So, we now reach Samhain at sunset on 31 October. Most of you refer to it as Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve – the eve before All Saints Day, the Christian adaptation of the pagan festival. This is the Celtic New Year, when we arrive back where we started. The food is now stored and winter begins at this time. The sap has all returned to the ground, the leaves fallen and that feel of winter is upon us.
In days gone by, now was the time when the surplus livestock would be killed to ensure enough meat to eat over winter and that there was also enough feed for the remaining animals themselves. They would also let the home fires go out (which only happened at Samhain and Beltane) and start them again from the embers of the communal Samhain fire. This clears out the old and allows the new to come in – again something we nowadays associate with New Year.
As witches believe in re-incarnation, contact with the spirit world is easiest at this time. The veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest, and people who have passed over into the Summerland and wish to contact someone can return, if they so wish, for a brief time. This is the night for divination, whether reading Tarot or scrying, as the world of spirit can help guide you with your problems or issues that need to be resolved.
Samhain was a fire festival, celebrated with a large communal fire – only the date has changed as we still do this, the excuse now being Guy Fawke’s Night on 5 November. Traditionally, this was a time to clear out the old and bring in the new, and this begun with the hearth. Fires were permanent features in the old days, but on this night, along with Beltane, the fire would be extinguished and re-started with embers from the Samhain communal fire.
The subject of Halloween is very prominent around now, as all children get ready to dress up as witches and ghosts and all things that go bump in the night. Trick-or-treating may seem like an American import, but is actually quite relevant to witches as the Lord of Misrule is allowed to run free at Samhain to play tricks on the Human race. The children are simply his playmates, that’s all. So, they are paid a small token not to do his bidding. As our loved ones can return on this night, so can some of the more mischievous spirits as well. Back home in Lincolnshire, when I was younger, Halloween didn’t exist. No child was let out after dusk because this was the Night of the Witches and they were the only ones who could safely be outdoors. They had work to do and were left alone to do it. Instead, the children had Mischief night on 4 November, when the work of witches was all finished and the veil again closed.
If you are walking on All Hallow’s eve and hear footsteps behind you, you would never look to see who was there if you live in Ireland because if you see one of the dead behind, you will soon be joining them!!
This night is a time of partying but also of contemplation and remembering – a mix of ends and beginnings – a time to remember the past and plan the future. The strength and wisdom of the Crone (the 3 faces of the Goddess) is called on at this time to keep evil at bay in the form of the grinning face on the Pumpkin – she smiles to keep the evil that roams on this night, away from our doors. Children carry these on this night, whilst parading around in costumes with masks on their faces. This represents transformation and change – we all have good and bad inside us and this night shows this aspect is in us all. Nature has to be balanced and that includes the aspects of good and evil. Things are not always what they seem to be – and even the best of us have to sometimes put on a mask to deal with something, whether we have to be strong in the face of adversity or loss, cruel to be kind, or simply tolerant of people we have to deal with and smile when we really want to scream. Yes, we all have to, at some times, hide behind a mask. This should be a warning to us all. Our mask may be bad but underneath we are good- it is those whose mask is kind and plausible that may be the most deadly. Watch for that mask – a lesson to us all, especially with what is going on in the world at the moment. Deep or what!!
Things to do at Samhain
The winter has now begun and time for rest. The nights are dark early, the animals have hibernated and the birds flown to warmer climates. The mists give the nights a spooky feel at this ghostly time of the year. The curtain between this world and the next is drawn back and every witch should carry out some form of divination on this night, whether cards, crystal, Ogham or runes to see what the next year holds. Decorate your altar with apples, fallen autumn leaves and orange or green candles, plus the form of divination you are going to use later on. Meditate if that is your thing, or cast a circle and invite family members who have passed over to join you and help you with any advice. Light a candle and remember lost loved ones, place a light in the window to help spirit find their way whilst keeping evil at bay and place salt and bread on the doorstep, for the sheer indulgence of the departed. Don’t forget to party too. Have a drink to those who have gone before whilst toasting their life and their part in yours. Death is a part of life. The Earth is at rest after all the work of the year. Death leads to decay which fertilises new life – and so it begins again. This is why black is the colour of Samhain as well as orange, the colour of Fire and fallen leaves.
The New Year also represents new beginnings. If you are having a bonfire, write a habit you want rid of and throw it into the flames: a new beginning – and yes, they took the fire of Samhain and transformed it to Guy Fawkes Night after he tried to blow up Parliament. Like all Pagan celebrations, slightly changed but still there just a few days late..
The next day is Goddess Fortuna’s festival of luck and wealth in Rome. Light a candle and raise a glass in her honour and maybe she will bless you for next year…
Traditional things to do on Samhain – and why.
