I sometimes feel like Samhain gets a bad rap…. with our modern culture capitalizing on the darker side of the season with slasher flicks and gorey costumes, the beauty of this time of year can be obscured. This is a truly magical time of year, where the veil is thin and (with the right knowledge and protection) we can make some really amazing connections!
Before we go any further, a little history….
Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), dates back to the ancient Celts who lived 2,000 years ago. Contrary to what some believe, is not a celebration of a Celtic god of the dead. Instead, it is a Celtic word meaning “summer’s end.” The Celts believed that summer came to an end on October 31st and the New Year began on November 1st with the start of winter. But the Celts also followed a lunar calendar and their celebrations began at sunset the night before. Many today see Halloween as the pagan holiday. But that’s not really accurate. As the pagan holiday of Samhain is on November 1st. But their celebrations did and still do, start at sunset on October 31st, on Samhain Eve. During the day on October 31st, the fires within the home are extinguished. Often families would engage in a good “fall” cleaning to clear out the old and make way for the new. Starting the winter months with fresh and clean household items.
At sunset on October 31, clans or local villages begin the formal ceremonies of Samhain by lighting a giant bonfire. The people would gather around the fire to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. It was a method of giving the Gods and Goddesses their share of the previous years herd or crops. In addition these sacred fires were a big part of the cleansing of the old year and a method to prepare for the coming new year. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, and danced around the bonfire. Many of these dances told stories or played out the cycles of life and death or commemorated the cycle of Wheel of Life.
In addition to celebrations and dance, it was believed that this thin veil between the physical world and the Otherworld provided extra energy for communications between the living and the dead. With these communications, Druid Priests, and Celtic Shamans would attempted to tell the fortunes of individual people through a variety of methods. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
The most important thing you can do to create a wonderful Samhain experience is to raise your vibration! This will automatically repel any darker energies as “like attracts like”:
- Eat a “clean diet“
- Use positive affirmations (Ex: “I am safe, I bless this space, I am filled with loving energy, My interactions with the Otherworld will be positive…”)
- Carry (or create an altar space with) high vibration and protecting/grounding crystals.
- Smudge your space (and yourself!).
There are many ways to celebrate Samhain. Here are a few:
- Samhain Nature Walk: Take a meditative walk in a natural area near your home. Observe and contemplate the colors, aromas, sounds, and other sensations of the season. Experience yourself as part of the Circle of Life and reflect on death and rebirth as being an important part of Nature. If the location you visit permits, gather some natural objects and upon your return use them to adorn your home.
- Seasonal Imagery: Decorate your home with Samhain seasonal symbols and the colors of orange and black. Place an Autumnal wreath on your front door. Create displays with pumpkins, cornstalks, gourds, acorns, and apples. Set candles in cauldrons.
- Ancestors Altar: Gather photographs, heirlooms, and other mementos of deceased family, friends, and companion creatures. Arrange them on a table, dresser, or other surface, along with several votive candles. Kindle the candles in their memory as you call out their names and express well wishes. Thank them for being part of your life. Sit quietly and pay attention to what you experience. Note any messages you receive in your journal. This Ancestors Altar can be created just for Samhain or kept year round.
- Feast of the Dead: Prepare a Samhain dinner. Include a place setting at your table or at a nearby altar for the Dead. Add an offering of a bit of each beverage being consumed to the cup at that place setting, and to the plate, add a bit of each food served. Invite your ancestors and other deceased loved ones to come and dine with you. To have this as a Samhain “Dumb Supper” experience, dine in silence. After the feast, place the contents of the plate and cup for the Dead outdoors in a natural location as an offering for the Dead.
- Ancestor Stories: Learn about family history. Contact one or more older relatives and ask them to share memories of family members now dead. Record them in some way and later write accounts of what they share. Give thanks. Share what you learned and have written with another family member or friend. Add names of those you learned about and wish to honor to your Ancestors Altar.
- Cemetery Visit: Visit and tend the gravesite of a loved one at a cemetery. Call to mind memories and consider ways the loved one continues to live on within you. Place an offering there such as fresh flowers, dried herbs, or a libation of water.
- Reflections: Reflect on you and your life over the past year. Review journals, planners, photographs, blogs, and other notations you have created during the past year. Consider how you have grown… accomplishments, challenges, adventures, travels, and learnings. Meditate. Journal about your year in review, your meditation, and your reflections.
- Renovate: Select an area of your home or life as a focus. Examine it. Re-organize it. Release what is no longer needed. Create a better pattern. Celebrate renewal and transformation.
- Bonfire Magic: Kindle a bonfire outdoors when possible or kindle flames in a fireplace or a small cauldron. Write down an outmoded habit that you wish to end and cast it into the Samhain flames as you imagine release. Imagine yourself adopting a new, healthier way of being as you move around the fire clockwise.
