Ghosties and ghoulies, pumpkins and fancy-dress parties, Halloween has become a popular excuse to let your hair down. But what is special about this time of year, and what are the origins of all the customs?
In the following we explain:
- Celtic Summer’s End
- Darkness and transformation
- Why and how this can truly be your New Year
- The pumpkin lantern and how it can help
The ancient Celts observed only two seasons, Summer and Winter. The end of October was the official end of Summer, called Samhain, ( pronounced sa-ween’) meaning ‘Summer’s end’. Although Samhain was – and is – a time of endings, it is also a magical beginning.
To the Celts darkness was a creative period. Their day began at nightfall, their year at the end of Autumn. Some scholars believe that Samhain was the official Celtic New Year, and it’s an intriguing fresh take on things to regard this period of damp, decay and shadows as a potential new start.
Of course, the first weeks of winter were challenging for our ancestors, because tough decisions had to be made concerning cattle and stores. The old and sickly might well not survive the coming cold. There’s no harm in remembering this serious aspect and using it both to appreciate what you have and to be clear about what must now pass.
DARKNESS AND TRANSFORMATION
At our conventional New Year, on January 1st, it’s the custom to make New Year’s Resolutions, often about better habits. At the Celtic New Year the theme is more one of letting go. As the winter deepens, it may seem as if there is death all around. However, some things must pass away in order for others to grow and flourish. There is nothing negative about this, and any sadness can soon give way to joy.
Thank about the elements in your life that you need less of, and also those you would like to eliminate altogether. You can turn this around to fit any situation. For instance if you feel your life is rather empty and there is much that you would like to bring into it, such as love, work, laughter, friendship you can ask to get rid of loneliness, idleness and/or boredom.
On Sunday 30th October this year, it is the time of Dark Moon. This means that the Moon is not visible. She is hidden by the sun’s rays, and will not appear in the night sky again until Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week, when we will see a tiny silver coronet of Moon in the evening sky. As Dark Moon becomes New Moon, it’s a time for rebirth. So Halloween this year is a perfect time to shed the old and begin a fresh phase.
YOUR NEW YEAR
Instead of feeling depressed and pessimistic (which many people are prone to, at this time of year) promise yourself you will unload unwelcome baggage. The evening of Sunday 30th would be perfect for this ritual, although any time around Halloween weekend will do.
Light a black candle and burn a myrrh or cypress joss-stick if you can – these choices will speak well to your subconscious. However, if black candles are too ‘spooky’ for you, white will do, and any joss stick that makes you feel relaxed and ready for meditation will suffice if you have problems with availability.
You now have four ‘banishing’ choices. If you want to move on spiritually, say from creative blockage or loss of faith, choose Fire. If you are emotionally hurt and feel angry, sad or betrayed choose Water. If you have practical problems to do with money or health choose Earth, and if your problem is a mental one, maybe lack of concentration, obsessive thoughts or over-thinking, choose Air.
FIRE. On white paper with black pen write what you want to be rid of. Use a separate slip of paper for each issue. You can have a maximum of three. Any further matters can be left till later, when changes are starting to manifest for the better in your life
EARTH. Gather stones or leaves on a walk, when you are clear about what you wish to banish. For instance if it’s anger, be aware of this as you walk, and look perhaps for a stone/leaf with a red tinge, or ragged edges, that seems to reflect your feelings. Sadness might be grey or black, loneliness likewise, and so on
AIR. Use strands of wool, choosing a strand for each of the matters you want to banish and plait them together as one strand. If there is only one thing, you can still plait three strands, repeating the same issue
WATER. Place water in a dark earthenware and stir it with a twig you have picked up, naming the emotions you wish to banish
Sit peacefully in front of your candle and hold your paper, stones lengths of wool or water vessel between your palms. Think about what you’re letting go and pour any unpleasant feelings into what you are holding. All of this is going into the past, where it truly belongs.
Place your papers/stones/lengths of wool/water-container in front of the candle and ask whatever deities or angels you believe in to help you. Celebrate with a glass of wine or juice.
Your final task is to dispose of your articles. While the moon is still ‘dark’ burn your papers, bury your stones/leaves, pour your water into a stream or hang your wool on a tree. As the season advances the darkness will claim all your issues and you are free.
Many people believe that this is an American import. However, it echoes much older European themes of hollowing out a root vegetable and placing a candle in the cavity. Some say the pumpkin face is to scare away devils, but another meaning is that life, represented by the candle, continues through winter, protected within dormant seeds.
When you light your pumpkin candle, let this represent the new life that’s on its way for you, when your troubles have vanished.
HOW WE CAN HELP
We’ve looked at the origins of Halloween, how you can use the themes of darkness and ending as an empowering ritual and what the pumpkin lantern truly means. There are so many positive aspects to this time of year. But when you’re struggling with depression or grief, it can be difficult to turn this around. Please don’t worry – whatever the weather is like outside, our warm and compassionate Readers are always at hand to lift and encourage you, so never hesitate to put in a call.
PUBLISHED: 24 October 2016