Hollow out a pumpkin or turnip and carve in it the face of the Crone (the wise one). Light it with a candle. This is to keep away those mischievous spirits that are around sustenance for the fairies and spirits who pass by. Candles in the window will guide them on their way back to the world of spirit.
On the night of Samhain, a very simple symbol of this night is to light a candle in the window to show spirit the way and honour those who have passed over. It is a time to think of the past, of bonds with loved ones and times of joy spent with them. Leave some bread and salt on the doorstep for the passing spirits to indulge in.
This is the time to tell ghost stories around a bonfire, or go off to visit fairie hills or graveyards in the dark. On this night, if you place a candle before a mirror in a darkened room and look past yourself, you will indeed see the face of the person you will spend the rest of your life with – all part and parcel of the divination process that has always occurred at this time of the year. Remember to also leave a treat for the souls of those departed so place some bread, salt and water outside your front door. The thing to also remember on this night is to enjoy yourself and have fun – after all it is the New Year and that means a PARTY and a wee dram or two!!
Samhain is the time of divination, so time to pick out those runes, contemplate over the crystal ball or shuffle those tarot cards and see what your challenges are for the next 12 months. So, here is what I use, and it will maybe give you insight as to why there are so many sets of cards out there and that you can use more than one set at a time:
My tarot set for my personal readings is the ‘Sacred Circle’ set and that is used for the actual tarot reading, which will give me info on what is coming up, what to watch out for and where I am going wrong!!
The ‘Crystal Ally’ set gives me my crystal to wear or carry for the next few weeks and the reason why I should.
The ‘Faeries Oracle’ gives me advice from the little people to follow or take heed.
The ‘Druid Oracle’ gives me the animal for the Sabbat.
The ‘Celtic Ogham Oracle’ gives me the Celtic tree from the forest from which I need support.
The ‘Goddess Oracle’ gives me my Goddess from the heavens for support and area to attend.
And finally I take a card from the deck Voyager just to throw confusion into the game (I have yet to understand the attraction to this pack but there you go…still take a card anyway).
So, each card is displayed on my altar until the next sabbat so as to not forget what I have been told, and it is bizarre how they link together but they do and the same lesson can be told several times in different ways (that is upstairs way of making me take note!!). So, as you can see, you can utilise several sets to get confirmation of what lies ahead, what needs attending to, etc, so give it a go and see what you get, as this is the night to discover what the next year can hold for you. After all, this night is as much about the future as the past…
Decorate your altar with dried leaves, nuts and orange candles, plus any significant cards you have selected from your divination. Put your wishes for the next year in your wishing pyramid or underneath a quartz crystal. At some time during the evening, as this is a fire celebration, you need to light a fire somewhere, whether a large bonfire outside or a small one in your cauldron inside with some candles around. I remember bonfire night back home in Lincolnshire as a child, and we would walk the full length of the promenade. The council lit bonfires down the whole length of the beach and the whole of the town would bring fireworks and light them for the benefit of all before the tide came in and took it all away– it was a truly magickal night and one of my favourites of the year.
Apples are very special on this night – hence why we “bob for apples in the water” – the apples contain the seeds of life, if you cut one open across the way, it will reveal the seeds in a pentagram, the sign of protection, and, of course, you bob for apples in water in a bowl – the water of life in the womb. Yes, it signifies our very beginning as we eat the apples at the start of the New Celtic Year.
For the single amongst us, if you peel an apple on this night, ensuring it stays in one long strip, and throw it over your left shoulder, it should reveal the initial of your true love, provided it stays in one piece.
If you are in a relationship, take two nuts and throw one each into the Samhain fire. If they explode, you have a loving relationship but if they merely whimper or hiss, then your love is on the way out. Watch for those who react differently – what is going on with one of you??
Wishes could be defined too – write a wish on a piece of paper, roll it up and then throw it into the fire. If the paper burned immediately, the wish would be granted but if not, then you are probably out of luck!! There are lots of these types of divination to be found so seek some more unusual ones out yourself if you wish to partake in something different.
When it comes to divination, you are well to set the scene, so to speak. You don’t need to cast a circle if you don’t want to, but you are best to enhance the atmosphere to get your psychic centre mentally tuned into getting the best results. So here are a few tips:
Light the room with a few candles – enough to see but no more and a couple on the table you are sitting at (or in glasses on the floor if you are down on the carpet). Light some incense – something with frankincense, sandalwood, yarrow, lemongrass or cinnamon. This will open up the psychic side of your brain and enhance any reading you do. Drink some herbal tea – something such as mugwort or sage (both excellent menopausal remedies so it must be something to do with tapping into the wise woman!!) and this will add to your ability. Another thing, once the scene is set, ensure that you have all you need before sitting down, including some water, and also that the door is locked and the phone unplugged – getting into the reading and having the phone suddenly ring is likely to give you somewhat of a fright so be warned. A crystal such as quartz, amethyst or phantom quartz will also add to the event. I always had all 4 elements on the table when doing readings – it always gave me this extra bit of confidence to know that all of them were represented! So, when all this is done and you are sitting comfortably, then you can begin!
