The Wheel of the Year: Samhain
Samhain is a major Sabbat for the Witches and generally recognized as our most holy of days. This cross-quarter festival celebrates the Witches New Year and end of the summer season. It marks the end of the Goddess’ reign and welcomes back the return of the Lord of the Underworld who will protect and guide us through the dark Winter months that are now moving across the land. The veil between the natural and the supernatural world dissolves and can easily be passed through by the ones who have already left the bonds of Earth.
Our friends in the Southern Hemisphere honor the thinning of the veil with their Beltane celebration at this time.
Astrological Date: Sun at 15º Scorpio
Ah, the Witches’ New Year! This is my favorite time of the year, perhaps because more of my family resides on the Other Side than do here. The call to Ancestral wisdom is tied into the watery element of Scorpio. Scorpios magic gives us the power of transformation and invites the exploration of the depths of our soul. The veil between worlds is thinnest at this time (approximately November 7th). Now our ability to access magic and connect with those who have passed is at its peak.
As with the other cross-quarter festivals that occur on the midpoints between equinoxes and solstices, you can celebrate on the secular calendar date (in this case, October 31st or November 1st) and/or check for the exact transition time and celebrate then. Many witches will hold a public celebration on the popular date and reserve their magical workings for when the Sun transitions at the midpoint of the zodiac sign.
Check for the exact date of the Sun’s transition >>HERE<<
Seasonal Focus: Composting
Samhain is our third and final Fall harvest, sometimes referred to as the Blood Harvest. Traditionally farmers would use up their fresh stores and preserve any remaining perishable fruits and vegetables. Any livestock they did not plan to feed through winter would be slaughtered. So, too, do we symbolically rid ourselves of things that are no longer needed or no longer serve us. Composting, in a physical sense, is what happens when the trees drop their leaves each season—these leaves turn into the soil over time and that soil nurtures a whole web of life. For farmers, this is the time to clear out the old plants, trim things back, and mulch what remains in preparation for winter. What a perfect analogy for our lives as we understand that failure to clear out the old prevents the new from coming forth.
- Altar Decorations / Symbols: Acorns, Apples, Black Candles, Brooms, Carved Pumpkins, Cauldron, Fall flowers and leaves, Nuts and Berries, Photographs of deceased loved ones, Pomegranates
- Animals: Bat, Black cat, Owl, Raven
- Colors & Candles: Black, Gold, Orange, Purple, Silver, White
- Crystals & Stones: Aquamarine, Bloodstone, Carnelian, Jet, Obsidian, Onyx, Smoky Quartz
- Incense & Oils: Benzoin, Copal, Heliotrope, Mastic Resin, Sage, Sandalwood, Sweetgrass, Wormwood
- Herbs & Flowers: Allspice, Broom, Calendula, Cosmos, Chrysanthemum, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Mint, Nutmeg, Rosemary, Sage, Thistle, Wormwood
- Trees: Apple, Hazel, Oak, Pomegranate
Samhain Customs & Celebrations
Samhain is a time of remembering and honoring our Ancestors. We are also reflecting upon our past and crafting intentions for the “new year” ahead of us. Here are a few ways to celebrate:
- Place a candle in the window or on the ancestral altar to help your loved ones spirit find their way home. Traditionally, we light lanterns, jack o’ lanterns or candles outdoors to guide the way for the spirits and fairies who are out roaming this night.
- Reflect on the past year and release anything you do not want to carry with you in the new year. Go over your journals, planners, pictures or other memories to consider how much you have grown! Journal about this and focus on your accomplishments. Now make a decision on where you would like to let go of any negativity that remains.
- Ritual fires symbolize the Cauldron of Rebirth. There are many ways to do this, from lighting a bonfire or fire in the cauldron to simply burning a candle on the altar. The fires represent a fresh start for the new year and you can release the negativity of the past by writing it all down and burning it (safely, of course!).
- Samhain is a powerful night for divination: cast runes or the I Ching, read tarot cards, scry using crystal balls, dark mirrors or pools of water, or swing a pendulum for a yes or no question. A Victorian tradition was to eat an apple in front of a mirror at midnight, by candlelight, to scry your future mate.
- Spirit work (by invitation, not summons) This is the night when the veil is thinnest, the gates between the worlds are open. Souls of the dead are said to visit their homes at midnight. Possible workings include: a dumb supper for the beloved dead – ouija – séances – trance possession – automatic writing – bury apples as food for hungry spirits – leave spirit plates of food outside your home – set a place for a missed loved one at the banquet or dinner table.
- Take a meditative walk in the nature 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.
Samhain Foods & Recipes
Celebrate in the kitchen with seasonal foods that include: Ale, Apples, Cakes for the dead, Cider, Corn, Cranberry muffins and bread, Grains (all types), Hazelnuts, Herbal teas (especially Mugwort), Meat (or tempeh) Pears, Pomegranates, Pumpkin, and other Squashes.
Roasted Butternut Squash Casserole
Pomegranate Chocolate Bark
What are some of your favorite recipes for this time of year? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
My personal Book of Shadows and the traditions of Clan RavenMyst
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