- Divinatory Guidance: Using Tarot, Runes, Scrying, or some other method of divination, seek and reflect on guidance for the year to come. Write a summary of your process and messages. Select something appropriate to act upon and do it.
- Divine Invocations: Honor and call upon the Divine in one or more Sacred Forms associated with Samhain, such as the Crone Goddess and Horned God of Nature. Invite Them to aid you in your remembrance of the Dead and in your understanding of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. If you have lost loved ones in the past year, ask these Divine Ones to comfort and support you.
- Transforming Expressions: If you encounter distortions, misinformation, and/or false, negative stereotypes about Paganism and Samhain in the media, contact the source, express your concerns, and share accurate information. Help eradicate derogatory stereotyping with courteous, concise, and intelligent communications.
- Community Connections: Connect with others. Join in a group ritual in your area. Organize a Samhain potluck in your home. Research old and contemporary Samhain customs in books, periodicals, on-line, and through communications with others. Exchange ideas, information, and celebration experiences. Regardless of whether you practice solo or with others, as part of your festivities, reflect for a time on being part of the vast network of those celebrating Samhain around the world.
From Jade Wolfwriter at Modern Magick:
Samhain is almost upon us, the veil begins to thin….Already I am feeling the heightened psychic energies. Combined with tomorrow’s full Moon, it is indeed a magickal time….
Samhain is the last of the Harvest Festivals, the Witch’s New Year, a celebration of the Dead. This is the time where we see how far we have come, and we mourn the passing of what we have lost. It is time for us to reap what we have sown, a culmination of our journey this past year…..In Druidic times, this was the final Harvest, the winter fate of their families literally tied to the bounty of the land…
This Ancient festival is a time to honor our *journey and the transition*. Death is the doorway to rebirth, the Earth knows this, as she *journeys* through the darkness that is winter, each year to be reborn in the spring. At Samhain we honor the transition that is Death. We honor those that have left us -celebrating in their ultimate rebirth, either reincarnated, or existing on the astral plane for a while. We honor our own journey here in 3D, our spiritual journey, we close the door on that chapter of our lives, and as the New Year dawns -we step forward onto a whole new level.
My plans for Samhain include a long, solitary walk through nature -taking time to meditate and write in my journal. I’ll have a ritual in the evening, calling upon the Autumn Goddesses: Hecate, Persephone and Hathor. My Altar is decorated in festive decor, and I have a sacred Samhain candle I will light. My rituals are Wiccan in nature; invokation of the Elements, the Goddesses, Circle Casting…..I also call upon the spirits of the Universe…..and since its Samhain and the veil between worlds is thinnest -you can practically call upon any ethereal/higher vibrational being that you’d like! Speak to ancestors, pets, spirit guides, deceased lovers….they are willing and waiting on Samhain -hoping someone will reach beyond the veil.
Read the full article with GREAT ritual ideas (including a banishing ceremony) here: https://modernmagick.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/samhain-approaches/
Tomorrow SMG will be hosting a “Virtual Ritual” by posting submitted photos of Samhain altars! If you’d like to participate, simply post your altar photo in the comments and I will upload photos throughout the day!
And finally, the Card of Samhain from my lovely Halloween Tarot deck!
The High Priestess!!!
In some ways the High Priestess is the Magician’s opposite. Where he is active, she is receptive. Where he is expressive, she is silent. Where he casts the light of discovery, she remains in darkness. She has the latent power to make things happen, which takes the Magician’s conscious will to create one step further. As the link between clarity and mystery, the seen and unseen, she is the perfect Halloween Vampiress.
Traditionally, the High Priestess is the virgin daughter of the Moon, and represents the eternal feminine, sometimes called Isis or Artemis. In her blood-red dress, she balances delicately on he crescent moon of dreams and the subconscious, between the ivy veiled gray and the white castle towers. She attempts, usually successfully, to remain free of any attachments, emotional or physical, that might throw her off balance.
She is spiritual enlightenment and inner illumination, as seen in her yellow eyes and in the twin candles in the white tower (signs of the duality of the number-two card). A bat hangs precariously from her little finger, balanced by the book of mysteries in her other hand. The plants on the bottom of the card are pomegranates and palms, female and male symbols indicating that the subconscious is potentially reproductive.
The High Priestess tells you to rely on your intuition and inner strength in making your next move. You know what to do- don’t worry if you’re not quite sure how you know.
Intuition, the subconscious, Mystery, hidden influences. Duality.
Source: Deck Booklet
I can’t think of a better card to pull for Samhain Eve… wow!
Samhain blessings to all!