Incense for Samhain
The easiest way to have fresh incense for this night of divination is to use my psychic or divination incense but, for those who like to play, here is a mix for this auspicious night of mystery and magick:
3 parts Frankincense, 2 parts Sandalwood, I part ground Cinnamon and 1 part grated nutmeg
Grind the frankincense, then add the remainder of the ingredients and stir in. Add a few drops of orange oil and clove oil (or my Childhood memories oil will do if you have any left over from Yule). Burn on charcoal in your cauldron for help opening your psychic centre and aid you in your night of divination to let your future unfold.
Ancestral Candle ceremony…
Here is a deeper ritual that older family or friends can join in with on Samhain before divination…
Prepare the remembrance area with a main black candle and lots of tea lights or small white candles, some matches and a heatproof container or tray filled with salt, sand or soil. You can do this alone or with others too…
Place one candle in the centre and get your matches ready, with everyone attending sitting round the table. Now, switch off all the lights and let your eyes adjust to the dark. Feel and embrace the darkness. Then say
“We invite our lost loved ones to sit and be with us tonight…so please join us”
Once ready, strike a match and light the central candle, at the same time, saying something like
“We welcome our departed loved ones into our home on this night, and honour your presence amongst us”
Taking it in turns, each person should light a tea light or candle from the central black candle, and place it in the salt on the tray to remember someone who has passed over i.e.“ I remember my cuddly old dad and his warm smile, who never told me off, no matter what I had done” or “I remember my lovely old Nan and her black handbag full of coins, her jam tarts and that great holiday we had when I was 14 and the stuff we got up to”…you get my drift. Keep going for as long as it all takes, and until the darkness is filled with a tray of bright lights and the air full of fun-filled memories! Thank your visitors for joining you at the end and let the lights burn down themselves.
The seeds of love at Samhain
The Celts replaced life with life, hence planting a tree at a graveside, so you can follow this little charm and give back to the Earth in the name of your cherished loved ones. You will need:
A small dish and a votive candle and glass, a pack of your favourite seeds and a pouch to carry them.
On Samhain place the votive candle in the centre of the small dish and scatter the seeds round the candle. Light the candle, thinking about the person (you can use the candle from the tray above if you have followed that) and say something simple like “miss you dad” or “Gone but not forgotten nan” and let the candle burn with the seeds in the dish overnight until the flame goes out.
The next day, gather the seeds and put into the pouch and decide where you are going to scatter your seeds of remembrance…whether around a family grave, a favourite place or a part of your own garden…like a fairy or herb garden. Now scatter on the Earth, whilst saying a simple charm x3 like “forever in my heart” or “Love you always”
Hopefully, your seeds will germinate next year and grow into a beautiful natural healing section of garden…lovely!
The Mysterious Bat…symbol of Samhain…
Bats get a bad press but I adore them. My outdoor project has been to make a bee and bat-friendly garden to encourage the bats to swoop around more, eating all those beasties and pollinating my night flowers – bees through the day and bats through the night! Bats are found all around the world and don’t actually turn into vampires. Everyone in Scotland should be encouraging bats; they consume their own body weight in midges and mossies every nightl!! They fly at upto 60mph and can find food in total darkness because of the high-pitched sound they transmit which is beyond our hearing. Even in severe weather, the can survive freezing temperatures and even being totally encased in ice. They are the original creatures of the night and can live upto 30 years. The females only have one pup a year so they need to be protected or can easily become endangered, and like any mum, a bat will find her own pup amongst a million other bats due to its own unique sound and smell. I think they are a delight and they say it is lucky if a bat falls on you so count your blessings and let’s encourage these lovely mammals to get their amazing work done!
Spell for Samhain – remembering those who have gone
Items needed: 1 natural candle and 1 blue candle, 1 stone/pebble amethyst or quartz for every person you would like to remember on this night, and 1 goblet red wine (or more if you have a lot of people to remember!!) Cast your circle or sacred space, ensuring you have a comfortable area to sit within your circle as you could be there some time. Light the two candles in the west of your circle forming a doorway by which spirit can enter should they choose to do so. Now, take one crystal in your hand, close your eyes and remember the good things about that person – those things that made you smile, laugh or cry. Then, when you have remembered the things you wanted to, simply state something like “If you are able, please come and sit with me…name….” then lay down the stone with the candles. Lift your glass and toast them and take a drink. Continue until all the people you wanted to think about had been remembered.
