You probably think of October 31st as “Halloween”.
But to our Celtic and European ancestors, and to Pagans and Wiccans across the world, this day is actually known as “Samhain” (pronounced “saah-win”). And it’s one of the most special days on the wheel of the year.
Say Whaaat? Halloween is Actually Samhain?
Yes! The modern “celebration” of Halloween and all its creepy costumes and gimmicky traditions actually has its roots in a much older pagan feast day. And what’s more, it’s believed that Samhain was probably the most important of all Celtic festivals.
A Little History: Why was Samhain so important for the Ancient Celts?
This dark day (beginning on the eve of October 31, and ending on the eve of November 1) actually marked the end of the Celtic year. It was akin to our New Year’s Eve (and take a moment to consider the global celebrations we hold on Dec 31!)
Occurring mid-way between Autumn equinox (Mabon) and Winter Solstice (Yule), Samhain is one of the four fire festivals (along with Imbolc, Beltane and Lammas, or Lughnasadh). These pivotal moments in the yearly Celtic calendar were times for honoring the life-giving force of the Sun and fire itself.
In England, Wales and Ireland, during the late summer harvest, hearth fires would be left to burn low as crops were gathered in the fields. Once the final harvest was in, people came together, often led by Druids (the holy people of the pre-Christian pagan faith). A huge wheel of fire would be lit in celebration and gratitude. Prayers were offered, as were sacrifices to the Gods, in the hope that they would give their blessings for the coming year.
Sacrifices? Wheels of fire? It seems a long way away from the Halloween of today’s modern world, doesn’t it? Well perhaps not…
What’s With all the Scary Halloween Costumes?!
Yet another aspect of this prominent day of the Celts surrounded the dead.
On power days, it was (and still is) believed that the veil between the Earth and Spirit worlds becomes thinner. This allows Spirits, Devas, and Fae to cross from the otherworld into this one, making divination, magick and ancestral connection possible.
Yet with the power to move between the worlds, the Celts feared that on this feast day, it was possible to be kidnapped by fairies. So, to avoid being taken into the otherworld, they would dress up as monsters in an effort to scare them away.
Re-Make Your Own Samhain Traditions!
So the powerful energy of Samhain lives on. But don’t get wrapped up in the hype and think that ghoulish costumes and trick-or-treating is all that remains!
This is an extremely potent day, and marking and celebrating and using it, with ritual and intention will significantly enrich your life!
Here are a few ideas:
1. Honor the Dead
Just like the Mexican Day of the Dead, Samhain is a prime time to connect with and give respect to ancestors and deceased loved ones.
- Gather with family and/or friends and share stories in remembrance of a loved one.
- Honor both recently departed and ancient ancestors by simply speaking with them and greeting them when you have a private moment.
- Create an altar for your ancestors and include pictures, objects they owned, and flowers and candles.
- HEAD HERE FOR A SIMPLE RITUAL IDEA TO CONNECT TO YOUR ANCESTORS
This is a sacred time to contemplate and honor some of the old ways, and also to imagine what value they may bring to your life now. Were there any practices, hobbies or skills that your ancestors had? Do any of these activities appeal to you? Remember, your ancestors’ memories live on through your body, so you’ll likely be good at the things they were good at. Why not give it a go?
2. Get Your Divination ON!
Some people say that the veil is thinner throughout the whole month of October. And I don’t know about you, but I can feel a special energy in the air that convinces me that this is true…
Making it a potent time for divination.
You don’t have to be a “witch” to indulge in a little Tarot or oracle card reading, or you could even try the tea leaves, candle gazing, runes or scrying.
Samhain is also a time of rejuvenation, so it’s perfect for trying new ways to connect to the Spirit world.
3. Light a Bonfire (and Why Not Make it into a Fire Ritual While You’re At It!?)
In amongst the darker sides of your Halloween-centric activities, remember that Samhain is a fire festival. It’s a day to celebrate fire!
Create a ritual to honor this light, life-giving (and also destructive) element. Even better, invite friends and family to join you for a ritual bonfire outside in your back yard.
- Offer pieces of paper and pens around, and ask everyone to write down something they want to release to the flames.
- When you’re all ready, ritually throw them into the bonfire one at a time, as you each shout out what you are letting go of.
- Let the fire burn up the negativity and excess.
- Be sure to invite in something in place of what you have released, and if you’re not sure, ask for love, peace and abundance.
4. Contemplate the Seven Virtues
Samhain is also called a gateway to transformation because that is when our planet aligns with the setting of the Pleiades aka “The Seven Sisters”.
The seven sisters aka “the seven swans” represent seven virtues:
- Patience (understanding perfect timing; divine timing)
- Temperance (self-mastery)
- Determination (faithful persistence)
Here is a fun and accurate divination exercise you can do:
- Write each virtue on seven strips of paper, fold and place them in a bag or box.
- Shuffle the closed box or bag.
- Ask: Which of the virtues is my strongest right now?
- Pick a paper
- Place the paper back in the box/bag
- Shuffle again
- Ask: Which virtue needs more development and attention?
Wishing you all a magickal Samhain season!
Oh, and be sure to share in the comments below what YOU are doing to celebrate Samhain this year, and how you’ll be inviting this transformational energy into your life!