If you’re new to the idea of celebrating Samhain, in the sense of honouring our ancestresses in a gentle, holistic way, rather than buying into the ghoulish commercial hype of fear-based Halloween, why not incorporate these simple ideas.
My favourite way is simply to take a walk in Nature. Here, all around us, is the story of birth, life, death. Nature returns unto herself. The leaves will once again become part of the soil from which they first originated as a tiny seed sprouting.
Breathe in the crisp, cool air. Smell woodsmoke. Listen to the sounds as your feet walk upon the leaves. What can you hear? How do you feel?
A Samhain Altar is a beautiful way to adorn your home with gifts from Nature. There are the obvious things like pumpkins, apples and corn, but you can also add acorns, plump rosehips and other gifts from your walk.
You could make a wreath for hanging over the hearth or at your front door.
Use plant-based or beeswax candles to bring light to the dark nights.
Collect photographs, memorabilia and heirlooms from your ancestors and ancestresses. You might like to include fresh rosemary stems to symbolise ‘remembrance’. I collect fresh rosemary from the garden, but also sprinkle the altar with essential oil of rosemary.
Stand with reverence before your ancestors. Say their names out loud. Express gratitude for their part in your life. The veil is thin at this time of the year. Stop and listen to the messages of loved ones who have passed over, whether or not you know their names.
When creating your dinner, leave a place for them.
This is the end of the earth-based year. Give thanks for all that has gone before. When reflecting on the past 12 months, what can you take from it as you move forward?
Declutter and let go of what you no longer need from your home. Release. Learn from Mother Nature. Let go. Start afresh. This is the time of transformation. Embrace it.
Create a phoenix ceremony. If you have space outdoors, create a bonfire or small fire in a fire pit/cauldron. Write down anything negative that you wish to leave your life. Throw this in the fire and see it being released. Let go. Move forward.
I love this time of the year for divination, and gather around me my many different divination cards as I seek guidance and affirmation for the months ahead.
The only way to counteract all the negativity brought into the world by false stereotypes around Halloween, is to be more visible in your expression of earth-based spirituality.
https://veronikarobinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo-1.png00Veronika Sophia Robinsonhttps://veronikarobinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo-1.pngVeronika Sophia Robinson2015-10-31 11:56:532015-10-31 11:56:53Samhain for the Soul
Tonight, sunset will be an hour sooner. It always takes some adjusting when the clocks go back.
The Sun, now transiting Scorpio, is bringing up lessons to do with letting go, releasing, decay, transforming, digging deep, sexuality, trust, and surrendering. Of all the zodiac signs, Scorpio is the one I have most respect for even though novice (and probably many experienced) astrologers are rather terrified of the sign.
Scorpio has grit. It’s the only sign to be represented by three totems. While Libra is all about charm and diplomacy, Scorpio says ‘to hell with the niceties, I want the truth!’ It’s the detective of the zodiac, and will leave no stone unturned.
A scorpion can go for three days without breathing. It can survive being frozen, and is the only creature to survive radiation. Respect.
In the northern hemisphere, we’ll be wearing much warmer clothes and shoes, and putting on the heating sooner in the day. As I type, my woodstove is on. Its crackle reminds me that there is life in the room. Fire is a transformative force which, when we look at in mythology, gives us the story of the phoenix: the mythical creature rising from the ashes.
We’ve passed the equinox (balance) and are being drawn down into the dark. What do we hope to find here? Not much if it’s not a conscious journey, but oh how rich the rewards are when we excavate the psyche to see what we have learnt over the past few seasons.
While we often talk about spring cleaning our homes, for me it is Autumn which sees the deep desire to pull everything apart and clean. This is the perfect season for decluttering, deep cleaning, and shipping off unnecessary things to charity shops for recycling.
As we watch the beautiful aubergine, mustard, claret and golden leaves flutter to the ground, Nature reminds us that nothing in life is permanent. The leaf knows when it is time to move on. And so should we.
