I'd like to write a post on Samhain, but I don't think I'll go into what it is, or how we celebrate it in specific. There are plenty of blogs out there, I imagine, that cover that.
We are just about to move, I am unsure if I will get time to write my October post after the move so I'll need to write it now. I'm not really sure what to write, however. I'll start with the dumb supper we held a few years back.
Our coven usually holds large gatherings for Yule, so I decided (this was before the move!) to start large gatherings for Samhain as well, arguably, a more appropriate time for our spiritual tradition.
This only lasted the one year, because I was pregnant after that, then had our son and was too exhausted by the time the next year rolled around. My husband was also in the last semester of his school, and we had a newborn! Not the easiest of times for our family..
Anyhow, the idea was to host a dumb supper. Ideally, it would be at midnight, which would only work for people in the best of circumstances. I really feel if the dumb supper had been held at midnight, or even after dark, we would've felt much more, it has great potential. While the dumb supper itself is not part of any Wiccan ritual, it is something that we often do to celebrate the season outside of "circle'.
A little research will tell you that a dumb supper is eaten backwards, at midnight, a very Ozark-sounding tradition that just warms my witch-heart! In yoga, we practice Shirsasana (head-stand) not only to bring blood-flow to the brain, but to help get our consciousness used to balancing when the world is upside down. At Samhain the world is in the process of doing just that. I think it is a very powerful psychological mechanism to be eating a supper (with the intent of eating with one's deceased relatives), meal backwards, at an unusual and transitional time.
At a Renaissance festival a few years back I acquired some medieval-style spoon and fork (in bronze), the fork has two tines and the spoon is engraved with a green man. I was told bronze was probably not the best thing to be eating with all the time...Then the same year I hosted the dumb supper I found their use. There seemed nothing more appropriate than to set the seat for the deceased with those gorgeous bronze-ware that should not be used by living human hands. I could imagine a "dumb" seat set for each person deceased that year, but we also wanted to include deceased from previous years, so we set one place and had each person who had lost someone take something from the potluck that they thought their relative would've enjoyed and load up the plate. We set up two black candles at the table spot and those who had lost someone recently or that year, set at the main table, there was also a pet-plate for pets who had passed away, under the table.
Then we ate our apple-crisp first, put on some low, mellow music, ate in silence, opening ourselves to the season and to our deceased relatives.
I would imagine that this scene might seem disturbing to the vast majority here in America. If any of that vast majority has managed to read this far I applaud them...Please understand, that for the Wicca, ghosts are not necessarily creepy. They are simply a manifestation of those we lost. What if your Grandmother died, but you could still be with her, speak with her, have supper with her, if only for one night? I cannot tell you if the superstition on speaking with the deceased is "bad" for them or keeps them tied here, or even if that is a bad thing. If it is a bad thing, Samhain is the perfect time to reconnect with them without any perceived cost. The gates of Death are already open, then they should be able to step out, then step back without repercussion on that day.
Now to be honest, Halloween is not the only night that this can happen, or the only night where it is seasonally appropriate. The Scandinavians felt that Midwinter was even more appropriate,and I have to say some hard winters here, when the snow is blowing and the temperatures arctic-low, I can see where they are coming from. The gates of death must be yawning at that time, open-wide to take in those creatures who cannot withstand the hard winter.
Ghosts can appear at any time, especially strong right after death, or other powerful astrological events etc. but I find it comforting to have a day, a specific Wiccan Holiday, in which the dead are honored, remembered, and supped with.
Perhaps next time I'll write on holiday timing, if I remember!
Merry Samhain everyone!