Things to do Samhain

pumpkin samhain blessing

There are several things to consider doing during this time of the year.

  1. Take a meditative walk in a natural area near your home.  Experience yourself as part of the Circle of Life and reflect on death and rebirth as being an important part of Nature.
  2. Contemplate on what things have to die in your life so that other areas can live…ex:  habits, relationships, past, guilt, anger, grief, fear….  Then call forth what you want to replace it with.. self-control, positive outcome and future, love, joy, peace, etc….Meditate on it.
  3. Look for signs of death on your nature walk…. fallen leaves, fallen branches, flowers dying,etc..
  4.  You can do a genealogy research.
  5. Ancestors Altar: Gather photographs, heirlooms, and other momentos of deceased family, friends, and companion creatures.   Arrange them on a table, dresser, or other surface.
  6. Prepare a Samhain dinner.  Include a place setting at your table or nearby the altar of any deceased loved one.  Add an offering of each beverage and food being served to the extra place setting.  Invite your ancestors and other deceased loved ones who come in love to come dine with you.  After the feast, place the contents of the plate and cup outside in a natural location as an offering for your deceased loved ones.  You don’t want them to get to comfortable inside and decide to stay.
  7. Ancestor stories:  Learn about family history.  Contact one or more older relatives and ask them to share memories  of deceased family members.  Record them in some way and later write accounts of what they share.  Share what you have learned and have written with other family members and friend.  Feel free to share any of your favorite stories of the deceased loved ones as well and invite your kids and friends and family to share.
  8. Recall any of the characteristics, strengths, or attributes of your deceased loved ones that you can learn from or admire.  Go around in a circle or perform as a private meditation.
  9. Cemetery Visit:  Visit and tend the gravesite of a loved one at a cemetery.  Call to mind memories and consider ways the loved one continues to live on with you.  Place an offering of fresh flowers, dried herbs, or water.
  10. Do meditations to release the fear of death and just be at peace with it.  Envision when the time comes that it is a graceful and painless experience and you will have left this place fulfilled and happy with the life you have lived.  Where you view it as a transition into a lovely beginning of something wonderful and not just the end.
  11. Do a meditation where you try to contact a deceased loved one for guidance or to be at peace with their passing on.
  12. Divinatory Guidance:  Using Oracle cards, runes, scrying, or some other form of divination, seek and reflect on guidance for the year to come.  Write a summary of your experience and any messages received.  Select something appropriate to act upon and do it!  Give Thanks for the messages received!
  13. Sit outside and just marinate in the Samhain energy.
  14. Meditate on your positive transformation and the positive changes you can do that will promote it.  Make a list.  Look for new habits and things to do or people to hang out with.

blessed samhain quote

Samhain

Have blessed samhain

Samhain is the third and final harvest festival of nuts and seeds.  It is pronounced “Sah-win” or “sow-in”.  Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. It is also known as “Day of the Dead” or “All Hallows Eve”.  It is celebrated from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November, which is nearly halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.  Some modern pagans consider it the “witches new year”, though other traditions simply recognize Samhain as the end of the year.  It’s energy is death and transformation.  Customs include jack o’lanterns, spirit plate, ancestor altar, divination, and costumes.  The colors associated with Samhain are orange, black, and indigo.  Tools used during this holy day are votive candles, magic mirror, cauldron, pumpkins, and divination tools.

Traditionally Samhain was a time to take stock of the herds and food supplies.  Cattle were brought down to the winter pastures after six months in the higher summer pastures.  It was also the time to choose which animals would need to be slaughtered for the winter.  This custom is still observed by many who farm and raise livestock because it is when meat will keep since the freeze has come and also since the summer grass is gone and searching for provisions/food is no longer possible.  In may places, Samhain coincides with the end of the growing season.  Vegetation dies back with killing frosts, and therefore literally, death is in the air.

Rituals include bonfires, dancing, divination, healing, honoring ancestors, thanksgiving, releasing old, foreseeing future, understanding death and rebirth.  Bonfires were lit on hilltops at Samhain and there were rituals involving them.  It is believed that the fires (as well as the smoke and their ashes) were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers.  In some places boys asked for bonfire fuel from each house in the village.  When the fire was lit, one after another of the youths laid himself down on the ground as near to the fire as possible so as not to be burned, and in such a  position as to let the smoke roll over him.  The others ran through the smoke and jumped over him.  When the bonfire samhain candlesburnt down, they scattered the ashes, competing eagerly with each other who should scatter the most.  Sometimes, two bonfires would be built side by side and the people, sometimes with their livestock, would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.  The bones of slaughtered cattle were said to have been cast upon bonfires.  People also took ashes from the bonfire back to their homes.  In northern Scotland, they carried burning fir around their fields to protect them.  In some places, people doused their hearth fires on Samhain nights.  Each family then solemnly re-lit its hearth from the communal bonfire, thus bonding the families of the village together.

