Samhain

Helpful Information

Date: October 31st

Other Names: November Eve, Feast of the Dead, Feast of Apples, Hallow's Eve, All Hallow's Eve

Pronunciations: SOW-in, SAH-vin, SAM-hayne

Possibly the biggest festival of the Witches’ year, Samhain is a time to remember those who have passed on, celebrate the Summers end and prepare for Winter months ahead. The Sun God and earth fall into slumber, as the nights lengthen and winter begins.

Samhain means "End of Summer", and is the third and final Harvest. The dark, winter half of the year commences on this Sabbat.

Various other names for this Greater Sabbat are Third Harvest, Samana, Day of the Dead, Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), Vigil of Saman, Shadowfest (Strega), and Samhuinn. Also known as All Hallow's Eve, (that day actually falls on November 7th), and Martinmas (that is celebrated November 11th), Samhain is now generally considered the Witch's New Year.

It is generally celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st.It is one of the two "spirit-nights" each year, the other being Beltane. It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands.

It is a time to study the Dark Mysteries and honor the Dark Mother and the Dark Father, symbolized by the Crone and her aged Consort. Tradition also teaches that the aid of spirits and guides from the other world was easily enlisted at this time, so in the increasing moonlight of longer nights, many used this time to hone their psychic and divinatory skills, especially with regard to love and marriage.

Originally known as the "Feast of the Dead" this sabbat was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the "wandering dead".Today a lot of practitioners still carry out that tradition. Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Extra chairs were set to the table and around the hearth for the unseen guest. Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them. Turnips were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this was a night of magic and chaos.

The Wee Folke became very active, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. Traveling after dark was was not advised. People dressed in white (like ghosts), wore disguises made of straw, or dressed as the opposite gender in order to fool the Nature spirits.

The Christian religion has adopted this day as All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day, celebrating the eve as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. The superstition and misconception linked to this celebration by the early church, led people to take some unusual precautions to protect themselves. They adopted the tradition of dressing in frightening costumes or disguises, and displaying scary looking Jack-O-Lanterns to help protect them from spirits they considered to be evil. In the British Isles, the young people would disguise themselves with hideous masks and walk through the village, lighting their way with lanterns made from carved turnips.

This was also the time that the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits. Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones were marked with peoples names. Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person's fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.

Symbolism: Third Harvest, the Dark Mysteries, Rebirth through Death

Symbols: Gourds, Apples, Black Cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, Besoms

Colors: Black, Orange, White, Silver, Gold

Herbs: Allspice, Calendula, Catnip, Chrysanthemum, Deadly Nightshade, Hazel, Heliotrope, Mandrake, Mint, Mugwort, Nutmeg, Oak Leaves, Sage, Straw, Thistle, Wormwood

Traditional Foods: Ale, Apples, Beef, Breads, Cakes for the Dead, Cider, Cranberry Muffins, Gourds, Grains, Mulled Wines, Nuts, Pork, Poultry, Pumpkin-Pie, Turnips

Incense: Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg, Sage

Stones: Aquamarine, Jet, Obsidian

Ritual

Tools & Instruments

  • Orange/Black Altar Cloth
  • Cauldron
  • A Wand
  • 1 Black Taper Goddess Candle
  • 1 Black Taper God Candle
  • 2 Carved Turnip Candle Holders
  • 1 Black Candle
  • 1 White Candle
  • An Apple
  • A Boline
  • A Plate of Fruit
  • Vegetables and Breads
  • Pictures or Mementos of Departed Loved Ones
  • Incense

Preparation:

Sweep area, moving in a deosil manner. Outline your circle with a black cord, fresh turned earth, or salt. Place the black taper Goddess Candle to the top left on altar. Place the black taper God candle to the top right on altar. Place the black votive candle in the cauldron, positioned on floor in front of the altar. Plate of Fruit, Vegetables, and Breads should be put in-between Goddess and God candles at top center of altar. Apple and Bolline should be placed in center of altar, on a Pentacle if possible. Arrange the rest of your tools and props according to personal preference. Bathe or shower for purification. If you have magickal jewelry or jewelry passed on to you by departed loved ones, this is the ritual to wear it all. Sit and meditate to ground and center. When ready to begin, play some appropriate soothing music for ambiance.

