Samhain [SOW-in] is the beginning of the New Year, and the end of the old. It is a time of profound introspection and going inward, yet it is also a time of letting go and clearing out. This is the time to give away or get rid of the things that hinder you, whether it is the non-working iron, the toaster that burns toast, the clothes that you don’t like or that don’t fit (even the ones that were gifts!), or your pain and sadness. Let it go. You can start this new year on November 1st with a heart and soul in their infancy, entering the next stage of your life with a beginner’s mind and asking questions of yourself:
• what do you have to learn at this point in your life?
• What do you have to offer?
• What do you fear and why do you fear it?
• What does your fear teach you?
• How can you approach this time of liminality with strength, courage and wisdom?
This moment of the year is the death of summer (samhain = “summer’s end”) and a brief moment of chaos when the veil between this world and the next is exceptionally thin. Sometimes we talk of being between worlds as if we were discussing polar opposites; remember, however, that the crossroads is one of the most powerful of the liminal places. It is the sacred space where dances were held in rural Ireland. In-between can be a place of stagnation and fear, or a place of growth and vitality. Just remember that we aren’t moving forward so much as passing through cycles. Samhain is one of the most exciting and compelling places in the year’s cycle, because it is all about potential. Go inward, into your “proper darkness” (to quote WB Yeats) and be a witness to your own growth.
Preparation for Samhain:
• Give away anything you don’t need, or you fix it or recycle it. Just don’t have it laying around, because its presence does not serve you anymore.
• Pay all debts or start making good on your promises to pay.
• Call people you love and tell them you love them in whatever language is appropriate to you, even if you haven’t said it before because you thought it was unnecessary.
• You weed your garden and “put it to bed” for the winter (but don’t forget to put bulbs in the ground for spring).
• Clear your computer of unnecessary and out of date files, and back everything up. Go into the “deleted” folder and make sure it’s empty.
• Clean your house; it is more important to do this now rather than in the spring, because this is the time of beginning an entirely new cycle. Someone who can afford to shop only at Goodwill could really use that old jacket that no longer fits you or reflects only an earlier version of your personality.
• Remember your dead people — friends, loved ones, relations, people you admire who have passed. Get out a photograph of that person and smile. Or cry.
• Put your books away and recycle your magazines; someone can use them if you can’t – just don’t throw them in the trash.
• Freeze the last of the summer fruits and vegetables so you’ll have them in the winter.
• On October 31st, burn old candles and let them burn themselves out or put them out when you go to bed and don’t light them again.
Create an intimate harvest feast on October 31st, the eve of November 1st, with a hot, rich root-based soup, wine or beer, hazel nuts or walnuts, fresh crusty bread, and apple pie. The apple is an essential fruit for this time of the year, representing the end of the harvest season as well as embarking on the long-lasting fruit that sustains people through the winter. Stand at your doorway and warmly welcome several friends or family members into your home for this feast. Acknowledge your debt to the earth and to the people you love. Bid farewell to the past and to its troubles and joys, and recognize the start of a completely new chapter of your life that nonetheless references your past. Light new candles, using the invocation below, and celebrate the lives of people who are older and wiser than you. Send a message to at least one of your former teachers and thank him or her for the gifts of insight that you were given. Consider who you will be a decade from now and acknowledge the wisdom and experience in your future. What will you know in ten years that you do not know now?
This invocation is to be said while in the process of lighting six new candles (one for each of the upcoming six months):
Samhain, Samhain, Samhain
Take the new fire; send the rain
Banish care and banish pain
Speed the ghosts who bless the sheep
Light the path to spirit sleep
This our fire to light the way
This eve: Samhain. Blessings on all here.
- Peel and chop in large chunks equal numbers of potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions (say, one or two each). Place chopped onions first, in olive oil, in the bottom of a pot and stir over medium heat until slightly tender. Add the root vegetables and cover it all with a flavored broth (chicken, beef, mushroom, whatever) so the vegetables are just under the surface of the broth.
- Simmer until tender (perhaps twenty minutes).
- Remove from heat and carefully blend (leave lots of extra room in the blender and stand back; when it’s hot it’s difficult to blend).
- Reheat to just under simmering; serve with a dollop of cream or sour cream or yogurt on top, with some chives chopped for decoration.
- Serve with hazelnuts or walnuts on the side, and some fresh crusty bread.