As someone who fairly recently discovered that Samhain is not, in fact, pronounced "sam-han," it's surprising even to me that I would choose to mark the celebration this year in a very meaningful way.
Samhain (pronounced "sow-en") is an ancient Celtic festival that has been revived in the modern world among pagans. Halloween borrowed many aspects of Samhain, particularly the carving of the jack-o-lantern, which was originally a Samhain custom practiced on turnips. The Catholic All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, days to honor all saints and all those departed throughout history, also borrow from the Samhain custom of honoring ancestors.
As a pantheist, Samhain is a wonderful excuse to set aside a day to remember loved ones that have died.
This past year I lost three very dear loved ones: my grandfather, my grandmother, and my dog Sandy. Losing Papaw last November was difficult because it was the first major death I had ever experienced, but I had the chance to say my goodbyes and let him go peacefully. Then, in September of this year, Granny died suddenly and we had to put Sandy down the day after her passing, so I sort of felt robbed of the chance to mourn my grandmother properly. Even though I've held the belief that we all go back to the earth, their deaths had me imagining (and perhaps hoping) that all three of their spirits are together somewhere. I guess that makes me a healthy mix of naturalistic and dualist pantheist.
I've been wanting to incorporate ritual into my life for quite some time now, as a way of outwardly expressing my spirituality and being more mindful of that aspect of myself. I like the idea of the "year and a day" concept of study that the Wiccans and other pagans use, so that has been my intention, and Samhain seemed like a good time to start.
Tonight I crafted a meaningful ritual based very much on the Naturalistic Pantheist Musings blog. I lit a candle in gratitude to the stars, as every atom within me is stardust. I prayed for peace in the four directions and reminded myself that the Universe is Divine and the Earth is Sacred. I lit three main candles for those loved ones I had lost this past year, as well as three extra tealights (one for loved ones that passed prior to this past year, one for my ancestors, and one for strangers throughout history that have died). I then drank a cup of remembrance (cranberry juice) and left some in the glass so I could go outside after the ritual and pour the remainder out onto the ground. I also broke up a slice of bread and scattered it around the ground, giving back to the earth and being mindful of the Source from which all life-sustaining things come. It left me feeling centered, peaceful, and appreciative of life, and is definitely something I plan to do again.
With full credit going to the original author, whose blog was an invaluable source of information for me tonight, I leave you with this Prayer of Peace:
"Deep within the still center of my being, may I find peace. Silently, within the quiet grove, may I cultivate peace. Gently, within the greater circle of humankind, may I radiate peace."
Samhain blessings to all!