For me Samhain has always been a special time of the year. Even before I knew it as Samhain instead of Halloween. I’ve been embracing the ‘vibe‘ since we entered October, well it is officially the season of the witch after all.
I adore this time of the year as I feel freer than at any other time. It also makes me a little giddy and the energies can be a bit much for me from time to time but a whole month of feeling like it’s your birthday will do that to you.
I’ve never really gelled with 1st January as the New Year and when I found out that Samhain and 1st November was known as the witches New Year this made my heart sing. Now I prepare for a new start and the next big plans in my life during the month of October instead of the new calendar year.
As leaves begin to die and the Sun begins to slow, the veil begins to thin and my ancestral magick growsMichelle Guerrero Denison – Witch Way Magazine
Samhain, Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, All Souls Night, Feast of the Dead, Festival of Remembrance – whatever your preference – is a truly magical and powerful day and I just LOVE its energy.
Samhain represents the time of the year when the Autumn crops have been harvested and the animals have been brought in ready to over-winter. Within the life and death cycle, Samhain is death and assists in bringing things to a close. In the triple Goddess Samhain is the Crone.
A History of Samhain (Halloween)
Samhain (pronounced sow-wen ) was originally associated with European Celtic cultures 2000 years ago with the Celtic New Year being celebrated on 1st November. However the party really started the night before with the lighting of bonfires and the wearing costumes to ward of evil spirits and ghosts.
The word Samhain is Celtic meaning Summer’s End.
This was once a celebration of the most important harvest of the year, as the crops and cattle from this time would see families through the winter. It marked the end of summer and the beginning of the dark and cold winter which back then brought death.
It was also a time for honouring the dead and those who have gone before which has since been turned into something a little more spooky and commercial as we see in today’s Halloween celebrations.
Honouring the dead was important to the Celts and was, and still is, believed that the veil is thinner during this time meaning that contact with the spirit world is easier to achieve.
In ancient Ireland the Druid priests would take advantage of this spiritual time with divination and ritual as a way to predict and influence future harvests.
The natural cycles determined good or bad harvests which could mean the difference between life and death making the predictions and magick of the druids more valuable. Druid Samhain rituals involved lighting bonfires and burning crops and animals in sacrifice.
This continued until the Romans came to Britain and Ireland and by 43 AD they had conquered the majority of the Celtic territory and spent the next 400 years ruling the lands. The Roman Catholic church combined two of it’s festivals with Samhain. The first was Feralia which commemorated the passing of he dead and the second Pomona, the Roman Goddess and fruit and trees who is associated with the symbol of an apple.
In the 7th Century Pope Boniface IV established the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day and in the 8th Century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as the time to honour all saints and All Saints Day replaced the Samhain traditions with the evening before being called All Hallows Eve. This would later become Halloween.
By the 10th Century the church made November 2 All Soul’s Day to honour the dead, replacing the Celtic festival of the dead and therefore removing the un-sanctioned Celtic holiday.
There were many similarities between the Celtic and Roman festivals which supported the forced assimilation of pagans to the Roman Catholic church. Using existing dates of celebration was the main way to do this.
Some pagan traditions still remained however such as passing out soul cakes in exchange for prayers for the dead. This has now become the modern day door to door trick or treat activity.
The Halloween we know today has a lot to do with the Irish Immigrants entering America. Ancient Celtic traditions were revived and celebrated once over there and dressing up in costumes, trick or treating and having big bonfires became part of the new wave celebration.
What is Samhain Good For?
This is the perfect time to be tying up loose ends, finishing off projects and getting ready for the slower pace of Winter. Also consider this time for breaking bad habits, especially if you want them to stuck…….we are looking at death and endings here after all.
It is said the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world is at it’s thinnest making it a time of honouring the ancestors and using tools of divination to connect with those on the other side.
Don’t get too preoccupied with endings during this time and make sure to tune into yourself and reflect on the life you’ve lived and the future you have ahead of you. This is a perfect time for some journaling.
Samhain 31st October – 1st November
Each festival on the Wheel of the Year celebrates a part of the life cycle. In this life cycle Samhain represents death and it’s subsequent spiritual transformation.
Astrologically Samhain is the point when the Sun crosses the 15 degree mark in the sign of Scorpio. This will be a different day to 31st October or 1st November and is only used if working astrologically is part of your spiritual practice for this festival.
The Wheel of the Year
The Wheel of the Year is made up of eight festivals. Four esbats and four sabbats. Esbats tend to involve lunar workings and are celebrated at night. While sabbats are connected to the rise and setting of the sun and are celebrated during the day, and often through the night too.
On The Wheel of the Year, Samhain is known as a fire festival as it is associated with lighting a bonfire. The theme of fire festivals is one of transition, change and transformation.
