Thursday, October 8, 2009
Word Thursday - Samhain and Paganism
As I mentioned in my other blog - Sidetracked Charley - my dreams and thoughts are turning to Halloween or Samhain which is the Wiccan new year.
Samhain is a cross-quarter sabbath; a night when the veil between this world and the next is the thinnest. It is a time to honor those who've died during the old year just leaving, as well as all ancestral spirits.
It has often interested me that regardless of our basic beliefs there are certain nexus in the calendar about which all festivals seem to cluster. One is of course Christmas, a Christian holy day. Chanukah is always close. And the Islamic New Year. But this time of shortened days and long nights was originally a Roman festival. And it is of course connected to the winter solstice which is honored by many pagan beliefs including the Druids.
Note: "Paganism" refers to a range of spiritual paths. These are generally Neopagan religions based on the deities, symbols, practices, seasonal days of celebration and other surviving components of ancient religions, which had been long suppressed. Pagan can also mean anyone that does not believe in your religion. Some believe that in the early Roman Empire, "paganus" came to mean "civilian" as opposed to "military." Christians often called themselves "miles Christi" (Soldiers of Christ). The non-Christians became "pagani" -- non-soldiers or civilians. No denigration would be implied. See the website Religious Tolerance for further discussion.
Halloween, which came from the Celtic culture, and All-Souls, the Catholic holy day, and Samhain, a witches' sabbath, all cluster around October 31st. I find this one particularly significant because there is no astronomical event like the winter solstice to mark this day as special. It is often seen as the dividing line between autumn and winter as well as when the line between the living and the dead is the thinnest.
I find my dreams become particular prophetic at this time. And my thoughts turn naturally to those who are no longer in life with me.