In 2023 Samhain will fall on Tuesday, October 31st
in the northern hemisphere
The leaves dance and float their way down to the cool earth. They adorn her in a patchwork quilt of golden velvets, warm sepias, and crinkled russets. The land subsumes the foliage when the bright hues convert themselves into an umber wither.
Autumn is my favorite time of year. The smell in the air is a healing all on its own. It’s crisp, earthy, not quite musky, it’s the smell of leaves decomposing on the land. I searched for its very own word to describe this beautiful smell that is so fleeting. I could not find one. I expressed my sadness that there was no word for the smell of autumn to my husband and he simply replied, “make one up.” So with a few quick Google searches on the etymology of leaves, decay, earth, scent and autumn, I began to construct my word (sorry to the linguists!)
Sentirdecadruska: defined as the scent of autumn.
The old French word sentir means to feel, smell, perceive, realize, make love to. Decad from the Latin word decadere “to fall off”, decay. Ruska is the Finnish word used to describe leaves turning shades of yellow, orange, red, purple and brown in Autumn. From ruskea meaning “brown.”
Okay, so it’s not the best word. But I craved a word for the scent of this ephemeral magic. Giving our own names to the things we love and hold sacred can lend deep personal meaning to them.
The Veil is Thin at Samhain
Autumn is a time when I think everyone can feel the magic, even if they don’t call it that. The veil between worlds is thinning, making this a potent time for divination, ancestral work, vivid dreams and increased intuition. Samhain (pronounced sow-in) marks the beginning of the darkening phase. It is a time to go inward, to witness the shadow, the spirits, and the magic that is abundant. Samhain marks the last harvest of the year, to reap what you have sown. This is the witches’ new year, a good time to reflect and to look into the future.
I am of (part) Norwegian descent, there are many tales of out-sitting, mound-sitting or grave-sitting in Scandinavian folklore. This custom of grave-sitting was to contact the Disír. The Disír are female ancestor spirits who act as guardian and protectress of their living descendants. Sitting on the graves of your ancestors, especially around Samhain, you open the portal of communication for nourishing support and guidance. When someone dies the relationship does not die with them, it merely changes.
To invoke the Disír, (you can do this at home, you don’t need a grave site or even recent ties to blood ancestors. You can choose to invoke male or female ancestors as well.) you can create a ritual space by lighting a few candles, burning some mugwort or other herbs, and setting up an altar of photos, personal effects from the deceased, flowers and foods for your passed on loved ones. Then sit and envision your most recent grandmothers. Go back one at a time as far back as you can go. Then see your ancestors surrounding you, until there are thousands. Feel gratitude for them, these women who birthed your lineage and brought you into being.* Then draw your cards.
Samhain Tarot Spread
- Guidance from your ancestors.
- What is your shadow hiding?
- Something to bring to life?
- What needs to be burned in your cauldron? What do you need to let go of?
- Something to celebrate.
- An intention you are planting for this witches’ new year.
*You do not have to be of Scandinavian ethnicity for this practice to be meaningful to you. Many cultures around the world, ancient and modern, have ancestor traditions. Doing the work to find your people, lands, myths, and stories will bring you so many insights into the shamanic and esoteric ways of your lineage!
About the Wheel of The Year
The wheel of the year is a round of festivals that celebrate the cyclical nature of the Earth. The wheel of the year integrates festivals from many ancient cultures. Living your life in accordance with the seasons and rhythms of nature will help bring you into balance and leave you feeling in tune with your non linear, cyclical self. Learn about all the other festivals on the wheel of the year in the Learning Center.