(pronounced "Sow-wen") falls on 31st October. The Celts and the
Anglo-Saxons (who named this sabbat Hallowe'en) considered it to
be an important festival marking the beginning of the year. The
year was strongly divided into two halves - Summer and Winter.
The beginning of Winter was marked by Samhain. This led to a
time of hardship and cold, hunger and indoor activity. It is the
time in which the Earth sleeps and growth slows. It can also be
seen as Nature's period of gestation before its rebirth in the
We can recognize our own response to the Earth's energies at
this time - we too become more introverted, we want to hide away
from the cold and rain. This is a period of reflection, of
drawing in and looking deep within ourselves at who we are.
Samhain was, and still is, also a festival of the dead. Great
bonfires were lit and flaming torches were carried into the
fields to impregnate the Earth with the seed of the dying Sun,
so that after a long gestation, the new growth would burst forth
again in the Spring. Animals, such as cattle, would be driven
through the flames and people leapt over the fires, giving
themselves the life-force and fertility from the flames.
The people of old England had a belief system very different
from the predominantly Christian teachings of today. Their
belief in a Lowerworld, Hel, was demonized by Christian
missionaries as a bad realm, Hell, but in reality there was
little comparison between the two concepts.
The Celts believed that this spirit world was very close to the
everyday world of the living and that particular places or times
provided connections to the spirit realm - both enticing and
threatening. Rivers, crossroads, ridges of high hills and even
land boundaries were all considered to be doorways to the
Lowerworld. The Otherworld was also thought to be very near
during any shift of consciousness - light shift at dawn and
dusk, the change between the waxing and waning Moon, the Summer
and Winter festivals and the beginning and ending points of
thunderstorms. At all of these places and points in time, the
Otherworld must be guarded against - unless one was seeking an
intentional journey into those realms.
Samhain (Hallowe'en) was considered to be a night when the
doorway between the worlds was open to all who sought it and it
was a time of celebration of the unity between the spirit world
and our own physical plane.