I don’t carve angry or scary faces into pumpkins. Instead, I create a “lantern of love” as an invitation across the veil to the other world. This is a time to acknowledge our ancestors and ancestresses, and to honour that at this time of the year, according to tradition, the veil between their world and ours is thin, and contact is easier with our deceased loved ones. From our family room window, at Samhain, our pumpkin will shine light through those love-heart shapes ~ inviting passers-by to re-envision the season.
Can you feel Autumn wrapping herself around you as she carries you towards Winter? Has she shown you yet that the place of deepest nurturing is in the silence? Like a fallow field, gestation and soul growth occur in the dark. In spiritual circles, we are often applauded for our journey towards enlightenment, but ‘endarkenment’ is just as valid.
Autumn teaches that letting go is also a form of generosity.
Leaves fall, branches are bare. Trees are silhouetted against the Sun setting on the horizon. Nothing stays the same. Autumn teaches us, with her incredible beauty, that you can’t hang on to something that doesn’t belong to you.
What have you outgrown? That is what Autumn wants to know. She is leading the way, and showing you through her graceful dance, that letting go leads to another type of beauty. This is imperative to spiritual transformation.
Change is in the air. I can smell it on the wood smoke, geese on high, early sunsets framing the old sandstone church. Even the rain feels different. Consciously, I choose to let go of anything that doesn’t serve me.
Our ancestresses understood the real significance of Autumn: Nature teaches us that seeds must ‘die’ before they can grow. This is symbolic of our spiritual potential. Alchemists would see this as the divine fire, and destroying the ego.
Most ancient myths symbolise the descent into the underworld prior to the spiritual ascent. As we move towards the cave of Winter, we can go down deeper, deeper, deeper into the underworld. It is only our reluctance to do so that makes life difficult.
The death which Autumn teaches us about is much like the movements of a woman’s body in labour ~ it is preparing us for a new beginning: a birth.
What can you let go of? Relationships, job, clothes, bad habits, fears, worn-out excuses, procrastination? We all know, in our hearts, what doesn’t serve us.
Consciously Celebrating Halloween
At this time of the year, shops are filled with fake spider webs, witches’ costumes, cauldrons, rubber frogs and an assortment of ghoulish items from jelly eyeballs to skeletons, and the ever-essential candy. For many children, Halloween is associated with knocking on the doors of strangers and receiving sugary sweets. This ancient festival has become a time to ignite people’s fears about the Underworld.
Halloween, however, was traditionally a festival which honoured the wise grandmother, otherwise known as The Crone. The Goddess is honoured by her three aspects: maiden, mother, grandmother. At Samhain (Halloween) it is the Grandmother (Crone) who takes centre stage as she demands that we use this time of year to look back over the year and go inwards to learn what will make us a better person in the coming year. It is a time of reflection, transformation and renewal. As befits the season of Autumn, it is a time to let go and release anything that does not serve us.
What was beautiful and symbolic of the great feminine, such as the Crone’s cauldron representing the womb of the Great Goddess, has been bastardised into witches on broomsticks casting evil spells. In Britain, the tradition of children trick or treating originated with asking for donations to help the poor. In Celtic tradition, Hallow’s Eve (renamed as Halloween by the Christian Church) is the time which signifies the end of Summer (Samhain; pronounced sow en). For Celts, this is the beginning of the New Year. The Saxons called it Winter’s Eve.
Our ancestors were honoured at this time of year, and it was believed by many cultures that the ‘veil’ between this world and the next was thinnest and therefore an ideal time for communication between the living and the dead.
How can we teach our children to celebrate this tradition in a way which is symbolically rich and meaningful beyond the commercialisation of modern-day Halloween?
There are many ways, such as making a special meal and serving a plate for the unseen guests. It could be gathering unneeded items from the home, such as outgrown clothes, food staples, toys, and giving them to charity (the cycle of Scorpio is a perfect time for letting go).
Making a small altar with photos of your ancestors, and lighting a candle, allow yourself to create a focal piece in your home. I taught my children, when they were young, the origins of the carved pumpkin: Irish immigrants used turnips, and introduced this idea in the USA in the 18th century.
The law of attraction is very clear: we become what we focus on. Do we teach our children about fear and negative energies, or do we demonstrate love, and that death is a doorway to another world and that there is nothing to be frightened of?
