Autumn Cross-Quarter

Samhain altar by Trea Silverwolf (used with permission)

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Autumn Cross-Quarter is celebrated among Neo-Pagans on October 31 as Samhain (pron. saw-in), the Neo-Pagan New Year and origin of modern Halloween.   The actual date of the cross-quarter falls about a week later on November 6 or 7.  The precise date and time for the cross-quarter can be found at archaeoastronomy.com.  Meanwhile, those in the Southern Hemisphere experience this time as Beltaine.

In Neo-Pagan circles, the date is sometimes celebrated as the beginning of winter, although, in the U.S., winter does not officially begin until the winter solstice, and the cross-quarter is the middle of autumn.  In some places in the northern hemisphere, the last leaves are clinging to the branches and the harvest is near completion.

NaturalPantheist describes how the traditional Neo-Pagan holiday can be understood to a religious naturalist:

With the revival of Paganism, the practice of venerating ancestors, a practice of the ancient Celts once dead in the western world, has begun to grow in popularity again. As Naturalistic Pantheists, this practice should also be a part of our lives. Samhain is a time of remembrance. It is a time to honour those who have died, whether friends, family or ancestors. It is a time to remember them and to be thankful for the role they have played in influencing our lives. They are not gone, they live on within us through our memories and genes, and within the earth as their atoms are reincarnated into a thousand different creations. Samhain reminds us that one day, we too must die. It is a time take stock of our lives and to meditate on the cycle of life and death, confronting a topic we too often do our best to avoid.

He goes on to suggest some ways in which the day can be honored by naturalists:

It is traditional to celebrate this festival by eating a large feast of late harvest foods e.g. pumpkins, apples, root vegetables and barmbrack bread. It is also the traditional time for remembering our ancestors and those we have loved and lost e.g. by visiting their graves and putting fresh flowers there. Personally, I build an altar and put photos and mementos of those I have lost recently on it. This year I have spent much of the past month researching my family history in order to create a family tree and know more about the ancestors I wish to honour. On Samhain eve I perform a ritual of remembrance, lighting a candle for each person I am remembering and holding a minutes silence in respect. This year that will include both my grandmother and her dog. I am also having a party with friends, decorating the house and eating traditional foods.

NaturalPantheist also describes a Samhain ritual for naturalists here.

Glenys Livingstone of PaGaian Cosmology celebrates the Autumn Cross-Quarter by having her ritual participants bring photos of their old selves, and answer the question: “Who have you been?”  The participant holds up the photo and describes the old self, to which the group responds: “Hail to you and your becomings.”

The participants also remember those who have passed on, sharing a feast of lolly snakes while observing:

“We welcome all these, whose lives have been harvested, whose lives have fed our own, and we remember that we too will be consumed, feed others with our lives. May we be interesting food. We also become the ancestors. We are the ancestors.”

Jon Cleland Host of the Naturalistic Paganism yahoo group relates Samhain to events in evolutionary history:

Just as Samhain heralds the dark quarter of the year (Samhain to Imbolc) and then the cold quarter of the year (Yule to Ostara), the Cretaceous extinction started with the dark cloud of ejecta from the asteroid impact, followed by the deadly freeze of a “nuclear” winter.  Samhain also works well to commemorate extinction, which has been the fate of over 99.99% of all species that have existed on earth.

He then develops these observations into a seasonal practice:

These extinctions have made room for new species (such as us), and death makes room for new life.  Samhain is thus the time to express our gratitude to those who have gone before us, those who have made our lives possible, those who have influenced us, and those who we remember.  For this reason our ritual usually includes tributes to our ancestors and others.  Photos of the dead can be given a place of prominence leading up to Samhain, and all can be especially remembered, even spoken to, if you like.  The meditation to our ancestors can be read (see separate upload [in Naturalistic Paganism files section] for that).

Finally, Host notes that Samhain is also a time for fun:

Samhain (Halloween) parties are good, as is trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples, and decorating.  Colors are black, orange, tombstone gray and sometimes bone (off white).

Share your naturalistic traditions in the comments below.

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4 Comments on “Autumn Cross-Quarter

  1. This Samhain I did my first bit of ‘ritual’ for ages. Nothing scripted or complex, just a little meditation on life, death and change. I’m just starting to dip my toe back into the ‘naturalistic druid’ way of life, and I’m sure this site will prove inspiring!

  2. Pingback: What to look forward to in October at HP | Humanistic Paganism

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