Samhain – otherwise known as Halloween

Many, if not most, spiritual paths and religions have some recognition and even celebration for the time those who have died (crossed over, passed on, or however you wish to state it). The Christian tradition celebrates All Hallows Eve, which is based on the ancient pagan tradition of Samhain (pronounced “sowen”). In the Pagan/Neopagan tradition, Samhain is considered to be “New Year’s.” It is the in-between time — the day between the light half of the year (the summer) and the dark half of the year (the winter). It is believed that the veils between what is, what has been and what will be are very thin so we may pass between the worlds — and the spirits may do the same. It is a time for prophecy and divination — and celebrating the lives of those have gone before us.

Samhain is celebrated around the world, and in Second Life, as well. In Second Life, many groups, including United Healers of Second Life and the Shamballa group, have held (or will be holding) Samhain celebrations following varying traditions. Here is a Samhain story from our celebration.

Autumn is strong in the air today
As I walked in the meadow I saw leaves brown with death and decay
Laying on a bed of still growing, vibrant green grass
As I walked in the forest I saw trees with arms bare of summer finery
Preparing to shiver in winter’s cold but with squirrel scurrying around preparing for winter life

I stopped …
And thought …

About the signs of still vibrant life in the waning of the year, the death and decay of autumn among the remainders of summer
It reminded me that with every death is a new beginning; life endures.

I caught a whiff of summer freshness among the leaves as I walked a tree lined street today. The cast-off leaves lay fallow in the gutter but still the tree lived.
I remembered that life is short, every breath a precious gift
That all too quickly the wasted moments gather like dead leaves in the gutter
Visible reminders of all that was … all that might have been.

If only …
We had stopped …
And thought …
And treasured each moment – the good and bad alike
Just as we treasure the beauty of the rose – in spite of and because of the thorns

For all too soon the moments of our lives will lie scattered and dying while life springs anew
Like the curled brown rose petals dying on fresh green grass around the yawning chasm of a grave.

I caught the perfume of autumn today as I walked a tree-lined street.

I stopped …
And remembered …that the lesson of death is …
… to live

And so we, the living, come to the celebration of Samhain. ‘Tis the night when the veil between here and there, the living and the dead, what has gone before and what is to come grows thin. The veil becomes so thin the spirits can walk amongst us once again. So watch for them. At any moment you may catch a glimpse of someone you have known. They may be family, friends or foes. You may see a pet long gone, or the spirits of wildlife, fishes and crows. Samhain is a time for remembering and honoring those who have gone before, but it is also a time of living, of beginnings, as in each ending is a new beginning.

Hush, do you see that spirit over yonder, traveling among us? Will they take a cake? Will they dance with us? Or will they play a trick or two? No way to know when they come from beyond.

And it isn’t only the spirits we must be on the watch for, we must be mindful of the Wee Folke at play – the elves, the brownies, the shee, and the fey. Samhain is also the night when they emerge from their barrows and their homes to move among us. Mind you now, that one doesn’t lure you away for you may be gone for a few hours, a year and a day, or … forever. Among these may be the Shee who come from the land of Tir na nOg. You may hear the wail of the banshee who is said to foretell of a coming death. You may hear the Spirit of Asheen, or Oisin to some, gallop by. Asheen was seduced away to Tir Na nOg by the banshee Neeavh (Niamh) for a year – with a catch. He could visit his home but he could not get off of his horse. But it was more than a year – much more. In fact 300 years had passed by the time he returned to his lands and family, and all had passed away. So beware – they may not hold your job for 300 years.

And so be aware – watch for the spirits and the Wee Folke among us. If you want to avoid their wrath and tricks, treat them kindly and with respect. Leave a treat as all are uncommonly fond of sweets. Leave a plate of food for a loved one who has gone beyond. Set a place for them at table as a sign that they are still a part of who and what you are and go about your life knowing that on Samhain the veil parts and they may walk among us, but they are alive in heart thought all the year long. Remember them now, watch for them walking among us here, or in your back garden. If you wish, as the evening progresses light one of the candles on the ancestor altar in the north and dedicate it by typing in local chat as needs must as a sign of respect and remembrance.

Happy Samhain, Happy Halloween!

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