Samhain is seen as a good time to perform any divination as well.  The bonfires were also used in divination rituals.  A ring of stone was laid around the fire to represent each person  and everyone who ran around it with a torch.  In the morning, the stones were examined and if any was mislaid it was said that the person for whom it was set would not live out the year.  At household festivities throughout the Gaelic region and Wales, there were many rituals intended to divine the future of those gathered, especially with regard to death and marriage.

Seasonal foods such as apples and nuts were often used in these rituals.  Apples were peeled, the peel, tossed over  the shoulder, and its shape examined to see if it formed the first letter of the future spouse’s name.  Nuts were roasted on the hearth and their behavior interpreted… if the nuts stayed together, so would the couple.  Egg whites were dropped in the water, and the shapes foretold the number of future children.  Children would also chase crows and divine some of these things from the number of birds or the direction they flew.

Herbs used at this time included: Rosemary, for remembrance of our ancestors, Mullein seeds, for abundance, Mugwort to aid in divination, rue, calendula, sunflower petals and seeds, pumpkin seeds, apples and apple seeds, turnip seeds, sage, wormwood, tarragon, bay leaf, almond, hazelnut, passion flower, pine needles, nettle, garlic, and mandrake root.  Stones associated with this time are:  black obsidian, smoky quartz, jet, amber, pyrite, garnet, granite, clear quartz, marble, gold, diamond, iron, steel, ruby, hematite, and brass.  Decorations include gourds, pumpkins, apples, Autumn leaves, and nuts.

pumpkin houseSamhain is one of the original festivals behind the holiday we know as Halloween.  Some of Halloween’s most common traditions are rooted in Samhain’s harvest festival roots, such as the carving of pumpkin and bobbing for apples.  The traditional illumination for guisers or pranksters on this night in some places was provided by turnips or beets, hollowed out to act as lanterns and often carved with grotesque faces to represent spirits or goblins.  They may have also been used to protect oneself from harmful spirits.  In some places, young people dressed as the opposite gender.  In Scotland, young men went house-to-house with masked, veiled, painted, or blackened faces, often threatening to do mischief it they were not welcomed.  This was common in the 16th century in the Scottish countryside and persisted into the 20th century.  It is suggested that the blackened faces comes from using the bonfire’s ashes for protection.

Irish and Scottish immigration, which popularized Halloween in North America, had a strong tradition of disguising and pranks.  As it was believed that faeries, witches, and demons roamed the Earth on Samhain, food and drink were customarily set out to make them less hostile or angry.  later on, people began dressing up as these creatures and claiming the goodies for themselves, sometimes performing antics or tricks in exchange for food and drink.  This practice called mumming evolved into trick-or-treating, or it may have come from the custom of going door-to-door collecting food for Samhain feast or fuel for Samhain’s bonfire and/or offerings.

Samhain (like Beltane) was the time when the doorways to the Otherworld opened, allowing the spirits and the dead to come into our world and this facilitates contact and communication with the Dead.  That is when it was believed that demons, faeries, and spirits of all kind would freely roam about.  Some would perform tricks, like the spirits of those who were murdered and who were looking for revenge.  The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes.  Places were set tat the dinner table or by the fire to welcome them.  Some celebrate Samhain with a ritual to guide the dead home by opening a western-facing door or window and placing a candle by the opening.  many pagans still follow this tradition to this day.

samhain AncestorsBut while Beltane is a festival for the living, Samhain is essentially, a festival for the dead.  In the simpler yet brutal times that so many early people lived in, death was commonplace, whether it was the death of livestock through disease, the extremely frequent deaths of women during childbirth, or the death of young infants from common childhood illness.  There was always a lot of deaths going on in a given year.  Samhain was a time to really sit down around the fireplace, connect with your surviving loved ones, and pay tribute to those beloved members of your “tribe” whom you lost over the past year.  For some, Samhain is when we honor ancestors who came before us.

It’s easier to talk to the dead, have lucid dreams in which you connect with the dead, and to spiritually commune with those who have passed during Samhain.  The connection or “veil” between the physical world and the spiritual dimensions is thinner, which makes this type pf psychic contact much easier.  The only other time when this is easy are the three days after someone dies, because for three days their spirit is still hanging out on the earth plane and they will often have a lot to say if you can sit down and get past your own grief and “listen” to them.  For those who have lost loved ones in the past year, Samhain rituals can be an opportunity to bring closure to grieving and to further adjust to their being in the Otherworld by spiritually communing with them.  This is the perfect time to celebrate their memory.  Hopefully, they will communicate back with you to offer any advice or guidance.

You could find yourself remembering people you have had major relationships with.  Relationships which have ended, even if that person didn’t actually die.  maybe the relationship “died” and you’re still processing the emotions related to the experience.  You could be going back and forth emotionally, feeling love for the person one minute and anger the next.  Try to center yourself, connect with “Great Spirit” or your “Infinite, Eternal Self”, or loving the energy of the Universe and reach a place of emotional equilibrium.  Let go of hatred, release fear, and try to expel the toxic energy of anger and grief from your system as best as you can.  Some words to meditate include: remember, appreciate, love, release, transform, and transmute.

samhain decoration