We can educate our children (and friends) about the history of Halloween, and how it began more than 2000 years ago as a way of honouring the Crone as well as the end of the harvest season. Her archetype, after all, is that of: you shall reap what you sow. She asks us, our wise grandmother, to take responsibility for our actions.
A Samhain Altar
There are countless ways to bring Samhain to life in your home, but beginning with a simple altar is a great way to start. Use colours and symbols of the harvest season, such as orange and black. Those of us who celebrate earth-based spirituality, use black because it represents the cape of the Wise Crone, and the waning Moon. It is symbolic of the dark Earth―the underworld, a type of womb―in which seeds will gestate during the long dark Winter.
We make full use of harvest foods, such as apples, acorns, rosehips, pumpkins and corn, pomegranates and marigolds. On our altar you will find beeswax candles, a cauldron, and Autumn leaves. Our mugs are filled with apple cider or warm honey mead.
On your altar, you can add photos or heirlooms of your ancestors, and invite them to meet you at the veil. Of course, in some homes the ancestor altar is on display all year round.
Sharing the Feast
When creating your Samhain feast, include a place for your ancestresses. Just a spoon of food and a mouthful of beverage will suffice. It’s symbolic.
Some families leave a bowl of porridge by the hearth, or a candle in the window, while others place an empty chair by the woodstove. These acts are said to guide hungry ghosts to comfort, and that humans will be blessed by their interactions with these wandering spirits.
This is the perfect opportunity to teach your children about their family tree and ancestral history. If you have letters, photos or books from your ancestors, share them and talk about what they mean to your family. If you don’t have any items, you can write the names of ancestors on paper to place on your altar.
To contact your ancestresses and ancestors, close your eyes and be mindful of your breathing. Use this time to ask yourself: who am I?
We are a collection of cells passed down from many, many people in the family line. We have their strengths, their weakness, and we house their failures and their dreams. The Festival of the Wise Grandmother is a time to honour the past and the present.
I am the daughter of Angelikah and Albertus, and granddaughter of Minna-Marie and Liselotte. I come from a long line of people who lived in the cold of Northern Europe: Vikings, shipbuilders, seafarers, mothers, craftsmen and musicians. I come from men and women, some whose names I do not know, but I do know they were: strong, pioneering, loving, creative, and held family as sacred.
Keep speaking aloud, telling your family story. If there are stories you know, verbalise them. You can ask the ancient ones to guide you on your life’s journey, and to protect you and your loved ones.
If you feel you’re carrying family wounds, ask to be freed from them.
If you wish to be instrumental in healing wounded archetypes in your lineage, then ask how you can experience and release these stories so that you and descendants may find and write their own script.
Not everyone in our lineage is someone we wish to be connected to, but with love and forgiveness we can move forward, and in doing so, we free the energy of that person, too.
Use this time to think about your life, and what transformations you’ve undergone. You might choose to meditate, use runes or practise divination with tarot cards. Perhaps you’ll write down your dreams, or take a solitary walk in the woods and listen to the night owl beneath the moonlight.
A phoenix ceremony goes hand in hand with any celebration of Samhain. Review, release and let go. That is the message from the Wise Grandmother. If you have a patio or garden where you can create an open fire (even in a cauldron or small contained pit), use this to write down old habits or negative things from your life to release.
Be clear: Samhain and Halloween are not meant to be negative, fear-inducing or about black magic, but quite the opposite. Perhaps those who were instrumental in changing its pure meaning were afraid of empowerment and the strength of women.
Do feel free to share your positive Samhain and Halloween experiences. Perhaps you could invite friends to take a mindful walk in woodlands near your home. You could make a journey stick, collecting seasonal items from nature, to share the story of where you’ve been.
Costumes are a popular part of the modern-day Halloween. According to Samhain tradition, to wear a costume or mask during this time would help to distract wandering spirits from calling you to the Otherworld before your allotted time. Tradition also suggests that it was a way of conferring the strength of the creature you were imitating. It was common, too, to make noise using hands or drums to interrupt daily noise. This created a portal to the Otherworld which enabled spirits to make contact and whisper messages to the living.
