or (for those of you who follow the Wheel of the Year)
Happy New Year's Eve!
Samhain marks the last turn of the wheel - the final harvest and the dying of the year. The ends of the crops have been gathered, the light is leaving those of us in the Northern Hemisphere and the time for spiritual 'hibernation' is upon us. Long, dark and cold nights wait on the other side of this eve.
However, it is not a time to be sad; rather to celebrate the achievements of the year just past and to honour the earth for the fruits it has provided for us over the summer months. Sitting opposite Beltane (the festival of light and fertility) on the wheel, Samhain marks the contradictory forces of darkness and death. Said to fall at the time when the veil between this earthly world and the Otherworld is at its thinnest, the feast of Samhain traditionally also honours the dead and is a night for remembering ancestors and loved ones who have left us. It is tradition to set a place for those absent friends at the table before enjoying a Samhain meal.
Some people celebrate Samhain with a ritual to mark the passing of the old year and these rituals are as varied as the individuals who celebrate the festival. You could create a representative 'wheel of the year' with symbolic markers for the sabbats and burn it to mark the end of the year.
These pictures show an edible version of this ritual: a sabbat cake! Each sabbat is marked on the cake with a leaf, flower or seed which reflects the season - we have a miniature eggshell for Ostara, a holly leaf for Yule and a lavendar sprig for the first harvest of Lammas, for example. Samhain here is shown by an autumn leaf. Instead of being burned, the wheel of the year will be gobbled up!
This year will be the first in a long time that I will celebrate Samhain alone - although I did have family to share an early feast of pumpkin curry with yesterday (more on that recipe to come, I feel). Traditionally I carve my pumpkin and let the light shine like a miniature beacon in the window, to guide the way for spirits; warm a pot of mulled cider and complete a small ritual which acknowledges the year past and sets forth my hopes for the year to come. Tonight I will be quietly contemplating everything that this toughest of years has brought to my family and honouring my dad, so recently passed, with a simple prayer.
Brightest blessings to you all.