Observed: October 31st – November 1st

Pronounced Sow-when. Samhain means “Summer’s end” in Gaelic (sam meaning “summer” and fuin meaning “end”, put them together and you get Samhain). It is the last harvest festival and marks the beginning of the Celtic year. Also known as the Celtic or Witch’s New Year.

It is the festival of the dead in Pagan cultures (mostly witch cultures, not sure about Tribal like Native American cultures). It is a day to honor your ancestors. It was the last day of Summer and the last day of the harvest. It is the time to harvest the last of the grains (corn, wheat, etc), apples, and the herd. It was the day all the cattle was slaughtered to help feed the people through the winter. It was also the last big party before the harsh winter to come.

Any crops still left in the fields was considered bad luck and were never harvested after this day. They were left as offerings to the spirits, be they ancestors or nature spirits.

Samhain is also the day for divination. Old folk lore says people would use apples, nuts, eggs, and mirrors this night in order to foretell their future for the year to come. Lore says if you peel an apple (stop when it breaks and dont peel anymore) and toss it into a barrel or bucket of water, whatever shape the apple peal makes will be the first letter of the person you were going to marry. If you cooked nuts over a fire, if the nuts stayed together the couple who was roasting the nuts would stay together as well and have a happy marriage that year. If you dropped egg whites in a glass of water and interpreted the shapes it would give you the number of children you would have. I child born on Samhain is said to have the “second sight” or powers of divination.

In order to honor one’s ancestors people left out food for the ancestors. Some even set a place at the dinner table for them. Food is generally left out overnight then the remainder is buried the next morning. For people, like myself, who live in the south were there are ants and roaches a plenty, this may not be a good idea. For those that do not want to leave food out all night, try leaving it out until you go to bed and bury or burn it before you go to bed. Apples were also buried on the roadside as offerings for spirits who did not have any remaining decedents to care for them.

Food can be left outside, on the altar, on the doorstep, or buried in the ground. (The spirits aren’t that picky it turns out) Single candles were lit to honor those who died and either placed on the altar or in the window. Some even place them in the jack-o-lanterns, but I think that was to ward off evil spirits instead of honoring them.

Bone fires play a big part on Samhain for those who are lucky enough to have them. It was also a big part in the past as well. Celtic peoples were said to have cast the bones of the animals they slaughtered on the flames of the bonfire and when it was burnt they would take the bones off and if the bones burnt well, the winter ahead would be well. Others built two ritual bonfires and had people walk between them as a purification ritual. Others would put out all fires in the home and people of the village would gather at the town bonfire with unlit torches. They would light the torches off of the bonfire and light their hearths with the common flame, thus bringing them together as a community. The candles also helped guide the spirits of our ancestors home for the night.

This is also the time where the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Which makes it hell on Mediums sometimes (trust me on this lol). Mirrors being doorways into this world are often covered (for those who do not want spirits to come through) or brought out and made a part of the altar to help those who should come through arrive easier. This is also the night where the “Wee Ones” come out to play all their pranks on us humans. Wandering around at night was a no no since either spirits or the tricky little “Wee Ones” would get you.

Symbolism:

Third Harvest, the Dark Mysteries, Rebirth through Death, wisdom of the Crone, death of the God, reflection on our place in the Wheel of the Year, New Year, reincarnation, the dark mysteries, Rebirth after Death.

Symbols:

Gourds, Apples, Black Cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, Besoms.

Herbs:

Mugwort, Allspice, Broom, Catnip, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Oak leaves, Sage and Straw, Angelica, burdock, pennyroyal, rosemary, rue, sunflower, thyme, wild ginseng, tarragon.

Foods

Turnips, Apples, Gourds, Nuts, Mulled Wines, Beef, Pork, Poultry and Gingerbread.

Incense and Oils

Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg, Bay, cedar, clove, copal, coriander, cypress, eucalyptus, frankincense, heather, mugwort, myrrh, patchouli, peppermint, sage, sandalwood, vetiver, wormwood.

Colors

Black, Orange, White, Silver, Gold.

Stones

All Black Stones, preferably jet or obsidian, Amber, beryl, bloodstone, carnelian, clear quartz, diamond, garnet, gold, granite, hematite, jasper, marble, opal, pyrite, rose sapphire, ruby, sandstone, smoky quartz, steel, tourmaline, turquoise.

Drinks

Mead, apple cider, mulled cider, mulled wines.

Flowers

Calendula, chrysanthemum, cosmos, marigold.

Trees

Acacia, apple, cypress, hazel, hemlock, yew.

Animals

Stag, jackal, cat, bat, ram, scorpion, heron, crow, robin.

Mythical creatures

Goblins, harpies.

Gods

All Death, Underworld, and aged Gods; Am-Heh (Egyptian), Anubis (Egyptian), Arawn (Welsh), Cernunnos (Celtic), Dis (Roman), Hades (Greek), Heimdahl (Norse), Herne (English), The Horned God (European), Kronos (Greek), Loki (Norse), Nefertum (Egyptian), Odin (Norse), Osiris (Egyptian), Pluto (Greco-Roman)

Goddesses

All Crone and Underworld Goddesses; Arachne (Greek), Aradia (Italian), Babd (Irish), Cerridwen (Welsh), Elli (Teutonic), Ereshkigal (Assyro-Babylonian), Eris (Greek), The Fates/Moerae (Greek), Fortuna (Roman), Freya/Frigg (Norse), Hecate (Greek), Hel (Teutonic), Inanna (Sumerian), Ishtar (Babylonian), Macha (Irish), Mari (Basque), Morrigan (Celtic), Nephthys (Egyptian), Nicneven (Scottish), Persephone (Greek), Psyche (Greek), Proserpina (Roman), Rhiannon (Welsh)

Decorations

Autumn leaves, fall flowers, pomegranates, apples, pumpkins, ears of corn, sprays of grain, corn dollies, gourds, nuts, seeds.

Traditional activities

divination, drying winter herbs, feasting and partying to defy the coming darkness (bob for apples, roast nuts, pop popcorn), Witches’ Ball.

Spell/ritual work

astral projection, past life recall, Dark Moon mysteries, mirror spells, scrying, protection, inner work, clearing obstacles, transition, culmination, transformation. Releasing bad habits and toxic relationships, illness, failure and poverty; everything you do not want to carry into the new year.

Ritual

To come soon.

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