Until the rise of the neo-Pagan phenomenon of the mid to late twentieth century, I think it’s safe to say that most Americans had never heard of Samhain (pronounced Sow’-en), the ancient Celtic autumn festival. It is likely that our modern celebration of Hallowe’en developed to take the place of the ancient festival. The Christian All Hallows festival to honor the souls of the saints that had passed on was originally celebrated in May but was moved to November 1st in 835 by Pope Gregory IV.
In any case, the Samhain festival celebrates the dead and it is said that the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest at this time, making it easier to communicate with those on the other side. Feasts were held in which the dead were invited to participate, and in later times costumes were worn to protect against malicious spirits.
Samhain is one of the “cross-quarter” holidays that fall between the Solstices and Equinoxes. Astrologically, the Solstices and Equinoxes mark the entry of the Sun into the cardinal signs of initiation: Aries at Spring, Cancer at Summer, Libra at Autumn and Capricorn at Winter. The cross-quarter periods occur at 15 degrees of the fixed signs, with Samhain in the sign of Scorpio, the sign that corresponds to death and rebirth.
Technically, Samhain this year occurs on November 6th when the Sun reaches 15 degrees Scorpio. In the northern hemisphere there is a sense that darkness is descending and we begin retreating to the shelter of our homes where the pathwork of the inner life can take place.