The leaves have fallen from the trees. The wind’s bite turns cold, and spirits long gone roam the lands once more. Through the darkness orange jack-o-lanterns light the night, as offerings of apples and prayers to the ancestor fill the air. In the distance screeches and laughter of ghosts, gouls, and all manner of mystical creatures shriek with delight as they clamor from home to home. For this is the night of Samhain.
What is Samhain/All Hallows Eve?
Samhain (pronounced SOW-en) is a pagan and neo-pagan holiday that celebrates the end of the year and honors the dead and ancestors. At it’s roots it’s a Gaelic holiday that marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of a new year. It was celebrated October 31st to November 1st. It was at this time that the souls of the dead would return to visit their homes, where the living inhabitants would leave out offerings of food for the wandering spirits. Feasts were also popular this time of year as was the practice of mumming and guising.
Modern neo-pagans of various traditions celebrate Samhain today, each in their own way. Modern celebrations include rituals to remember and honor ancestors, leaving of offerings for the ancestors and/or spirits of the dead, as well as rituals of renewal. Samhain marks the end of the neo-pagan year, so it is an especially good time for all rituals and spellwork involving goal setting, and renewal.
Samhain vs Halloween
While they fall on the same day, Halloween and Samhain aren’t technically the same holiday. Halloween is a commercial holiday nowadays, but has it’s root in the Christian celebrations of All Saints /All Hallows Day. Halloween is a conglomeration of influences from All Saints/All Hallows and Samhain traditions and celebrations. This gave us many of the traditional Halloween essentials including Jack-o-lanterns. Many modern pagans also celebrate Halloween and treat it as part of or an extension of Samhain. After all, its’ one of the few times of year you can say you are witch and no one will bat an eye.
When is Samhain?
Northern Hemisphere: October 31 – November 1
Southern Hemisphere: April 30-May 1
Activities to Celebrate Samhain
- Bob for apples.
- Divination of all types.
- Create a Jack-o-lantern.
- Have a dumb supper (prepare a dinner plate of food and leave it out for the spirits).
- Create a New Year’s resolution.
- Food & Drink for Samhain and Halloween Celebrations.
- Create corn dollies.
- Remember those who have died over the past year.
- Perform personal shadow work.
- Apple Leaves
- Wild Ginseng
- Black Onyx, Obsidian, Jet, and all black stones
- Smoky Quartz
- Teas, herbal
Music for Samhain
Samhain is a holiday with a long and diverse history. It has given rise to the modern holiday of Halloween with it’s traditions of jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating. Yet, it’s a holiday that solemnly remembers those who have gone before, while also looking ahead to the future. This Samhain take a moment to honor your ancestors and all those who have gone before, as you enjoy Halloween.
What are you doing this Samhain?