- Celebrating Samhain
May the ancestors deliver blessings on you and yours…
May the new year bear great fruits for you…
May your granted wishes be as many as the seeds in a pomegranate…
May the slide into darkness bring you light…
May the memories of what has been keep you strong for what is to be…
May this Samhain cleanse your heart, your soul, and your mind!
— traditional Samhain blessing
Samhain (pronounced sow-en) is a Festival that has survived ’round the world. Call it by any name you like, but whether you bob for apples, practice some of the many forms of divination, light a fire (or just a candle), meditate in your garden with your Elementals or spend the evening greeting costumed children at the door, you are celebrating in The Old Ways. Celebrate with your Honored Dead and have a wonderful Samhain
Honoring the Crone Goddess, relatives who live in spirit and and the renewal of the Wheel of Life, Samhain is celebrated on November 1st as the Celtic (pagan) New Year. Festival rituals begin at sunset on October 31st.
Formal ceremonies were conducting from sunset on October 31 by the lighting of a giant bonfire. Sacrifices of crops and animals were made as a method of sharing the previous year’s bounty with Celtic deities. The sacred bale fire was also representational of cleansing out the old year and preparing for the new one.
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.
After the celebrations were complete, each family would take a torch or burning ember from the sacred bale fire and return to their own home. The home fires extinguished during the day, were re-lit by the flame for protection during the coming winter. These fires were kept burning night and day during the next several months. It was believed that if a home lost its fire, tragedy and troubles would soon follow.
With the hearth fires lit, the families would place food and drink outside their doors to appease the roaming spirits who might play tricks on the family.
- Jack o’lanterns,
- Guising ~ an old Scottish practice where children dressed up and went door to door; singing, reciting or performing and in return, received a special treat.
- Riding the Hodden Horse
- Apple bobbing
- Lighting the Samhain Bale fire
It is an opportunity to:
- Leave milk and honey outside for the fae folk
- Dumb Supper ~ “Going in for dumb supper, meaning that nobody will talk while having supper, encourages the spirits to come to the table.”
- Make resolutions, write them on a small piece of parchment, and burn in a candle flame, preferably a black votive candle within a cauldron on the altar.
- Symbolically extinguish the “hearthfire” of your home and then re-light it from the Samhain Sabbat Fire or cauldron.
- Enjoy the trick or treating of the season.
- Drink apple cider spiced with cinnamon to honor the dead. *see recipe section*
- Bury an apple or pomegranate in the garden for spirits passing by on their way to being reborn.
- Do divination for the next year using whatever form of divination appeals to you.
- Let this be the traditional time that you make candles for the coming year, infusing them with color, power, herbs, and scent depending on the magickal purpose.
- Have a New Year’s Party-it is, after all, the Celtic New Year!
- Honor the dead, remember those you loved who have passed on-perhaps by putting their pictures or something they gave you on your altar during your ritual.
- Mix up some hot mugwort tea
- Make a pumpkin pie
- Dry meat or make jerky-this is the traditional meat harvest
- Bob for apples. There were many divination practices associated with Samhain, many of which dealt with marriage, health, and the weather. Ducking for apples was a marriage divination based on the belief that the first to bite into an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year.
- Apple peeling was another type of divination to determine how long one’s life would be. The longer the unbroken peel, the longer the life of the one peeling the rind
- Or if you don’t divine yourself, get a reading.
- Carve jack-o-lanterns to light the way for the spirits who walk during this night.
- Finish any incomplete projects and pay off lingering bills (if possible) to close out the old year and begin the new year afresh.
- Tell ancestral stories and tales around the fire, or at the dinner table.
- Have a mask-making ceremony in which you create masks to represent your ancestry
Herbal And Botanical Associations
Apple, cedar, cherry, elder, eucalyptus, holly, horse chestnut, lime, orange, palm-date, oak, peach, pear, pine, plum, quince, rowan, sandalwood, willow, witch hazel, african violet, agaric, blackberry, blueberry, cinnamon, coconut, cuckoo-flower, cyclamen, deerstongue, devil’s bit, elderflower, garlic, ginger, grape, hemp, huckleberry, kalbs cross, lavender, liquorice, mandrake, mint, myrrh, nettle, nightshade, pineapple, pomegranate, raspberry, rhubarb, saffron, sage, sarsaparilla, sassafras, sloe, star anise, strawberry, sugar cane, tea, tobacco, vanilla, witch grass, wolfsbane.
