SAMHAIN: The Time Between the Times
Autumn is my most favourite time of year. The temperatures drop, the leaves turn brilliant colours, candy apples start appearing, everything turns to pumpkin spice, and eventually, my birthday! (Can’t forget Thanksgiving either!) It’s a season of definite transition. However, as much as I love this season, it is also the time for Halloween, known to the Ancient Celts as Samhain (pronounced sah-win or sow-in). Check out this description of the Samhain provided by Druidry.org:
To the ancient Celts, the year had two “hinges.” These were Beltaine (the first of May) and Samhain, (the first of November), which is also the traditional Celtic New Year. And these two days were the most magical, and often frightening times of the whole year.
At Samhain (which corresponds to modern Halloween), time lost all meaning and the past, present, and future were one. The dead, and the denizens of the Other World, walked among the living. It was a time of fairies, ghosts, demons, and witches. Winter itself was the Season of Ghosts, and Samhain is the night of their release from the Underworld. Many people lit bonfires to keep the evil spirits at bay. Often a torch was lit and carried around the boundaries of the home and farm, to protect the property and residents against the spirits throughout the winter.
Many Irish and Scottish Celts appeased their dead with a traditional Dumb Supper. On Samhain Eve, supper was served in absolute silence, and one place was set at the head of the table "for the ancestors". This place was served food and drink without looking directly at the seat, for to see the dead would bring misfortune. Afterwards, the untouched plate and cup were taken outside "for the pookas", and left in the woods. In other traditions, this is the night to remember, honor, and toast our beloved departed, for the veil between the living and the dead is thin, and communication is possible on Samhain Eve.
This time of year, I always like to shed light on what this season actually represents because so many people—namely Believers—walk around in ignorance regarding it, and many times, that ignorance is willful. While the Bible doesn’t mention Samhain or Halloween specifically, however, it does mention the various pagan acts committed by the neighboring godless nations.
(It may also interest you that I was able to recognize and trace the worship of the Celts back to the worship of the Canaanites, which was confirmed later by reading How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill from his Hinges of History collection.)
However, while Samhain commemorates all things deadly and seemingly ancestral, I would like to take this time to focus on another aspect: the time between the times.
The In-Between Times
First and foremost, it is interesting to note that November 1 is the Celtic/Druid New Year which is one of many comparisons between the Celts and the Hebrews. The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, also takes place in Autumn and is also marked by feast days. This speaks to a time of transition.
While we are focusing on Samhain and Halloween, it is important to note that the concept of a time between times was not purely festal to the Celts; it was a belief that encompassed the very land itself.
The Celtic people were in superstitious awe of times and places “in between.” Holy sites were any border places - the shore between land and water (seas, lakes, and rivers), bridges, boundaries between territories (especially when marked by bodies of water), crossroads, thresholds, etc. Holy times were also border times - twilight and dawn marking the transitions of night and day; Beltaine and Samhain marking the transitions of summer and winter. Read your myths and fairytales - many of the stories occur in such places, and at such times. (Druidry.org)
1 Chronicles 12:32 tells us that the tribe of Issachar had understanding of the times and seasons; their gifting was actually their military contribution. And the Book of Daniel tells us that “[God] changes the times and the seasons” and “gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding,” (2:21).
To the Celts, the time between the times relating to Samhain was a time to commune with the dead; to appease them. And also, to be wary or fearful of interactions with ghosts of those long dead which we as Believers know to be familiar spirits, malevolent in nature, and the source of knowledge of all types of divination, including necromancy. Deuteronomy 18:9-14 commands us to have nothing to do with any of these witchcrafts, including necromancy. However, as Believers, discerning the times is not just a measure of the Spirit of God available to every Believer, but also a key ingredient to staying in tune with the will of God for our lives in each respective season. Especially the times of transition.