(Pronounced 'sow-en' or Sam Hayne)
Samhain is the time where traditionally people put out pumpkin lamps to guide the spirits back to their home
Also known as All Hallows Eve (which actually falls on November 7th). All Souls Day, All Hallows Eve
A brief note on All Souls DayAll Soul's Day (sometimes called the "Day of the Dead") is always November 2 (November 3rd if the 2nd falls on a Sunday). All Soul's Day is a Roman Catholic day of remembrance for friends and loved ones who have passed away. This comes from the ancient Pagan Festival of the Dead, which celebrated the Pagan belief that the souls of the dead would return for a meal with the family. Candles in the window would guide the souls back home, and another place was set at the table. Children would come through the village, asking for food to be offered symbolically to the dead, then donated to feed the hungry.
The witches new year and the 1st of the sabbats (Great Sabbat)
The first of two spirit nights over the year the second being Beltane
Single candles are lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home.
This is the last of the three harvest Sabbats marking the end of the growing seasons.
Deceased ancestors and other friendly spirits are invited to join in Sabbat festivities and be reunited with loved ones
Keep a fire lit or a candle burning all night to honor and welcome the dead. Always take great care when leaving candles unattended I find the safest way is to place my candle inside a tall glass jar so the candle can burn away throughout the night but is very safe ~ if you have animals always make sure your cat or dog is not in the same room as your candle as we all know they are very prone to jump up and 'check things out' especially our little furballs ie cats!!! So be very confident your candle if you choose to leave burning thru the night is very safe and very secure and away from curtains, sofa and chairs and any other flammable items.
If clothes are left outside overnight, they will take on bewitching powers for all who wear them.
Many Pagans prepare a Feast for the Dead on Samhain night, where they leave offerings of food and drink for the spirits.
Some Wiccans leave a plate of food outside the home for the souls of the dead. Placement of a candle in a window and burying apples in the hard-packed Earth is believed to guide them on their journey to the lands of Eternal Summer.
Samhain is celebrated on 31st October here are different ways to celebrate this Sabbat. Samhain is known by most as Halloween, which to me is the commercial side but for Wiccans and Pagans it's considered a Sabbat to honor the ancestors who came before us. It's a good time to contact the spirit world with a seance, because it's the time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest. Sunset on Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The old year has passed, the harvest has been gathered, cattle and sheep have been brought in from the fields, and the leaves have fallen from the trees. The earth slowly begins to die around us.
This is a good time for us to look at wrapping up the old and preparing for the new in our lives. Think about the things you did in the last twelve months. Have you left anything unresolved? If so, now is the time to wrap things up. Once you’ve gotten all that unfinished stuff cleared away, and out of your life, then you can begin looking towards the next year.
For some of us, Samhain is when we honor our ancestors who came before us. If you’ve had a loved one die in the past year, this is the perfect night to celebrate their memory. If we’re fortunate, they will return to communicate with us from beyond the veil, and offer advice, protection and guidance for the upcoming year.
If you want to celebrate Samhain in the Celtic tradition, spread the festivities out over three consecutive days. You can hold a ritual and feast each night. Be flexible, though, so you can work around trick-or-treating schedules!
Trick or treaters drives me nuts to be honest! No I am not a spoil sport at all I have spent many happy hours with my son when he was younger going around the neighborhood with his little bag and enjoyed watching the sheer delight on his face when he got a treat. But now as I have got older and my son no longer does this I find I am disturbed on one of the most important nights of the year and it is that along that drives me nuts!!
I prepare every year for Samhain which is very special to me for my wiccan pagan rituals I find I just start when ding dong the door goes with all the lovely children having fun so I am up and down the stairs at least 50 times during this special night! I have found it much easier to place a very polite note on the door saying ‘no trick or treaters’ which to many will sound awful I know, I am not out to spoil any of their fun but at the same time samhain is super important to me so now I can get on with what I need and want to do without having to run up and down the stairs opening the door! Just an idea for when you are practicing your special night. I start at sun up and carry on until midnight for my rituals for this sabbat so I am very busy on this day and night my motto is I fully respect the commercial side of Halloween and want the children to have fun but at the same time samhain is important to me so I want them to respect me too!!
To Celebrate Samhain Today
Create an Ancestor AltarCreate an ancestor altar using a collection of photographs, displaying your various relatives, ideally going back a few generations to illustrate and show respect for your history. Besides photos, you could also decorate your altar with any other items that belonged to your relatives or even just things that remind you of them. Jewellery, clothing, or other heirloom items could all be used. What matters most is that these items mean something to you and represent your past.
Dumb SupperLay an extra plate at your table on Samhain Eve, this is called a "dumb supper". In this case "dumb" means silent, once the food is served silence is observed throughout the dinner. By remaining quiet, you will open your heart and mind to those who have crossed over. You may feel a ghostly touch, detect a scent of perfume, hear messages, or even witness physical manifestations of spirit energy. It is traditional to serve the "dumb supper" backwards, so the dessert would be eaten first.
