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  • Claire Burgess

Samhain: A Lineage of Spirit

Evening of October 31, 2019, to evening of November 1, 2019


All Hallows Eve, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of the Dead, Halloween. Today has many different names in many different traditions, but they all have something essential in common. Today, we honor the cycle. Today, we embrace the dark. Today, we celebrate the dead.


I revere today as Samhain (pronounced sow-in), the ancient Celtic festival marking the end of the year, the time when the veil between worlds is thinnest. Falling halfway between the fall equinox and the winter solstice, tonight is the gateway into the darkest part of the year. The last fruits fall from trees; the leaves mat thickly on the ground, beginning their compost; each morning the air is cooler. This is the dying time, friends. The earth has laid bare its final offerings and now prepares for dormancy, the temporary death of winter. The cycle finished, for now.


So today is a sort of threshold. A threshold into the womb-like dark that will hold us, gestating, till spring. A threshold to the other side. A threshold between cycles. If we choose to honor it as such, we can meet that threshold with intention. We can choose to partner with the changing seasons. Like the trees shed their leaves, we can shed what we no longer need. As the squirrels hoard their nuts, we can make plans for what’s to come. Like the ancient Celtic farmers, we can take stock of the year’s harvest and light our figurative bonfires in thanks.


With the life-death cycle so visible outside our windows, with the veil so permeable, we can also meet this night to commune with our loved ones on the other side. We can put out a photo, an object of significance, an offering of wine or sweets or cigarettes or flowers, and light a candle in remembrance. We can also do ancestral work on healing traumas passed down through generations, on shifting inherited patterns, on breaking free of familial cycles perpetuated across time. For this, I offer my Ancestor Altar Spread.


Our ancestors don't have to be blood relatives, either. They can be anyone who has come before us on our paths, the forebears of our experience. Tonight, we can hold space for queer ancestors, cultural ancestors, trans ancestors, indigenous ancestors, feminist ancestors, witch ancestors. Whoever you’ve descended from, talk to them tonight. We are bonded together by things stronger than blood, my friends, things stronger than flesh and time. We are all part of a lineage of spirit.


Blessed Samhain, friends!