This year's Samhain Ritual will follow a day of meditation on the nature of darkness, ancestral magick, and connecting with our beloved dead. It features three Goddesses: Gaia, Lilith, and Hekate, and their sacred animals, chosen for this ritual: the Snake, the Bat, and the Owl.
You will learn more about all three of these creatures, and the reasons why they were chosen to work with us at the Grove Samhain Ritual and Retreat October 28th at Heron (H) Pavilion in Quiet Waters Park.
But what are some of the other beings, both physical and magickal, that we associate with Samhain?
Many Americans and readers know him better as the "Headless Horseman" - and it is likely that Washington Irving took inspiration for his fearsome "Headless Horseman" who pursued Ichabod Crane in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow from this Irish fae.
The Dullahan carries his head in his arms and can raise it high above his severed neck to see his victims from afar. He also carries a whip made out of a human spine and wears long, flowing black robes. If you catch sight of him, however, be warned. If you are lucky, you will be splattered with blood, or blinded in one eye. If you are unlucky, he will call you by name, and take your life.
The Dullahan obscure origin, although one version of the tale says that he is the fertility god known Crom Dubh, who used to be given human sacrifices in ancient times. When that practice ended, he began to mount his black horse and ride about on All Hallows Eve, and wherever he stops and calls out someone's name, they die. Other times he is described as traveling in a black wagon drawn by six black horses. Either way, the Dullahan is so fast his steed or steeds set fire to the hedges as he rides through the night.
The only way to escape him is with gold. According to legend, a man met him one night and fled. The Dullahan gave chase, but when the traveler dropped a gold coin onto the road, the Dullahan vanished.
Black cats have a long, well-earned reputation as Witch's Familiars, and this has given them a place of honor as Samhain approaches. Unfortunately, since not everyone understands, it can also be a nervous time for black cat parents, who hear stories about black cats being attacked on Halloween for that exact reason. As anyone who has loved and been loved by a black cat knows, however, their reputation for evil is greatly exaggerated.
Cat worship stretches all the way back to Ancient Egypt, but it was not solely Egyptian deities and magic which became linked with cats. The Western cat and magick tradition comes to us from the Druids, who saw cats as divine beings capable of seeing into the otherworld. Their powerful night vision, combined with black fur symbolic of sacred darkness, made black cats an ideal companion for Samhain rituals and preparations. And anyone who has seen a cat staring intently at a seemingly empty corner knows how well they can spot spirits passing by - a valuable trait as the veil things at Samhain and the dead pass close by the living.
Children throwing a sheet over their head and shouting "Boo!" might be one of the most iconic Halloween stock moments, and it has influenced our ideas of ghosts powerfully and subtly over the generations.
Ghosts, ghost stories, Samhain - what could be a more perfect combination? Yet the idea of ghosts being automatically scary is something relatively new - to our pagan ancestors, the dead who crossed the veil at this time of year were friends and family members who had passed away, and would leave out offerings of food and drink to sustain them on their way. While yes, some spirits which wander the world as the veil thins can be dangerous, with the right preparation and mindset there is nothing to fear.
One tradition, which Abelina's Grove honors every Samhain, is the Silent Supper. This is a ritualized meal which is taken in complete silence from beginning to end. Instead of speaking, you focus your mind and your heart on the beloved dead with whom you share that meal. It can be an incredibly powerful and moving experience for everyone involved, especially when you feel your loved ones close by but just beyond the veil.
If you would like to participate in a Silent Supper and learn more about connecting with your ancestors this Samhain, join us at our Samhain Retreat in Quiet Waters Park on October 28th starting at 11am and going until 7pm.