Black, brown, gold, orange, red, silver, yellow
Any figure of the goddess in her crone aspect, as well as gods of death; such as: Hecate (goddess of fertility, moon magick, and the witches’ protectress, Morrigan (celtic godess of death, Cernunnos (celtic fertility god), Persephone (Greek goddess who dies and is reborn every year after being tricked by Hades), Arawn (Welsh king of hel), Gywnn ap Nudd (king of faeries and of the underworld), Macha(Irish mother of life and death, one of the triple goddesses of morrigu), Scathach/Scota and Osiris (Egyptian god who dies and is reborn every year; Anubis, Arianrhod, Astarte, Baba Yaga Beansidhe (Banshee), Belili, Bran, Cailleach Beara, Cernunnos, Cerridwen, Crone , Demeter, Hathor, Hecate, Horned God, Inanna, Ishtar, Isis, Kali, Kore, Lakshmi, Lilith, The Morrigan, Nephthys, Odin, Osiris, Oya, Pomona, Rhiannon, Tlazoteotl
Cedar, cinnamon, eucalyptus, ginger, lavender, lime, mint, myrrh, orange, sagebrush, sandalwood, copal, mastic resin, benzoin, sweetgrass, wormwood, mugwort, sage, or patchouli.
Food and Beverage associations
Apples, apple dishes, cider, meat (traditionally this is the meat harvest) especially pork, mulled cider with spices, nuts, pomegranates, potatoes, pumpkins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted pumpkin seeds, squash, corn, cranberry muffins and breads, turnips, beets, ale, herbal tea (mugwort)
Amethyst, asbestos, beryl, bloodstone cat’s eye, coal, coral, carnelian, danburite, fossil, herkimer, jasper, jet, marble, mother of pearl, obsidian, onyx, petrified wood, pumice, quartz, rhodonite, smoky quartz, salt, tourmaline-pink.
apples, autumn flowers, acorns, bat, black cat, bones, corn stalks, cauldrons, colored leaves, crows, death/dying, divination and the tools associated with it, ghosts, gourds, Indian corn, jack-o-lantern, nuts , oak leaves, pomegranates, pumpkins, scarecrows, scythes, waning moon.
Stag, cat, bat, owl, jackal, elephant, ram, scorpion, heron, crow, robin
Phooka, Goblin, Medusa, Beansidhe, Fylgiar, Peryton, Erlkonig, and Harpie
- 2 quarts apple cider
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 cup apricot brandy
In a large pot, combine the apple cider, confectioner’s sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Simmer slowly on low heat for about 15 minutes. Take care that the cider does not boil. Add the apricot brandy and then serve the cider while it is still warm. Refrigerate any leftover cider.
Note: I have used apricot nectar instead of brandy and it wasn’t too bad.
Yield: 8 servings
Source: Dunwich, The Pagan Book of Halloween
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter or margarine, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2/3 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
In small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy and pale. Beat in eggs and buttermilk until well-blended. Add flour mixture to form a batter. Preheat oven to 375ºF. In medium bowl, mix pumpkin, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves until well-blended. Stir into the batter. Ladle batter into 12 2 1/2-inch greased muffin cups and bake for 15-17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, then cool on rack.
Yield: 1 dozen
Source: Dunwich, The Pagan Book of Halloween
Additional articles of interests:
- Pagan Sabbats – High Holy Days
- The Celtic Samhain
- Fantasy & Folklore of Hallows Eve – Library Of Congress
In addition to you might also check out the following resources:
- Natural History periodical – October 1983 p43-44
- Pagan Celtic Britain by Anne Ross
- Celtic Mythology by McCane
- The Druids and Their Heritage by Ward Rutherford
- The Black Arts by Richard Cavendish
- Human Sacrifice by Lewis Spencer
- The History and Origins of Druidism by Lewis Spencer