions related to this included placing food on the doorstep to feed the ghosts that roamed the earth during the night, as well as wearing masks so that the living would be recognised and accepted as fellow ghosts when leaving their homes. It’s easy to see how these traditions have developed into the modern day Trick-or-Treating fun of dressing up and knocking on doors asking for sweets, isn’t it?

I found it really interesting to learn that the family friendly traditions we know and love today may actually only have really begun in the 1950s in America, as this video from The History Channel explains. It seems that there have been many different variations over the years and even those we think of as really entrenched into our society are actually relatively modern additions!

So what does Halloween mean today?

Well, it can mean anything you want it to mean really.

If you want to take from all of this that Halloween has simply become a secular event with no real relation to the ancient traditions from which it came, then feel free to celebrate it (or not) as that.

And if you feel like it is too “dark” with it’s connotations about appeasing and tricking the dead with food and masks, then maybe a Light Party is what you need.

You might even be like us, choosing to celebrate the fun of the secular Halloween excitement whilst also holding a little personal ceremony to honour the loved ones who have passed before us whilst looking forward to the year ahead.

Whatever you decide, know that it is perfectly okay to make it work for you and your family – that’s what raising spiritual kids in the modern world is all about, making spirituality mean something to you personally. There’s no point in following a tradition that means nothing to you, just because you feel you should. Embrace it, relate to it, and celebrate it!

I’d love to know what you think about Halloween and how you celebrate it (or if you don’t). Please do leave me a comment to share your thoughts!