The Witches say the veils between the worlds of the dead and the living, the seen and unseen, are thinnest at Samhain, the name of the cross-quarter sabbat (celebration) between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice. It’s a time of high magick, ceremony and celebration to honour the dead and celebrate the years’ harvest at the witches new year. its also a mirror for the pre-menstrual time of the menstrual cycle, a time to be revered, not feared, when truth-telling and listening is highly necessary for growth and healing.
Mystics, pagans and those who appreciate the seasons and cycles of life find much magick, power and transformation available in listening to what the spirits tell us, and in facing the darkness, arriving frosts and scent of death on the air of samhain, because it gives us a chance to go inwards, to reflect on whether you’re living your most authentic life, and to discern what needs to die so you can come closer to your truest essence.
tune in to hear:
- At Samhain I’m sharing why listening and courage is the medicine we need to be able to surrender control, shed our skins, and compost the rot of what’s not working in our lives.
- I explain how Samhain is a powerful mirror for our deep pre-menstrual phase, when we realise we can’t sustain our high-energy lives, and realise something has to give. Do you dissociate from yourself and deny your truth, or do you listen to your soul, learn and transform?
- Like Inanna and Persephone choosing to journey to the Underworld to see their dark reflections, we too can reframe our pre-menstrual experiences by radically listening to ourselves, bearing witness to our truth, and facing our vulnerabilities to die-off, re-vision and give birth to our new selves with the arrival of the Spring.
Samhain rituals and practice
8 SEASONS NOT 4
We are just past the point of Samhain in the year, which is a seasonal point. So this is applicable to those listening in the southern hemisphere at this particular time, end of April, early May. And for those of you in the northern hemisphere, you will have your Samhain at the end of October, the start of November.
And this is really one of my favorite Sabbats, which is a word for the old festivals, the old milestones, as we move through the year instead of breaking it up into seasons or even months, we have these Sabbats which come every about seven weeks ish throughout the year, and there’s eight of them.
It’s a beautiful way of noticing that actually there’s two parts to every season. So if you’ve got four seasons, you’ve got eight Sabbats. And as these Sabbats come around, it always amazes me that I see a really significant change in nature, a significant change in nature at the same time. And I think the old people who created these or noticed or celebrated these points of the wheel of the year were onto something. They were noticing things that it’s taken me nearly four decades to notice myself.
Because we’re so fixated on these quarters, these seasons, that we don’t notice, that means if we’re noticing four seasons, we’re probably just really tuning in, like, four times a year. Oh, it’s spring. Oh, now we’re in summer.
When we have these eight points, it gives us a chance to tune in much more often and to notice the subtler changes, to be really present and then, in turn, to notice within ourselves, oh, this is how I feel, too, as the wheel turns, as the seasons change.
Oh, to be curious, to listen to ourselves, to listen to the earth, and to live in a beautiful cyclical way that reverses the cycle, because the cycle happens whether we notice or not. And if we don’t notice, the cycle works us and teaches us, regardless of whether we learn those lessons.
So I think cycle wisdom is so powerful. And these sabbats are named by those from the British Isles. So Celtics, the pagans who originated in what is now England and the UK were the people where this particular wheel was taken from. So you may resonate with this or you may not, but my culture, my heritage, being from the UK, I find this really fascinating to tune into, especially, and I find that it’s applicable to most people, unless you live in a particularly tropical area where you just don’t have four seasons at all.
What is Samhain?
And so we’ve just passed this point of what’s called Samhain. And I want to talk to you about that because I think it’s really powerful to notice not just what’s happening at this time of the year in nature, but how it makes us feel and gives us a chance to listen to what we need, what our truth is. But I also think it’s a beautiful reflection of the deep, premenstrual phase of the cycle, which is a time that lots of people really struggle with.
So what’s Samhain? Samhain is spelt Samhain also Samhuinn, you might have seen this written, maybe you’ve never heard of this, but it’s said ‘sown’ or ‘sowin’ or ‘sowneen’, and it translates to summer’s end. And it comes, as I say, at this deep autumn point of the year.
It’s a halfway point between the autumn equinox, which is called the sabbat, for that is called Mabon, and that was at the end of March in the southern hemisphere. So it is halfway between the autumn equinox, which is the equal day and equal night in length, and halfway between the winter solstice, which is the longest night and the shortest day. So this point is called a cross quarter. A cross quarter because it’s not a solstice or an equinox, it’s halfway between those.
Why celebrate Samhain?
