The celtic New Year begins with the festival of Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-wen’), also known as the ‘Feast of the Dead‘. The ancient Celts, Druids, Picts, and Vikings, believed that since in darkness we are born (from the womb) so is life renewed each year amid the season of darkness. (Samhain is celebrated at the half-way point between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice).
In Australia, where I live, Samhain is celebrated in April. (It is celebrated very close to A.N.Z.A.C. day, which is interesting because that is also a time of remembrance and the honoring of our deceased defence force members). This is because celtic paganism does not follow a calendar for spiritual events but instead follows the seasons.
In the southern hemisphere, the seasons are opposite to those in the north. So Australian celtic pagans have their New Year, then, whereas northern hemisphere celtic pagans don’t have theirs until October 31.
(There are many non-pagan people in Australia who follow the American tradition of ‘trick or treat’ on this date, so we do answer the door to costumed children with bags to fill on that same October night, though Australians don’t celebrate with the gory exuberance Americans do).
The festival of Samhain (also known as Holy Eve, All Hallows Eve, and Halloween) is celebrated in much the same way as the ‘Day of the Dead‘ is in Mexico.
For celtic pagans, it is a time when the portal between our physical world of Earth and the ‘otherworld‘ (where spirit and the supernatural resides) is open – sort of like having an ‘open day‘ for visitors.
During this time, humans can interact with deceased relatives and friends, place plates of food for them at their table and drink toasts in their honor (as if they are still alive).
Like the ‘Day of the Dead‘ celebrated by christians in Mexico, it is a lovely day for expressing love and affection for those who are no longer able to be with us on a daily basis.
Even before christianity overrode celtic paganism and plied superstitions of ghouls and demons being out and about on Halloween, ancient celtic pagans acknowledged that when the portal between worlds was open, darker and mischievous entities could come visiting.
Celtic pagans don’t believe in ghouls and demons the way christians do, though.
The word ‘demon’ is derived from a word describing demi-gods (partial or lower realm gods) and the word ‘devil’ describes similar by referring to devas or devis (gods of the spiritual stream of Vedism, in Hindu culture).
There are no demons or devils in celtic pagan lore. There are only people, from our physical realm, or from the ‘otherworld‘, behaving badly.
So such warnings like the jack-o-lanterns and sigils carved in doors were basically ‘stay away if you can’t behave yourself’ signs. Any ghoul (or spirit ‘yobbo’) would be challenged if they wanted to cause mischief.
(The halloween pumpkin or jack-o-lantern, carved to become a candle holder to warn off unwelcome visitors at the front door, was once a carved turnip or swede in times of yore. They didn’t have pumpkins back then).
In celtic paganism, there was an acknowledgement that, even in the supernatural realm, people with bad character traits existed who you had to be careful dealing with.
On the night of Halloween, those people could be partying in your vicinity, and their parties could be of the ‘smash ’em up’ kind. (Mischief makers are not just human).
The ancient world was, however, an unsafe place, in general. Anyone who took a fancy to what you had could forcibly take it from you, if you weren’t careful to make sure you could defend it.
Often, such defence could mean the loss of your life, or of your loved ones lives. So it’s not surprising that when faced with supernatural entities who could cause trouble, people found a need for a different kind of protection.
It’s not surprising that they put out jack-o-lantern warnings, that they invented magical sigils, or asked their spiritual leaders for metaphysical methods to protect themselves, to thwart bad influences, and to ensure that their lives continued to thrive.
Nor is it surprising that they learned to pray for blessings and protection.
For ancient celtic pagans, the ‘otherworld‘ not only contained their deceased, but every type of supernatural entity, both good natured and bad.
It was only a small step to think that if the good natured entities lived in the same realm, they must have found a way to handle the bad natured entities. Therefore, calling upon their help was no different to calling on the help of anyone who has more skill handling a particular situation.
I am a great believer in the supernatural. My own experiences have come into direct contact with the supernatural and its entities throughout my life.
While I do believe in the basic ‘god essence of the cosmos‘ and its detached ‘in a dream‘ point of view, I also believe that what god ‘dreams‘ manifests as ‘reality‘ for us, and that what can be manifested does not just pertain to the physical level of existence we inhabit as human beings.
Therefore, I do believe in all manner of supernatural entities – ghosts, spirits, angels, demons, devas, and others.
For me, all manifestations are divine elements from the ‘mind of god,’ even supernatural ones. All manifestations are basically avatars enabling the ‘divine elements of god’ to experience relationships, of one kind or another.
That’s the bottom line for me. There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad‘ in that equation.
On the other hand, in the ‘pre-programmed laws and codes defining existence’, both in our world and in supernatural realms, all manifesting elements are given ‘in-built modes and mechanisms’ of expression.
If an ‘avatar of god‘ is in-built with certain modes of behavior and attitude, then they can express ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on their ‘purpose in the mind of god‘.
For me, what god thinks or dreams, manifests. (This is how I believe the coding is embedded).