Cast the circle and call Quarters; invoke the Crone aspect of the Goddess by lighting the black taper Goddess candle and saying:

"Dark Mother, ruler of the night, Goddess of death and rebirth, Hear and behold Your child this night as I honor Thee and Thy realm. I stand humbly before Thee, asking for Thy blessing and favor. Lift, now, the Veil between the worlds, as this time-out-of-time begins, That I may commune with my ancestors as they journey to the Summerlands."

Step back from the altar and concentrate on the Goddess candle's flame. Should it rise and flicker, proceed. If not, silently project your wish to commune with your loved ones that have passed on. When you feel that your wish has been acknowledged, invoke the God by lighting the black taper God candle and saying:

"Dark Father, aged Consort of the Crone, Lord of the Underworld, Hear and behold Your child this night as I honor Thee and Thy realm. I stand between Thee and Thy Lady, asking for blessing and favor. As this time-out-of-time approaches, stand ever guard as the Veil lifts, Keep safe my ancestors, and all of my loved ones As they journey to the Summerlands."

Step back again from the altar and concentrate on the God candle's flame. If it rises and flickers, proceed. If not, silently project your wishes that your loved ones be kept safe on their journey. When you feel that your request has been acknowledged, step back up to the alter and pick up the apple, saying:

"Tonight as the barrier between the two realms grows thin,
Spirits walk amongst us, once again.
They be family, friends and foes,
Pets and wildlife, fishes and crows.
But be we still mindful of the Wee Folke at play,
Elves, fey, brownies, and sidhe."

Cut the apple crosswise with the Bolline to reveal the symbolic pentagram at the core. Take a bite of one half of the apple and set it back on the Pentacle (this apple and others will be buried outside later, after the ritual is done). Continue:

"Some to trick, some to treat,
Some to purposely misguide our feet.
Stay we on the paths we know
As planting sacred apples we go."

Now take your wand in your projective hand to bless the "Feast of the Dead". Wave it over the plate of fruits, vegetables, and breads, saying:

"This Feast I shall leave on my doorstep all night.
In my window one candle shall burn bright,
To help my loved ones find their way
As they travel this eve, and this night, until day.
Bless my offering, both Lady and Lord
Of breads and fruits, greens and gourd."

Replace the wand on the altar, step back and bow your head. Stay silent for a minute or two as the blessing is given. Proceed by lighting the black candle in the cauldron and saying:

"Dark Mother Your cauldron is a well of death and rebirth,
Dark Father Your sword both protects and annihilates.
Hear me now as the past year slowly dies, only to be reborn again.
Today, the last of the Harvests is complete.
This symbolic harvest is of my thought-seeds, Planted and nurtured throughout this past year.
May the good come to pass and the bad be cast aside.
With Your divine guidance and protection, I step into the New Year,
May I have good health, prosperity, and happiness."

With the flame of the black candle light the white candle, saying:

"As the New Year is born, we are all reborn
With new hopes and dreams.
Guide me in the future as in the past.
Give me strength and courage,
Knowledge and fulfillment,
Assist me as I attempt to achieve my goals."

Snuff the black candle and replace it. Remove the white candle from the cauldron and place it in the center of your altar. Stare in to the flame and think about the goals that you are setting for the upcoming year. When done, say:

"Every beginning has an ending,
And every ending is a new beginning.
In Life is Death, and in Death is Life.
Watch over me, my loved ones, and all of my
Brothers and Sisters, here and departed,
Who, tonight are joined together again for
Fellowship and celebration. Bless us all as we light our bonfires, our hearth fires,
And the eternal fires in our hearts.
Guide us and protect us,
Tonight and throughout the coming year.
Blessed Be!"

As you say "Blessed Be!" stretch out your arms over your alter as if to embrace all of your ancestors, your departed loved ones, and everyone on Earth. As you say "Blessed Be" again, embrace yourself with a reborn love and pride.

It is now time for meditation and spellworking. Associated spellworkings would include those for protection, self-confidence, and dissuading harm. If there is no spellworking, celebrate with Cakes and Ale, then release the Circle. Clean up. You are done. Leave the white pillar candle burning somewhere it won't be disturbed. Some use it as the single candle in their window, but I leave it on my altar and use an electric candle in the window to dissuade a fire!

Adapted by: Akasha Ap Emrys for all of her friends and those of like mind.

