The Earth goddess roars. She has been roaring for some time now, but around the time of Samhain her voice gets louder and stronger. Samhain has always been a time of clarity and truth and this time she is saying “No More”. No More Lies, no more make-believe, no more cover-ups, no more smothering, silencing of the voice of the earth. She demands honesty, she asks for the essence, she is peeling away the layers, the layers of hurt, of wounded ego, of secrecy, of lies, so that we can see. See beyond the veils of illusion and reach into the essence, the heart of our being, the source of our existence. At Samhain she speaks and she helps us understand her essence:
1. Samhain is not a Pagan holiday
Samhain is not a pagan holiday for the simple reason that there is no such thing as “Pagans”. Pagan is a derogatory word invented by Roman Catholic conquerors intended to create a common enemy in the consciousness of the Roman empire. It means peasant, a simple and uncultivated person. The word pagan was disdainfully used by the Romans to create opposition between the Roman culture and the “other” cultures, meaning nearly every culture that was different from them and that adhered to different rules. Identifying the Celtic civilisations as “pagan” helped create a sense of superiority and entitlement within the Roman civilisation and created the belief that the often polytheistic, nature-worshipping, indigenous cultures and communities of the territories the Romans wanted to conquer were inferior to them. In much the same manner as colonialism used propaganda depicting the indigenous populations of the desired territories as “inferior” to rally support for the invasions and violations in the homeland, the Romans used “paganism” as part of their justification for the invasions, promising to bring culture and civilisation to the deprived.
2. Samhain is a Druidic Holiday
Samhain is associated with druidism and is a druidic holiday. The druids were a group of men and women within the Celtic society who were the designated guardians of the spiritual and intellectual heritage of the community. They were the teachers of the community, sharing their wisdom and knowledge of the art of healing, astronomy, astrology, biology, mythology, etc. with the other members of the community through oral transmission. They were wisdom keepers, consulted by the community when important decisions needed to be made and they gave rhythm and flow to the daily life within the Celtic society by honouring the festivals that marked the important turning times of the wheel of the year. Druids drew a great part of their knowledge from nature, by observation and study of the plant-and animal life they learned about the cosmic laws of the universe and the inner workings of the human spirit and soul. Their greatest teachers were mother earth and father sky and through their collaboration with both, they obtained “magical” powers and were able to influence and master the natural elements. They were tree whisperers, “oak knowers” and by learning the language of the earth they learned how to see and feel beyond the borders of the visible world. They honoured and worshipped the divine in every part of creation and recognised the essence of god and goddess manifesting in different ways. Quite far from the “simple-minded peasants” the Romans described indeed.
3. Halloween is not Samhain
Halloween is a Catholic holiday derived from Samhain. Halloween is a word derived from the Scottish “All Hallows Eve” or “Holy Evening”, meaning the day before All Saints’ day. The holiday has its origin in the British Isles and was exported by Irish immigrants to the American colonies. Halloween has incorporated some elements of Samhain, both are celebrated around the same date for example and both celebrate the ancestors, but the meaning and character of both celebrations are quite different. Today Halloween has become a celebration of everything spooky and gore and many of the Halloween traditions and celebrations are intended to scare people. It has become a charade, an elaborate theatre show in which everyone takes part without really knowing why, it has lost its sacred meaning.
Religion was the preferred weapon of choice of the Romans and allowed them to weaken the culture, customs and religion of the indigenous populations of the territories they invaded and replace their culture with their own, creating a homogenous territory that was easier to rule and control than multiple diverse cultures and societal structures. To facilitate acceptance by the indigenous populations, some of the elements of pre-Christian holidays were incorporated in the Christian holidays. The Celtic spirit was strong though and Samhain was such an important holiday that it took the Roman church centuries to superimpose their own holiday. Even though Halloween might look the same as Samhain on the surface, when we scratch away the layer of varnish, there’s a whole different essence underneath.
The Romans understood that the strength of the Celtic culture was their connection to the land and by replacing traditional nature worship with Christianity, they were able to disconnect the people from the land by creating a spiritual culture that valued intellectual thought above physical experience. Not only that, by telling people the material world was not connected to the divine, they created an abyss between humans and the divine with all sorts of consequences: people lost their personal power, from now on they had to go through a spiritual facilitator (priest) to connect to the divine, people lost their roots as they stopped listening to the earth and became weak and easy to influence, mother nature was shunned, disrespected and along with her everything feminine, women were rendered irrelevant and were outcast from religious life, those who claimed their rights were persecuted.
The Roman culture was best known for its “divide and conquer” tactics that seeped through into the religion they created and the customs of this religion. After having succeeded in creating a divide between the masculine and the feminine, between human beings and the natural world, Halloween was used to emphasise the belief that the invisible realm was something to be feared, that we were disconnected from the spirit world and that everything magical and mystical was evil and needed to be shut out of our lives, further taking away people’s personal power.
4. Samhain is a Celtic Feast
“The Celts” is a term used to define a vast number of different people and civilisations of Indo-European origin, dating from 1200 BC at the latest throughout the Middle Ages and spanning a territory that went from the south of Spain and Portugal across France, Belgium, the Netherlands, including the British Isles, southern Germany, Hungary and Austria all the way up to eastern Europe and Turkish Anatolia. In this vast area there was thought to have been one dominant culture that we named the Celtic culture, this is based on a large number of cultural similarities, such as similar mythology, social organisation, use of building materials, similar pattern use in art and artefacts, writing and similarities in the religious structure of the society, including notions of polytheism, the recognition of god/goddess and nature worship. One can imagine though that there were substantial differences between the “Celts” of Spain and say the Celts of Poland. The term Celt in itself is subject to discussion, but it helps talk about the pre-Christian civilisations of the European continent.
