Halloween, Winter Nights, All Hallows Eve - October 31st
Samhain (Summer's End) is one of our four Greater Sabbats, the highest holy day of witches. It's New Year's eve for witches, as well as our third and final harvest festival.
Samhain is the Wiccan New Year. This is the time of year when the veil between the world of the dead and the world of the living is said to be it's thinnest. Spirits and souls of loved ones are said to have more power and ability to visit us. This is the time of year for remembering and honoring our dead, and many people will leave a plate of food and a glass of wine out for wandering sprits. (This is often called the Feast of Hecate)
It is also the Day of the Dead for us as it was for the Celts, Egyptians and ancient Mexicans, the night when we remember our loved ones and honor our ancestors.
November 1 is the actual date of Samhain but like other Celtic derived festivals it is celebrated on its eve. November 1 is New Year's Day for witches, as it was for the Babylonians.
One of the four greater Sabbats, of the Wiccan/pagan year. For the Celts, Samhain was the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, its arrival signaled the close of harvest and the start of the winter season. Fairies were imagined as particularly active at this season.
In the Celtic Tradition, the year begins at Samhain, this is the most powerful night of the year to perform divination. Divination is done in many forms but all seek to establish a look ahead, whether the answer appears good or bad. Samhain is also considered to start the reign of the God or the dark time of the Year when the Sun goes lower each day and begins to weaken.
Decorate your altar with photographs of dead loved ones, pumpkin lanterns, oak leaves, apples, nuts and sage. Incenses associated with this festival include nutmeg, mint and sage, and the colors black and orange.
Ritual for Samhain
by Scott Cunningham
Place upon the altar apples, pomegranates, pumpkins, squashes and other late autumn fruits. Autumn flowers such as marigolds and chrysanthemums are fine too. Write on a piece of paper an aspect of your life which you wish to be free of: anger, a baneful habit, misplaced feelings, disease. The cauldron or some similar tool must be present before the altar as well, on a trivet or some other heat-proof surface (if the legs aren't long enough). A small, flat dish marked with an eight-spoke wheel symbol should also be there. (On a flat plate or dish, paint a large circle. Put a dot in the center of this circle and paint eight spokes radiating out from the dot to the larger circle. - A symbol of the Sabbats, a symbol of timelessness.)
Prior to the ritual, sit quietly and think of friends and loved ones who have passed away. Do not despair. Know that they have gone on to greater things. Keep firmly in mind that the physical isn't the absolute reality, and that souls never die.
Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast your circle.
Recite The Blessing Chant:
May the powers of The One,
the source of all creation;
all-pervasive, omnipotent, eternal;
may the Goddess,
the Lady of the Moon;
and the God,
Horned Hunter of the Sun;
rulers of the elemental realms;
may the powers of the stars above and the Earth below,
bless this place, and this time, and I who am with You.
Invoke the Goddess and God. (in your own way)
Lift one of the pomegranates and, with your freshly-washed white-handled knife, pierce the skin of the fruit. Remove several seeds and place them on the wheel-marked dish.
Raise your wand, face the altar and say:
On this night of Samhain, I mark your passing,
O Sun King, through the sunset into the Land of the Young.
I mark also the passing of all who have gone before,
and all who will go after. O Gracious Goddess,
Eternal Mother, You who gives birth to the fallen,
teach me to know that in the time of the greatest
darkness there is the greatest light.
Taste the pomegranate seeds; burst them with your teeth and savor their sharp, bittersweet flavor. Look down at the eight-spoked symbol on the plate; the wheel of the year, the cycle of the seasons, the end and beginning of all creation.
Light a fire within the cauldron (a candle is fine). Sit before it, holding the piece of paper, gazing at its flames. Say:
Wise One of the Waning Moon,
Goddess of the starry night,
I create this fire within Your cauldron
to transform that which is plaguing me.
May the energies be reversed:
From darkness, light!
From bane, good!
From death, birth!
Light the paper in the cauldron's flames and drop it inside. As it burns, know that your ill diminishes, lessens and finally leaves you as it is consumed within the universal fires.
If you wish, you may attempt scrying or some other form of divination, for this is a perfect time to look into the past or future. Try to recall past lives too, if you will. But leave the dead in peace. Honor them with your memories but do not call them to you. (Many Wiccans do attempt to communicate with their deceased ancestors and friends at this time... if you must do this... make sure you know how to handle the energies and only do this if you are VERY experienced.) Release any pain and sense of loss you may feel into the cauldron's flames.
