Samhain 2016 for Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times
Samhain is upon us! Many of y0u had your celebrations in the past week, and some of you will have yours this week.
Thanks to the wizardry of Jennifer, our editor, here at Pagan Pages, I can post links to past Samhain articles here if you’d like to look over them.
Here is 2015’s Samhain article:
And here’s the article for 2014’s Samhain article:
Both articles explore some history and pre-Christian practices.
This year’s Samhain article is going to specifically focus on something that is quite controversial in some of our communities- the revelry some engage in.
Apparently, right now, there are angry Witches and Pagans stating that Halloween Witch costumes discriminate against us and that “we are not a stereotype.”
Of course we aren’t.
Still, this argument is unfounded. In Western Civilization today, nobody in their right mind believes we have green skin, fly on brooms, and have orgies with the Biblical Satan. Those who are not in their right minds, who believe all this need our prayers for healing, not our wrath and indignation. People whose mental faculties cause them to believe such ridiculous things are not to blame for the genetic disorders they have, and it’s not spiritual to condemn them or hate them for this.
When Gardner was creating Wicca, and “reclaimed” the word Witch, he was under the false assumption that the Inquisitors documented certain things during torture induced confessions that held truth. Few today agree with this, and while we may use the words like “Coven” , hold the number thirteen to be sacred, and worship a Horned God, we understand these are neo, or new practices that were created from what people thought was done in Pre-Christian times.
Archaeology tells us different. People belonged to organized temples and groves, and had hierarchical clergy just like Christian churches today do. While some had goddess traditions, like the devotees of the Goddess Diana, today’s neo-Pagan Goddess traditions combine various ideas from what we believe to be ancient practices custom tailored to today’s devotees.
Our cultural practices won’t allow us to have the animal slaughtering at harvest time to be part of the practices at Sabbats, unless we live on farms. Parading around ancient sites and standing stones isn’t happening in North America. We don’t have the need to feast on the fresh harvest and bust our butts storing the rest for winter. We have refrigeration and can get fresh produce year round!
So Sabbats take on a different meaning for us than they did in Pre-Christian times.
Truthfully, my recent ancestors I venerate at Samhain were Christians, so they won’t get mad at me if I don’t do a fancy ritual that some person from antiquity would recognize. We did funerals and no other memorials in my family.
I gather with other Pagans I circle with, but truthfully, most of the reason I host a Samhain, or join one somebody else is hosting is for fellowship and to have fun.
Many of us joke Halloween is when we can buy proper décor for our homes.
For those who decorate altars with skulls, this is a good time of year for shopping for supplies.
Since the dead communicate with the living very strongly during this time, it’s a good time to both give them gifts, and for divination, asking them for messages and guidance.
The foods of the season are enjoyed by many.
Some love the cooling weather and enjoy a short break from the Summer gardening before doing cleanup and planting Spring bulbs.
For this year’s working, I’m going to include some suggested fun activities to add to your Sabbat celebrations after ritual. Some of these are things I did or saw others do when we had family night open house at Halloween when I worked in Nursing Homes. Other things are things friends and me did at Sabbats we hosted.
I hope you enjoy my list!
Saoirse’s Suggested Samhain Revelry Activities
- Have a costume contest where every contestant gets a first prize for something. Like, “cutest costume” or “scariest monster.”
- Have goody bags that do not have candy for free giveaway. Diabetes and allergies dictate not all kids can eat all the same foods. Their parents will thank you for thinking of this.
- Actually have them bob for apples. If you do not want to risk spreading germs, instead of having apples in water for them all to try to grab with their teeth, have one apple per child suspended from the ceiling or tree branches and whoever gets their apple first wins!
- Fill a baby pool with sand, and bury little gifts in it. Have sandbox shovels, and let the kids “dig for treasure.”
- Have the kids all color Halloween themed coloring pages, and present them as gifts to the gods or to decorate the altar with.
- Have the children light a candle for a deceased family member, and leave a little gift for them on the altar.
- Take the kids on a “spooky trail walk” after dark dressed in costume with flashlights at a local metro park. Do this with a group with lots of parents, of course!
- Have the kids make peanut butter and birdseed gifts for the nature spirits, or leave various food items wildlife would enjoy for the Sidhe. Leave this someplace where you know it will be eaten, not leaving any trash behind.
- Have a Halloween gathering where each child brings their favorite Halloween themed book and have them take turns reading them to each other.
- Take the kids to a cemetery to do trash pickup in honor of the dead. Starting them at a young age with such things raises both environmental awareness and teaches them cemeteries are not scary.
Adult Sabbat Revelry
- Instead of a cemetery cleanup, take your friends to a cemetery that is old if you’ve never done this before. The beauty of the old gravestones will blow you away if you have not seen it before. Take cigarettes or flowers as offerings for the dead, and see if any of them speak to you.
- Take friends to a Celtic Rock Concert and go in costume. The year I did this with a friend was absolutely the most surprisingly fun time I ever had. It’s not specifically Pagan, but it’s ancestral music, and that counts!
- Do an adult Halloween candy exchange. Make it even more fun, and have everybody bring their favorite ingredients for cocktails as well.
- Do an outing to a pumpkin farm, eat the yummies they offer, and go on the hayride. Nobody is ever too grown up to enjoy this. City folks seem to especially enjoy getting out to these locations.
- Find a local Fall Foliage train ride and go. We did this for the first time a few weeks ago, and we really enjoyed it.
- Host or co-facilitate with somebody else a divination night and potluck it. This will go over so well that everybody will want this again!
- Like costume contests for the kids, have one for the adults. You are never too old to enjoy this.
- Have an all weekend slumber party and watch as many spooky movies as you can. Have everybody bring food and drinks to share.
- Instead of fancy centerpieces when decorating tables, scatter party favors and candy in the center of the tables. Tell everybody there better not be ONE thing left in the middle of those tables! They will happily oblige you, and you won’t have to clean up or pack away any decorations.
- Buy a few nice party gifts for giveaway. Put a sticker on the bottom of a few plates to denote who gets the gifts. Then have everybody look on the bottom of their plates to discover who wins!
Of course, having the sacred observations will still happen when you add a little revelry and fun to your gatherings. Sabbats may be for worship, but they are for enjoying gathering with one another as well.
May your Samhain be blessed and fun.