What To Know About Samhain – An Invitation into wisdom

October 31, 2023

by Hagar Harpak

Weave life, death, and what you know about Samhain into the wisdom of who you are becoming.

There’s a lot to know about Samhain, and a lot to learn about ourselves as we stand at the crossroad of this season, in the space between life and death, at the threshold of death and rebirth. It’s an invitation into wisdom.

Samhain arrives when the leaves have turned, and the colors of sunset bedeck the branches for one final scene before they drop into their death. The winds dance with the urge to swirl around twisted trunks and branches and send leaves and pods down into the underworld. Seeds and pits wait softly within fruit, patiently letting birds, worms, insects, and time reveal their secret. The earth embraces her children, receiving them back into her, inviting them to be swallowed slowly, to nourish the roots, to become soil, and to hide within her until the sun calls for rebirth.

Samhain – pronounced Sa-win – is a high holiday on the Pagan Wheel Of The Year that celebrates mid-Fall, and the transition into the darkest days of the year. It is the third and final harvest festival, gathering that which has dropped to the ground, and making the last preparations for the cold Winter. 

For the Celtic people, Samhain was the end of the year, and the beginning of the new one. Decay marked the way into the tomb as the womb. 

It is said that during this time of year, the veil between the worlds is thin, and the spirits of the dead are near. Something about less daylight and longer nights, the natural world’s striptease, and the transformation of trees, awakened in humanity the recognition of death’s closeness. 

It is the season of the witch, and she is said to stand by her cauldron in her hag form, stirring the brew of death and regeneration as the spirits of those who have passed are said to move through it into rebirth.

Along with the spirits of the dead, it is said that other spirits are present and may make themselves known during this liminal time. Fairies, goblins, and elves cross the thin veil to make mischief, as the land transforms into a graveyard. Magic devours the mundane perspective, and opens up the portal into the darkness of both the underworld and the unconscious, the land of dreams, the realms of imagination, and the creative pulse that hides within the season of dissolution. 

Both Halloween and Day Of The Dead have their origin in Samhain. The sacred space around death is filled with marigolds, and the face of death is bejeweled on Day Of The Dead. (Slutty) demons, devils, witches, and zombies fill the streets on Halloween, offering a glimpse into the wildness of our nature, and the human need to grapple with fear, with what the church has exiled and proclaimed evil, with the shadow, and with death itself. 

This is a tender time when one can look into the thinning veil and find guidance for deep inner work, as well as work needed in the collective. 

If there is something that Samhain isn’t, it’s an over simplistic view on life. This holiday holds the complexity of the world. It invites us into a love affair with death and decay. It reminds us that no light exists without shadow, and demands that we integrate the pieces that we demonize. It sends us to the underworld, where we must surrender the pieces we cling to, and renew the ways that we relate and connect. It calls us to empower ourselves and one another through impermanence, asking us to keep shifting our perspective around the circle of life and death, and not get stuck in one position. 

There are many ways to create a sacred space for this moment, for this phase in the season, for this portal. You can make an altar for your ancestors with pictures and flowers. You can leave food offerings for the ancestors on the threshold to your home (this is where the tradition of Trick Or Treat came from). You can go on a plant medicine journey. You can go out into the woods and commune with the spirits of the trees. 

If you want a deep dive into mythology and symbols, archetypes and deities, and a poetic exploration of the magic of the season, as well as ritual practices that weave the stories into the body through breathwork, mudra, mantra, meditation, and asana, join us for the Samhain Somatic Ceremony

The Samhain Somatic Ceremony is like a mini-course. It’s a deep dive into yourself and into the world. It’s filled with opportunities to think widely, to feel wildly, and to explore the complex tapestry of life and death through a mythopoetic lens, as you bring the teachings into the body, and weave your own wisdom. 

Along with an in depth storytelling video session, as well as six video sessions of ceremonial practices, you’ll also get prompts (for journaling or for conversation starters) that will help you bring the power of Samhain into your life as you contemplate the personal and the collective and weave the teachings into your own experience. 

I wanted to offer you a taste of a few journal prompts from the Samhain Somatic Ceremony (there are many more waiting for you if you sign up). These specific ones might help weave this ancient holiday into the way that we relate to current events in our world, weave the metaphors and stories into our own modern myths, and create a deeper, broader, less stuck, more nuanced fabric of perspective.

Journal Prompts from the Samhain Somatic Ceremony :

Prompts for liminal space and time: 

  • What thresholds are you standing in right now?
  • What are some of the decisions you need to make in your life?
  • What’s shifting in you?
  • What is stuck in you, in your life, in the world?
  • How do your personal portals relate to some of the collective portals that you see in the world?
  • What have you been learning through moments of transition this year?
  • What messages are you receiving from “other worlds,” from your dead loved ones, from your unconscious, from imagination, from dreams?
  • Liminal space is in between the binaries, and beyond the binaries… Where do you see yourself over simplifying things? Where do you recognize over simplistic, either/or perspectives in the world around you? 
  • How can you bring yourself into the wisdom of the liminal? Can you look deeper into the spaces you fill with right/wrong, either/or, black/white? What is underneath and within the binaries? 
  • What bigger, broader, deeper truths are being revealed as you allow the complexity and the nuance of the liminal space speak to you?
  • What are you ushering into death?
  • What are you birthing, or midwifing?

If these prompts get you going and you want more, sign up for the Samhain Somatic Ceremony. Bring your contemplation into your body, bring the conversation into the world, weave body and story and symbol, weave ancestors and archetypes and voice. This is an in depth experience. 

If going deep is not where you need to go right now, don’t sign up. If you’re not ready to question your own beliefs and perspectives, this is probably not for you. If you’re not excited about poking at your own comfort and dying a little, this is not gonna be your thing. And that’s totally valid. This ceremony is not for everyone. Nothing is for everyone, and that’s part of the beauty of the world.

But if you’re into a magical ride on your broomstick through a dark night, knowing that other witches are flying around you, while wolves howl beneath you, and your black cat hisses at the status quo, and if diving head first into the underworld to have a little chat with dark goddesses sounds like your gem, SIGN UP NOW

Have a gorgeous Samhain whatever you end up doing. Trick Or Treating with your kids, putting on your sexy pumpkin costume and hitting the dance floor, writing poetry about your own death, watching The Witches Of Eastwick, or doing mushrooms in the desert. I wish you a wonderful time, whatever you choose to do. 

So much love,

Hagar

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