Divali, Festivals for Winter, Samhain, Uncategorized

The Festival of Lights for Samhain- spoken as ‘saawan’ and Divali

Samhain  and Divali : The Festival of Lights 
  • Harvest food such as pumpkins, squash, root vegetables, to mark the end of the growing season.
  • Nuts and berries, dark breads, representing the darker time of year.
  • Dried leaves and acorns, symbolizing the shedding of the trees as autumn rolls in.
  • A cornucopia filled with an abundance of fruit and winter vegetables represent the bounty of the fields and gardens.
  • Mulled cider, wine, or mead (Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops) Recipe below
  •  honouring the blessings of the orchards and vineyards.

Samhain and Divali

The Festival of Lights

This is known as the ‘All Souls Night, Feast of the Dead, Festival of Remembrance, Feast of Apples, New Year’…interesting Divali is also close to this festival and has similar rituals of blessed food and festivities with loved ones.  Remembering Laxshmi the goddess of love and light and inviting loved ones into the home to share food and cheer. 

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Samhain, like Divali is also an important festival in the Wheel of the Year, and a  Pagan tradition with celtic roots.

It is the third and final harvest festival of nuts and berries and a fire festival like Divali. With  the harvest in, all is complete, it is the end of the cycle of birth and growth, it is the point of death. The seeds of the harvest have fallen deep into the dark earth, they are unseen, dormant, and thus apparently lifeless. Divali has these roots too and with it brings new beginnings.

The God, as Sun King is sacrificed back to the land with the seed until the Winter Solstice, and the Goddess, now as Crone, mourns Him until His rebirth at Yule. He travels the Underworld learning its wisdom. This is the time of the descent into darkness, of pre-conception, out of which new life, new ideas, will eventually emerge.

Diwali,  is a the vibrant festival observed all over India and the UK with utmost devotion and joy and celebrates the victory of good over evil and knowledge over darkness. There are many legends associated with this festival but, the most common legends are the return of Rama to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile and the victory of Krishna over Narakasura. In eastern India, the festival is celebrated to honour the victory of goddess kali over Bakasura. Extending over five days, the main highlight of Diwali is its customs and traditions that include worshipping cattle who are the back bone of India as they provide so much on the lands for farmers.  I am from a family of farmers and so this time of year is important for me from my native roots and now my pagan customs that I have adopted here in the UK.

Lakshmi puja, lighting lamps, exchanging gifts, bursting crackers and decorating the house with rangoli. Packets of money and nw clothes are given to children as they are given new hope for the new year.

Traditionally the veils between the worlds are at their thinnest now. Boundaries dissolve and all is laid bare. It is time to honour and offer hospitality to, our ancestors.

At Samhain the dark half of the year commences. It is a truly magical time. Death is always followed by rebirth and while this is the end of the old year, it is the beginning of the new year as it is for Divali too. and the day begins for both traditons at sunset and  with the darkness.

for both festivals light is always born out of darkness, they are inseparable, interdependent, and necessary. Darkness is fertile with ‘all potential’.

With the beginning of this dark phase comes the opportunity to rest and reflect on the past and to dream of new beginnings. The seed now hidden in the earth will germinate in its season. Look for the seeds in yourself!

Honouring our Ancestors

Honouring ancestors is a very special thing to do at this time of year and can be done in many simple ways.

Think about all those departed souls from your life, both family and friends, children may wish to remember their pets – place photographs of them on an altar. Offer them your hospitality, welcome their presence into your home- send them love and wish them well.

At your Samhain and Divali feasts, consider laying an extra place for them to join you at the table – cook and eat their favourite dishes, talk about them – re-member them, bring them closer.

Make an offering for departed pets too by leaving some dog food outside on Halloween night, many night creatures appreciate this offering. B

Candle Ceremony for The Ancestors and Divali 

This is a wonderfully simple ritual which can be shared with both friends and family, or worked alone.  It begins in darkness and ends full of light.

Seed Scattering Charm for the Ancestors

This simple charm is designed to honour the Spirit of those who have passed onto the Summerland. The seeds you scatter will grow in memory, a gift of remembrance to the Earth.

