S is for Samhain, Seasons, and Sabbats

This was just going to be about Samhain, but it occurred to me I have a different relationship with Samhain and Hallowe’en than many American Pagans, and how I approach the holiday might be seen to be completely different because of that. I also want to explore a little bit about the seasons here in Australia, and how it makes for a different relationship with the Wheel.

That, and I don’t really have enough to talk about if I just focussed on Samhain. Because I rarely celebrate it enough to have anything of substance to talk about. So, we will discuss it, along with other things. I know I’ve talked about some of these Wheel and seasonal things before, but I’ll try not to repeat myself.

But first, Samhain. Y’see, I grew up with Hallowe’en being an American thing. It was never a Thing in Australia, at least where I was growing up. I never particularly saw it penetrate the mainstream culture until the last decade or so, and even then, it doesn’t appear to be a Big Thing. I mean, people have Hallowe’en parties, but that’s about it, really. Trick or treating isn’t really done, at least from what I’ve seen. Not in my suburb, at any rate.

So all the traditions and associations surrounding Hallowe’en that have become associated with Samhain within many Pagan circles don’t exist for me. I don’t have that cultural knowledge that feeds into the holiday, that makes Samhain, in some ways, like a more ritualised and magical celebration of Hallowe’en. Plus, when I switched the holidays around to fit in with the seasons, I celebrate Samhain in late May, not the end of October. And the way my festival calendar is organised, Samhain is very much associated with the Mysteries of Wesir for me. It’s a time for the ancestors and Gods associated with that time, like Hekate and Wesir.

It’s definitely a holiday that has a different feel to me than what I hear from many Americans. I don’t have a huge collection of Hallowe’en decorations I can appropriate for Samhain. Never been particularly fond of pumpkins or apples or skulls or crows. If I do any decorating for Samhain, it’s more likely to be black, dark greens and browns, and maybe some gold or orange. And, IDK, maybe it’s because of the different time of year and different location, but I don’t really associate with the traditional symbols. I don’t see them around me.

But so much of adapting the Wheel for Australia involves figuring out what associations are appropriate here. Because we don’t have all the North American and European plants and animals that are traditionally associated with the Sabbats and seasons. Magpies are definitely a spring bird, for example. There’s a family nesting in a tree in the park behind our house, and they often come into the yard. We see a lot of wattle birds around too, feeding on the flowers. Bottlebrush is in bloom, as are many of the plants in the garden.

Towards the middle of the year, around Samhain, we don’t really have much in the way of deciduous plants. The flies are gone, and most of the insect life is disappearing. It’s damp and wet, but not very cold. (In the sense of it getting down to ~20-23 degrees Celsius during the day. Winter itself isn’t much colder than this. The eucalypts keep their leaves, and the world is looking a lot greener than during summer, when everything is dried out. The sun sets earlier, and rises later. If you’re lucky, you get sun and blue sky, but it’s not usually as warm.

I’ve been paying more attention to these things over the years, trying to figure out where the seasons actually change. Summer definitely lasts from late December to March. Winter kicks in towards the end of June. If I’ve noticed anything, it’s that winter has shrunk, and there aren’t so many storms now. Not so much rain. And the seasons have shifted a month.

Samhain is a time, for me, when I prepare for the dark, fallow times leading up to Yule. The Mysteries of Wesir follow soon after Samhain, and it sends me into a deeply introspective time, where I do more internal work than at other times of the year. In some ways, it feels like the Days Upon the Year that come before Wep Ronpet. The year ends at Samhain, and resumes again at Yule. Which is a bit complicated, because the Kemetic calendar I have doesn’t match up with that at all. My Wep Ronpet is in Februrary, not August. I need a calendar that matches the seasons, and this is what I came up with. It’s fixed, to make it easier to use as a solitary Kemetic. To me, it didn’t make any sense to try and calculate it properly according to Sirius’ rising date, because that wouldn’t make the calendar align with the seasons, and in the end, I had to make a call as to which was more important: a calendar that’s historically accurate, or one that’s seasonally accurate and tied to my location. I chose the latter.

Then again, sometimes I think I’m approaching things as if this place were a local Sobek cult centre, and it’s all tweaked to my own theology and location. It’s also drawing on Greek traditions; their calendars were local to each city, if I remember correctly. So it’s kind of a mixture of those two, really.

I haven’t looked much into the local indigenous culture surrounding the seasons beyond a quick look at the six seasons of the calendar, which I found on wikipedia. It’s not a culture I have a lot of access to, nor would I presume it’s something I have a right to access either as a white Anglo-Australian, so I’ve kind of left it alone, apart from the acknowledging the local spirits as a sort of Lares kind of thing and leaving it at that. The one contact with local land spirits has left me with the impression they’d rather be left alone. That, and I don’t speak their language. I think they’d rather be with their own people, which is fair enough. I’m not going to force a relationship if it’s not asked for or wanted. I’ve got enough Gods to deal with anyway.

I feel like I’ve wandered off topic a little. Not surprising for me, though. I’m almost annoyed I didn’t mark Samhain or the Mysteries this year, but I’ve acknowledged that this is a path-building year, and that’s the emphasis, not practicing. That’ll come next year, when I’ll (probably) be expected to keep more of them, even if it’s only a quick thing. I’m also really looking foward to next Samhain, too. I’m eager for that descent into the dark times once more, to keep all the days of the Mysteries, and the Night Vigil, and be with Wesir, and His family as we prepare for Yule and the birth of Harpocrates. It’s close to my favourite time of year, I think.

Ostara’s coming up soon. (Actually, it’s tomorrow. WTF. When did that happen? I am so not ready. D:) I’m planning an execration ritual, because I feel I need it. My Goddess Oracle reading I did a couple of nights back also called for one too (thanks, Oya), so I’ll make sure I do that. Though I might refrain from breaking pots, if only because neighbours and getting shouty at a pot sounds rather weird. And I don’t think I’ll have much privacy to do that safely. So I’ll just use paper and burn it afterwards and let the Gods strip all those bad things away. It’s the Feast of Zep-Tepy at the same time, too, so it’s appropriate to do that at the half-way mark of the Kemetic year. I’ve also got some protective magic I want to do too, once I find a good day where I’m home alone and have everything I need to get it done.

And that, I think, is this entry done for now. Have pencilled in ‘traditions’ for next week, so we’ll see if that’s what gets written. 😀

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