Child Activities

Bright Futures

Materials: 10-12 flower bulbs, A trowel or small shovel, a small spot of earth for a flower bed.

Decide where you want the flowers to bloom in the spring. Dig the holes for each bulb two and one half time the diameter of the bulb. Place or pour some fertilizer into the bottom of the hole. Place in the bulb, root side down, and cover with dirt. Water the area well. (Tell the children about how the bulbs are buried just as the Sun God starts his journey to the Underworld. Just as he is not really dead, neither are the bulbs. They are warm and alive beneath the ground, in the womb of the Mother Earth, gathering strength for when they emerge and bloom as bright as the Sun, come next spring).

Turnip the Lights

Materials: 1 turnip and one flashlight per child. Sharp knife and spoon (adults only)

Slice off the top of each medium size purple-top turnip. Hollow out the middle with the knife and spoon. Save the turnip meat (remind children "waste not, want not") for cooking later. Carefully carve facial features through one side of the turnip. Cut a circle in the bottom of the turnip to fit snug over the head of a flashlight. Turn on the flashlight to go trick-or-treat-ing. (Tell the children about how the Celt children would dress in all white, dress up as the opposite gender, or wear straw disguises to fool the spirits out walking around on Samhain)

Jack-o-Twist Lantern

Materials: 1 mini pumpkin and 1 taper candle for each "lantern" to be made.

Cut the top off of a mini pumpkin. Make sure the opening is no larger than a quarter. Remove the seeds with a small spoon or the tip of a peeler. Allow children to paint faces on the pumpkins before sticking a taper candle into it. Carefully cut the center out of the top of the pumpkin, slightly smaller hole than in the pumpkin itself, and slip over the candle. Press the top down gently until it is a tight fit. ( Explain to the children how the Pagan children used turnips rather than pumpkins to make Jack-o-Lanterns, as pumpkins were not indigenous to Europe, but rather introduced after the discovery of North America).

Natural Old Maid

Materials: 21 leaves, 21 index cards, glue, felt markers.

This is a two part activity. Start a couple of days before Samhain by sending the children outside to gather leaves. These leaves should not be thoroughly dried and crinkled up, but rather turning color and still pliable. Explain the importance of getting the leaves from the ground rather than off the bushes or trees. Press the leaves by placing them between paper towels and stacking books on top of them. After 2 or three days, remove the leaves and select 10 pairs and one odd-one-out. Glue the leaves to the index cards, and allow the children to decorate each pair as desired. Shuffle the cards and deal till all the cards are dealt. Each child picks a card from the one on their left, laying down pairs for all to see. Play continues until all pairs are matched. The child holding the odd card WINS.

Nature Says

Materials: Acorns, pine cones, rocks, seeds, leaves, twigs, or any other natural item.

Have the child(ren) gather all natural items in the backyard, or if hiking along the trail. Assign an action to each type of item, such as *rock--jump*, *twig-hop*, etc. Start by showing one object, and the children calling out the associated action, then acting it out. As they catch on, start laying out the items in "sentences" on the ground. Watch the silliness and laughter grow. (Explain to the children that in ancient times children made up games with only natural materials. That there were no TVs or radios, or bikes, etc. Remind them that Nature is not only beautiful, but fun, too).

Hide and Seek

Materials: Rocks and sticks

This can be played in the backyard, along a nature trail, or at the beach. First the adult goes down the path and leaves "directions for the children to follow. The directions are made by placing piles of rocks and twigs along the side of the path. Perhaps three rocks and a twig sticking out to the left means that the next clue is three steps forward and to the left. One rock in a circle of twigs could mean to stand still, turn slowly in a circle for the next clue. Next, the child and a second adult start down the path and try to find you. (Explain how the villagers and others would find their way to each other and back home again by leave natural "secret clues" along the various paths).

Samhain Door Wreath

Materials: Items from Nature, fine wire, sheet of corrugated cardboard, collection sack, small nail.

