November 1. One of the four important holy days, the beginning of the Celtic year and the most important holiday in the Celtic calendar. This holiday is governed by Cernunnos who feeds the serpents of the life-force from the vessel of the Feminine powers. At Samhain, Cernunnos returns to his consort in the Otherworld and the yearly process begins anew. pronounced: sow win emphasis on the first syllable.

See also:

Also spelled Samain or Samonios (On a Gaulish Coligny Calendar Tablet).

The festival of the dead, swans, mating, marriage {royal}, diving the future and associated with a dozen or so tales of Rhiannon.
Samhain is also when regular mating between the Irish God Dagda and Goddess Morrigan took place.

To confuse the matter of WHEN Samhain actually took place, there was the Roman Festival of Pomona {where the bobbing for apples thing comes into Halloween}; All Hallows, a Christian festival also called Hallowmass and celebrated on Nov 1st ; and then All Saints Day {Nov 2nd}. {The difference between All Hallows and All Saints? All Hallows celebrated saints and redeemed sinners restored to heaven "now" and upon the judgement of Jesus. All Saints celebrated all of the dead. The vast majority of the hokey, but fun, ghost and goblin stuff involving Halloween came from All Saints Day, not from Samhain.}

Samhain TRADITIONALY was observed on the night and following day exactly between the Autumn Equinox and Midwinter Solstice. {Note, this is a bit further into November. Not on Halloween, at least not for another few hundred years.}

Samhain also was NEVER the beginning or end of the Celtic calendar. {Midsummer or Midwinter was, however, depending upon which calendar you mean...}

Most ritual observances probably had to do with rebuilding Tara {a magical hill. Destroyed every year. I'll node the story soon} symbolic suffering and displays of courage in the name of the kingdom, all sorts of dancing, partying and probably some, ahem, mating. No, I won't node what I do on Samhain.

In Irish, Samhain is the word for the month of November. Other months named after Celtic festivals are Bealtaine (May), Lúnasa (August) and Nollaig (December).

The festival of Halloween is called Oíche Shamhna in Irish, which means "Samhain's Eve", i.e. the night before Samhain.

Cletus the Foetus: I would pronounce the word more like sow-when (sow as in pig). In Irish, where 'mh' occurs between two vowels, it is generally soft, like a 'w', or a very soft 'v'. It is only pronounced as a hard 'v' when it occurs at the start of a word, and even then some dialects soften it out of existence. Of course, Irish dialects are so varied it's hard to say any of this with certainty.

around us and within
the voices of our ancestors
sing their praise of what we've become

before the fire we dance, we chant
they sing along, we sing their words
our drums beat for their hearts

within the fire they look out
we dance along, their strength empowering
our spirits entangled

before and within and around
we are our ancestors
we are our ancestors


Samhain (a.k.a. All Souls Night, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, et cetera)

(October 31, in some traditions November 1)

Samhain is a Pagan Sabbat: a holiday celebrated by Wiccans, Witches, and many others whose religions fall under the umbrella of Earth spirituality and Paganism. It is mixed with some Christian mythology, local (to every place it's celebrated) custom, and most notably ancient folklore, and is much more than trick-or-treat.

Samhain lore:

The God "dies" on Samhain. He leaves this realm of existence and returns to the Summerland to be recycled and cleansed in the cauldron of the Goddess. The veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is thinner than usual at this time of year, being that the God is within the Goddess, who is still part of the world of the living. This is a reminder that the two realms are not as separate as they seem to be.

Samhain sentiments:

This is a time for three things: Coming to terms with death, honoring/remembering of those who have passed to the Summerland, and wrapping up/finalizing projects from the year. This is a "dark" time where the darker and more wise parts of the self are brought out into the open and examined. It is a time for looking forward and backward, of seeing time as cyclical, of releasing the energy that has built up over the year. Samhain is the time to remember, to study, to meditate, and to release.

Samhain practices:

Many people use Samhain as a time of honoring dead relatives and friends, but it is also a good time for symbolic endings and coming to terms with those. On Samhain, we look back over the year and think about our own inevitable death and what it means to us. Much of the time the dead are allowed to take part in the celebrations. Some hold memorials for their dead friends and relatives and think about times past (giving thanks for those who died, particularly in the Burning Times). Others prefer to treat the dead as though they are there: rather than holding ceremonies FOR them they hold ceremonies WITH them. Sometimes people take part in scrying and other forms of divination of the future events. Sewing and handicrafts are popular around Samhain, as people are preparing their Yule gifts as well. Some people use this as a time to collect the final information for large projects that are culminating. This is a time to shed weaknesses, so some people like to write their weaknesses on a piece of paper and then burn it in the cauldron to symbolically release themselves from them. One custom is to light a new orange candle at midnight and let it burn until sunrise for good luck. Black candles are used to ward off negative energies. Another custom is to stand in front of a mirror, look into your own eyes, and make a secret wish. Yet another custom, of course, is to carve a pumpkin or turnip and light a candle inside. Other spiritually-related activities to do on Samhain include past-life recall, spirit contact, meditation, astral projection (or "flying"), and banishing magick.