Works of magick, if necessary, may follow.
Celebrate the Simple Feast.
The circle is released.
Samhain is one of the most potent nights of the year for magick.
As a cross-quarter day it is a supernatural time, a time outside of time, the night that is not a night, a powerful time of flux and change. This is a good night for: candle magick - astral projection - past life work - dark moon mysteries - mirror spells (reflection) - casting protection - inner work - propitiation - clearing obstacles - uncrossing - inspiration - workings of transition or culmination - manifesting transformation - creative visualization.
Bonfires to protect the family, coven or land through the winter darkness - bale fire, to erase mistakes and negativity - torches to honor the dead - extinguish all fires then kindle new fire for a fresh start with the new year - burn incense to get the site - set the torc tenned ablaze, a pyramid of timber called the Fire Boar; save the ashes to use as a base for next Samhain's torc tenned - put a candle in the window to help the spirit of a loved one find its way home - light a candle on the ancestral altar - lanterns, jack o' lanterns or candles outdoors to guide the way for spirits and fairies who are abroad this night - light a fire in the cauldron for protection or transformation.
Samhain is a power night for divination: read the tarot cards; use the Wheel of the Year spread to forecast the year ahead - cast runes or the I Ching - scry in crystal balls, dark mirrors, bowls of black ink or pools of water - swing a pendulum, asking yes or no questions - eat an apple in front of a mirror at midnight, by candlelight, to scry your future mate.
This is a good night for deep reflection and inner work. Meditation themes include: changes, transition, endings and beginnings, passage, return, mortality and reincarnation, chaos leading to reorder.
(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 love one at the banquet or dinner table.
New Year Workings:
Release the old: bad habits and toxic relationships, illness, failure and poverty; everything you do not want to carry into the new year - sweep negativity and out of your home - end quarrels - settle debts, make amends or restitution if needed - spells for prosperity and security for your family.
This is a great night for visiting the faery realm but you must return by dawn or remain forever enchanted, unable to return.
Like Beltane opposite it on the wheel of the year, Samhain is a night when the Goddess descends into women. This is an excellent night for sex magick of all kinds, and the Great Rite.
SYMBOL: Black cat, jack o 'lantern, bat, ghost, scarecrow, waning moon.
GODDESSES: Crone, all crone goddesses, Cerridwen, Hecate, Hel, Oya, the Morrigan, Lilith, Kali, Ishtar, Arianrhod, Rhiannon, Tlazoteotl, Nephthys, Persephone, Beansidhe (Banshee), Inanna, Baba Yaga, Isis, Pomona and Cailleach Beara (Brigid's crone aspect), who is reborn this night.
GODS: Osiris, the Horned God, Herne the Hunter, Cernunnos, Anubis, Odin, Bran, death gods, dying and rising gods.
INCENSE: Copal, sandalwood, mastic resin, benzoin, sweetgrass, wormwood: to get the sight, to see the spirits of the returning dead.
CANDLES: New candles for the new year: black, orange, autumn colors, or black candles for the Lord and the old year, white candles for the Lady and the new year.
TOOLS: Besom, to sweep out the old year and any negativity it had.
Cauldron, for transformation.
Divination tools: Tarot cards, scrying bowl, rune stones, pendulum, mirror, etc.
PLANT: Pumpkin, apple, grain, pomegranate, mugwort, wormwood, Dittany of Crete, acorn, oak leaf, gourds, root vegetables, rosemary (for remembrance).
STONE: Obsidian, carnelian, onyx, smoky quartz, jet, bloodstone.
ANIMAL: Bat, black cat, owl.
ALTAR DECORATIONS: Autumn leaves, fall flowers, pomegranates, apples, pumpkins, ears of corn, sprays of grain, corn dollies, gourds, nuts, seeds, acorns, chestnuts and images of ancestors are all appropriate. Use whatever is in season where you live, whatever feels right and looks good to you.
FOOD: Gingerbread, freshly roasted nuts, nut breads, anything made with apples or pumpkin, meat (especially bacon), doughnuts, popcorn, cakes with lucky tokens in them, and red foods because the ancients held them sacred to the dead. DRINK: Mead, apple cider, mulled cider, mulled wine.
CELEBRATE: Masks, costumes - trick-or-treating - feasting and partying to defy the coming darkness (bob for apples, roast nuts, pop popcorn) - harvest feasts - rituals to honor the dead - Witches' Ball.