Blessed Samhain! Let’s Talk About Death

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Happy Halloween, and Blessed Samhain to all my friends and readers!!

Samhain, (pronounced sow as in cow – en) is a Gaelic word that most say means “summer’s end” and goes back to when the Celts viewed only 2 seasons, summer and winter. Contrary to some theories, there is no actual evidence of any god anywhere by the name of Samhain, so if someone says that to you, they probably don’t better, lol.

So! Samhain celebrates the Third Harvest, which is the meat harvest, when our ancestors would cull the herds, leaving only the strongest and healthiest animals for breeding over the winter. It is also said the the Veils Between the Worlds are thinnest on this night, and that the souls of our loved ones are able to come and visit us, to let us know they are there. It is also said, that along with the souls of our loved ones, the things that go bump in the night, would also roam our realm.  Which is where the practice of wearing costumes comes from. It was believed that if you dressed as a ghost, a goblin, or as one of the fae folk (or any creature), you would trick them into thinking you are one of them, and they’d leave you be for the night. Asking for candy was actually an old Christmas tradition that somehow made it’s way to this holiday, but we’ll discuss that closer to Yule.  Also worth noting, Samhain is considered to be the Witch’s New Year, as this is the point that the cycle of life ends, before it begins anew at Yuletide… again, which we’ll discuss closer to Yule.

It’s interesting to note, that most cultures around the world have a day set aside to celebrate the dead, the most famous of which is the “Dia de los Muertos”, which is a big deal in Spanish speaking communities.  Even more interesting though, is the realization that most of these days of the dead fall around the same time, late October/early November.  I think it’s actually a good thing that a special day is set aside to honor our ancestors and beloved dead.

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Death is a hard subject for many people.  I mean, seriously, it’s a taboo subject.  We don’t want to talk about death and dying.  We don’t want to acknowledge that we are not immortal, and that all who are born, will eventually die.  Yes, death can be sad.  It can hurt, you can and will feel sad.  It’s okay.  But we also need to realize that death should be a celebration – of life, of the life that was lived, and those who are left behind.  Having had several people in my life who have died (and I know I’m not the only one out there), I have a somewhat strange view of death and dying.  I’ve had people suddenly die, in the prime of their youth, and I’ve seen people die slow deaths from illness.  I’ve seen the whole gamut of how people grieve and I think I have an interesting perspective on the whole process.  Some people get angry, some people cry, and some people feel numb.  All of those reactions and everything in between is normal, and it’s okay.  Everyone has their own way of grieving.  My own grief process is very private, and I’m not much for expressing my emotions in public.  For me, that’s okay, too.  I’m actually the one who is usually being the shoulder of support, the one who offers hugs, and comfort when people are hurting after losing someone.

I’m also the one who won’t mince words, and I am the one who will express gratitude when someone I love who has been ill for a long time is finally freed of that pain.  I am the one who rejoices in the life that was lived.  I celebrate death, and recognize it for what it is, a time of rest, of peace, and a time to prepare for the next life.  I fully believe in reincarnation, and it is that belief that brings me comfort when someone dies, the knowledge that someday, somewhere, my loved ones will return to live another life.  They may not remember, but deep down in their souls, they know.  I know that I will see them all again someday, in another life.  There was only one moment that I have let my grief be seen by the public, and that was the death of my dear friend, James.  I think it was his death that really brought it all home for me.  We were all very young, and when we’re young, we like to think we are invincible and that death will not touch us directly.  It’s quite the shock when it happens, but we work through it.   I will be honest with you, Death sucks for the living.  We are the ones who are left behind and it sucks.

As hard as it is for the living though, it’s a good reminder that it’s okay to talk about death.  It’s okay to have that conversation with your loved ones about your own end of life wishes.  It’s good to think about it when you’re young, to let people know what you would want to happen.  I absolutely don’t think it’s morbid to talk about death, and I feel it’s very important to talk about it, maybe not all the time, but a few times.  I’ve had that uncomfortable conversation with several of my family members, and I know what their wishes are for when their time comes, and it comes for everyone.  I’ve told a couple of people about my own wishes.  It’s a strange conversation to have, and it’s really uncomfortable.  But it’s important, and I encourage everyone to discuss their own end of life choices.

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So now let’s talk about the Witchy aspect of Samhain.  Not only is this sabbat about death, and rebirth, it is also closely associated with Crone Goddesses, Underworld Gods and Goddesses.  Dark Mother energy is felt strongly at this time.  In Wiccan mythology, the God has died and has gone to the Underworld to rest before His rebirth, and the Goddess has grown weary and old in Her grief, even though She knows the God will return and be born again.  She also retreats to the Underworld, to be with Her Beloved as they await the turning of the Wheel.  In more shamanic thoughts, Samhain is the time we begin to understand that in Death, there is Life, and even at Beltaine, when we celebrate Life, there is a seed of Death.  Many people notice they are more intuitive, and have more psychic phenomenon at this time of year, and it is a popular time for people to seek out readers, or people who practice various methods of divination.  Something for people to consider is meditation and contemplating the meaning behind Samhain, and how it fits into the Cycle of the Wheel of the Year.

Well, I’ve talked long enough, so for now…

Happy Halloween, and may you have a Blessed Samhain!  Remember, stay safe, there will be kids on the roads tonight, and animals as well.  Be well!

Blessings,

~ Ravenna

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Categories: Life, Paganism, Sabbats

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One thought on “Blessed Samhain! Let’s Talk About Death

  1. Well said. Scholarly and engaging, full of great imagery and unafraid of tackling tough questions–life and death, for one. I learned things from this column, and thank you for the experience of new thoughts on old ideas.

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