One of my favourite festivals.
Welcoming the dead, honouring the ancestors, bonfires, pumpkin carving, spooky music, meditation, divination, offerings to the dead; it is a wonderful festival.
I particularly like this festival because it removes some of the taboo and fear around the dead. In a society that likes to keep it's distance from death, Samhain brings home that death is simply a part of life. With my son, I mix the commercial fun elements of Halloween with the spiritual of Samhain.
This year I helped my lad make his own costume. Part traditional Yorkshire thriftiness, part dislike of commercial costumes and part a enthusiasm for making and "upcycling".
He decided he'd like to be Herne the Hunter, who according to pagan legend rides again on Samhain, leading the hunt. He is often linked to Cerrunos and Pan; although Herne is a spirit not a god; his association with hunting and forests though means he is often lumped in the same category. Herne has another association, which made me choke back laughter on the mental images I had when my boy suggested dressing up as Herne. Most statues of Herne feature an enormous phallus; he is considered to be a potent fertility and sex symbol.
I curbed my sense of mischief, and maneouvered my boy towards a "Green Man" type representation of Herne. Oh my goodness, what a success, he loved making the mask, he was thrilled by the reaction of his friends to his costume and he was enthralled by the story of Herne and King Richard.
Later he designed a face for his pumpkin, then we took it downstairs and he carved it alongside the other children carving theirs. Then it was time for him to go trick or treating, and for me to go and sit by the bonfire outside, and stare into the flames, drink cider, eat cake and roasted chestnuts while the now lit pumpkins kept evil spirits at bay.
Eventually the children returned laden with sweets. Some were ritually burned, (they really did come back with a LOT!), they played in the dark, and we stayed by the fire.
Near midnight, the flames had died away until there were only the dancing embers. We watched them for a while before ambling upstairs. My boy had brought his pumpkin back up and relit it in front of the season table, including all the other candles. He was awed.
Soon afterwards, I sent him to bed, spent some time with my passed family and then off to bed I went myself.
A truly magical Samhain.