I play this every year at Samhain. Wendy Rule is an Australian artist who was most popular in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I’m not sure if she’s still performing much these days, but this is a classic.
As I sit here and reflect on Samhain, the sky is a brilliant azure blue, the sun shines high and clear, and the evenings have just started to cool enough to put a heavier blanket on the bed. The weather on The Pagan Fringe of Western Sydney at the end of April doesn’t exactly scream WINTER to me just yet.
With that in mind, how will you celebrate or mark Samhain? Remember, the veil is thinnest at Samhain and Beltane, so take advantage of that if you’re looking to do some magick.
Here are some other suggestions:
Feast of the Dead: Prepare a Samhain feast with fresh local seasonal produce – look out for kumera/sweet potato, it was a good price last week (18/04) Perhaps make a pot of roasted sweet potato soup? Set at an extra place at your table and provide a portion of your food aside (that you don’t eat) to honour your ancestors. Invite them to dine with you. After the meal, leave the food outdoors and if necessary, thoughtfully dispose of in the morning.
Visit a cemetery: Visit the graves or places of remembrance of your loved ones. Leave flowers or an offering. If you don’t have any relatives close by, visiting a cemetery close to Samhain is still a beautiful and peaceful thing to do. This is probably most relevant for me now. I’m at a stage in my life, where sadly, I have lost more of my family than I have left. But as I was reminded during a memorial service for a friend last week, they’re not gone. They’ve just moved on and are still mostly able to be contacted. That’s what we mean when we refer to the veils being ‘thin’. Reach out now if you need to.
Moon watch: Observe the new moon setting in the west. The dark moon was yesterday, quite fitting on ANZAC Day, so look to the Western sky over the next few days approaching sunset and look for the sliver of the moon as it sets. Watch it from now until Sunday and each day reflect on what Samhain means to you.
This looks like an excellent recipe for roasted sweet potato soup. Enjoy!
It’s funny, the ‘dark half’ of the year in Australia isn’t that dark. Sure, the weather cools (a little), however in Sydney at least, it’s not the harshness of a Northern hemisphere Winter. For me, it’s a time of renewal and rest. Sleep is easier to come by, and cooking doesn’t feel like it’s a chore on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Here are a few things I’m looking forward to:
- marking Samhain this year – last year was raw with another recent death and upheaval in our household. This year will be easier and more fitting to honour my family who have passed.
- celebrating Yule with my family and friends with a feast.
- meeting new people at a few of the events we’ve got coming up around the Western Sydney region. There’s a lot happening, and we’re really feeling a renewed sense of energy and interest in what we’re doing. It’s a good feeling and is helping to build a solid little community.
What are you looking forward to this year? What inspires you at this time?
Even if you’re not looking to cook a massive pot of something delicious in the oven, this stove top chai recipe is incredibly satisfying, very tasty and will fill your kitchen with the most delicious scent. Enjoy 🙂
- 2 Teaspoons English breakfast loose tea or x1 teabag
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- 3 Cardamom pods
- 2cm knob of fresh ginger – sliced
- 2 Cloves
- 2 Black peppercorns (whole)
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon of sugar (or more to taste)
- 400mls whole fat milk (dairy milk works best as the sugar will help the recipe to reduce down) You can use almond, soy or other non dairy milk, however the recipe will not reduce to a thick consistency. If using non dairy milk, steep the tea and spices separately for 30-45mins and then add the non dairy milk of choice.
Put English tea into a small saucepan.
Break up the cinnamon stick, bruise the 3 cardamom pods and add to the saucepan along with the 2 cloves, ginger, sugar, pepper and bay leaf. Add the milk.
Boil and reduce down to thick syrup, reducing the liquid by half (being careful not to let the milk catch on the bottom of the saucepan). Strain. If using non dairy milk, you should end up with thick aromatic syrup a similar consistency to condensed milk.
Adapted from this recipe
Are you wondering what Samhain is about, and why we’d want to tour cemeteries and boneyards and hear stories of ghosts of those long departed?
Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-in’) is halfway between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. It’s a Gaelic festival marking the last of the Harvest festivals and leads a quiet time moving toward Winter.
Skull in ancient tomb – Google Image
ANZAC Day – 2014
Scotland – Oban 2013
Samhain is believed to have Celtic pagan origins and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. The Mound of the Hostages, a Neolithicpassage tomb at the Hill of Tara, is aligned with the Samhain sunrise. It is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. As at Beltane, special bonfires were lit. These were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers and there were rituals involving them. Like Beltane, Samhain was seen as a liminaltime, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed.
This meant the Aos Sí, the ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies‘, could more easily come into our world. Most scholars see the Aos Sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. At Samhain, it was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left outside for them. The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. Mumming and guising were part of the festival, and involved people going door-to-door in costume (or in disguise), often reciting verses in exchange for food. The costumes may have been a way of imitating, and disguising oneself from, the Aos Sí. Divination rituals and games were also a big part of the festival and often involved nuts and apples. In the late 19th century, Sir John Rhys and Sir James Frazer suggested that it was the “Celtic New Year”, and this view has been repeated by some other scholars.
In the 9th century AD, Western Christianity shifted the date of All Saints’ Day to 1 November, while 2 November later became All Souls’ Day. Over time, Samhain and All Saints’/All Souls’ merged to create the modern Halloween. Historians have used the name ‘Samhain’ to refer to Gaelic ‘Halloween’ customs up until the 19th century.
Since the later 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Samhain, or something based on it, as a religious holiday. Neopagans in the Southern Hemisphere often celebrate Samhain at the other end of the year (about 1 May).
The experience of Samhain in Australia is quite different than you might expect in England, Ireland, Wales or Scotland. For many, me included, the days leading up to April 30th are just as poignant, specifically ANZAC Day on 25th April.
So what do we do at this time of year in Australia?
- We honour our dead, our long departed ancestors and personally, in our family, we also remember all soldiers who have served, who continue to serve and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
- Personally I attend Dawn Service on ANZAC Day every year.
- On Samhain, depending on my plans, I attend a ritual circle with friends and we host a ritual and afterwards we feast to remember our dead and prepare for Winter.
- This year, I will be visiting a local boneyard on the night when the veil is thin.
If you’re setting up an altar to honour the spirit of Samhain, you might want to consider adding a photo of one your ancestors who has passed, and perhaps lighting a candle for them. Leave food and drink out for them as well. This should not be consumed later on, rather offered to the earth the next morning.