Samhain, is celebrated each October 31 at the halfway point between the Mabon (Fall Equinox) and Yule (Winter Solstice). Samhain marks the completion of the harvest season and the onset of the darker half of the year.
As we welcome the darker days and colder nights, we also take moments to express our gratitude for the abundant harvest season and all that has grown and developed in our lives; however, Samhain is a time of release and transition. We look back to make peace with what is coming as we move away from our fields and back into our homes. Our bright, sunny days of community gatherings and celebration slowly begin to fade into more solitary time in our homes reflecting on where we’ve been and contemplating where we may go when then warm days return.
Samhain is traditionally the time when we turn to the past and honor our ancestors. The days of Samhain are considered a liminal period meaning the barrier or veil between the living and spirit world is at its thinnest and most penetrable. It is this ‘thinning of the veil’ that allows us to connect and communicate with those who have departed this world for the purpose of learning from them and honoring their journeys. Many will set out breads, plates of food, and other tangible offerings to welcome protective spirits and energy.
Just as we begin to set warming fires in our homes for the purpose of heat and cooking, we often set communal bon fires to celebrate the work of the harvest season and dispose of and release the remnants of our work we no longer need. Just as the Celts and Druids shared communal fires for celebration, we also look to fire as a sign of the coming Winter and a close to Autumn. As we fire up our heat sources to stay warm, ovens to cook and nourish our bodies, and candles to set intentions and energy, we continue to take part in an ancient sacred ritual.
All of our rituals are unique, personal, and deeply sacred. I’ve put together ritual components to guide you in celebrating Samhain. Work with the elements that resonate with you and honor your connection to this sacred time. Whether your ritual be private or public, I wish you comfort, clarity, and celebration. The following ritual components are intended as a mix-and-match menu so you can engage in the practices that you most connect with and enjoy.
- Colors: Orange, Black, Gold
- Flowers: Marigold, Straw Flowers, Cosmos, Chrysanthemum, Witch Hazel, Thistles
- Herbs: Rosemary, Clove, Cinnamon, Mugwort, Nightshades, Mandrake
- Crystals: Black Obsidian, Black Tourmaline, Shungite
- Trees: Oak, Apple, Birch, Hawthorne
- Foods: Pumpkin, Gourds, Apples, Wheat, Bread
In a space that will not be disturbed but is visible and accessible, begin to construct your Samhain altar. Clear the surface of all items and use a natural cleaner to ensure a fresh surface. Drape a colorful cloth, piece of fabric, or decorative paper to designate your altar space. Assemble your altar space utilizing gourds, fallen leaves, corn stalks or heirloom cobs, images of departed loved ones, favorite beverages or foods of departed ones, imagery or figures representing harvesting, and Goddess/God/deity figures. As you place each item, hold it for a moment and connect with the energy it brings to your sacred space. Intuitively place your items on your altar and move them as necessary to accommodate for additional pieces.
This altar space can be used to meditate with, engage in energy work, read tarot, journal, or simply sit quietly and reflect. Speak to your altar and let all the components know what they mean to you and why they are important. Express gratitude freely.
Your altar is an ideal space to burn incense or candles and to charge and protect your energy work tools. Tarot or oracle cards make great additions and can also contribute to the energy at hand.
Those with deeper meditation and energy work practices may find this is a particularly potent space to receive messages, connect with sacred energy, and hear one’s intuition speak. As with all sacred spaces, do guard this area with bright white protective light and ask for divine barriers from anything that may interfere with your work. Open and close your sessions in recognition of this sacred space and use a mantra, prayer, or incantation to welcome energy, call in the 4 elements, and express gratitude.
samhain & TAROT
If including tarot into your ritual feels appropriate, Death may be a good fit. While Death is often seen as ominous, it could more accurately be called Transition. Death is a card of endings, release, and the dissolve of the current state. It can be difficult to embrace redirection and many of us would agree that change is difficult but it is something that is constantly happening. Death reminds us that nothing is permanent and that we can learn from the past and present as we move into the future. Given Samhain’s connection to the end of the harvest season and spirit world, Death reinforces the importance of loosing our grip and allowing ourselves to move, adapt, and transition into new ways of being, seeing, and feeling so that we can continue to grow and thrive in all areas of our lives.
samhain CANDLES & INCENSE
Candles and incense are wonderful additions to any space, altar, or ritual. The flame of a candle or smoke from incense can be a wonderful focal point for meditation while also adding to the visual aesthetic and aroma of the space.
For your Samhain altar candle, begin with an orange, or black candle. Chime candles can be gently rubbed with oil and rolled in dried herbs and flowers to dress them. Use a stand to burn them and be aware of any dressing that may catch fire during the burn. 7-day glass candles can have a very small amount of herbs and flowers added to the top prior to burning. Keep the wick trimmed as the candle burns and be aware of dressing that may catch fire, which could lead to glass breakage.
For your Samhain incense blend choose herbs, flowers, and resins that are pleasing and seasonal. Combine your blend with a mortar and pestle, reciting a mantra, prayer, or incantation. Using a charcoal disk on a heat-safe surface, add small amount of your blend. Know that more incense creates more smoke; best to start small and slow.
Some herbal allies for your candles and incense that correspond with Samhain include: Bay, Dragon’s Blood, Patchouli, Clove, Mugwort, Orange Peel, or Rosemary . Let your intuition guide you as you choose your blend; there is no wrong combination when your intention is pure.
If you prefer incense cones, our Hand-Rolled Incense • Samhain are ideal for all your Samhain rituals.
