There are certain times of the year when other worlds glimmer at the edges of our sight, when the magic in this world comes a little bit closer.
It crackles in the in-between spaces, hums in the dark.
It's in the rustle of dry leaves, the pale moon shining through bare branches, the breath of the stag. It's in the smell of bread baking in a warm kitchen.
You can hear it in the distant, lonely barking of dogs at dusk, and feel it in the smoke-air of night.
The veil between this world and the others is getting thinner now, in the last waning moments of harvest-time. We're walking into the dark, into the lengthening nights before the winter solstice brings the slow return of the light. We're in a liminal space, a dreaming-space, between what we think is real and what we perceive to be real.
The day of the year when many believe the veil between worlds is most easily lifted is Samhain.
Samhain, meaning "summer's end" and most often celebrated on or around October 31st, is a festival marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark days and long nights of winter. It is the night when spirits come near, when we honor our ancestors and think of those who have gone before, when the world vibrates with subtle energy. When things unseen can be seen. Can be felt.
One of the oldest Samhain traditions is to cook a harvest feast to honor the bounty of the season. Apples, squashes, crusty breads, warm soups, and any delicious local foods are perfect.
Some of the herbs associated with Samhain are rosemary, sage, allspice, acorns, and mugwort - incorporating of few of these into whatever you're cooking up will give the feast a little extra magic.
If you want to be truly traditional, set out a plate with a little sample of each dish (and maybe a little nip of whiskey, wine or beer) for the spirits.
If you want to get a little more witchy, building a small Samhain altar is a nice way to ground yourself and connect with the energies of the season.
It doesn't have to be fancy; a few collected acorns or oak leaves, holly branches, herbs (like the ones listed above), a feather, or anything that you feel carries the spirit of the season is perfect.
You can also light a bundle of dried mugwort to ward off any negative spirits and call in the protection of the good.
Some people like to keep a Samhain fire burning throughout the night to guide friendly spirits ward off the dark. It can be a small fire, a bonfire, or even just a candle.
If you feel called, write down something you'd like to let go of on a piece of paper. It could be a habit you want to break, or something you want to change about your life. Set your intention, and burn the paper in the Samhain flames.
All of these traditions are wonderful ways to connect with the season and mark the passage of Samhain.
Of course, as lovely as it would be, many of us might not have the time to do all of these things (or any, for that matter!).
And that's fine.
In my humble opinion, one of the simplest and truest ways to honor Samhain is just to step outside, wherever you are, and make yourself still.
Breathe deeply. Look at the night sky.
Remember that all of the wisdom of your ancestors, all the magic of the old ways, will always belong to you.
Feel the energy in that crisp, leaf-scented air.
Listen, listen, listen...