SUMMER’S END — SAMHAIN is an ancient “fire festival” of the Celts, Druids and Elves, observed on the evening of October 31st into the dawn of November. This festival was Christianized as “All Hallow Eve” and modernized to the familiar Halloween (All Hallow’s Evening).
(explains Joshua Free, in ARCANUM)
SAMHAIN, pronounced “sow-en,” literally marks “summer’s end,” just as BELTANE marks summer’s beginning in the most basic two-fold division of the wheel of the year – spiritually, the “light” and “dark” side of the year (although astronomically it is the solstices that are these annual turning points. SAMHAIN is considered a winter festival and marks the end of the harvest season. As a result, SAMHAIN shares the mystical (though not the astronomical) significance of the winter solstice celebration.
Recognition of the retreat of life on Earth, ancient pagans contemplated death during this time of year, especially regarding agricultural and animal food-sources, dining with ancestral spirits and family spirit guides.The annual sine wave of the veil of the Gate to the Outside is zeroed, just as at BELTANE, but during the SAMHAIN threshold, the portal is accessible from the Otherworld or Spirit Realm.
On SAMHAIN, spirits are thought to return to our world at will, manifesting for a single night. In consciousness, the SAMHAIN or modern HALLOWEEN festival became known as a time of necromancy, spiritism and death magic.
Needfire bonfires were constructed, called “Samhnagan” by the Celtic-Druids. Unlike other fire festivals, each family or household was expected to construct their own memorial bonfire, which always resulted in competitions to build the largest one.
HALLOWEEN customs of costume wearing, fruit carving (into skulls), bobbing for apples, the emphasis on the Spirit Realm and the variegated theme of witchcraft and sorcery are all reminiscent of the ancient European (Celtic Druid) SAMHAIN festival. The early Celtic Christian Church made it easy for converts to continue these spiritual observations by setting the dates of “All Soul’s Night” and “All Soul’s Day” (celebrations for discarnate entities, ancestors and saint guides) to coincide with the SAMHAIN festival.
One form of necromantic metaphysics was explored in the third edition Sorcerer’s Handbook of Merlyn Stone (1998). Doing so raised so much controversy that the materials were not reprinted in future editions of the Handbook or in Merlyn’s Magick (2005). This is rectified in the “13th Anniversary Edition” from the Mardukite Truth Seeker Press of the Sorcerer’s Handbook
These teachings relate to a niche established by Leilah Wendell and her interpretation of the “Azrael Tradition.” This archangelic energy current, related to the “Angel of Death” or “Grim Reaper,” possesses both alchemical and loving (passion) characteristics, according to Wendell, who has experienced intimate encounters with Azrael as consort (“incarnate lover.”) For her, necromancy is a means of understanding and connecting with death and learning how to embrace, not fear, this very natural energy.
PRACTICAL NECROMANTIC MAGIC allows the magician to develop a deep connection with universal “death energy.” This energetic vibration is found at funerals and wakes, in mortuaries and crematoriums – and naturally, at graveyards. Leilah Wendell recommends a “Death Watch,” spending a night alone in an “inhabited” crypt or mausoleum. Any workings of such a nature are, without permission, illegal. Be discreet and respectful if you plan to undertake such. Another more basic option is to simply spend a night “sleeping” in an open graveyard – an activity that will increase sensitivity to “spirits” and “death.“
SAMHAIN IN IRISH HISTORY & MYTHOLOGY
Irish mythology tells us that SAMHAIN was one of the four seasonal festivals of the year. The 10th-century tale Tochmarc Emire (‘The Wooing of Emer’) lists SAMHAIN as the first of these four “quarter days“.
In the tale Serglige Con Culainn (‘Cúchulainn’s Sickbed’), it is said that the festival of the Ulaid at SAMHAIN lasted a week: SAMHAIN itself, and the three days before and after. They would gather on the Plain of Muirthemni where there would be meetings, games, and feasting. The tales suggest that alcohol was part of the feast, and it is noteworthy that every tale that features drunkenness is said to take place at SAMHAIN.
According to Irish mythology, SAMHAIN (like BELTANE) was a time when the ‘doorways’ to the Otherworld opened, allowing supernatural beings and the souls of the dead to come into our world; but while BELTANE was a summer festival for the living, SAMHAIN “was essentially a festival for the dead“.
The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn says that the sídhe (fairy mounds or portals to the Otherworld) “were always open at SAMHAIN“. In that tale, Aillen emerges from the Otherworld each SAMHAIN and burns Tara after lulling everyone to sleep. One SAMHAIN, the young Fionn Mac Cumhaill is able to stay awake and slays Aillen, and is made leader of the Fianna.