A YEAR ENDS, A YEAR BEGINS
OUR JOURNEY BEGINS ON OCTOBER 31 with Samhain, the witch’s New Year and the midpoint between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. The word samhain is Irish, meaning “summer’s end.” Samhain represents the third and final harvest of the year, where the remaining produce is stored to provide nourishment during the coming winter. In addition to the storing of winter provisions, Samhain had agricultural significance in other ways. In Ireland, it was the day on which pigs were killed and when cattle were moved from the mountains into protected pastures for the winter.
The identification of Samhain with the beginning of the New Year comes from the Celtic tradition of each day beginning at sundown. Just as each sabbat festival begins on the eve of the celebrated day, so too does the year begin with the advent of winter. In addition to archaeology , early Irish accounts suggest that Samhain was also a festival when alcoholic beverages were consumed. Several great legends that include references to intoxication are all said to have occurred on Samhain. Among them are the Féis Temro inauguration of kings and the Adventure of Nera. Remnants of wine-or ale-making equipment have been unearthed, but curiously, no accompanying storage vessels like those often found in Greece. This suggests that the harvest grain was fermented and then consumed throughout the Samhain season.
On Samhain night, it is believed that the dead walk and that faeries cavort, causing both magic and mayhem. In Ireland, a great bonfire was lit on the hill of Tlachtga, which was the funeral site for the progeny of Partholón , one of the first divinities of the land. Samhain is the time of the Cailleach, the crone who rules the winter season. Offerings and sacrifices were made in her honor.
Provenance Press’s Guide To The Wiccan Year: A Year Round Guide to Spells, Rituals, and Holiday Celebrations Judy Ann Nock