Traditionally Samhain, or All Hallow’s Eve, is Celebrated on October 31st, which many of you will know as Halloween. This is roughly halfway between the Autumnal Equinox (Mabon) and Winter Solstice (Yule).
This is the Second Holiday where the veil is thinnest, but unlike at Beltaine where it’s about Faeries, this is when it thins to the Underworld and we are visited by the Dead.
Beltaine is about the Light Time of the Year, Samhain balances it by being about the Dark Time. Whereas when the veil thinned last time the Earth was coming into her power, here she is going to rest for the Winter.
This is, traditionally, one of the biggest Sabbats and Celebrations of the Year. Our Ancient Ancestors, and most Wiccan/Pagan Traditions, spend a large time Honoring the Dead. Since this is such a large part of the Practice and Craft it only makes sense that we make such a big deal out of Samhain.
Many of us also make a similar big deal out of New Years Eve, it is very old custom to celebrate “Out with the Old and In with the New” and the turning of another Year. It is a situation rife with possibility and opportunity!
Samhain is the Celtic Feast of the Dead, and the word means “Summer’s End”
Samhain is also called Third Harvest or Winter’s Beginning. Also spells Samain, and in Manx Gaelic, Sauin.
Regardless of the Tradition or Pantheon, it is Universal that this Sabbat is about honoring the Dead, especially our Ancestors!
Samhain is also the Celtic New Year, and it marks the beginning of the Winter Times, or Dark Time of the Year. Many Pagan and Wiccan traditions still celebrate this as a New Year Festival.
In the Christian world we celebrate All Hallow’s Eve on the 31st and All Saint’s Day on November 1st.
As this is the Festival of the Dead all of the Gods of the Dead, the Underworld and Death are praised and Celebrated here.
As this Sabbat is about commemorating and honoring the Dead, it is normal practice to summon those Lord’s and Ladies of Death and the Underworld; to be honored, aid our workings and protect us.
Hades (Greek, or Pluto in Roman), Osiris (Egyptian), Anubis(Egyptian), and Yama(Hindu) are some of the commonly celebrated Gods of Samhain.
Any of the Goddess of Winter, Death, Crossroads, Transition or Magick can be called in at Samhain to help us in our Rituals and be honored.
On this Sabbat the Lord and Lady of the Underworld hold a Court and commend the May King for his Sacrifice, preserving his crown until he is born again.
Hel(Norse), The Morrigan(Celtic), Freya(Norse), Hecate(Greek) and Demeter(Greek) are among some of the main Goddesses celebrated in this Sabbat.
Knowledge of the Day
The Druids called this day Gaeaf, Calan Gwaf, Kala-Goanv or Nos Galan Gaeof.
It is also known as Oie Houney of the “Feast of Mongfind” the Legendary Witch-Queen who married the King of Tara in Ancient Ireland. This is why Goddesses of Magic are Celebrated!
Samhain, as it is most commonly known, means “Festival of the Dead”, so while it is not named for a specific Deity as many Sabbats are, it is still fairly straightforward.
Samhain has also been called the “Three Nights of Summers End” which signifies the Three Nights of the Full Moon (night before, night of and night after) that it would have originally be celebrated on.
Since it is “Feast of the Dead” it is customary to have a large dinner or feast.
Traditionally there would be at least one “empty” seat, set aside for out Ghostly Visitors, and everyone present would put some food on the plate(s) so they could share in the meal.
When all was over it would be placed as a Libation, or offering, outside for the Dead and Nature.
Part of the Dinner and the rest of the evening would include storytelling, focused on the tales of our Ancestors.
This would both honor them, as well as invite them into our home and life. It would also ensure their legacy and memory carried on for another year!
Reflections and Renovations
We’re all familiar with the old New Years Resolution, well it comes from Samhain.
At New Year we would reflect on the Year gone by, see how we’ve grown and changed, and decide where/how we want to grow in the next year. We would ask our Ancestors for help in making these positive changes.
Part of this would often include cleaning or reorganizing our home, to signify the inner changes we will be making. Perfect time to start doing this is through the Dark Times, since we’re stuck inside anyways and may as well get a use out of the time.
Other Samhain Traditions
Candles and Candlelight
We light candles, bonfires and Jack-o-Lantern’s on Samhain.
The Candles are lit to guide the Soul’s of Ancestors and Loved One’s to us, the Fires and Jack-o-Lantern’s are lit to ward off Spirit’s who may carry ill-intent.
It would be tradition to go visit the graves of our Ancestors and Loved Ones.
The tradition behind Masks, Masquerades and Costumes stems from the same idea of Spirits coming to visit.
Our Loved Ones would be welcomed into our home and our hearts, and so they would recognize us regardless of outward appearances. However, the Spirits with less than good intentions would be blinded to who we are, unable to recognize us or cause us harm.
In the Christian world many would dress up as a favored Saint, also with the idea of causing the demons to fear them and leave them alone.