This blogpost series is called Holidays and Holy Days to inform our OSU community about significant religious or spiritual observances.  If you know of a significant holiday or holy day coming up, please communicate the information to Hannah Pynn hannah.pynn@oregonstate.edu in the Dean of Student Life office.

This week celebrates the holiday of Samhain.

Happy Samhain!

Context

The Gaelic festival Samhain (also called Samhuinn or Sauin) marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, historically marking the New Year meaning “summer’s end.”  Samhain is traditionally celebrated by Irish, Scottish, Manx, Celtic neopagans, and Wiccans as one of the four main festivals of the Gaelic calendar.  For the Northern Hemisphere, Samhain is celebrated between sunset 31 October through sunset 1 November.  

The end of the harvest also brings opportunity for Samhain to be a time for honoring ancestors, acknowledging the natural cycle of life and death.

Significance

Halloween, All Saints’ Day, All Soul’s Day, All Hallows Eve, and Day of the Dead are traditions that hold similar practices and traditions of Samhain, acknowledging the gravity of life and death and remembering loved ones.  Samhain marks the dividing time of the light season and the dark season.  Wiccans believe that this transition of seasons also symbolizes the yearly observance of the death of a god, later to be reborn.

Rituals/Traditions

  1. Taking stock of food supplies for the beginning of winter
  2. Sacred fires lit as symbols of purification and as a gathering place to bring the community together, and for wishes to be cast into the fire
  3. Wearing costumes or masks (‘guising’) worn to ward-off or represent harmful spirits and fairies
  4. Playing pranks as an imitation of malignant spirits
  5. Divination through sharing seasonal foods such as apples, nuts, or eggs
  6. Celebrating the lives of those who have died

The ancient celebrations of Samhain throughout the world have influenced each other and been influenced by other belief systems, combining many traditions and celebrations. Samhain is a time of reflection, feasts, observance, remembering, and transition.

Blessed Samhain!

Additional resources:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/hallo_sa.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wes-isley/between-scary-or-silly-a-_b_777493.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/grove-harris/halloween-samhain-sacred-secular_b_776008.html

http://www.chalicecentre.net/samhain.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain

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