A lovely guest blog on Samhain by Melusine Draco
In traditional British Old Craft we view Samhain or Hallowe’en as one of the holiest times of the year. It is not a time for celebration but of observance – a time for revering the Ancestors and for bringing our family dead back home. It may be a tried and tested cliché to say that it’s a time when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest but it truly is a ‘time between times’ that allows us to inter-act with Otherworld without psycho-drama and ritual.
Fewer nowadays seem to grasp the concept of a ‘time between times’ that allows us to slip into the realm of Faere written about in the fantasy novels. In truth these gateways or portals are all around us: when we stand in the shadow of the wood at owl-light – that mysterious twilight just before dusk falls. We may encounter it in those moments of strange ethereal light as dawn gives way to sun rise; or standing in the middle of a double-hedge that marked an ancient boundary. We can discover it in the luminous light that lingers on the mountain side; or reflects in the ripples of the stream. This ‘time between times’ at Samhain lasts for more than a few fleeting moments.
The true meaning of the word Samhain is ‘summer’s end’ for the Celts only observed two seasons – summer and winter. Summer officially ended on the evening of 31st October with bonfires to fend of malevolent spirits and welcome home the Ancestors; winter began on the 1st November. If one wishes to be really pedantic then we should also take into account that the alterations to the calendar meant that ‘true’ Hallowe’en/Samhain should fall around the 11th November – those missing eleven days conveniently falling on what we now observe as Remembrance Day.
For us, Samhain is a truly magical time because traditional British Old Craft is bound to ancestor-worship in exactly the same way as it was for our pagan forebears, and we observe this fire festival with the same reverence and respect as any ancient Briton. Interaction with these spirit ancestors as an invisible and powerful presence is a constant feature of traditional British Old Craft, with the Ancestors remaining important members of the Tradition, or people they have left behind. Reverence for Craft Ancestors is part of the ethic of respect for those who have preceded us in life, and their continued presence on the periphery of our consciousness means that they are always with us. And because traditional witchcraft is essentially a practical thing, the Ancestors are also called upon to help find solutions to magical problems through divination, path-working and spell-casting.
So, when the light fades on the evening of 31st October, we will be lighting our fires, both inside the house and outside to call the Ancestors home. We will be preparing a ‘dumb supper’ to offer our visitors after their long journey and in our minds we will be re-living those precious moments during their lives before the candles flicker and die, and it is time for them to return beyond the veil. And if you think this is all superstitious nonsense and prefer to party, can you really claim to call yourself a witch?
Melusine Draco is the author of many books on witchcraft and a British Craft Practitioner. See more at her Amazon page