As a family, you could visit the local cemetery (even if you have no loved ones there), and leave an offering, such as water, herbs, flowers, seeds, bulbs or gemstones.
With your family, you can offer a prayer of gratitude: Thank you dear Earth for all that you have given us so bountifully this season.
We open our arms to the Sacred Darkness.
Take your spicy mead or cider, and make libations to Mother Earth, as symbolic of the Wise Grandmother.
“We have gathered the harvest, and Winter is coming. We give thanks.”
If you have a Goddess symbol of the Wise Grandmother, place it on your altar. You might like to make ink art or create dreamcatchers as part of your Halloween celebrations.
At the heart of any ritual and celebration which honours the Earth, is the use of fire as a symbol. Samhain and Halloween are no different. Fire reminds us that we’re in need of light and warmth. It invites introspection as we draw nearer to the flame.
Celebrating Samhain with Mother Nature
Make a Samhain wreath using grain stalks, nuts, apples, leaves, conkers and rosehips, and place it on your front door.
Ensure your garden is tidy before All Hallow’s Eve so that it may rest peacefully for the Winter.
Honour the darkness by lighting candles or celebrating with a bonfire. The light of fire is enhanced by the sheer darkness of night. The light reminds us that there is life in the Underworld.
Press flowers in old books.
Plant bulbs. As you bury them in the dark, moist and fertile womb of Mother Earth, offer a prayer to the Goddess of the Underground. Write your wishes on paper, and bury them with the bulbs.
Harvest your produce, and store well.
If you are celebrating Samhain with friends, hold hands and stand in a circle around your bonfire. Invite the ancestresses to be with you. Feel the power as each of you verbalise your connections to the Otherworld.
Wear black during Samhain to celebrate the season and all it represents.
Make spirals from seeds and nuts.
Sit outside at twilight and listen for the voices of your ancestresses in the wind.
Take a solitary walk at night time to feel the sense of the season.
Practise ecological awareness, and give back to the Earth rather than using products made from crude oils or ancient sunlight.
Walk the Labyrinth
The ancient Celtic shamans would walk the medicine wheel, otherwise known as a labyrinth. If you are lucky enough to live near a labyrinth, use this to enhance your Samhain ceremony. A labyrinth offers healing and psychological courage and strength.
A finger labyrinth can give you a way to put your question or intention to the Universe. Begin with a focus, then using your finger, make your way around the labyrinth. When you make the outward journey, do so in trust that your answer will be revealed to you.
If the finger labyrinth doesn’t appeal to you, you can make one outdoors with stones, candles or sandbags.
Veronika comes from a long line of white witches: the ones they were never able to burn! www.veronikarobinson.com
The veil is thin, and the ancestresses are just a whisper away. Imagine, if you like, a foggy day. You can’t see ahead of you, but you can sense what is there. This is how it is with our deceased loved ones, and the ancestresses of our family line. We may not see them, but they’re there on our landscape.
Our culture may teach us that Halloween (known also as Samhain) is about spider webs and horrid witches, but the origins of this festival are far from scary. This festival of the wise grandmother is a time to reflect and review our year.
The grandmother asks: what have you learnt from the past? What can you take into the future? She is kind, and perhaps she’s firm. If you haven’t learned your lessons, she’ll want to know why. But scary? Never!
Halloween, for me, is a quiet practice. A time when I draw near to my ancestors and ancestresses by taking out my divination cards and asking for guidance. It is a time when I truly allow myself to be held by Mother Earth.
As a mother, I haven’t perpetuated the fear of the culture. Just because ‘everyone’ does something and it has become the norm, it needn’t mean we have to follow the trend. If you feel in your heart that there is something more to this ancient festival, you’re right. (Read my article on this in issue five of Starflower Living magazine www.starflowerpress.com)
Why not create an altar dedicated to your ancestresses? You can place their photos or heirlooms here, and decorate with Autumnal gifts such as apples, conkers, rosehips and pumpkins.
My mother Angelikah, a grandmother to many children, lives in Tasmania, Australia. We haven’t seen her since 2005 when she came to England to visit us.
