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The Power of Samhain

The Power of Samhain

roma heathen practice solstice new year samhain ancestors veil bell

I’m just going to jump into it. My grandfather passed away very recently. It wasn’t unexpected, he was very old, his health wasn’t the best. It wasn’t surprising, but even knowing it was slowly coming, it still stung.

His last words to me, in a phone call we had a minute back, “You’re good people. I’m really glad you’re happy.” We were never as close as I am to my Farmor (Swedish for father’s mother) in fact, I don’t recall ever having that much depth to our interactions. I liked my grandpa, I liked talking to him. But he always came off as rough around the edges when he spoke. I knew he cared, but he wasn’t actively there like my Farmor.

A few months ago, I had received an email from my uncle suggesting I call my grandfather, who at the time was in a home. I was surprised and a bit taken back. My grandfather and I were not exactly seeking out conversation with each other at that point, or had in the past. He would press that I rebuild bridges to my toxic folks. Looking back, I see that as him wanting to leave some peace behind before he left. But because I would never budge, the conversations would always drift off into nothing. So when I called, I was very surprised to hear how happy and pleased he was that I had reached out. We would talk about the kids, my studio, the baby (who I was pregnant with at the time). Sometimes he would bring up my parents, but he would let it go quickly. It was a good start, and soon after I tried my best to call as often as I could. Even if it wasn’t a long conversation, they were all enjoyable. His memory was in and out, so sometimes I was the teenage granddaughter calling. Sometimes I was the present adult self. Whatever the case, it was always pleasant and supportive. Through all those conversations there was a really strong theme of my grandfather just wanting me to be happy.

Samhain is a very important part of the year for my household. I’ve been spending a lot of time excitedly trying to piece together what I wanted to write for this article. I wanted to talk about how this holiday was our new year. How maybe I can just trick the world into accepting it as the new year, as well. And then we can all politely ignore the rest of 2020. I wanted to write about the month long projects the kids and I do to prepare for the thinning veil. Our traditional bell braiding bracelet day (we would normally share with a large group of our friends, but alas, Covid)…and how the children and I will spend the 31st-2nd wearing our bracelets; making our house sound like there are loose reindeer about. Now that my grandfather has passed on, I wanted to focus writing about the ancestral part of the coming solstice.

We believe that on the 31st all the spirits, ancestors, and creatures that go bump in the night pass over through the veil. It’s a time where I remind the children to keep their protective bells on, and to mind their own business. We do the yearly trick or treating. The dressing up. We let the kids eat their candy until their stomachs hurt. But I tell them it isn’t the time they try to run off into the woods for an adventure.

By the morning of the first, most of the spirits and creatures will have returned, leaving just the ancestors here. We bury apples and other treats in the yard to help them on their journey. We leave a lantern lit through all three days, so as to help them find their way to us (last year I found a battery operated lantern. Genius and fire risk free!) We do our card readings and send our wishes to the visiting relatives.

Last year was really significant and heavy felt for us. Having lost a baby at six months pregnant earlier in the year, we all felt the significance of the coming Samhain. What I didn’t expect was just how much comfort and healing our traditions gave us. I saw a difference in the way the children talked about their brother after Samhain had passed. They confided that they felt more connected, more reassured that their brother was not alone, and with our other ancestors. They suddenly felt less guilty about the excitement they had for the coming baby, because now they knew that their brother knew, he was not forgotten. We each, in our own way, realized how that link was not severed by death.

Now with the passing of their great grandfather, I’m so grateful that Samhain is so close by. I’ve always appreciated our traditions, but now I have an understanding of the importance of them to us on a deeper emotional lever. As a mother, it’s so hard to see your children hurt. The news of their grandfather dying was very crushing. It’s a pain that I could not have protected them from. And with Covid-19 changing the world, there is not a funeral or celebration of life they can attend to say their goodbyes.

Samhain gives them that opportunity to be a part of their grandfather’s journey into whatever the next step will be. It gives them that opportunity to communicate the last words they never got to say to him. And to feel heard. Our traditions, as much as they are about keeping our ways alive, are just as much a huge security blanket when times are dire. The world is unpredictable, especially these days. But what can be relied on is the turning of the wheel and the traditions that follow. At least in that way, we can give our children, our family and ourselves some security and comfort in our holiday routines.

I’m happy that I reached out to him when I did. I almost didn’t; thinking maybe I was emailed out of politeness. I’m glad that my grandfather and I were able to build some kind of relationship through our conversations. Even as fleeting as the time was, it gave me a stronger connection to him that was not there before. A connection that will stay with me as the children and I bury our offerings to his passing spirit this Samhain (green olives, he was big on martinis).

So as the turning of the wheel, and the thinning of the veil slowly approaches. I hope that this year’s Samhain is a comfort to everyone. Whether it’s to help heal through the loss of a loved one. Or a much needed fun break from this crazy year. I hope it’s whatever everyone needs it to be.

  • Author Posts
Amelia is a Romani Heathen witch from the PNW. She spends her time raising her brood of witches and heathens, running a business, and growing her craft.
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Amelia is a Romani Heathen witch from the PNW. She spends her time raising her brood of witches and heathens, running a business, and growing her craft.
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