Updated: Nov 2, 2020
You don’t have to be pagan to celebrate Samhain. Samhain (pronounced “Sow-win) marks the start of Winter. It is a cross-quarter day. A cross-quarter day marks the half-way point between an equinox and a solstice and in the case of Samhain (or Halloween) is between the Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, and obviously the reverse if you are in the Southern Hemisphere. Samhain is a time of endings and a time when our thoughts go to those who have passed-on. In the Celtic tradition the year was divided into two halves. The Light half (Beltane, in May) and the dark half (Samhain). This is the Celtic New Year but unlike January 1st or the Spring Equinox, Samhain is not associated with new beginnings. Celebrated over a period of seven days from October 31st (Old Hallows Eve/Halloween) through to November 7th when the Sun reaches 15 degrees in Scorpio, it is a time to take stock. In ancient times, farmers would take stock of their animals and decide who would live and who would die and they would gather what was left of the harvest. Whatever your theology, this is the time to remember your ancestors. Samhain is the Goddess as Crone. The Crone Goddess is the old woman. The Wise elder. But also the harbinger of death. No other figure is more maligned or feared by men than the “old witch” figure of the Crone which is why the Church took the original Goddess who for centuries had always been three - Virgin, Mother, Crone, and made her the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Goddess represents beauty, love and life. The Crone on the other hand represents destruction, decay and death. This is a celebration of the Crone.
Samhain celebrations start at dusk. As with any ritual what matters most is that you be sincere, intentional and joyful in observing this time. If you’re not “feeling it” then don’t do it.
Take stock of what is going well in your life and offer thanks to the Goddess and your ancestors. Perform a simple ritual like lighting a white candle or “harvest” candle which is a dressed up orange or yellow candle. If you have a special relationship with a particular god or goddess this is also a good time to thank them. Kali, is the Hindu Goddess of Destruction and is one of the more well known representations of the Goddess Crone.
Create an altar or shrine for your ancestors. Say a prayer for your ancestors. Ask for their love and guidance. It is also preferable to say a prayer for them that they would recognise. So if they were Catholic and you were once Catholic and you know a prayer or two you will use those prayers. If you don’t know any prayers or have no desire to turn to religion then say what comes from your heart. End your prayers with Amen or Om (AUM) which is the sound of the Goddess.
Please choose your ancestors wisely. If you did not get on with your great grandmother for example you will not want to invite her into your home now. Spirits are like people. Some are good, others not so much. If you don’t want to create an altar, you can leave a photograph of your ancestor/s at the window and a candle. Unless you’re going to be up all night I don’t recommend you have a wax candle burning on your window sill. Please practice safety. This is a traditional ritual that lets your ancestors know you remember them.
3. Make a feast of creamy casseroles, corn, root vegetables and pies (like pumpkin pie) and put an extra plate or two at the table for the spirits of your ancestors. This is known as a dumb supper. Then eat your meal in silence.
4. Sprinkle spices like Allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg into your hot drinks for good luck.
5. Spend time in nature honouring both the visible (trees, plants, mountains etc) and the invisible (like the Elementals and nature guardians).
However you choose to celebrate, I wish you a happy and blessed Samhain! xo