First, take a Nature hike. Have the child collect items from nature, such as pine cones, seeds, leaves, berry bunches (remind the child how important it is to thank the plant for its gift, and to take only what is needed.), acorns and caps, flowers, etc. When you get home, spread out collection on some newspaper. Cut out a circle about 15" in diameter, from the cardboard. Cut a smaller circle out of the middle. Have the child choose which objects go where on the cardboard background, and hand the object to you. Wrap the wire around each object so it can be fastened to the cardboard. Poke two small holes in the cardboard ring for each item. Feed the wire through and twist in back. Keep fastening objects onto the ring until it is full and no cardboard shows. Hang the wreath on the front door with the nail. (Explain that "wreaths of bounty" used to symbolize giving thanks for a prosperous year, and an invitation for others less fortunate to share in the good fortune.)

Making a Besom

Materials: 4ft dowel- 1" in diameter, ball of twine, scissors, straw or other pliable herb stock.

Take the straw or other herb stalk that you have chosen and soak overnight in luke warm salted water. The water swells the stalk slightly for bending without breakage, and the salt dispels former energies. When ready, remove stalks from the water and dry for just a bit. Not too much or the stalk will stiffen up, again. Place the dowel on a table where you have room to work. Start lining the stalks along the dowel , about 3 inches from the bottom, moving backwards. Begin binding the stalks to the dowel with the twine. Tie very securely. You may add as many layers as you like, depending on how full you want the Besom to be. When stalks are secure, gently bend the top stalks down over the binding. When all have been bent over, secure the stalks again with more twine a couple of inches under the first binding. Allow to air dry for a day or two. The dowel can then be stained, painted, or carved into to make personal. Remember to concentrate and charge at the next full moon. (Explain to the children that the Pagans used to "ride" their Besoms through the fields, jumping as high as they could. This was to show the God/dess(s-es) how high they wanted their crops to grow the next year. Also jumping over bonfires at the Sabbat festivals was for good health and prosperity.)

Poems

Gather 'round the bonfire, burning so bright
Watch the shadows dancing, in its flickering light
As the music starts, and we begin to dance
Just maybe, if we're lucky, ahhhhh perchance
We shall see some kindred spirits, as they pass by
On their way to the Summerlands, beneath the Samhain sky.
-- Akasha

As I lay in my bed, 'tis the end of the year
And I thank the Goddess and the God
For bringing me to here.
Before I close my eyes, one more wish I make
I pray to the Goddess and the God
The next year through me take.
-- Akasha

Recipes

Eye-Opening Fried Cornmeal Mush

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups water in a pan

Bring the 2 3/4 cups of water to a boil. In bowl, combine the cornmeal, 1 cup water, salt, and sugar. Gradually add this mixture to the boiling water, stirring constantly. Cover and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Pour into a shallow loaf pan. Chill in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, turn out of pan onto a platter or flat countertop. Cut into 1/2 inch slices. Fry slowly in hot fat (bacon or sausage drippings) or very small amount of vegetable oil. Turn once. When browned, serve warm with butter and syrup or fresh fruit.
Makes 6 servings.

BeWitching Apple Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 well-beaten eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 cup finely chopped apple, peeled and cored
  • 2 stiffly beaten egg whites

In a large non-metal bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, combine the milk and egg yolks. Pour mixture into the dry ingredients and stir well. Stir in the butter/margarine and apple. Fold in the egg whites. Let the batter set up for a few minutes. Cook on a hot griddle or in a large frying pan, using 1/3 cup of batter per pancake. Use a spatula or spoon to spread batter evenly. Remove from heat, dot with butter, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and roll up into log. Top with slightly heated applesauce and a dash of cinnamon.
Makes 12 pancakes.

Sun God Sausage and Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. bulk pork sausage
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 milks
  • 1 16ox. bag of frozen fresh corn
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1 cup coarsely ground turnip
  • 1 zucchini squash, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

In a frying pan, cook sausage and turnip, drain. In a sauce pan boil zucchini slices until tender, drain. Slice two of the eggs and line the bottom of a 1 1/2 qt casserole dish. For second layer, top eggs with 1/2 of the zucchini slices, put other half aside. In the sauce pan melt butter/margarine, blend in flour, salt, and a dash of pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and bubbles. Stir in sausage mixture and corn. Pour 1/2 mixture over eggs, arrange the rest of the zucchini slices, pour in rest of mixture. Slice the remaining two eggs and arrange on top of mixture. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated all the way through.
Makes 6 servings.

