Samhain, also known as the witches’ New Year, is a traditional Gaelic festival celebrated (you guessed it) from October 31st to November 1st. Samhain is the celebration of the beginning of winter or the dark half of the year. Traditionally, Samhain is a harvest celebration. It was believed that the barriers between worlds were thinner during Samhain and that people could be visited by the dead. Today, in place of Samhain we tend to celebrate Halloween, but many people continue to celebrate Samhain—I am one of those people. A couple years ago, I became interested in Wicca. While I am rather terrible at finding the time to celebrate all eight Wiccan holidays, Samhain is one that I always try to celebrate. If you want to experience Samhain, here are some ideas.
Samhain was traditionally seen as a time for divination. Oftentimes, this was used to find the name of a future husband or occupation. You can celebrate this aspect of Samhain by either using your own favoured divination method, or do a simple tea reading. I have a very beloved deck of tarot cards that I like to use. But there are many, many options for divination out there, including simply taking the time to reflect on what you want for your future. While divination clarifies your thoughts and intents, just taking a moment to meditate on where you are going, and where you would like to be will provide clarity.
- Meditate on life, death and mortality
Samhain ushers in the long months of winter, and represents the transition between life and death. This is the perfect time to meditate on those who you have lost, as well as your own mortality and eventual return to the earth. Remember, energy does not die but rather transfers from one object to another. When we die our energy gets transferred back to the earth.
- Set out an altar honouring loved ones you have lost
Since the barriers between worlds are thinner during Samhain, it is the perfect time to send messages to loved ones you have lost. This is the time of year when it is most likely for loved ones to hear you. While you could also do seances, I would not suggest using a Ouija board. Oftentimes this is seen as a mockery of the spirits, and as a result it is unlikely you will get a satisfactory response—instead, you will very likely encounter a malevolent spirit. If you do decide to do a seance, be sure to create a circle of protection before starting as this will protect you from malicious spirits.
- Carve pumpkins
Pumpkins are used during Samhain to protect against malevolent spirits. One of the best protective sigils is the upright pentacle. This is a great way to celebrate Samhain while also paying tribute to traditional Samhain celebrations. But most importantly carving pumpkins is just plain fun.
- Have a harvest feast
If you have been growing a garden, this is the perfect time to go out and harvest what you have grown. Now is the time of year to feast on what you have produced. If you don’t have a garden, go out and purchase traditional fall foods such as squash or pumpkin. I myself am planning on having stuffed squash, vicky carrots, and roasted potatoes this Halloween night. Each of theses are late harvest foods and make a great meal, but you can also simply celebrate with a pumpkin spice latte or a slice of apple or pumpkin pie.
- Have a bonfire, or light a candle
Traditionally, fire was used to (you guessed it) scare away malevolent spirits. Samhain is also one of Wicca’s four fire festivals—Beltane, Imbolc, Lughnassadh, and Samhain. The best way to celebrate is to light a fire. Whether this is a giant fire in your backyard, or an electric candle in your dorm room, it is up to. But if you choose to celebrate Samhain, this is one of the best and can be one of the simplest ways to go about it.