Right now, kids everywhere are starting to think about what kind of costume to wear. Should I be Captain America? Spider-man? Winifred from Hocus Pocus?
Meanwhile, grownups everywhere are starting to decorate their lawns with ghosts and zombies and pumpkins (we are particularly into the Haunted Mansion's 3 Hitchhiking Ghosts blow up – I mean… they’re in a doom buggy!)
Yes! We are getting ready for spooky season – Halloween!
Yet there is so much more to Halloween than costumes, candy, and decorations.
Those of us who follow a nature-centric spiritual path know the deeper meaning of the holiday, what we like to call the Final Harvest. In fact, we regard the Final Harvest as one of the most important festivals in the year - it marks the end and the beginning of the wheel of the year, Nature’s New Year’s Eve if you will.
A brief guide to the history of this holiday
The history of this holiday reaches back thousands of years to our forebears. For early Europeans, this time of the year marked the beginning of the cold, lean months to come.
In the past people often took stock of their supplies ready for winter, grain they had and animals they had. The flocks were brought in from the fields to live in sheds until spring. Some animals were slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for winter.
The last gathering of crops was known as "Harvest Home" or the Final Harvest and was celebrated with fairs and festivals. In Scotland, the Gaelic word for this holiday, "Samhain" (pronounced "SAW-win" or "SAW-vane"), literally means "summer's end." Farmers put their fields to rest for the winter and everything that was not needed was given back to Mother Earth to re-nourish the soil.
This holiday is also considered the time when the Earth begins its slumber – symbolized throughout ancient cultures by various gods and goddesses descending into the Underworld, the realm of death. Thus, it has been celebrated as a feast for the dead. Mexico observes a Day of the Dead on this day, as do other world cultures.
In addition to its agriculture significance, the ancients also saw the Final Harvest as a very spiritual time. Because October 31 lies between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, the theory is that ancient people thought it was a very potent time for communion with spirits.
The "veil between the worlds" of the living and the dead was said to be at its thinnest on this day. So the dead were invited to return to feast with their loved ones and were welcomed in from the cold, much as the animals were brought inside. Ancient customs range from placing food out for dead ancestors, to performing rituals for communicating with those who had passed over.
Traditionally a candle to guide the spirits of loved one’s home was lit in the window. The lit candle was also believed to deter any unwanted spirits -- thus the origins of the pumpkin or jack-o-lantern.
It is also commonly believed that this season is also a time when the spirits can talk through us more easily and all types of divination such as scrying, tarot, runes etc. are used.
Final Harvest as a Seasonal Celebration
In our eyes, this time of year is more than Halloween parties and trick or treating. It’s an excellent time to reconnect with Nature’s flow. It’s an opportunity to celebrate seasonal changes as connected rather than separate.
In keeping with the ancient tradition of this Final Harvest, we begin to honor the “descent” of the Earth into slumber, where we start to go deeply into ourselves and seek to understand ourselves and our spiritual journeys as we enter the dream time. We let go of our old, outworn forms of living.
As the warm months die out and the cold winter months step in, the season has become linked with the death process. On this holiday, we honor the cycle of life and death and rebirth and honor our ancestors.
When we observe changes in the seasons, we reconnect to a sense of organic flow—how all life experiences are woven together.
Every season is part of a great flow.
By becoming attuned to Nature's cycles, you can join the flow of life rather than struggling to try to control it. Nature’s flow cannot be controlled. Once you learn how to surrender and move with it—when you walk with the flow of life instead of against it—health and ease returns on all levels.
So, it’s a great time to tie up loose ends, pay unpaid debts, end arguments, and put everything to rest. Look at the changes in the weather, changes in nature and how things now begin to rest and die and decay to make way for new life and growth after the winter months. (As an aside – check out this article on the origins of trick or treating … and yeah, that cover image is *frightening*!)
VIDEO: A ritual to celebrate the Final Harvest
Autumn is the traditional time for taking stock: what do we need to release so we won’t feel burdened in the months ahead? What do we keep in our spiritual larders to sustain us? We can take a gentle lesson from Mother Nature as we witness the trees and their graceful letting-go, and the busyness of squirrels as they gather the stores of food that will ensure a secure winter.
The Final Harvest is also the perfect time to reflect on all the things you have had to let go of this year, whether it be relationships, a job, or a way of life, and to celebrate the new energy that will eventually take its place. When something is released from our lives, we enter a highly creative state which can help us to manifest all that we desire.
Whenever you begin a new path, anything you haven’t cleared out or brought to completion will follow you onto the new path. Therefore, now is the time to let go of anything you need to leave behind as you begin a new season.
Nature moves slowly and deliberately toward harmony and sustainability. She intrinsically knows what She needs to do and simply does it. You can learn a lot by tuning into this process in your own life—if you slow down enough and pay close attention.
To help you clear out the thick brush and rid yourself of things you’ve been afraid to let go of, we created this simple guided meditation, below.