I’ve been reflecting upon Samhain.
Australian Festivals: A Quick Reference Guide
It can be difficult in Australia to find resources that address the Southern Hemisphere or Australia. Here are some starting resources that I myself have:
Secondly, instead of the traditional dates, I also observe what my friend Dr Glenys Livingstone calls “the Cosmic Moments”.
I recommend checking out some of the blog posts written by Glenys too.
Samhain Sacred Moment
The actual Moment for Samhain will be today, May 5th 22:25 EST Australia.
All global times are available at archaeoastronomy.com.
Most commonly, that is translated in the Southern Hemisphere to April 30th/May 01st.
In the Northern Hemisphere, they are in their Bealtaine Moment in late Spring. The way the Sacred Moments are connected between the Hemispheres is, in my view, Sacred Balance. Bealtaine is inherent in my Samhain observations and vice versa.
Melbourne / Naarm traditional season.
Thirdly, Naarm has 6 or 7 seasons. Samhain falls in Wombat Season.
Early Winter, April & May.
All sorts of fungi appeared with the rains, while the ground was still warm. BUNJIL, the Eagle, was building his nest, and the Brush-tail and Ringtail Possums were mating. Bolin Bolin billabong started to fill. Many different moths emerged, and were food for birds during the day and for Sugar and Feathertail gliders at night. Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Wallabies fed on the new growth.SEASONAL CALENDARS FOR THE MELBOURNE AREA
Compiled by Dr. Beth Gott of the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University.
Coincidentally, this year, May 01st was a New Moon.
Depending upon how you calculate, Samhain Eve was therefore a Dark Moon.
So tonight, if the sky is clear, a small crescent will be visible.
The First Quarter Moon will be on May 09th.
Observing the Phases of the Moon is part of my devotional practice. I find this practice helps keep me grounded and open to appreciating beauty and moments of awe and wonder. It also helps me move through particularly unpleasant times in my life.
Brief overview/backstory of Samhain for me
In summary, I consider myself a solitary devotional polytheist. My religious practice has changed and evolved over 45 years since I was first introduced to religious studies.
Samhain for me starts with ANZAC Day.
One of the primary themes of Samhain for me is that of Ancestor veneration/honouring.
In Australia, ANZAC Day is very much about honouring our Ancestors. My family has an extensive military history, and I have many Beloveds who have served in the military here or overseas. It’s also got an interesting history of protest which I started to read about this year.
April and May also have some anniversaries of significant deaths in my life.
In the past, I’ve also had tattoos honouring my Beloved Dead done at Samhain.
Reflections 2020 & 2021
Samhain last year (2021)
Last year, I was completely absorbed in dealing with a recent breast cancer diagnosis, medical appointments, and trying to get organised to move house.
I was so unwell, and I was struggling to manage my pain. There are no journal articles to reflect upon from Samhain 2021. According to memory, I lit some candles on my shrine and maybe just did some breathing mediation, requesting strength, grace, and fortitude from my Ancestors, my Beloved Dead, and the Mysterious Ones.
My religious practice grounds me, my devotional work is a constant, and I have leant into that over the past year. There’s a lot to indicate that religious faith is a significant resilience factor.
In 2020 we were in our first lockdown in Melbourne. It was a very different season that year. There was so much fear and anger and uncertainty.
The theme of lockdowns has continued to play a significant part in my cancer experience. In some ways, it mimics the idea of a retreat, and that has always been connected to Samhain for me. In the past, I have often done all-night vigils or performed an offering of silence for Samhain.
I find myself this year contemplating death more deeply, now that I have had a more personal experience of it. Ironically, not through the cancers so much, as through the experience of chemotherapy. My cells were chemically immolated in a firey sacrifice to save my life. Phoenix imagery has been *super* important over the last year.
I am reviewing my sacrifices and the changes in my life. In some ways, given how radically chemotherapy impacted my ability to function, it felt like death. Consequently, I am currently relearning how to operate independently. It’s a regeneration.
Bealtaine last year was the end of my chemotherapy. As such, it was full of the echoes of Samhain for me. I felt like a revenant, haunting my house (complete with groaning, moaning, being as white as a ghost and rattling of tablets).
This Samhain, I feel the hints of Bealtaine in my world. Or perhaps The Quickening.
It feels like change and transformation.
Last year, at Samhain, I was so focussed on life because I was carrying death in my breasts. This year, it’s lighter. I have, however, learnt a lot about death. Samhain feels more intimate than it ever has before.
Observations, prayer, ritual
There is one consistent prayer I have used at Samhain since I first read it in 2017.
There are always candles. The only time I don’t use candles or fire or burn incense is from either the Spring Equinox or Bealtaine (depending upon how early the bushfires start) through until Harvest Festival or Autumn Equinox (again, depending upon fire season). I remember my Beloved Dead.
My Mourning Beads have broken, and I’m giving thought to restring them as Ancestral Prayer Beads. That time is not now – I feel like I need to be a little more robust myself before I can attend to that task. Here’s hoping for Winter Solstice!
Ancestors book list
- Honoring the Ancestors: A Basic Guide by Galina Krasskova
- Communing with the Ancestors by Raven Grimassi
- The Pagan Book of Living and Dying
Galina writes a lot about Ancestor work and it’s rich, confronting, and rigorous. Raven is someone I would now regard as one of the Mighty Dead.
As an aside, I would think that Christopher Penczak’s book The Mighty Dead would be well worth the read, but I haven’t got my paws on it yet. If you have read it, drop me a line in the comments about your thoughts on it.
For that matter – if you have any book recommendations or blog posts that you think I might enjoy – feel free to pop them in the comments.
My other blog posts about Samhain / Bealtaine
- Samhain / Beltaine 2019
- Creativity of Beltaine Moment (2018)
- Beltaine / Samhain (2018)
- Approaching Beltaine (2018)
My Blog posts about ANZAC Day
Other blog posts about Samhain: a deeper dive
- Why Samhain is not the “New Year”
- Samhain Ritual for the Mighty Dead
- Adrian Bott on Twitter: why the veil isn’t any thinner at Samhain
- Samhain: The Last Harvest
- Five Prayers for Ancestors Most People Don’t Think About at Samhain
- Samhain Is My Fertility Festival
- Pruning Your Roots, or, Coping with Samhain When Your Ancestors Suck
- When the Samhain Bell Tolls for You
- 9 Actual Samhain Customs You Can Do
- Samhain Past: History, Myth, & Mystery
- Origin Of The Veil Between The World
- Ancestral Prayer Beads
- Hela Prayer Beads
- Death Prayer Beads
- Samhain, Ancestors, and Descendants