October is almost Octover, and that means that Hallowe’en and indeed Samhain, draw near.
Samhain/Samain, pronounced ‘sa-win’, ‘sow-in’ – with the ‘ow’ pronounced as it is in ‘cow’ – or ‘shah-vin’, is a Gaelic festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the onset of the ‘darker half of the year’. It begins at midnight on the 31st of October and celebrations often run into the 2nd of November. It is regarded by many pagans and witches as the end of the year itself.
Historic Samhain Traditions:
As at Beltane, bonfires are lit during Samhain at high points, such as hilltops and around them rituals would take place. It was said that a force-fire, – a flame created using friction – also known as a need-fire, was the traditional method of lighting these bonfires. It has been said that fire is a form of sympathetic magick, used often to imitate the Sun during this darker half of the year and that within the flames, there were cleansing and protective powers – something that remains a widespread belief to this day.
During this communal ritual, people would take flames from the bonfire and use them to relight the hearths of their homes. This simple practise was said to bind the families of the community together, aw.
These bonfires were also used in divination and divining rituals.
In the Gaelic regions, during household festivities many rituals took place that were intended to divine the future of those gathered, for example, apple bobbing! Yep, you heard me. Bobbing for apples is in fact a very old divination game. How? Well, when young unmarried people try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string, it is said that the first person to bite into the apple would be the next to be allowed to marry.
If you didn’t already know this, let me tell you that apples are strongly associated with ancestors and the Otherworld.
Click here for more about the history of Samhain.
Let’s talk (quickly) about the thinning of the Veil, a.k.a., the liminality of Samhain:
You’ve probably heard the whole “the barrier between our world and the spirit world is weaker” spiel, yes? Well, it’s true. Samhain is a liminal time, and that means that the barriers separating the world of the living and of the dead and other spirits, can be crossed more easily than at any other point in the year.
It is said that spirits/entities known as the ‘aos si’ can slip from the Otherworld and into ours, be it through a summoning or of their own will. During Samhain, to appease any aos si that have come into our realm, we leave libations for them. This is often in the form of food and drink, such as a small portion of a meal or half a up of wine.
Due to this strong connection with and to the dead, Samhain is a time for honouring those who have passed. It is widely believed that the spirits of loved ones may revisit their former homes seeking hospitality from those within and to provide this, places were set at the dining table or by the hearth to honour them. This is often done in the form of a ‘dumb supper’, which is a silent meal during which you set a place for any visiting spirits, and invite lost loved ones to join you.
Red, brown, gold, black, yellow and orange.
Herbs & Stuff:
Rosemary, Mullein, Rue, Mugwort, Calendula, Tobacco, Apple Leaf, Sage, Wormwood, Tarragon, Bay (Leaf), Almond, Hazelnut, Garlic, Hemlock, Mandrake Root, Chrysanthemum, Cedar, Pine Needle, Pennyroyal, Pumpkin, Sandalwood, Yew.
Lanterns, candles, acorns, bats, bones, black cats, photos or memoirs of passed loved ones, Jack o’ lanterns (either pumpkins or turnips), crows, ravens, corn dolls and corn stalks, cauldrons, scythes, spiderwebs, masks, mirrors, oak leaves.
Food & Drink:
Apples (and dishes with apple in), meat dishes (at Samhain, because it begins to get cold, animals were slaughtered for food as the meat could be better preserved during Winter), potatoes, corn, nuts, turnips, pumpkin (and dishes with pumpkin or roasted pumpkin seeds in), mead, cider, mulled/spiced wine, tea.
Things to do:
Divination! Divination! Divination!: scrying, tarot reading, rune casting, pendulum reading, etc., holding a dumb supper for your dearly departed and/or ancestors, consulting and/or remembering the aforementioned, lighting a bonfire, looking into a past life recall, leaving offerings for ancestors, spirits and/or faeries, cooking, feasting, mumming/guising (a.k.a., wearing a mask or costume).
Stones & Crystals:
(Black) Obsidian, (Black) Onyx, petrified wood, Hematite, Smokey Quartz, Bloodstone, Clear Quartz, Garnet, Carnelian, Amber, Sandstone.
Spells, Magick and Rituals:
Samhain is a time for transformation; for ends and beginnings, so any work pertaining to those is totes apropes for this time. You may also want to work with spirits, deities and do some protection and warding.
- witchy-woman‘s Samhain Jar
- we-are-wicked-witches‘ Samhain Meditation Magick
- brookepricer‘s Samhain Charm
- quoththeravennvm‘s Protection Jack O’Lanterns
- witchtips‘ Traditional Samhain Divination Practises
Happy Hallowe’en and Blessed Samhain, my friends!
Photo Credit: [X]