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Take Back Samhain

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October 30, 2011.The night before Samhain, and I was getting into bed: exhausted, restless and ungrounded. Thinking about the next day was stressing me out even further. I realized I was starting to dislike Halloween in the same the way many devout Christians dislike the “holiday season” of Christmas. Yup: Halloween was starting to interfere with my Samhain.

Hallowe’en has always been my favorite holiday. But these days Halloween has become hectic and hyper-commercial. Throughout late October, I was so busy I could barely stop for breath: taking my kids to parties, decorating the house, and preparing my altar. I was also reading Tarot cards at a local haunted house, which meant that I was spending my weekends listening to screaming teenagers and a constant loop of ghastly sound effects. On top of work and family responsibilities, Hallowe’en was getting to be pretty tiring, even before Samhain Eve itself rolled around.

As we got closer to Samhain, and the Veil thinned, I just wanted silence and rest. I wanted to go within, to be home when the sun set, to meditate and take hot baths and go to bed early. I did not want to speak, or to drive, or to attend parties. I did not feel sociable: I wanted the rest, repose and solemnity of Samhaintide.

Hallowe’en was getting in the way. When I longed for rest, I was pushed into frenzied activity. When I wanted to hear the wind in the branches, I got horror movie screams. When I needed an earlier bedtime and more time on the meditation mat, my kids were getting more manic, more disposed to bicker and talk back. Hallowe’en day itself was a blur. I served up a plate for my  at dinner time, but it was nearly 10 pm before I was able to stand in front of my altar and do my solitary Samhain working.

When I finally cast circle, I felt deep peace and I was able to drop my burdens and relax my shoulders. I let go of the busy day, and slowed down to listen to the heart of the Mother and hear the voices of my ancestors. I sank into the embrace of the Mysterious. But it took a long time to let go of my stress, and it took only a short bit of time before the tiredness of body and brain began to erode my focus and attention. I did my work for Samhain, but it was not as deep as it could have been.

The following Saturday, the day of my coven’s Samhain ritual, I took it easy, conserving my strength for that evening’s ritual. It was much deeper than my work on Hallowe’en, and I was much more present and aware. The Samhain “vibe” was still strong despite the date being November 4th.

Is the date October 31 really so special? The ancient Celts who first marked Samhain as a day of power did not have digital watches. Samhain came with the first hard frosts, when it was time to drive the cattle back into their stalls, and start butchering. If Samhain came when the presence of the ancestors was strongest, then last year the night of our coven’s ritual was more like Samhain than the rushed, sleepy work I did on Hallowe’en night. While I do think there is something special about the energy on Halloween, trying to celebrate Samhain on October 31 means I have to struggle against a lot of noise and commotion.

This year, I’m already looking ahead to see how I can set up the last week of October with a greater emphasis on quiet and repose, and much less noise and activity. I’m taking my Samhain back from Halloween.

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Leni Hester is a Witch and writer from Denver, Colorado. Her work appears in the Immanion anthologies "Pop Culture Grimoire," "Women's Voices in Magick" and "Manifesting Prosperity". She is a frequent contributor to Witches and Pagans and Sagewoman Magazines.

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