So Samhain is this point that was really, really revered and celebrated by the old people who lived on the Earth because it’s the last of the three harvest festivals after summer solstice. And for people who lived on the land. Because before industrialization, before we had technologies that helped us get food at times when it’s not actually it’s natural growing season, or when we could preserve food for longer, like freezing and shipping it in from different places, then people used to have to really pay attention to what the earth was doing in these seasons were doing in order to make sure that they had a successful enough harvest in summer and autumn and they could preserve the food to see them through the winter until the next growing cycle. Because if they didn’t, they just wouldn’t survive. They would die. So people used to be very attuned to the Earth seasons and they learnt about these eight points of the year as the ideal time to do certain practices or part of the growing cycle in order to grow successfully.
So at this point, now it’s the time when all of those beautiful summer and autumn crops have grown and there’s wild abundance at that time. And now everything has been harvested, everything has been picked off. The plants, all the good stuff has been cleaned and prepped and is being stored for over winter. And anything that’s not being saved has been composted, it’s been put back in order to let all those nutrients in the plants be reabsorbed into the soil in order to make the soil rich and fertile and a beautiful home for seeds to grow again in the new year.
It’s like a filtering time, like we’ve been filtering out the good of what we’re keeping. And also the seeds, the seeds from the best plants, because those seeds will be reused in the next year.
And all things that aren’t being used have not gone to waste. They’re disintegrating, they’re rotting, they’re breaking back down again because they’re going to go back into the earth. So now all of that work is done and the days are getting a lot shorter.
And where I am right now, we actually had snow here last night. It snowed. Not on my home, not on my village. We’re quite high up, but all around. The village is all around. I was quite jealous to see actually that it had snowed where my friends lived in different places and I thought, oh, look at that, it’s just missed us. What a shame, what a shame, but there we go. So it is. So it’s properly cold now, we’ve got our heating on, the killing frosts are on their way, death is in the air. It’s well and truly time to start letting go and coming inside, preparing the house for winter. We’ve just been getting out our heaters and our thick winter duvets or dunas as Aussies call them, replacing the curtains with thicker curtains again and really thinking about getting out the winter coats and the gloves and the beanies and just this real point of preparation.
And if you look at what’s happening in nature, it can give us these really beautiful clues about the kind of way that we should start to live right now instead of overriding and pushing through and this endless pursuit of growth and just keep going.
It’s like people think that we’re born and we live and we race towards the finish line and then we die. And it’s just so patriarchal, actually internalized. It’s just this way of getting maximum production out of all of us as workers rather than actually tending to ourselves and tending to the earth and tending to each other. Because you know that if we all do that, then that’s when we resist and we stop. We stop choosing the people who are currently in power, for example.
AUTUMN LEAVES DROPPING
So as the autumn leaves are dropping off the trees and they really are now, they’ve all just gone golden and red and purple and yellows and oranges and there’s not that many green leaves left on the deciduous trees. The winds have been coming through, blowing them all off, blowing them down the street. People have been out with their blowers and then the winds come again and make it messy again and they’re just everywhere and it’s beautiful because at the minute they haven’t started to crisp and go really brown and to what they’re still gorgeous and vibrant, which I just think is wonderful.
As I drive around, I have to remind myself to watch where I’m going because I just stare at the trees and the sky is blue and oh God, it’s so pretty here, I just love it. But what’s going to happen now is they will start to crisp up and compost and all those nutrients will be returned back to the earth.
I watch the farmers where I live because I live in a rural area. They have harvested all the crops and bundled all the hay up and then over the last month they lay down what’s called a green manure, like a green winter crop. And it’s just a really quick growing green crop that basically just fixes nitrogen and puts it back into the soil. So it’s just like a direct process putting all those nutrients back into the earth, ready for the fertile soils to come.
STORING FOR WINTER
And this is really the time when the animals are gathering up for their winter too. They’re storing up everything they need. They’re burrowing down and battening down the hatches. And the chickens are about to start moulting, I think, where they drop their feathers and start to create new feathers again for the new year. It’s just a really beautiful thing to watch.
“Nature, nature is really listening. Nature knows what’s going on. It’s us that doesn’t. So we have to tune back in.”
So, as you might have got the idea, this is really a time of decomposing, of death, of taking out the good, keeping the good, and letting go of what’s not needed and turning that from an unusable and helpful state back into something that’s precious and rich and going to help grow next cycle. So this is the time of Samhain.
Witches New Year
The old people used to see this as the new year because their lives did center around this agricultural cycle. It’s this time of death, and what will come next is rebirth at the winter solstice.