As well, as a manifesting element of divine energy (albeit in human form), if I believe angels exist, then they exist. Then, whatever form I wish to see them in is the way they will manifest to me, and whatever powers I give to them, they will have for me.
You might say that this is a very powerful ability indeed, but it has its drawbacks. The drawbacks come from being incarnate in a human form, living a human life, and being embedded with the same ‘in-built modes and mechanisms of expression’ that other human beings are embedded with.
This means that my thoughts are not always as pure as they should be, that old conditioning from my earlier life on planet Earth is still hovering in the background, and that association with others and their less salubrious ideas still overshadows even my best intentions or alignments.
(That’s why ascetics do their best to overcome such weights, and to purify themselves of the past, so they can see the truth clearly).
In some ways, this ‘in-built mechanism‘ is a good thing. Imagine if a child thinks there are monsters under the bed. With the ability of their divine self, in thinking there are monsters under the bed, they could actually manifest them!
The mechanism of ‘clouding divine abilities‘ enables us to live a human life with less confusion.
(Ancient spiritual streams believed that only those who can accept and manage both good and bad, light and dark, equally and without fear should be free in their ability to manifest their thoughts).
During the festival of Samhain, I hang buddhist prayer flags in my yard, stringing them between my upper balcony and a tree in my garden, as well as on my front porch where people enter my house.
(Prayer flags are traditionally hung during the buddhist New Year, but since my New Year is celtic oriented, I hang mine then).
I follow a self-styled form of celtic paganism, including rituals aligned to neo-druidic modes, but because my spirituality is extremely eclectic so is my expression of it.
It therefore doesn’t matter to me that these prayer flags are tibetan or buddhist. (I am also buddhist in many of my spiritual modes). What matters is the feeling that the flags manifest in me. What matters is the concept of reaching out into the cosmos and asking for help where I am unable to help myself so effectively. What matters is what the flags symbolize.
By using such symbology (or rituals) to foster correct modes and feelings, I am able to override the embedded conditioning long enough to seed better elements in my life.
Like many others, I also often pray to god and my angels (supernatural helpers and mentors), asking for help, advice, and guidance.
This is not a denial of the ‘basic truths of existence‘ I have defined in the ‘seeder‘ god and the ‘illusions of reality‘. It is just an acknowledgement that I am incarnate in human form, beset by the conditions of ‘physical reality‘, and that sometimes in this ‘game of life‘ I don’t have everything I feel I need to ply it effectively.
When that happens, I call on those I think can help, in much the same way as others call on friends and relatives, mentors and patrons for opinions or assistance – only, via prayers and rituals, I am calling on my ‘supernatural peers‘.
People often find themselves uplifted when gathering en masse in churches, temples, or at other spiritual events. In those moments, the spiritual focus is intensified and miracles can happen. This is because, with so many elements gathered together focusing on the same thing, ‘god’s mind’ becomes more focused on that same mode.
You can think of that with an image of neurons firing in a brain. The most activity and thoughts occur where most of the neurons are firing. So, if you can think of human beings as being ‘divine neurons in god’s brain‘, then you can see how what those ‘neurons‘ are focusing on becomes a ‘center of activity in the mind of god‘.
Prayer is like that, too. Through prayer we call on the help of supernatural entities, like angels and guides (or the over god, itself. The over god or ‘oversoul’ is different to the ‘seeder’ god, but that’s another story).
With their assistance, more ‘divine neurons‘ are fired in the same area, and with that focus ‘miracles‘ can happen – e.g. things occur that don’t normally occur within the ‘coding‘ embedded in our physical realm.
Such beseechments don’t always work, just as asking for help from others in our human lives doesn’t always get us the help we need, or in the way we feel we need it.
Not getting the full help we need from others in our physical lives doesn’t stop us from capitalizing on it when it is available, though, even if we do have to ‘push on‘ and ‘do so much stuff by ourselves‘ until we get that relief and help.
Nor should any concept of ‘having to do it all by ourselves‘ stop us from reaching out to whatever help is available in the supernatural realm for us.
Just as our human friends and family don’t always know what needs we have, or won’t step in uninvited out of respect for our personal choices, so does the supernatural realm often behave.
We have to express a great desire for that help, either through the emission of misery and sense of loss, or through prayer. (I know which I would prefer to invite with).
After all, being a level detached from our physical realm, supernatural entities know very well that what happens to us here only pertains to us here.
After death, we are with them – still alive, still thriving, but in a different layer of existence. So of course, they will only respond to a direct request of some kind, or because their sympathy is aroused by our misery.
Samhain is not just about honoring the deceased. It is also about honoring the supernatural, and all the ‘invisible‘ help available to us.
It is a way to give thanks for the help we have received in the past, and to give respect to those who answered our prayers. In the ‘cosmic scheme of things‘, they didn’t have to.
As spiritual beings like them when we shed our ‘body coats‘, our problems and assails are proven to be only temporary (in the cosmic scheme of things). What brings them to our aid is their empathy and sympathy for our travails.
For me, they are my family and friends as much as any living being in the physical realm.