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The Samhain Sabbat represents the end of the Celtic year as well as the end of the harvest. It is also the beginning of the year for wizards. On the Wheel of the Year, it announces that hard times are coming, that is, Winter.
Samhain occurs between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice and also indicates the death of the Sun God who will be reborn on the Yule Sabbat.
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- Northern Hemisphere: From October 31st to November 1st
- Southern Hemisphere: From April 30th to May 1st
- Colours: Black, grey and orange
After the Christianization of Ireland, various religious and mythological characteristics were discarded because they were not compatible with the Christian bible. However, some festivities and some other features, rather than being erased, have been adapted. The Samhain Sabbat became the “All Hallows Eve” in English, which later became what we know as Halloween.
Samhain Sabbat and death
On the Wheel of the Year, the Samhain Sabbat represents the beginning of Winter. Since in Winter harvests cannot be made, the evening of Samhain is ideal for Thanksgiving and for the preparation of grains and some food to be used over the next few months.
Animals used to be slaughtered for meat consumption during the winter since in large numbers they would not survive severe weather conditions.
It can be seen then that death on this Sabbath is present in different aspects. The position of the Sun on the horizon is the lowest. The crops come to an end and the animals hibernate.
But since everything is cyclical, we can also look on the side of the new beginning:
- The Sun God is already an embryo in the womb of the Goddess (who at this moment becomes the Elder, the Wise Witch, the Reaper) and will be reborn soon;
- Soon there will be a new harvest and the animals will be running through the fields again.
It is during this period that the Goddess Cailleach, Queen of Winter, is present. Depicted as an old woman, the Goddess Cailleach also represents the moment when the earth begins to die, giving way to the cold and the darkness.
Samhain Sabbat and the Ancestors
The Samhain Sabbat is also the moment where the veil that separates the world from the living and the dead becomes quite thin. It is possible to establish contact with those who have already departed from this dimension. It is at this time that homage and celebrations are made to remember and honour our ancestors.
Families used to gather and supper in silence, concentrating on those who had already left. An important feature of these suppers was the presence of vacant seats at the table with dishes served.
Another way of honouring the ancestors was leaving food outside the house. This was the spirits who passed through the place would feel remembered. Bonfires and candles were lit to help the visiting spirits find their way back to their dimensions.
One of the most outstanding symbols of the Samhain Sabbat is the pumpkin with candles inside. Being used to this day at Halloween parties, in ancient Scotland and in ancient Ireland these pumpkins were used by the people who walked in the night of Samhain and they were also left by the windows of the houses.
The shadows cast by the candles had the power to frighten the evil spirits who might be wandering among the good ones.
Now that you know about Samhain Sabbat, you can also read about Samhain Rituals.
Sabbats and the Wheel of the Year
You can also read about the other Sabbats which are part of the Wheel of the Year:
The Sun God dies and the Goddess becomes a crone. She is lonely, she knows all the magic secrets of life and she has no patience for anyting.
Samhain is celebrated on October 31st.
Halloween is the “modern version” of Samhain. Most of it’s traditions are kept.
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