The Samhain season:

Some Samhain Recipes:

Check out other Sabbats:


Glen Danzig formed Samhain after breaking up The Misfits, he felt the others in that band could not back up his vision and wanted to strike off on his own, not tied to the cheese horror of that band. And so, Samhain was born. Over the course of two full lengths, an ep and a mini-album they charted the slow rise of Glen Danzig from punk superstar to heavy metal superstar, and the subsequent musical progression. When they started they were horror punk, like the Misfits, but darker and eviler, taking themselves much more seriously, not every day Halloween, no, everyday was Samhain, and evil-oriented pagan themes shone through. This was continued through to their second full length, which became more and more metal, however metal with the beat and attitude of metal and the guitar sounds of the burgeoning post-hardcore scene. By their last mini-lp there was proto-Twist of Cain songs and synth's! Danzig himself also changed his vocal style, from the continuation of his Misfits voice to the croon that many people would melt to on the first four Danzig albums. So long story short, after only about three or four years as Samhain, Glen and bass-player/photographer Eeire Von ditched everyone else, picked up John Christ and Chuck Biscuits (from Black Flag) and became Danzig, and the rest of the story must be continued there.


Samhain: (see above for diverging pronounciation)

Scottish Gaelic: Sam + Fhuin = end of summer (sam: summer; fuin: end)

It is important to point out that there is no Irish "god of the dead," and especially no god named "Samhain," as some rather erroneous books/websites will tell you. There is some argument as to whether one can consider Arawn or Gwyn ap Nudd Welsh gods of the dead, or at least psychopomps, but the Irish pantheon has no official god of the dead. (Some, though, hypothesize that Donn or Mil is this god, as Caesar says that the Gauls believed they were decended from Dis, the Roman name for the god of the dead, and sometimes Donn or Mil are named the ancestors of the Irish.)

Samhain was the new year of the Celts. They did believe that the walls between this world and the otherworld grew thin at this time, but then, they also believed it grew thin at Beltane. It was a feast to memorialize the dead, but it was also a harvest festival, the last of the year before the coming of winter; it is no mistake that the Welsh name for this feast--Nos Galen-gaeof--translates as "Night of the Winter Kalends"--the beginning of winter.

Important events:

samhain ritual, 2001, West Lafayette, In

ritual format

personal perspective

I'm really nervous. I'm calling elemental fire, which is my natural affinity, so the process is not highly difficult. I'm in fire garb, a red, grey, black sweater and black pants. Different times of year i have different fire properties... this one, it's more of the smoke and ember than the bright blazing balefires of six months ago. My face is painted in these colors, plus a few yellows and oranges, and i wear a crown of fall flowers. I'm ready, i took a cleansing shower and prepared my tools. But i'm still nervous, because of the fact that this is the second ritual i've ever called in, and the first "powerful" one, though, makes me jittery. Samhain was my first group ritual ever last year, and this year i'm a part of it.

I'm also terriby nervous because of the people. Mcc is there to watch me... so is my best friend from high school, who was the reason i first "got into wicca" (in a terribly unhealthy way that we both now regret) and now i'm in the odd place of being the more spiritual with her coming to me for guidance. She's normally at Yale, but got so tired of the mental deadness there that she let me kidnap her for the weekend. And the priestess is a very dear friend of mine and the woman who handfasted mcc and me, and i'm terrified of letitng her down.

It's a beautiful night, though... nearly full moon lending a beautiful silver shene to the ground, and crisp fall leaves underneath our feet. I'm the last in line processing, to make sure everyone makes it up safe. I try not to trip over roots, my way lit by the lights ahead of me, and my small lantern holding a glowstick--it's a candle lantern, but fire was prohibited in the park.

Everyone's in place, the beauty of the grove amazing, and the ritual starts. I go through everything as planned, trying both to remember my part, and drink it in at the same time. And suddenly it's my turn.

Hail to the South
Elemental Fire
I welcome you to our circle this Samhain night
I summon and stir you to aid in our ritual
Weave your essence throughout this gathering
Protect this circle with searing tongues of fire
Ever vigilant, burning to ash all that would try to harm us tonight
Warm us with the courage to speak freely, knowing we are safe and loved.
We are weaving a circle of defending flames!
Welcome Elemental Fire!

