Popularly known in modern society as Halloween, Samhain (sow-ain) is a time of sacrifice, reflection, wisdom, guidance, and coming to terms with that which we have no control. Wiccans celebrate the death of the God and honor those who have gone before while the realm between the worlds is thin. The focus is not on communication with the dead, but for worship of and connection with ancestors. Traditions may include lighting candles in windows to welcome spirits of loved ones, silent suppers, the Wild Hunt, and divination of all forms.
Some traditions recognize this sabbat as the Goddess in Her Crone phase. As the Wiccan New Year, Samhain is a time for breaking bad habits, new beginnings, and change. Clothing and decorations are usually black and bright colors. Frustrations and failures are buried and masks may be worn to cast off old habits or introduce new attributes.
Samhain Celebration Ideas for Beginners
In Pagan tradition, Samhain (more commonly known today as Halloween) is either a very somber event or much livelier. It is a time of reflection of all that has happened over the past year with a focus on our loss of loved ones. Although focusing on what can still be very hurtful may not seem joyful, this is also a time to cast away that negativity that comes with grieving. Some view this Sabbat as a sort of New Year's celebration. Rather than making resolutions, we simply cast away bad habits and thoughts of failures that have plagued our lives so that we can make room for new, positive habits and experiences in the near future. In other words, this is also a time of purging our negativity and sacrificing the old to make room for the new. As a beginner, these are some simple ways to celebrate this holiday.
Go For a Walk
As usual, we acknowledge that the earth is changing. During Samhain, we are in a place between autumn and winter. Traditional descriptions of the weather and nature usually depict this as a time when the wind has blown all the leaves from the trees and the earth is mostly barren as nature prepares for the cold winter. However, your local ecosystem may not reflect this description. So get outside and find out for yourself! Do the trees still have leaves? Is your area more akin to autumn than winter during this time or vice versa? What do you feel? Can you sense the plant and animal life preparing for the winter ahead? Take the time to really contemplate the shift in seasons and what it may mean to you.
Dumb Supper & Food Ideas
Some Witches and Pagans celebrate Samhain by having a dumb supper. This is a meal that is enjoyed in complete silence. Cultures around the world have practiced traditions that included offering food for the dead. The dumb supper does the same with an understanding that our loved ones are visiting us for the meal and absorbing the spiritual essence of the foods. By remaining in total silence, we are more receptive to the many ways our ancestors make their presence known, such as through smells, sounds, and manifestations that we would otherwise miss with the distraction of everyday conversations.
Foods traditional to this time of year include apples, squash, and meat. When putting together your meal, try to use foods that are in season in your local area. The best dishes are those traditional in your family. For example, if you are using this holiday to remember your grandmother who passed, try cooking one of her recipes. Did she have a meal she always made? Did she have a different way of cooking a usual meal? It does not have to be exactly the same if you are worried you cannot emulate her style. It is the intent that makes the difference and your loved one will be attracted to such a grand thought.
Celebrate Lost Loved Ones
Although the dumb supper can be rather somber in that it is serious and requires more focus and attention for maintaining silence and observing for spirit manifestations, Samhain is not all about mourning our ancestors. Instead, this is a time to celebrate them! As we cast off our negativity, we can move past our grief by remembering good times with our loved ones. Think of this as a sort of thanksgiving ritual in which you find what you are grateful for and focus on positive experiences. Go out and do something that makes you feel great and share it with the spirits of your deceased loved ones!
If you do not have one already, make an ancestral altar, or, if you do have one, make something new to add to it. Make something pretty that you feel represents your family tree. Keep in mind that our ancestors do not always include only our biological family members, but any loved ones. We have spiritual families too. If your best friend passed years ago, he or she should be part of your ancestral altar.
If you have a lot of creative potential in visual arts, like painting, sculpting, and the like, make something gorgeous for the dead. Even if you lack the creativity in these areas, you can still make something very meaningful. Collages, for example, are absolutely great and easy to make. Take photos of lost loved ones and crop them as you paste them together. You can even add in little photo clips of objects that related to your family or friendship with your loved ones. It is the heart and joy you put into the altar and any decorations you add that makes an ancestor altar powerful and helps you to stay connected.
As with Beltane, the veils between our world and the world of spirit are thin. During Beltane, the spirits were more playful and divination could be hit-or-miss. At Samhain, however, the spirits are considerably more helpful. Spirit communication is easier as we are focusing on and celebrating them. However, you do not have to perform any sort of necromancy for Samhain. Many who celebrate this day with divination will generally use it as a way to see what is ahead. Inquiries about what is to come in the future months and how to overcome the bad habits and negativity you are trying to cast away are good focal points.
© 2012 by Evylyn Rose