Updated: Mar 16, 2021
It's the Season of the Witch and, with Halloween right around the corner, I thought it pertinent to make today's blog all about Samhain, the ancient Celtic fire festival of sacrifice to honor the dead and celebrate their new year, from which Halloween can trace its roots.
Samhain is one of the eight high holy days, also known as a Sabbat, on the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year. Samhain is the last of the three harvest festivals (Lughnassadh, Mabon, and Samhain) and its ritual fires usher in the dark time of the year. Samhain fires honored the dead to ask for help in their daily lives and in hopes of warding off their interaction with the living. This fire harvest festival traces its roots to the ancient Celts who used it to mark the beginning of their new year and believed that spirits were most active and able to interact with the living on this day, Not only were fires lit in memorium of the dead, but sacrifices of animals and harvest goods were made in their honor as well. All manner of spirits haunted the living, both benevolent and baneful.
Today, Neo-Pagan and traditional witches alike, celebrate Samhain whether to mark the beginning of a witchy new year, to honor the darkest part of the year, as a major seasonal holiday, or as a time when ancestor worship takes center stage. So, how does this wayfaring witch celebrate Samhain? Well, this year I will be attending a bachelorette party, slinging some cards, and crafting a candle table to honor my ancestors on November 1st. Throughout the years I have had some pretty awesome Samhain experiences and, today, it's my pleasure to share 5 awesome ways to celebrate Samhain.
1. Dead Dinner/Dumb Supper
Hosting a dead dinner has been a tradition of mine for many of the last 10 years. A dead dinner is where you set places at your table for deceased relatives to join you at the table for supper. The food you fix depends on your preference but I tend to make traditional meals from my southern family. Everyone knows chicken n' dumplins and biscuits n' gravy are irresistible to southerners, even the deceased. My advice for a dead dinner is to make what your ancestors most liked to eat. Find old family recipes or look online for a regional historic cookbook. During dead dinners the front and back doors are left open to allow spirits to enter and exit the home as they wish. Silence is also a part of the traditional dead dinner as an honorary gesture. However, I have witnessed more and more people tossing that tradition aside in favor of talking to commune with their ancestors. It's all a matter of preference. After the dinner is concluded, I have always taken the food from the spirit plates outside somewhere to leave as an offering. We can't have hungry spirits running around now can we?
2. Cemetery Mediumship
One of my most memorable Samhain celebrations has been spent perusing the cemetery at night into the wee hours of the morning practicing my skills as a clairsentient and claircognizent. The veil to the Otherworld is thinnest during the cross quarters and sensitivity to the deceased is heightened especially during Samhain. If you choose to do this, gain permission from the cemetery owner prior to your excursion. When I did this, it was the cemetery that was owned by my mentor's family. The really awesome part about it for me was that I was able to stand near a grave and pick up on the stories of the spirits. I gained confirmation the following day when I recounted my experiences to my mentor who then told me the real stories of the deceased and, to my shock, I was far more accurate than I imagined was possible. Because of the pliability of the veil during Samhain, it's a great time to practice stretching your extra-sensory abilities. And you might be surprised at just how easily you can tap into, maintain, and dive deeply into the Otherworld.
3. Spirit Board Session
Yup. The good 'ole spirit board! Before I go further I am not talking about a Ouji board. It's the same premise, but I believe any tool for spirit work marketed to children no older than 8 was not created with the correct intent. Therefore, I do not endorse using a Ouji board. However, spirit boards can be purchased or made and are quite fun this time of year so long as it is done with respect and the proper safeguards are put in place. If you choose to host a seance, the number one rule in my book is to never open a door that you can't close. That means if you don't know what you're doing, get with someone who does or don't do it at all. This is not a game and you do not want a spirit attachment. Personally, I won't engage in a spirit board session if another person sees fit to not take precautions after having been instructed. I am a pretty savvy and knowledgeable witch and I refuse to be a participant in willful ignorance.
When I use spirit boards I ensure that prior to use the area is completely cleansed and protected. I burn sage to clear, sweet grass to invite, and dragon's blood for protection. I also create an herbal mixture designed to ward off negative entities. Black salt, mugwort, wormwood, angelica root, holy basil....you get the idea. I also light a working candle and lay a protective crystal grid. A lot of practitioners don't give this enough attention but if you're working with spirits, wrap your head! This keeps your third eye and crown chakra protected and helps to prevent spirit possession. I make sure to not only to open the session to invite spirits, but to also close the session and seal the entrance when the session has come to an end. Closing the session is crucial. Leaving the session without closing is like leaving all the windows and doors open to your home while you go on vacation. It's just asking for trouble.
4. Divination Experimentation
The thinning veil also allows us to more easily tap into the art of divination. Everything from tarot to runes to tea leaves and bone readings draw us in with their seductive invitation to try our hand at something new. Even if you practice divination, this time of year is an excellent time to try something new and different. During Samhain is when I have found that I can read shells without knowing how or why I was able to do so. Pick up a new divination tool, even if it seems intimidating or daunting, During this time of year your ancestors have a funny way of speaking to you and helping you expand your arsenal of divinatory methods.
5. Community Feast, Ritual, and Magick
Attending an open circle or coven Samhain celebration is a lot of fun! Usually there is a feast, most of the time it's potluck, featuring native seasonal harvest foods cooked in the style of my, or another attendee's ancestors. For me, that means turkey, ham, deer, corn, beans, pumpkin, pecans, breads and much more! One of my favorite foods that I've ever had on Samhain was pumpkin ravioli in peanut sauce. SO GOOD! Samhain is also a great time for drinking beer/grain-based alcohol (if you're able of course) due to the nature of the wheat harvest in the fall.
After dinner, it's time for ritual and spellwork! Each group has their own way of doing things but when I participated in an open circle, we assigned parts. Our ritual consisted of an opening, a journey to the underworld to commune with our ancestors, a petition burning spell to rid ourselves of something prior to the new year, and a closing. Samhain is a great time to work banishing, binding, hex and curse, sex, and protection magick.
I hope each and every one of you has a blessed Samhain and has found some ideas in this blog to help you celebrate the season of completion, new beginnings, spirit work, shadow work, and divination. Happy trails!