The Celtic peoples called the time between Samhain (pronounced “SOW-in” in Ireland, SOW-een in Wales, “SAV-en” in Scotland or even “SAM-haine” in non Gaelic speaking countries) and Brigid’s Day “the period of little sun.” Thus, Samhain is often named the “Last Harvest” or “Summer’s End”.
While almost all Celtic based traditions recognize this Holiday as the end of the “old” year, some groups do not celebrate the coming of the “new year” until Yule. Some consider the time between Samhain and Yule as a time which does not even exist on the Earthly plane. The “time which is no time” was considered in the “old days” to be both very magickal and very dangerous. So even today, we celebrate this Holiday with a mixture of joyous celebration and ‘spine tingling” reverence.
The Samhain Holiday begins at sundown on October 31st. The nightide was always a time to be wary of walking alone in the countryside. So much more on this Night when the veils between the worlds of humans and spirits was at its thinnest. Traditional lore speaks of the dead returning to visit their kin and the doors to the Lands of the Sidhe (pronounced “shee”) or Faery Realm being opened.
“The Feast of the Dead” (“Fleadh nan Mairbh”) is laid out by many to welcome these otherworldly visitors and gain their favor for the coming year. Many folks leave milk and cakes (“Bannock Samhain” ) outside their door on Samhain Eve or set a place at their table for their ancestors who may want to join in the celebrations with their kin and family.
Some Witches use a chant at the beginning of the Feast to welcome their ancestors.
One of these, for example goes like this:
And so it is, we gather again,
The feast of our dead to begin.
Our Ancients, our Ancestors we invite, Come!
And follow the setting of the sun.
Whom do we call? We call them by name
(Name your ancestor that you wish want to welcome.)
The Ancients have come! Here with us stand
Where ever the country, where ever the land
They leave us not, to travel alone;
Flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone!
Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Great be their Power!
Past ones and present-at this very hour!
Welcome within are the dead who are kin,
Feast here with us and rest here within
Our hearth is your hearth and welcome to thee;
Old tales to tell and new visions to see
Source for this piece is unknown, so can take no credit, but it is one that we liked.