The Love of Thousands: Seeking the Ancestors at Samhain

The pagan year ends on Oct. 31 at Samhain (pronounced sow-ehn). Samhain is the old Celtic name for this holiday and the one we continue to use today. As a belief system connected to an agrarian calendar, our year reflects natural cycles. All around us, the trees are in the middle of their annual transition to their winter sleep. Here in Western Maryland, gardeners are putting their gardens to bed, planting winter cover crops and enjoying the last harvests of hardier fruits and veggies. Many of us are making the most of these last fine days — spending time outdoors, taking in the fall colors, visiting pumpkin patches and enjoying other festive autumnal activities. We know that we’ll be spending more time indoors soon, and that the days will continue to grow shorter as the year wanes.

In the winding down of the growing season, pagans see an allegory for the human life cycle as well. This means that for us, this time of year includes more connection with our ancestors. It’s amazing to contemplate what our ancestors survived in order for us to be here: terrible wars, plagues, famines, ice ages, dangerous travel to unknown new lands and intense challenges in terms of keeping their families fed and sheltered. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants. Many pagans believe that ancestors remain with us in more than our DNA. We are the hope of our ancestors made manifest, their hands still helping to shape our world and their love alive and vibrant in a new form. By connecting with our ancestors, we can gain wisdom, support and assistance from those who love us and know us even if we do not know their specific names. Continue reading…

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