For the Celtic people, Samhain was the most important celebration of the year, it was a sacred holiday, marking the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new one. It was a moment of transition in the year, marked by the shedding of the old and inviting in the new, a powerful moment of rebirth. Of all the Celtic celebrations, Samhain was the most alchemical one, it was an opportunity to purify our energy with the energy of the fire element and transform our shadows.
Samhain is a suspended moment in time, a window opening between our world and the afterworld or the invisible world, when the veil that separates different dimensions thins and sometimes vanishes altogether. For the Celtic people this was the opportunity to accept and confront their own shadow parts, while celebrating and reinforcing their light and to see into the shadows and invisible parts of existence, giving them greater knowledge and wisdom. Samhain is all about courage: the courage to look into the shadows, to face the whole of reality, darkness included, to step into the unknown and confidently move forward in spite of our apprehensions. Samhain teaches us to trust our instincts, our intuition, for when the light diminishes on the outside, our true power takes over.
Samhain was a celebration of our roots, of our origin, of the source we come from and an opportunity to integrate everything that went before us, all the cosmic forces that moved to create us, all our ancestors that passed on their wisdom and all the gifts of abundance of mother earth, allowing us to survive and thrive.
5. Samhain has no association with black magic
One of the confusions around the holiday of Samhain, is its association with magic and witchcraft. Witchcraft has known a revival since the creation of Wicca, a religion invented in 1954 by Gerald Gardner who based his doctrine on teachings he received from a coven of witches he supposedly met, on things he learned from his time in the order of the Rose-Cross and in freemasonry and the writings of Alistair Crowley. Wicca has taken over some of the elements of the pre-Christian customs, such as nature worship and a goddess cult, but it is a different religion with its own identity, energy and philosophy. The origin of Samhain lies in the Celtic society and largely predates the origin of Wicca.
The confusion is understandable because Samhain is a magical time. As the veil thins, we are able to maximise our potential, communicate with the afterlife and nature spirits more easily and practice divination. Today we fear these abilities and there’s an aura of secret societies and black magic surrounding everything magical and mystical. For the Celtic societies, however, these “super”-natural abilities were normal and natural. For them, the natural world, human beings included, was a reflection of the divine. “As above, so below” which meant that the visible world was a mirror of the invisible world, the material world a mirror to the spirit world. The Celts did not see themselves as being separate from the divine, they were a manifestation of the divine and so they naturally possessed divine capacities.
Our fear of magic comes from centuries of literal and figurative witch hunting of the magical, the supernatural and the spiritual. All these years of persecution have left us with the imprint that practising magic is dangerous. And it actually was, but not because of the sake of the magic in itself, but because it exposed us to the danger of being outcast, the danger of imprisonment and even death. Many of the saints that are recognised and celebrated in different religions today were excommunicated, outcast, ridiculed, persecuted, threatened and sometimes even put to death by their religious leaders because of their magical powers and the miracles they performed.
Halloween exacerbates the fear of magic and further pushes the spirit world into the realm of the demonic, the macabre, the obscure. The problem with turning our back on magic is twofold. Firstly, it leaves all spiritual power up for grabs for those with ill intent, those who would not refrain from influencing other people or misusing certain energies to their own advantage (magic practised in secret societies or black magic). Our own ignorance, naivety and lack of knowledge put us in a position of vulnerability and frailty and without knowing we give away a large part of our personal power. We are taught to fear the unknown and as a result we start sabotaging ourselves, going through life fearful of change we start to stagnate. Our mistrust of the unknown is really a lack of confidence in ourselves. Secondly, we delude ourselves by thinking we are free from energetic influences from the outside by not learning to master our spiritual and energetic skills. All of us are naturally magical beings, want it or not, be conscious of it or not. Because we are part of reality, not separate from it, we are constantly influencing our immediate and distant environment. Our state of being, our consciousness, our physical health, our thoughts and our feelings directly impact and shape our experience of reality and influence all sentient beings around us. Even if we are unaware of this, our lives are a chain of acts of magic. For example: by thinking and speaking negatively about a person, we negatively influence this person’s reality and our own, this is a small act of black magic as you will. By thinking and speaking with love and tenderness about someone we positively influence their reality, hence a small act of white magic. The more we are aware of this, the more we can master our influence and direct our energy towards positive action.
– Anaïs (picture by Joshua Newton)
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(EN) Priestess and weaver of inspirations and dreams, I create sparks and connections between inner realms and outer perceptions, between spirit, soul and body. The main themes of my multi-coloured tapestry are the path of the Sacred Feminine and the quest for harmony, with a dash of wonder, magic and a whole lot of authenticity woven into it.
(FR) Prêtresse et tisseuse d’inspirations et de rêves, je crée des étincelles et connexions entre le monde intérieur et les perceptions extérieures, entre esprit, âme et corps. Les fils rouges de mon tapis multicolore sont le chemin du féminin sacré et la quête de l’harmonie avec comme principaux motifs l’émerveillement, la magie et l’authenticité.