Spirited Cheese Stuffed Apples

Ingredients:

  • 1 3 oz. package softened cream cheese
  • 4 medium apples
  • 1 1/3 oz Apple Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 tbsp. dry white wine

Beat together both cheeses and the wine, with an electric or rotary mixer, until smooth. Core the apples and hollow out, leaving apple shells about 1/2 inch thick. Fill the apples with the cheese mixture and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
Cut apples into 8 wedges.

Hallowed Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 2 6 oz. cans of broiled mushroom crowns
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup smoked cheese spread
  • 1 tbsp. catsup
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped turnip
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • Fine soft bread crumbs

Drain the cans of broiled mushroom crowns. Hollow out and chop up enough of the pieces to make 3 tbs. In a sauce pan, combine the mushroom pieces, onion, turnip, and garlic. Add the vegetable oil and cook slowly over a low heat. Stir in the cheese spread and catsup. Stuff the slightly cooled mixture into the mushroom crowns and place on a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle tops with the fine soft bread crumbs. Bake at 425 degrees for 6-8 minutes.

Thought-Seed Crackers

Ingredients:

  • 1 box family-favorite crackers
  • Butter/Margarine
  • Melted onion or garlic powder
  • Caraway, celery, poppy, and sesame seeds
  • Dillweed

Brush the crackers lightly with butter/margarine. Sprinkle lightly with onion or garlic powder and ever so sparingly with dillweed. Top with combination seed mix. Bake on an un-greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 5 minutes or until crisp and hot.

Legendary Oven Has

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coarsely ground beef
  • 1 cup coarsely ground potatoes
  • 1/4 cup coarsely ground onion
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 6 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1 tbs. butter/margarine, melted

In frying pan, combine and cook beef, potatoes, onion, parsley, and Worcestershire sauce, and evaporated milk. Remove from heat and turn out into a 1 qt casserole dish. Mix bread crumbs with melted butter/margarine and sprinkle on top. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.

Carefree Corn-n-Cabbage Combo

In a 1 qt glass casserole dish, combine 1- 10oz package frozen whole kernel corn, 2 cups chopped cabbage, 2 tbs. chopped onion, and 2 tbs. water. Cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stir. Cover and microwave for 3 minutes more. Drain in a collander. In the same casserole dish combine 1 cup cream-style cottage cheese, 2 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 tsp. salt and a dash of pepper. Stir in drained vegetables. Microwave, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Stir and microwave, uncovered for 3 minutes more. Stir and serve heated.
Makes 6 servings.

Festival Fruit Ribs

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. beef/pork ribs
  • 2 tbsp. shortening
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup red Burgundy
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 11 oz. package mixed dried fruit
  • 3 tbsp. all purpose flour

Meaty side down, place in shallow roasting pan. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add onion, carrot, garlic, and burgundy. Cover and reduce heat to 350 degrees, bake for another hour. Meanwhile, pour 1 1/2 cups of hot water over the fruit in a non-metal bowl. Let it stand for the hour. Drain the fruit, reserving the liquid. Place the fruit over the meat. Cover and bake for another 45 minutes. Remove meat and fruit to a platter. Skim fat from pan juices. Add reserved liquid to juices. Blend flour and 1/3 cup cold water in a sauce pan, stir in pan juice mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Pour over ribs and serve hot.
Makes 6 servings.

*If you're going to have a bonfire, don't forget to throw the bones into the fire for healthy livestock and prosperity. The livestock may not be yours, but nobody wants to eat tainted meat.

Candied Squash Ring

Cut 2 acorn squashes crosswise in 1 inch slices. Discard seeds and ends. Arrange in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Cover and bake at 35odegrees for 30-35 minutes. Combine 2/3 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup soft butter, spread over squash. Bake, uncovered for another 15-20 minutes, basting occasionally.
Makes 6 servings.

American Traditional Pumpkin pie

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin mush*
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1 pie shell

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large non-metal bowl combine sugars and eggs. Add in the pumpkin mush, the spices, salt, and evaporated milk. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 50 minutes, or until pie sets.
Makes 6-8 servings.

*Pumpkin mush: cut a medium pumpkin in half. Prick the skin several times with a fork, and place on a cookie sheet, cut-side up. Bake for 50 minutes or until very soft when poked with a fork. Let the pumpkin cool, then scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Scoop out the pumpkin meat, and throw away the skin. Mash the pumpkin meat with a potato masher or puree in a blender/food processor. Makes about 4 cups.