Build a Bonfire
Write personal prayers on parchment and cast them into the fire along with objects symbolizing your wishes for the New Year. If you have any old herbs or bits of magick laying around your house burn them up in the Samhain bonfire, it's time to start a fresh new year.
The Apple and the Mirror DivinationBefore the stroke of midnight, sit in front of a mirror in a room lit only by one candle or the moon. Go into the silence, and ask a question. Cut the apple into nine pieces. With your back to the mirror, eat eight of the pieces, and then throw the ninth over your left shoulder. Turn your head to look over the same shoulder, and you will see and in image or symbol in the mirror that will tell you your answer.
(When you look in the mirror, let your focus go "soft," and allow the patterns made by the moon or candlelight and shadows to suggest forms, symbols and other dreamlike images that speak to your intuition.)
Apple DivinationPeel an apple all in one long ribbon, then throw it over your shoulder while asking a question. Divine the answer by the shape of the peel.
Hazelnut DivinationCarve questions into the shells of hazelnuts and place them near a fire. If the nuts pop the answer is "no", if the nuts remain intact the answer is "yes".
Witches ProcessionalIn the spirit of the witches who lived before, on Samhain night dress yourself up in a black cloak, carve a small pumpkin and put on a handle so that it may be carried as a lantern. Ghost about your neighbourhood, with your hood drawn up and your pumpkin lantern lit. Hopefully the neighbours won't be able to tell that it's you floating about the neighbourhood!
Visit Graves of Loved OnesLeave them offerings of jack- o'- lanterns, candy, nuts, apples or special treats that they enjoyed in life. Don't forget to light a stick of incense and leave a small votive candle burning in the pumpkin.
Symbols of Samhain
Jack-O'-Lantern : The tradition of carving a lantern started in the UK and was traditionally carved from a Swede or a turnip. They were carved on All Hallows' Eve and left on the door step to ward off evil spirits.
Trick or Treating : The tradition of trick or treating can be traced back to the ancient Celts, who not only left an offering of food for the dead, but also as part of holiday revelry went begging from house to house. Both children and adults would knock on doors and give some sort of performance and would be given money, food, or drink as payment.
Bonfires were originally built to burn the bones after feasting on the animals slaughtered for winter.
Because cats are for the most part nocturnal and can sneak about relatively unseen at night, they have long been associated with mystery, witchcraft and the occult. It was believed that witches could turn themselves into cats at will. Once Christianity took hold in Europe, witchcraft was declared evil along with all symbolism since they attributed cats to witches, cats were deemed evil by proxy.
The pitchfork in modern times is associated with the devil, but before Christianity the trident was a male fertility symbol and the "key to the Holy Door".
ScarecrowsThe scarecrow contrary to popular opinion, is not really for scaring birds away from crops. A scarecrow is a magickal symbol used to guard the crops from failing.
SkeletonsDuring the paleolithic era and early Europe, skeletons and or skulls of loved ones were preserved, painted, and dressed, then displayed prominently during clan gatherings. Bodiless heads were consulted and used as oracles, with offerings being given for their advise. Mexican culture celebrates "The Day of the Dead" on October 31 which is a conglomeration of Celtic, Catholic and Aztec mythos. On Oct. 31 the souls of the dead return to Mexico with the return of the monarch butterflies. They celebrate with parades, feasts, and dress up as skeletons, mummies, ghosts and ghouls and even have special edible treats shaped like skeletons and skulls.
GhostsSamhain is associated with the dead, and it is believed that on October 31 loved ones who have passed on may re-enter the world of the living and visit with their ancestors. Offerings are left for the spirits, special suppers are laid out for them and the spirit world is given honour.
WitchesThe witch is a central symbol of Halloween. The name comes from the Saxon wica, meaning wise one. At Samhain the Goddess is depicted as an older woman or crone. Hecate and the Cailleach are both examples of crone Goddesses who were worshiped at Samhain Rituals. In order to stop Crone Goddess worship the Christian Church began to denigrate elderly women to remove their authority and knowledge from society. The Crone Goddess became the horrible, mean old hag (witch) that frighten children, cast curses, and poisoned crops and livestock. Many elderly women were tortured and killed simply because they were old.
BatsWhen the Samhain bonfire was lit, it would attract lots of insects to the light, which in turn would attract bats to the bonfire who would commence a feeding frenzy. During the dark period of Europe when witches were being burned at the stake, the same principle would apply, the fire attracted bugs which attracted bats. This phenomena caused the belief that witches could turn into bats and fly away.
WerewolvesMany Celtic myths insist that by wearing a wolf skin one can transform themselves into a spirit beast. The term werewolf actually means spirit-wolf and the name was taken up by those who were opposed to Christianity.