You may get the feeling that one is present, a few or all if you are lucky, in which case it will be a crowded circle. However, it is lovely to sit and remember and let them come should they want to. This is what Samhain is for and why the children dress as ghosts and ghouls. When you have sat for enough time and all is done (you can also do your divination within the circle as it would definitely be a powerful reading), then simply pick up each crystal individually, stating something like “…name…, thank you for your time, and I bid you hale and farewell.” and when all have been thanked, then close down your circle and keep those special crystals on your altar.
Protection House Spell for Samhain
To keep your house protected for the coming year, mix together sea salt and black pepper in a pestle and mortar and grind them together. Bring in a sprinkling of marjoram for happiness and grind them all together whilst visualising all residents happy and safe in their castle.
Now split the mix into 2 x black pouches and add 1 x small quartz and 1 x black stone such as tourmaline, obsidian and onyx to each pouch. Hang at the front and back doors and keep this bad world away from your door…it is done!!
Spell for Samhain to ward of bad luck…
There are a lot of people out there who believe they are having “a run of bad luck” and they say things run in 3’s. So here is what we are going to do. Because this is the start of the next wheel, forwarned is forarmed.
Take 3 shiny pennies, 3 pieces of cloth in a favourite colour and 3 bits of string/ribbon. Sit in front of your Samhain fire with protection incense burning and wrap each penny in a piece of cloth and tie with string saying:
“In luck I trust, in luck I believe, with this cloth, good luck I weave”.
Hold each pouch in the incense smoke and then place 2 safely on your altar/sacred space/magick box and hang the other over your front door.
Any time you feel there is a run of “bad luck”, you take this pouch out into a field/countryside/beach and bury it, saying “Bad luck has come but not to stay, I bury it now to turn it away”. Return home and hang a new one in its place. It is turned and we are done.
Let’s get rid of the negative…with some knots and a stone…
Knot magick is as old as the hills. It has been used for ever, yet it can be really simple with simple materials.
This Sabbat is about death and new beginnings, and if you have something that is holding you back, I want you to use this to let it go and go into the New Year positively fresh and raring to grasp the new!
The only tool you need is a small Rhodonite and a piece of black cord, ribbon, waxed cotton or wool about 12” long – it must be a natural material. Light incense and candles. Cleanse the Rhodonite in incense smoke and put aside. Quietly sit with your piece of black cord with an end of the cord in each hand. Now, think of the problem and get yourself emotional about the issue to be gotten rid of. Get angry. Get upset. Get so upset, you may even cry over the situation. When you are so emotionally charged, use that energy to tie a single knot in the cord and when you pull the knot, drop the cord like it is on fire, walk out of the room and slam the door!!
Next, go to your bathroom, close the door quietly and compose yourself. Run a bath or turn on the shower and add juniper berry to the water/shower gel and breathe its purifying aroma…cleanse yourself of all that emotion.
Once you are clean, calm and dressed, go back into the room. Pick up the cord, and calmly undo the knot. Take the cord outside and find somewhere to bury it, giving it back to the ground. Its job is done so cannot be re-used. Return indoors and pick up the rhodonite. This is your support, your cushion, your stick. It will help calm your fears and help you have the courage to overcome and make changes to your life. The motion has been set; you can now move forward with conviction and plan your new start ahead.
Your banishing flame
As we say goodbye to the Celtic year, this is a good time to release things that have been holding you back. This is a fire festival and the strength and renewal ability of fire can be used to release the old habits and move forward into the new. Take time beforehand to consider what is holding you back and needs to be changed. Take a square piece of paper, and in black ink, write down exactly what needs to be changed/let go of i.e. I need to stop smoking. Turn over the paper and on the other side in green pen, the changes you need to grow, as if they have already happened i.e. my debts have been reduced/ paid due to stopping smoking etc. When your list of changes is done, place a bay leaf (kitchen) or a fallen oak leaf in the centre of the paper, then make 2 equal folds enclosing the black writing and leaf inside, then fold again twice more the other way to result in a small package. Place in a blank envelope and seal. Whether using a bonfire, the shop fire or the flame of your Samhain candle, you must burn this letter safely to seal the deal on the night of Samhain. As the paper begins to burn, watch it and say…
Negative patterns be gone I say, and now you burn, let them stay away
Open the door to changes great, transform my life as is my fate,
Expand my horizons, my life, my soul, as positive changes are now my goal.
Repeat till it burns out completely and finish with “So mote it be”
Now you can go into the Celtic new year knowing changes are on the way. It is done