As was pointed out at Beltane, this is one of two Sabbats the Christian Church tried to demonize. Interestingly, vestiges of both remain even to today. You can still find May Day celebrations, and even Maypole dances. Samhain survives as Halloween.
Samhain is a Celtic festival, and since the Celts started their day at sundown, Samhain begins the evening of October 31st, and goes into November 1st. This is also when the Celts celebrated their New Year. To most, that seems odd, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
The Celts started their day at dusk, it only makes sense then, that they would start their year at the dusk of the year as well. We do the same thing today. Our day starts at Midnight, the middle of the night. Our year starts just after Yule, the middle of the dark time of the year.
This is the final harvest of the year. The last chance to pull in any food that might help you make it through the Winter. Winter is no longer coming, it’s here.
Death is all around. The colorful flowers of Summer are wilted and brown. The leaves of the trees have changed color, and are falling. The world is dying. Depending on where you live, there may already have been snow.
In some Traditions, the God dies, and takes up residence in the Underworld, until He is reborn again at Yule. The veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest. Now is the time to say goodbye to those who have passed during the year. Many Witches call to all the spirits that can hear them, and invite them to their circle. At the end of ritual, they part the veil, and call for a guide to help those spirits move beyond.
As magickal people, parting the veil, and helping the spirits, is just one of the responsibilities of being a Witch. Now is the best time of the year to do divination. Those who have your answers are just on the other side of the thin veil. We are entering the Dark Time of the year. Any projects you had, should have manifested and been harvested. Now is the time to start the inward journey.
With the snow, nothing can be done in the fields. Now there is plenty of time to search inside yourself. Look inward to find out who you really are, and what you really want from this life. All our lives, the Christians have told us to stay in the light, and be afraid of the dark.
The Dark is where you find your deepest secrets, and biggest fears. We fear it because it is unknown. We can’t look into it from the outside. We must venture into it, to discover its secrets. Once you discover, claim, and accept what you find in your Darkness, you also claim the power it has over you. Those who are only willing to work with the light, are doomed to use only half their power.
Samhain is the time of Death. The body has finally failed, unable to go on. A life well lived means no regrets. Having done all there was to do, Samhain waits for Death. Not the dark cowled figure come to reap life from you, that the Christians fear, but the soothing Angel of Death.
Her soft glow releases the spirit, trapped in a body that no longer functions. There is nothing to fear. As the Celts noted, death is just the middle of a long life. The soothing quiet of Death eases the spirit into and through the Transition. This isn’t the end, just a transformation. This is simply moving through the doorway, from one life to the next.
As much as we miss those who’ve already passed, we each will make that journey as well. What lies beyond is a Mystery. The Mystery upon which Religions are built.