Things to do on Samhain
The primary focus for witches during this time includes:
- Honouring the Dead
- Honouring the Harvest
- Preparing for Winter
Here are some ideas for your Samhain celebrations:
- Pumpkin carving
- Build a shrine to your ancestors
- Perform divination through tarot or scrying (see below for more)
- Research your family tree and history
- Have a feast and set a place for the recently deceased- human or animal
- Put together a family photo album
- Decorate your altar (see below for more)
- Visit the cemetery
- Have a bonfire
- Contact the spirit world
- Bob for apples
- Perform spellwork for banishment, transformation and purification
- Cleanse and purify your home (see below for more)
- Make and share soul cakes (see below for more)
- Create Samhain themed art (see below for more)
Decorate your Samhain Altar
This has to be one of the most fun festivals for altar decoration, don’t you agree?
Colours associated with this season are Black, Orange and Bronze. Great items for altar decoration at this time include:
- Autumn Leaves
- Scrying Mirror
- Skeleton/Skull icons
- Bright colours and lights especially black and orange
- Candles and Incense
- Family Tree
- Photo’s of family members
Cleanse and Purify Your Home
There are many ways to cleanse and protect your home and during Samhain when the veil is thin this is a great time to rid your home of unwanted energies and prevent future negativity from settling there.
Here are a few suggestions for you:
- Burn herbs such as sage, rosemary or lavendar
- Mix water and salt in a spray bottle and use as a cleaner on your windowsills and other surfaces. You can choose to add an essential oil to the mixture for a nice smell.
- Sprinkle salt in the corners of your home
- Leave a bowl of salt on the windowsills
- Place a windchime at your front door
Soul Cake Recipe
A soul cake is a small round cake which is traditionally made for All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day to commemorate the dead in the Christian tradition.
Now I am not a cook…..or baker…..I prefer the eating part, so I can’t in good conscious share a recipe I’ve never made myself, so instead I’m sharing some links for you to choose your own. I may even give one a go this year!
- The Hirshon Irish Soul Cakes For Halloween
- Soul Cakes Recipe for Halloween
- Soul cake – A Shropshire Recipe
Spellwork for Samhain
Spells for cutting cords are great for Samhain as are releasing spells to get rid of what no longer serves. Other spells for during this time are love spells and protection spells. If you find yourself super sensitive to the spirit world then spend some time creating protective charms, talismans, jars and bottles to keep you safe.
Here are some ideas for the types of spells which work great at this time of the year:
- Banishment – such as banishing financial debt, anxiety, unhealthy diets, loneliness etc
- Psychic Abilities – such as enhancing, connecting with your guides, communicating with the dead
- Purification – such as personal purification and home purification
- Transformation – to make way for big changes
- Transition – to support a transition or change
A Spell to Enhance your Psychic Ability
As the veil is at it thinnest during this time, spells to enhance your psychic abilities are pretty effective.
I recommend that you practice this spell every day for a week around Samhain.
What you need:
- A white or purple candle
- Oil for anointing the candle – you can use vegetable, olive, essential or magickal oils for this
What to do:
- Take a white or purple spell candle and inscribe your name followed by “to be more psychic”
- Anoint the candle by dipping your finger in the oil and running it from the top to the centre of the candle. Then do the same thing from the bottom to the centre of the candle. Visualise the purpose of your spell while you do this.
- Place your candle on your altar and light it
- As you watch the candle burn visualise yourself communicating with your guides and place this visualisation into an imaginary glass ball and then throw it out into the universe to intensify the spell.
- Repeat the below incantation
- Meditate on the candle and let it burn down.
“Vision of future present and past,
Psychic spirit I do cast,
To hear the unheard and see the unseen,
Psychic powers strong and keen,
I open to see all with my third eye,
Psychic bonds to me I wish to tie,
Unbind my spirit and my mind,
So that my visions shall no longer be confined,
Let my visions and dreams come before the rising sun,
As I cast let my will be done,
Pychic powers I invoke thee,
It is done. So mote it be”
Samhain Tarot & Oracle Card Spread
As the veil is thin this is a great time to get your cards out and I’ve created a free Tarot and Oracle card spread to help you talk to your ancestors during this time.
This invocation can be read allowed during your Samhain celebrations to honour the time of the year.
Taken from Solitary Witch by Silver Ravenwolf:
Forests misty, dark and deep
the door between the world release
loved ones, family favoured pets
to join me in this evening’s fest.
The birth of new, the death of old
I will this cycle to unfold
Each leaf that drifts upon the ground
will bury all that is unsound
and in it’s place will rise anew
the gift of love the whole year through.
With harvest gold and autumn sun
I reap the best that I have done.
And as the days grow shorter still
with longer nights and winter’s chill
I’ll work to build a better place
for every soul and human race
Wild autumn winds and crone’s dark voice
speak to me of wisdom’s choice
let me hear your words of fate
so I know which path to take!
Those of you who went before
speak to me from crossroad’s door
whisper words of love and care
let me know that you are there.
Check out my recent blog and follow the steps to painting a Halloween pumpkin!