Today, on Samhain, I am putting a prayer out to my ancestress and my deceased father, to find a way to bring us together in 2015 for a joyous and delightful reunion. It is my sincerest wish for us to be together again in this lifetime.
My mother, at about the age I am now, enjoying a swing in our garden in rural Australia.
Samhain is a time for remembering the power of attraction. What we think, we create.
https://veronikarobinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo-1.png00Veronika Sophia Robinsonhttps://veronikarobinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo-1.pngVeronika Sophia Robinson2014-10-31 07:57:322014-10-31 07:57:32Calling down the Ancestress
Scorpio is the zodiac sign associated with death, letting go and release.
It’s been interesting for me to see this play out so literally in my life. The girl cat was put down two weeks ago, and today our old car, which has served us well for six years, was sent to the scrap yard. Release. Let go. Goodbye.
It has been a time of decluttering and clearing out. The difference I felt when I walked into my writing room this morning at 6am (after yesterday’s major clean out) was huge. It felt like “I” had been cleansed, not just the room. That’s the power our living space has over us. It becomes a mirror of our internal world. How often do you apologise for your living space when a friend turns up unexpectedly? Do you bless your home or make excuses for it?
It’s funny how ‘stuff’ just creeps up around you and quickly becomes part of the furniture. With the best will in the world, it’s easy for a chair or table to become a dumping ground bills, gym bag, letters and so on.
I always know when I’m a few hours from my period arriving: I can’t tolerate any mess of any description. Even the possessions I love could, at those times, be easily thrown out. My body has a complete need (a desperation, even) to purge everything and anything. My body is expecting the environment to mirror the monthly detox and cleanse.
By nature, I’m instinctively drawn to a Shaker-style simplicity. Quiet, simple, clean, peaceful. This is what my soul craves. This isn’t something easily attained when living in a family situation!
View from my writing room
All around me, the trees are letting go of their leaves. There is no waste, though. They will eventually rot down and become part of Mother Earth. I love the way she recycles everything. Though not a lover of the cold (or being cold), I do adore and celebrate the beauty and majesty of Winter, in particular the bare trees. I love how everything is stripped back to basics.
If you’ve not yet read issue 5 of my online magazine, Starflower Living, I write about grief as a time to withdraw from daily life. Clare Cooper writes about learning to let go. Samantha Parker explores the meaning of soul mates. And, with Halloween tomorrow, you might be interested in the origins of this tradition. It began as a celebration or festival of the wise grandmother. And there’s also a piece on the power of the burning bowl ceremony.
Just a reminder, too: Issue one of Starflower Living is available for free. Visit www.starflowerpress.com
How do we know when it is time to let go? I believe it is when something or someone or a situation no longer feels right or good to us. Letting go is like exhaling. Sometimes we need to take in a rather large amount of air first.
The decision to have our girl cat put down did not come quickly or easily. It was a painful time, but her needs were more important than ours. Like cleaning a room, the change in this home after she’d gone was huge. It wasn’t just because we missed her, but the energy her illness brought to this home was felt throughout. I hadn’t realised just how much until she was no longer here.
Energy is everywhere and in everything. This is why it is so important that we consciously purge negativity from our life on a regular basis. If it isn’t something that comes easily to you, then do use this time of year to release and let go.
At my desk
New Year’s Day is often seen as a time to make resolutions and goals, and yet, this time of year (to my mind) is pretty perfect. The veil between this world and the next is considered to be thin during Samhain/Halloween. It is a time to connect with our ancestresses. As we head into the darkest part of the year (here in the Northern Hemisphere), we can plant seeds of intention into the dark earth, trusting that they will germinate. First, though, we purge. We let go of all we don’t want from our lives, and then fill the vacuum with ‘good’ ideas, intentions, habits, people.
Right, I’m off to completely declutter the kitchen cupboards. And bake some pumpkin brownies!
The was the first Autumn leaf of the year to catch my eye
https://veronikarobinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo-1.png00Veronika Sophia Robinsonhttps://veronikarobinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo-1.pngVeronika Sophia Robinson2014-10-30 16:24:032014-10-30 16:24:40Scorpio, the season of decay