WOTY Week 3 Homework: Samhain Essay
The wheel of the year isn’t really celebrated as such in Hellenic cultures. The temperate climate in which Greece resides is pretty much a direct opposite from it. They plant during the fall, harvest during the spring with summer as the fallow time. This opposition to where I live is part of the reason why I’ve always had a hard time following Greek festivals. They have so little meaning for me. However, a number of years ago, I traced out the festivals of Demeter to the appropriate points on the wheel of the year. It works fairly well even though it differs in timing from the ancients.
All Hallow’s Eve (aka Halloween) is the day when Kore approaches the Gates to the Underworld which have been standing wide since Equinox in Haides’ eager anticipation of her return. This opening of the gates has also allowed the ancestors to roam. At midnight the gates close behind Persephone. Before then, I believe there is a version of the Wild Hunt that rounds them up though I’m not sure who leads it. Could be Hermes, Hekate, Haides or all three. While I realize there is no attestation to this in the Greek myths, my belief system is not a stagnate religion but one that grows and changes, hence my joining ADF.
Kore’s leaving takes my desire to be outside with her. I can get every bit as moody as I image Haides to be when she is gone from his realm. November seems like a dismal month so I tend to focus on family and making gifts for the upcoming return of the sun and associated celebrations. Despite all this I enjoy the lead up to Halloween: the decorations, the costumes, and the general sense of manic fun. My son and I decorate our house to the nine’s with a mixture of homemade and bought decorations. We concentrate upon decorated skulls, skeletons and ghosts to represent the ancestors and witches to represent those that never forgot the old ways. It is something we look forward to after the leaves fall from the trees which occurs here usually in the second half of September.
For me this time of year is all about the ancestors and saying good bye to the joys of summer and warm days. I do two different rituals. The first ritual is done before midnight on Halloween. Before the gate closes. For that I write letters to the ancestors on “hell money” which are placed in a paper “sugar” skull and burned after my Halloween ritual. As my son gains in writing ability, I hope to encourage him to do the same.
All Hallow’s Day (aka Samhain) is the day I honor Persephone’s return to the Underworld and her reuniting with her beloved husband. While it is sad for us mortals, as her leaving brings on Demeter’s period of mourning, I imagine it is a time of rejoicing in the Underworld for Persephone brings the joys and adventures of the world above with her. The ritual for this day honors both Persephone and Haides. It is the start of the season of internal works and the season of being indoors more often than out. So while I celebrate this differently than the ancient Greeks, I think I do it in a manner that would meet their approval.