BesomsWhen setting out for a Sabbath, witches rubbed a sacred ointment onto their skin. This gave them a feeling of flying, and if they had been fasting they felt even giddier. Some witches rode on horseback, but poor witches went on foot and carried a broom or a pole to aid in vaulting over streams. In England when new witches were initiated they were often blindfolded, smeared with flying ointment and placed on a broomstick. The ointment would confuse the mind, speed up the pulse and numb the feet. When they were told "You are flying over land and sea," the witch took their word for it.
Bobbing for ApplesWhen the Celts were absorbed by the Roman Empire, many rituals of Roman origin began. Among them was the worship of Pomona, goddess of the harvest, often portrayed sitting on a basket of fruits and flowers. Apples were the sacred fruit of the Goddess, and many games of divination involving them entered the Samhain customs.
Witches HatThe big circle brim symbolizes the magick Circle, the tall pointy part represents the cone of power. The witches hat is traditionally black symbolic of the Crone Goddess, the dark half of the year, and the occult mysteries.
The Samhain AltarSamhain is a time for purification and renewal and is also the time to carry out divination's for the New Year ahead, and a time to honor those that have gone before us. The Goddess is in her Crone phase and the God sleeps in her belly waiting to be reborn. Samhain is also one of the 3 harvest festivals celebrated during the Wheel of the year and for many it is considered the most important Sabbat.
On your altar you can have seasonal fruits and vegetables, pumpkins and squash, mushrooms and fungi spring to mind as well as apples and pears. They don't have to be fruits that you can eat; they can be sculptures, in pictures or little representations. Autumnal leaves are a superb addition, as are twigs and branches. Items that help you connect to the spirit world are also good. Photos of loved ones that have gone ahead to the Summerlands are excellent additions, and help you share your ritual and bring them closer. Colours to choose traditionally are oranges, reds, black, silver, gold and yellow.
FoodStews and casseroles with different meats, colcannon (basically bubble and squeak made with cabbage)
Turnips, Apples, Nuts, Beef, Pork, Poultry. Dry dark breads Ears of corn, Pomegranates, pumpkin pies, gingerbread, Apple cakes, Shepherds pie, Irish Barmbrack bread
DrinksMulled wine, cider, Beer, herbal teas, pomegranate juice
Symbols of SamhainApples, Black Cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, Besoms, cauldron, carved pumpkins, nuts, apple peel
Herbs of SamhainMugwort, Allspice, Broom, Catnip, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Oak leaves, Sage and Straw
Incense of SamhainHeliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg, patchouli
Flowers of SamhainAutumn flowers such, as chrysanthemums are popular. Marigolds are associated with death, cemeteries. Black roses may be made of feathers or other materials. White flowers are also popular. Some people like to use bouquets of dried, wilted, or obviously dead flowers.
Leaves for SamhainAutumn leaves may be strewn around or strung into garlands. Orange leaves or dead brown ones are found in nature; black ones can be made of silk, paper, or other materials.
Colours of SamhainBlack (the shade of night and death), White (represents bone and ghosts) Purple (spiritual colour also associated with magic), orange (the sun’s colour as it dies into night, and the colour of pumpkins and autumn leaves), red
Stones of SamhainAll Black Stones, preferably jet or obsidian, onyx, and carnelian
Altar candles for SamhainTraditionally black, orange, white, silver and gold also place a candle in a window
MusicThe traditional instruments of Samhain include drums, hunting horns, lyres, rattles, and bells. But this holiday really benefits from modern effects such as echoes and fades, so seriously consider synthesizer music.
SpellsHonouring the dead and ancestors, releasing the old, foreseeing the future, understanding death and rebirth, transformation, regeneration, divination, honoring the harvest, preparing for the winter, Dumb Supper, last harvest, scrying, banishing.
Spell workprotection and neutralizing harm are particularly warranted at this time of year, because Samhain is considered to be a good time to boost your confidence and security.
OilsFrankincense, myrrh, wormwood, Mugwort, and patchouli. Spicy ones include sandalwood and pine.
Twas the night before Samhain
Twas the night before Samhain and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except for my spouse.
The incense, it burned in our cauldron so black,
For Witchcraft and Magick we'd a wonderful knack.
The circle was drawn with the athame of power,
The guardians were called to each quarter tower.
The Lord and Lady attended our rite,
In wonder and glory and power and might.
The dearly departed came as our guest,
To live once again, after their rest.
We bid them goodbye with a tear in our eye,
Such a lovely presence of loved ones so nigh.
The candles danced in the flickering light,
With the Great Rite we bid them all a good night.
The guardians, thanked, have all sped away,
The Lord and Lady, thanked for the day.
The night before Samhain, Gods bless this house,
A circle of wonder 'round me and my spouse.