You can imagine our ancestors, certainly mine, maybe yours, but ancestors would have lit fires and used the smoke to purify because this time is associated with death. They would be remembering and honouring their ancestors and the legacy that their ancestors left the world, that they left the things they left them, and giving thanks for them. They would have a dinner and make an extra place at the table for their ancestors. And they would put a plate out, and they would put a piece of all the food that they would eat on that plate and then not eat it. That was the offering to their ancestors.
They really wanted to welcome and pay respects to their loved lost ones that they didn’t want to welcome in trickster spirits, And so they dressed up children as spirits so that these trickster spirits would leave their children alone. They filled their pockets with cakes and sweets so they could give them to any spirits they met to appease them. They would use smoke and fires and to help distract them as well.
ORIGINS of Halloween
When the Christian church took over England, for one example, but wasn’t limited just to England, they couldn’t stop the traditional earth based people from practicing their old ways, these people who were so connected to their land, who made space for all gods and goddesses. And so what they did was they decided to rebrand sound as all Halloween. And this in turn, became Halloween.
Trick or Treat
So those old practices of dressing up children and putting tricks and treats in the pockets or offering a trick is where we really get trick or treating from. It’s fascinating to see how these old practices have been retained even through the loss of the Sabbath and these old spiritual practices as the new religious practices have come in.
Witches also celebrate now as their new year because they, too, acknowledge this cycle. And this is the death time. And they also say it’s when the veils between the worlds are at their thinnest, making it the most possible to make contact with these unseen realms, to the fairy folk, to the spirits beyond ancestors. And so it would have been a time, and it still is for practicing witches, a time of high magic and ceremony, very, very potent portal.
As we tune into what this time of year brings, we can really take the moment to think about, okay, I’m being asked to slow down. Nature is slowing down. Maybe I should slow down too.
And why? We have ancient Sumerian, the queen of Heaven and Earth, Inana to thank, and the goddess Persephone, who, unlike the common myth we all know, she was stolen by Hades to be his bride in the Underworld. In the original myth, she actually chose to go into the Underworld.
INANNA AND PERSEPHONE INTO THE UNDERWORLD
both of these two brave women from the earth realm and the heavenly realm, they chose willingly to walk this dangerous, dark path into the underworld, which represents the mystery, the unknown, in order that they could see their own dark reflections because they knew the gifts available of meeting their power and potential, of asking themselves who they are and what really mattered and what they needed to let go of in order to be transformed, in order to be their most powerful selves.
the calleiach who’s the crone, she shows up now in the wheel, and she shows us what must live and what must die in us in order to live a more authentic life. and so the modern spiritual practice which i’m sharing with you now for sound, it infuses all of these elements of story and myth and wisdom, and you can take what resonates.
SPIRITUAL RITUALS AND PRACTICE FOR SAMHAIN
so now is a special time to practice remembrance of the wise ancestors, maybe the wise women who’ve gone before you to remember your history, your culture, your homeland and your community.
- it’s a powerful time to think about what kind of ancestor are you now? what kind of ancestor are you becoming?
- and what will your legacy be?
It’s’s really important to tune into this because in this life where we could just easily keep putting 1ft in front of the other and not look up, not take the time to slow down or actually notice where you’re going you can end up walking around in circles or taking the wrong path.
you have to be able to look up and check the map and ask these difficult questions in order to make sure you’re taking the right path.
So nature shows us how to live a present, happy, healthy, grounded life in nature, where all things are rotting and composting and being transformed from what’s no longer working into something beautiful and powerful. For the future, we can do the same. There’s no good just ignoring our needs or dissociating from our body and our feelings. It’s going to come back to bite us.
And so at this time in the year we can ask ourselves what in our lives or in ourselves is rotting, what needs to be let go of, what needs to be composted into a more magical, powerful, nutrient rich bounty for the future.
I really think of it as being like that time in the menstrual cycle where we are deep in the premenstrual phase. We’re not ready to bleed. That’s like winter solstice. So we’re a little bit before that, but it’s that point where perhaps we have we’re post ovulation and we’re sort of riding high on that sort of hormonal high, and then all of a sudden we switch gears and we drop and we’re, oh, we don’t have the energy to sustain us anymore.
