Lore

Sabbats - Samhain & Beltane

20th October, 1998

Samhain

Pronounced Sow-wyn, Samhain comes from the Irish-Gaelic word "samhraidhreadh," which means "the summer's end." This point on the calender was marked when the ancient standing stones in the British Isles measured the sun at its lowest point on the horizon. It also marks the Witches' New Year.

As winter nears, the God approaches his death. The Goddess prepares for his rebirth and there is both sorrow and happiness. Animals were culled to ensure a supply of food and remaining crops were left fallow for winter the winter months.

It is often said that the veil between life and death is thinnest as a result of death of the God, the animals and plants. Wiccans recognise, though, that death is not final and that from it life renews itself again. Samhain is therefore a celebration of life over death as well as a time to remember those who have passed into a new life.

A common practice on this holiday is to have a special meal. At this meal, a place is set for those who have died in the last year or who are still fondly remembered. It is a way of letting those who have passed know that they are still loved and remembered.

Beltane

Pronounced Bell-tayn or Be-el-ten-ah, it falls opposite Samhain on the Wheel of the Year. Also known as Bealtaine, it is likely to come from the Irish word for balefire. It is of equal importance as Samhain on the Wiccan calender.

Beltane is the last of the spring festivals. It marks a time when people, plants, and animals prepare for the warm months ahead. The young God now matures into manhood. Union and love between the Goddess and God is marked by the Great Rite. Symbols of Beltane include the cauldron (Goddess) and May Pole (God).

Beltane has long been marked with feasts and rituals. May poles, very phallic symbols, were the focal point of old English village rituals. Many people rose at dawn to gather flowers and decorate their homes and themselves.

The flowers and the greenery symbolize the Goddess and the Maypole the God. Beltane marks the return of vitality, of passion and hopes.

In Australia, the celebration of this holiday causes much discussion. Although most holidays can be rotated six months from the Northern Hemisphere date without much difficulty, there is discussion if this is acceptable on these holidays. Because Samhain is a thinning of the veil between the worlds, some argue that it must occur on the same day, everywhere in the world. Others argue that this is not the case. It is a debate that is likely to continue for some time on!


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