Samhain (pronounced sow-en) is the most important and least understood of all Celtic festivals. Unlike its counterparts of Halloween and All Hallow's Eve, the Witch holiday of Samhain has nothing to do with evil practices or horrific costumes. There are no poison apples, razor blades, or scary masks. Witches do not have green faces or wear pointy hats. Tall pointy hats were simply the fashion of the day among the peasants during the late Middle Ages. In ancient Celtic times, everyone was a Witch and everyone practiced Witchcraft. Witchcraft is still very much alive, and it is a way of life for many people today.
Samhain is a holiday infused with positive energy and filled with hope for the planet's future. With the icy cold months of Winter ahead of us, it is fitting that on every Samhain Eve, the Morrighan, one of a triplicity of Celtic Goddesses with the power to give birth to a new land, celebrates her ritual with the Dagda, the "Good God", one of the highest most illustrious of Celtic Gods. The Morrighan is a Goddess of gigantic proportions, who is straddling the two sides of the river when she encounters the Dagda eating from a cauldron along the river's edge. Although she possesses many abilities and has many roles, the Morrighan's role on that night is to reaffirm life in the face of Winter's impending hardships.
To the ancient Celts, the great holiday divided the year into two seasons -- Winter and Summer. Samhain the day on which the Celtic New Year and Winter begin together, so it is the time for both beginnings and endings. On Samhain the ancient tribes celebrated the Celtic feast of the Dead. Today, we continue to honor the memories of our ancestors. This practice has directly influenced countless other religions and folk customs. All Soul's Day on November 2nd, commemorates the Christian dead. On Samhain, the veil between the worlds in the thinnest, and the living and dead are more likely to exchange psychic information. On Samhain Witches celebrate and perform rituals to keep anything negative from the past -- evil, harm, corruption, and greed -- out of the future. We cast spells to psychically contact our deceased friends and relatives, and retrieve ancient knowledge. Thus, we preserve the great web that stretches through many generations of human families.
Samhain is a time for change and a time to look to the future. Today, Pagans dress for Samhain in costumes reflecting what we hope to achieve in the coming year. How we dress for Samhain is, in a manner of speaking, a Witch's New Years Resolution.
The idea of trick or treating, though radically altered, is also descended from Witch tradition. In our celebrations, there is no trick -- only treat. Witches pull no pranks and perform no mischief on Samhain Eve. After the rituals of the magick circle, we go not to the houses of strangers, but to the houses of friends and show off our costumes and sample treats.
Samhain is a magickal and enchanted night when magick can be done to benefit ourselves and our plant.
What Do Witches Do On Samhain?
Well, most people think we all dress up and go to Salem MA to cause trouble. Seriously, many of us try to avoid the Salem tourist rush, or avoid the trick-or-treating scene. Most Witches dislike the commercialization of the sacred holiday.
So what do we really do? The following is a list of some of the things Witches tend to do on this holiday:
* Decorate our altars with pine cones, pumpkins, gourds, autumn leaves, pictures of deceased loved ones, and the colors approprate to the holiday.
* Performing rituals of divination to predict the future. We may use the i-ching, a pendulum, tarot cards, runes, rods, etc.
* remember our loved ones who have passed on.
* Reflect upon changes we would like to bring about in our lives, and perform rituals to manifest those changes.
The Samhain Altar
Deep golds, scarlets, dark browns and bronze are predominant colors of Autumn and the Samhain altar. The candles on the altar should be black, orange, white, silver, and gold. Black absorbs light and keeps you warm. Orange represents the magic of fire as well as the remainder of fire in the autumn leaves. White sends out energy, and silver and gold represent the moon and the sun. Candles should always be lit with altar matches (matches with no advertising on the box). A stone native to your region might be present on the altar as a symbol of the Earth. An animal horn, feather or talon can be placed on the altar to represent the final harvest.
What to Wear
On Samhain, Witch's should wear black robes for ritual. Orange and gold, the fire colors of the sun, are used during this time to attract sunlight to the Wheel of the Year. A costume to signify light or a glittery robe or headdress is also appropriate. Face painting, an old Celtic art, can be practices and glitter can be added to the paint.
Symbols used to represent Samhain: jack-o'-lantern, balefire, besom, masks, cauldron, Waning Moon
Foods appropriate for Smahain: apples, pumpkin pie, beets, turnips, hazelnuts, corn, gingerbread, pomegrantates, cider, herbal teas, pork dishes
Plants and herbs associated with Samhain: mugwort, allspice, sage, gourds, catnip, apple trees.
Incense and oils appropriate for Samhain: : frankincense, basil, yarrow, lilac, ylang-ylang, clove, camphor
Colors associated with Samhain: black, orange, red, brown, golden yellow, silver, gold
Stones associated with Samhain: obsidian, onyx, carnelian
Animals and mystical creatures associated with Samhain: bats, cats, dogs, Phooka, goblins, Medusa
Goddesses appropriate for Samhain (Crone Goddesses and Underworld Goddesses): Hecate (Greek), Carlin (Scottish), Edda (Norse), Pamona (Roman), Crobh Dearg (Irish), Lilith (Hebrew), Psyche (Greek), the Morrigu/Morrigan
Appropriate Samhain Gods (all Death Gods, Aged Gods, Underworld Gods): Arawn (Welsh), Dis (Roman), Kronos/Cronus (Greco-Phoenician), Xocatl (Aztec), Woden (Teutonic), Pluto (Greco-Roman), Hades (Greek), Nefertum (Egyptian)
Altar appropriate for Samhain: small jack-'o-laterns, foods from the harvest, photographs of your loved ones who have departed this world, statue or figurine of the Goddess in her Crone aspect.
Activities appropriate for Samhain: divination, past-life recall, spirit contact, drying of winter herbs.
Spellwork appropriate for Samhain: protection, neutralizing harm
Celebrating the Earth by Laurie Cabot