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Annual Samhain Festival - Sunday, October 20 in Peterborough, NH

by Jess G


I have always loved the fall season; the crisp chill in the air and the anticipation of change and turning over. When I began my Pagan journey about twelve years ago, I was naturally drawn to the holiday of Samhain as a chance to honor the darkness along with the light. Samhain is a time to turn in, take stock of all we have gathered in our lives, and observe the cycle of life and death with gratitude. That’s why a food drive has always been an integral part of the annual Celebrate Samhain festival – to remember the needs of people in our community who are struggling – and to share the bounty.

Celebrate Samhain – now in its seventh year – is an occasion for everyone to celebrate the final harvest and ancestors past. Last year, over 600 people attended, from every state in New England and beyond – and with a new, larger venue this year, the event hopes to draw even more. Many are Pagan or Wiccan, but attendees include people whose beliefs align with Earth-centered traditions and others who are simply curious.

Samhain marks the beginning of the dark half of the year – halfway between the fall equinox and winter solstice – one of four cross-quarter days in the "Wheel of the Year." It’s a time when the indigenous people of Europe would collect their final harvest of the season, and with winter ahead, death was always nearby. At this point in the yearly cycle, the veil between the worlds – of the living and of those gone by – is at its thinnest. It was believed the spirits of our ancestors would appear and we could commune with them.

Over time, as the traditional Pagan practices were replaced with Christian ones, the festival "evolved" into All Souls’ Day, and later morphed into the holiday of Halloween. Modern Pagans keep the tradition of Samhain by feasting, making ancestors’ altars, sometimes lighting bonfires and practicing divination.

This year’s Celebrate Samhain – Saturday, October 20, 2012 – will include a keynote presentation by Christian Day, author of The Witches’ Book of the Dead, as well as returning authors Raven and Stephanie Grimassi, Lady Lyrion Ap Tower, Christopher Penczak and kitchen witch, Dawn Hunt. Visitors should not miss the rousing performance by gypsy/steampunk duo Frenchy and the Punk, fresh off their recent European tour. A wonderful gathering of magical practitioners will offer Tarot, astrology, and intuitive readings. New and returning vendors will sell handmade and must-have wares, everything from silks and jewelry to woodcraft, crystals, journals, kitchen and altar items. There will be make-your-own crafts (for kids and adults) such as dream pillows and wands, and of course, delicious hot foods and baked goods, with gluten-free and vegan options. An especially magical Samhain circle, led by a Wiccan priestess and priest, always closes the event.

Recently a journalist asked me whether Samhain’s Pagan roots scare people off. Often people have frightening ideas about Paganism that are misconstrued or simply false. I would say to people who are wary of Samhain’s ties to death, to explore the truth for themselves. Pick up some good books on the subject (several excellent authors will speak at Celebrate Samhain), mingle with people and ask questions. In the natural cycle of things, death is simply a part of life, and the dead deserve a day to be celebrated.

Celebrate Samhain – a festival commemorating the origins of Halloween – seeks to provide a fun and enlightening experience for the whole community. Admission for the entire day is only $8 per person with a donation of a non-perishable food item for the Peterborough Food Pantry ($10 without donation). Under 10 with an accompanying adult is free. Admission includes entry to all workshops, musical performances, vendor halls, and closing ritual. This year’s Celebrate Samhain takes place at the new Peterborough, NH Community Center at the Armory on Elm Street. For more information, visit www.CelebrateSamhain.com, visit the Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/NHCelebrateSamhain, or email info@CelebrateSamhain.com.


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