We can’t keep going. And this is either a welcome reprieve or a deep frustration. It is this point, this is the calling inwards into the descent. Like the sun is going towards its descent, like Inana and Persephone went on their descent. Now is the time of our own descent in our menstrual cycle. We have to let go. We have to sacrifice. We have to give something up. We cannot keep going. We know that we have to stop. We know that something needs to be surrendered, and we have to listen.
listening is the medicine of autumn, of sound and of the deep premenstrual phase.
If you’re someone who struggles with that time, you need to be listening. What is it you need? What is your deep truth?
And so this idea of there being this veil between the two worlds, I think of that as being in two ways: one, we can really connect with ancestors or guides beyond. We can tune into the magical world. We can think about, okay, please guide us. Guide us so that we can live our most authentic life. Guide us so that we can tune in. Guide us so that we can be well. How can we be the best ancestors? How can we leave the legacy that we want to live?
We can also think of this veil idea as a veil between the life we’re living now and the life that we most desire to live, the one that in it. we are living out our highest potential, or we are really embodying our highest selves.
as we look through this veil, are you living the life that you want to live? are you already living it or not? what’s stopping you from living it?
In the story of inana, she has to go through the seven gates in order to reach this underworld. and at each gate, she is told by the guard that she must remove an item of herself that she owns, like a status object or a piece of clothing, something that represents her power on the earth and heavenly plains. and she says what? i don’t want to do that. i don’t want to let go. i don’t want to give up my power and control. and she is told, “quiet inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect. they may not be questioned.” and so she has to make a choice. does she go back to live unconsciously, to not just keep going just as if she always had done, and to not ask these deeper questions, to not lift the lid and peek beneath?
what are you resisting? what are you afraid of? what are you not hearing? how are you trying to trick yourselves like those spirits? how are you trying to trick yourselves from seeing the truth?
She doesn’t do that because she knows the power, yes, the dangers and the risk. And she took great courage, though she was ready to face the Underworld. And so she took off each of her items that represented these different aspects of herself as she journeyed down. And so at this time, you might actually want to ask yourself, who are you? Who is your truest self, your truest essence underneath all the things that you think you are, all the ways you might describe yourself, everything that you know about yourself, if you peeled back all these layers, who are you?
You might think of these different parts of you as being yourself, as your identity as a wife or partner, yourself as a homemaker, the mother carer version of you, you as a lover, your work self, your professional or creative self, yourself as a daughter, yourself as a sister or a friend to other women. And if you peel back all these parts of you, who are you underneath? And as you peek through the veil, are you living in deepest alignment with your truth?
the only way that you’ll find that truth is to listen and to trust that it’s time to let go of what is not working for you. it is time to surrender.
it is time to lay down these layers, these items, these roles, and to time to transform it from one form to another, a form that’s not working, into a form that is. and so i have some big questions for you at this time that you might ask yourself now either now at this point in the year, if you’re in the southern hemisphere or save this episode and come back to it around halloween time if you’re in the north.
or ask yourself at every single premenstrual time in your cycle, because this is the medicine you need. this chance to listen, this chance to lay down all of your control, to lay down this pushing on, to lay down and to really listen to what needs to be let go of
Your Samhain spiritual practice questions:
- What kind of ancestor are you becoming? What kind do you want to be?
- What is rotting and what is begging you to let go of it?
- What are you harvesting? And which seeds are you saving?
- How do you feel, this descent showing up in yourself and your life right now?
- And are you really living up to your potential.
I hope this is powerful medicine for you. I hope that this is a chance for you to have a bit of time to maybe journal or move on it, meditate on it, just light a candle to take some quiet time to walk on it. Whatever your practice is that appeal back these layers of you, it’s only in the asking and the questioning that you can be sure you’re on the right path. If you don’t ask and don’t question, who knows where you’ll end up?
I hope this is useful to you as it has been for me. It really has. I’m going to put these questions down in the show notes for you so you can come back to it. This is something you can come to, as I say, every cycle, it’s just like the premenstrual time, it’s just like the deep autumn time, and I think it’s like the menopause time, that descent towards menopause as well. I’ve not lived this yet myself, so I can’t be sure, but I get this really strong sense that this is deep initiation and we can only be initiated by entering the darkness to come out and to rise on the other side.
SHARE THE LOVE
blessings. beautiful. thank you for listening. i hope this serves you well. come share with me. you can drop me a dm on instagram or drop me an email if you want to share anything about this. if you’ve got any other questions, i’m going to pop some links in the show notes so you can contemplate on this. and i just hope that you see the power available to us when we live cyclically, to help us to grow and transform and shared and be reborn and renewed as we need to, to keep living an earth honoring and self honoring life.
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meet your host
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