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Samhain Festival October 24 in Peterborough, NH

What began a decade ago as an intimate celebration for the Pagan community of New Hampshire has grown into one of the most successful events of its kind. Attracting participants from throughout New England and well beyond, the Celebrate Samhain festival will mark its 10th anniversary this October 24th.

“It’s been remarkable witnessing the event grow from its modest beginnings in a local UU church hall to our present venue in a spacious former armory. The support of the New England Pagan community for Celebrate Samhain has been incredible. Each year we continue to attract large numbers of attendees, distinguished speakers and top musical talent”, commented Jess Gerrior, one of the event cofounders.

Falling between the fall equinox and winter solstice, the festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-en) marks the beginning of the ‘dark half’ of the ‘Wheel of the Year’. For peoples of pre-Christian Europe, Samhain was a time of the final harvest and of celebration before the onset of the cold and barren winter months. It was a time of introspection and for communion with, and the honoring of those who’d passed.

Celebrate Samhain keeps these traditions alive for modern Pagans by honoring the final harvest through a food drive (as part of admission), feasting, music and song, divination, and an open ritual recognizing those who have gone on before. One of the event’s most popular attractions however, are presentations by distinguished authors and respected members of the community. 

Raven Grimassi is one such presenter. The author of over 20 books on witchcraft and Wicca, and the cofounder (along with his wife, Stephanie Taylor Grimassi) of the Ash, Birch & Willow Tradition of Witchcraft, Raven will be making his third appearance at Celebrate Samhain this year and graciously shared some thoughts on Samhain.

Q: For you, what is the spiritual significance of Samhain? What spiritual elements do you incorporate into your celebration and what do they mean to you?

Raven: For me, Samhain is about meeting the sacredness of the “Otherside” and connecting more intimately with ancestral spirits. The focus on my altar is a replica of a human skull, symbolic of the knowledge and wisdom left behind by those who came before us.

Q: Samhain is often described as the point of the year at which the veil between worlds, that of the living and that of spirit, is at its thinnest. Could you explain what this means and how it might be experienced?

Raven: This relates to the idea, in Old Magic, of the ‘in-between place’. It is the threshold, the portal between the world of mortal kind and the realm of spirit. The experience comes from putting oneself directly in the energy (as opposed to simply celebrating). Partaking in a meal with the dead, setting food and drink out in the West quarter, and sensing the ancestors as present all contribute to experiencing this seasonal shift.

Q: One of the ways people celebrate Samhain is creating altars devoted to their ancestors, or sometimes to all ancestors or ancestor spirits. What is on your altar, and what would you suggest to someone who might be curious about building their first ancestor altar?

Raven: The human skull replica is of primary importance for me, and it is placed in the center of the altar. A red candle is set on top of the skull and lighted. The dripping red wax represents the “living river of blood” that flows from one generation to the next. For people new to setting an ancestral altar, I suggest setting things that have a cultural connection. For example, a piece of jewelry with a design relative to your heritage, or a statue of a deity that connects the culture of your ancestors. In addition, I suggest setting a traditional food and drink related to your lineage. All of these bring honor to one’s ancestry.

Q: We know you’ve been working on a really amazing creative project. Could you tell us about it?

Raven: Yes, it is a unique video project titled “Ever Ancient, Ever New: Witchcraft by the Hearthside”. The video is a bardic-style presentation of the beliefs and practices of Witchcraft. It is the culmination of over 40 years of research, study, practice, and the integration of myths, legends and lore. The video is 2 hours long and is, in many ways, a ground-breaking project that will be a great resource for the Witchcraft community.

Q: What brings you back to Celebrate Samhain?

Raven: An invitation and my Chevy Equinox. Oh, yeah, and wanting to reconnect with a great community!

In addition to authors Raven and Stephane Grimassi, this year’s Celebrate Samhain will feature keynote speaker and best-selling author of A Book of Pagan Prayer and A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book, Ceisiwr Serith; author and founder of Cucina Aurora, Dawn Hunt (The Kitchen Witch); Ritual presenters and author Lyrion and Raven ApTower; and recording artists Frenchy & The Punk and Jenna Greene and Brian Willowfire.

Select vendors from throughout New England will be offering an array of unique handmade items and magical wares and a variety of gifted intuitives will be available for divination readings. Catering will be provided by Cafe 532, which will be serving up a menu of hearty seasonal fare (including healthy options) and beverages.
Celebrate Samhain will be held on Saturday, October 24th, from 10am-6pm at the Peterborough Community Center on Elm Street in Peterborough, NH. Admission for the entire day (including all presentations and entertainment) is $12 – or $10 with donation of non-perishable food items. Under 10 years with an accompanying adult is free. For more information and up-to-date news, visit the event Facebook page at: NHSamhain.

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