NOTE: Always burn candles and incense responsibly using heat-safe surfaces in well ventilated areas. Never leave burning items alone for any amount of time. Be aware of pets and children that may be nearby.
Samhain Tea from Nor’Eastern Herb Company
INGREDIENTS: Whole Cloves, Cinnamon, Dried Orange Peel
DIRECTIONS: Mix dry ingredients in equal parts or to taste to create an herbal blend. Add 1 TBS of the herbal blend to a tea filter or steeping insert. Pour boiling water over tea into a mug and cover for 3-5 minutes. Remove tea blend and press liquid from the herbs. Add a slice of fresh or dried orange or a scoop of local honey to add sweetness and mix to incorporate. Allow to cool. Finish with milk of choice to taste. Enjoy!
MORE WAYS TO HONOR samhain
- Eat Your Bounty – Using seasonal foods you’ve harvested from your garden or purchased at a farmers market or store, makes a delicious dish or meal that has been well loved. Consider a recipe that a departed loved one was crazy for or something special they made. Cooking is such a sacred act in itself and doing so while welcoming the energy of those we’ve lost can be even more trans formative. Whether you eat what you’ve prepared alone or with others, sharing the love of food is a very special way to feel the presence of those not with us. Depending on your practices, you can also set out a plate (with or without food) for those you want to energetically invite to the table. Setting a place for spirit and including them in your celebrations is a wonderful way to honor they and carry their love with you. And don’t forget to kick off the feast with a toast in their honor as well!
- Talk it Out – Samhain is closely related to Halloween, Day of the Dead, and numerous holidays, ceremonies, and rituals honoring and connecting with the dead. One way to connect with the departed is to simply talk to them and speak their names. This includes not only people but the pets and animal companions we have also had in our lives. While many of this may do this in our minds, say it out loud. Have a spoken conversation and allow your words to travel out. Do know that this can be an intense practice when we don’t expect it and intense emotions can come on quick. I’ve always found the more emotional I become, whether it be grief, anger, sadness, or any other intense emotion, typically correlates to my connect with that person. If you find you’re suddenly being hit by an emotional wave and the tears start to flow, this is the clearest sign you are being heard and that energy is with you. Don’t be scared or intimidated, spirit wants to hear from us!
- Go Barefoot – For many of us, this time of year ushers in dark days and cold nights. This is a great time to take any opportunity you can to go barefoot outside a few last times before it is too col and the ground begins to freeze or go dormant for the coming Winter. As we well know, physically connecting out flesh to the Earth recharges our being and connects us to the divine rhythms and cycles of the Earth. Take advantage of these fleeting time to do this before Winter truly arrives and we’re more apt to be snuggled up with a book inside. Sometimes the coldness of the season can be a welcomed sensation, awakening us and pushing our blood to flow and react. Do make healthy choices and avoid any dangerous temperatures.
- Release Ceremony – As the Earth begins to breakdown and enter slumber we watch plants dies, trees loos their leaves, and animals relocate or hibernate. The common theme here is a release of what has been and a transition into a new state of being. Honor your own transition during this season and release what no longer serves you. Whether it be a person from your life, mindset, habit, belief, or assumption, write it down and let it go. Our Handmade Ritual Paper • Release is a wonderful tool to write out what you are letting go of and burn, compost, or flush away. While we often release intangible things fro our lives, the practice of writing it down and physically getting rid of it can spur a powerful energetic shift and truly aid in our personal transformation.
- Protect Yourself – Having clear boundaries is important any time of the year but during Samhain, as we welcome and connect with the spirit world, it is critical that we set clear boundaries and protect ourselves energetically. For me, Yarrow is my go-to herbal ally for laying down barriers and setting my expectations. When opening a ritual or ceremony be very vocal and specific with who is and who is not welcome in your space. For a more formal practice, consider this Samhain Protection Spell.
- Get in Touch with Your Roots – For herbalists, this time of year is root season! We harvest roots now after they have been growing and synthesizing all through the Summer, now ripe with potent medicine and a cycle of lessons to share. Personally, this is a great time to get in touch and dig our personal roots. Whether that means diving into our ancestry, reflecting on the past, or examining our individual journeys, knowing who we are at our deepest roots can be powerful, transformation information moving forward.
- Divination – Given the ethereal energy of the season, the days surround Samhain are ideal for divination work. Whether reading for yourself or seeing an intuitive or psychic, Tarot, Runes, Scrying, Tea Reading, Lucid Dreaming, and all forms of divination can show clarity and insight into some of our questions and concerns. The message we receive should be used as guidance and information as we make decisions to live a safe, happy, and healthy life.
- What cycle have you completed this season?
- How are you honoring your personal past as your move forward?
- What role do you ancestors play in your life?
- How can you preserve your own roots?
- What parts of you have been released with the season?
PAYING IT FORWARD
If advocacy is part of your personal rituals, I ask you to consider talking action along side Operation Gratitude. While many of us are celebrating the last harvest with our family, friends, and community, those serving overseas in our military are not able to join our celebrations. Sharing the abundance and excitement of the season is as easy as send you leftover Halloween candy to be distributed to deployed military members and first responders. Visit their website to learn more about their work, donate your Halloween candy, or make a donation.
(I do not have any affiliation with Operation Gratitude other than supporting their work and appreciating their advocacy.)
When you have completed your ritual, take a few moments to sit with the emotions, and images that came to you. Journal your experience or take notes that you can return to as Autumn continues to progress. As you move from your sacred space drink a large glass of water and wash your hands in cool water. Express your gratitude for these moments and know you have participated in an ancient and sacred tradition.
I wish for you all a very blessed Samhain. With love and light, Kristen