And fire's there. Fire's really there, energywise, on its elemental tree right where it's supposed to be. It worked. It actually bloody worked. I acutally pulled that off.... WOW!

The circle is called, and things progress. I stand mostly basking. And then the stories.

People lay to rest all sorts of things, and people. I do what i can, as fire, to lend them courage to speak if they so desire. And most do. And then i choose to as well.

I let two dead pass... one human, and one year.

This is finally my chance to say goodbye to Hermetic. I never knew him as well as some here, but i believe through his words i did know him. He greeted me cheerily in #e always, and we had some amazing chats. And the words he left here showed me who he was inside. I was not close friends with him, but as a part of this community, this family, i knew him and in my own way i loved him. I never really came to terms with his death, properly. As i started to parse what happened, i found my mourning cut short by a tragedy of far greater scale the next day. I spent so long wrapped up in that that i never really got around to finishing grieving for him and beginning to heal. I did last night... and all who were there last night hear me wish him, as so many others here have said, godspeed.

I also laid to rest the past year. It's been full of more pain, more grief, and more learning, than any year ever has. Some of its stories you know. Some haven't beeen told yet. Some never will be. I nearly had a nervous breakdown, quite literally. I developed chronic, chronic insomnia which led to me failing all my classes and leaving me in a dangerous situation academically now. Most of my friends, or so i thought, betrayed me during this time--but at least i found out who was really true. It was full of more pain and hurt... the one i cared about most in th world, and who cared most about me was hours and hours away. He stood with me in circle last year, my beloved mcc did, but the next day he got on a plane back to texas. This is how things were... we were sure of A future together... just not sure how. But last night he stood across the circle from me, and is still here today, and will be here for as many tomorrows as we can imagine. I needed to learn the lessons i did the past year, and i believe i have. I keep the lessons now, but last night i released the pain.

The circle continued, mostly just a rush of power and emotion, both my own and others... and finally it was done, almost. And air was left, and it was again my turn.

Hail to the South
Elemental Fire
I thank you for your presence and protection tonight
Take our love and thanks with you wherever firelight shines
Come as you will, stay as you wish
You are always welcome among us
As always, for the good of all with harm towards none,
So mote it be

Farewell Elemental Fire!

And we descended again down to the cars and the lights and the warm.

What happened after that, at a party not related to the ritual but involving the people from it spending time together after it is another story ENTIRELY and will be noded probably tomorrow. It's a fun story, but has no part in samhain itself. When it's done, it'll be linked here.

This morning, when i awoke (for the second time), i had a thought though, a gut feeling. I... i believe that next samhain it very well may be me standing in the center of that grove, standing priestess... i don't know why i think this. I know i will follow a priestess path at some point in my life--and i know i can have at least a first degree ordination by next year--but i didn't expect this so soon. It may come to pass, it may not. It may just be a call to start the priestess-path sooner. Only time will tell.

Samhain was also one of the reoccurring villains on the Real Ghostbusters cartoon from back in the day. Samhain, the spirit of Halloween, always found a way out of the Containment unit and caused hell in NYC. He was very vulnerable to light (natural and artificial), and his goal was to cause night to slow down time so that it would be Halloween...forever! Samhain was always stopped by the Ghostbusters every time, and he was often seen in the background inside the Containment Unit when someone would be in there. Just sitting there on a rock, planning...waiting...

Samhain is an open source security tool in the same vein as tripwire It scans a unix-based system building a database of all existing files, storing information about each scanned file:

  • a 192-bit cryptographic checksum
  • the inode of the file
  • the type of the file
  • the file's owner and group
  • access permissions
  • the timestamps of the file
  • the file size
  • the number of hard links
  • minor and major device number (devices only)
  • the name of the linked file (if the file is a symbolic link)

Samhain then runs as a daemon, scanning the system periodically and can alert the system administrator to any changes that occur. The daemon can send notifications via email, the syslog or any other method via running external scripts.

Samhain can take a little time to configure to your liking, improving the signal to noise ratio in the logfile took me a couple of days. Because it checks everything, it can generate false alarms on frequently changing items like logfiles, until you add those files into an 'ignore file size changes'

Samhain is very, very customisable. You can set it to report on files based on different attributes such as permission changes, or tell it to treat a file as read only and only ignore access times.

Samhain also scans login times, to match logins to file modifications, and scans for kernel rootkits.

I use this lovely piece of software in conjunction with logcheck to send me emails whenever a change is detected in one of the servers I manage. I cannot recommend it too highly, in my opinion it should be in every security-concious sysadmin's toolkit.

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