You will need. A packet of seeds of your choice; A small dish; A small white candle in a suitable holder

The night before your Seed Scattering Charm, pop the seeds into the dish and light the candle, take the seeds and scatter them, saying ‘You are remembered and held in my heart’. Repeat three times.

Where to do this? You can go to a favourite special place of your choice, a place that holds fond memories of the people you are honouring, or even your own garden – the idea of watching the seeds germinating and growing in honour of people you love is very special. The charm works just as well if you plant the seeds in a small pot.

The Apple

There are many apple games played at Samhain which grew out of the belief in the Apple as a sacred and magical fruit. The Apple is a symbol of life and immortality. In Celtic tradition, apples were buried at Samhain as food for those souls who are waiting to be reborn. The Apple, cut crosswise, reveals the five pointed star, or pentacle at its core and the symbol of the Goddess.

Symbols of Samhain

 

The Pumpkin

Pumpkins are very much an American tradition now heavily marketed in the UK and Europe. If you consider  the Celts regarded the human head as the Seat of the Soul, the concept of the carved pumpkin with a candle inside it can ben seen as a Light shining from the Soul. However the pumpkin has nothing to do with Samhain and has a darker side that is unsettling for me at this time of year as it does not resonate with light and the lighter side of these festivals.

The Cauldron

The Cauldron or Holy Grail is closely associated with Samhain. It is feminine, and is the cosmic container for all life and death, of transformation and rebirth.

The Besom Broom

The besom is used as this time both practically and symbolically. It sweeps away the last of the Autumn leaves, but is also used ritually to sweep out the old, to clean and clear away old energy, creating space for the new. Traditionally besoms are made from birch twigs – the birch is associated with purification and renewal.  In preparation for  Divali we clean our homes  and get rid of things that we no longer want or need so again the symbolism is uncanny for both these festivals.

You could of course make a besom at this time of year by gathering a large bundle of birch twigs tied together and many of my ancestors ddi this in India. Drive a broom handle into the middle of the bundle – ideally hazel or ash.

Acorns

The Acorn is the seed of the great Oak, representing wisdom, longevity, rebirth – a promise of strength to come. An acorn in your pocket is an amulet of good fortune to come. All nuts from our indigenous trees – walnuts, hazelnuts, conkers and so on – are pure potential and carry the attributes of the mother tree.  I was taught to  use nuts at Divali and Dates have become a fond favourite too to place on our altar for sweetening things up  in our lives.

Colours of Samhain

Black for death and endings, orange for the vitality of life within death, purple for wisdom, insight and inspiration.

Divali colours are gold, reds, orange, yellow, green and pink-  and correspond to our chakras.

The Samhain Altar

A cauldron. Apples, nuts and berries. Black candles to honour the passage to the Summerland and the Ancestors. Photographs of deceased family and friends.

Besan (Gram Flour)  Barfi

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20 gm pistachios

Step 1

Take a pan, keep it on medium flame and heat the gram flour – keep on a medium heat. Saute it for around 10-15 minutes- stir regularly until the flour browns.

Step 2

Add  sugar and fresh chopped pistachios. Mix well and remove the pan from flame. Stir in freshly ground cardamoms (and raisins – optional)  into this mixture. Mix well.

Step 3

Take a tray and grease it with homemade ghee. Transfer the mixture into the tray and spread it evenly with a greased spatula. Cut the mixture into small cubes about 2 inches in diameter-  Wait until it cools down- serve with hot tea.

Making Clarified Butter -to add to your Besan Barfi

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use And use a good quality product.

simply simmer in a stainless steel pan – dissolve butter-  wait until the whey falls to the bottom of the pan –  pour out the clarified butter and pour into a glass jar or use straight away for this recipe.

For those times when you want the flavour of butter, rather than oil, you’ll want to use clarified butter can stand being cooked longer, and to a higher temperature, than regular butter. Clarifying butter removes the milk solids, which are what causes the butter to burn if cooked for a long time.

Happy Samhain and Divali to all.

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