Samhain: The Autumn Cross-Quarter


“Elkhorn” by Brom

Their brands were still on fire

and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny

and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him

as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the riders coming hard

and he heard their mournful cry

Yippie yi ooh
Yippie yi yay
Ghost riders in the sky

— Johnny Cash, “Ghost Riders in the Sky” (song)

Samhain (pronounced sah-win) is the autumn cross-quarter. Tradi­tionally Samhain is celebrated on the eve of November 1st. Some Neo-Pagans celebrate the autumn cross-quarter halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, which usu­ally occurs around November 6th or 7th.

Samhain coincides with Halloween, and the Christian feast on All Hallow’s Eve, which precedes All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2). Many Neo-Pagans associate Samhain with the rural practice of culling the flocks prior to the onset of winter. Thus, Samhain is sometimes called the “Blood Harvest” or the “Third Harvest” (following the grain harvest at Lugh­nasadh and the wine harvest at Herfest). For some Neo-Pagans, Samhain is a kind of Pagan Memorial Day, a day for remember­ing and honoring the dead.

Mythologically, the Dark God is crowned as the Holly King. He leads the Wild Hunt as it emerges from the Underworld to roam the winter countryside. The Dark Queen rides beside him in her aspect as the Huntress, the devouring aspect of the God­dess.

Updated 2019


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