Samhain (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is generally celebrated on October 31st, although some Traditions prefer the date of November 1st. The various names for this Sabbat are Samhain (Celtic), Shadowfest (Strega), Martinmas or Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), as well as Hallowe'en, Hallowmas, All Hallow's Eve, Halloween, Day of the Dead, Feast of Spirits, Third Harvest, Samonios, All Saint's Eve, Celtic New Year, Samhuinn, Celtic Winter, Samana, Festival of Pamona, Vigil of Saman, Vigil of Todos, and Santos. Though this Holiday is celebrated on October 31st, All Hallows Eve falls on November 7th, and Martinmas on November 11th. (Images to the left and below are by Anthony Meadows and from Llewellyn's 1998 and 1999 Witches' Calendars. Click on either image to go directly to Llewellyn's Web Site.)
The symbolism of this Sabbat is that of The Third (and final) Harvest, it marks the end of Summer, the beginning of Winter. It is a time marked by death when the Dead are honored - a time to celebrate and "study" the Dark Mysteries. "Samhain" means "End of Summer". Its historical origin is The Feast of the Dead in Celtic lands. It is believed that on this night, the veil Between the Worlds is at its thinnest point, making this an excellent time to communicate with the Other Side.
Symbols for representing this Sabbat may include Jack-O-Lanterns, Balefires, Masks, The Besom (Magickal Broom), The Cauldron, and the Waning Moon. Altar decorations might include small jack-o-lanterns, foods from the harvest, and photographs of your loved ones who have departed from this world.
Appropriate Deities for Samhain include ALL Crone Goddesses, and the Dying God or the "Dead" God. Samhain Goddesses include Hecate, Hel, Inanna, Macha, Mari, Psyche, Ishtar, Lilith, The Morrigu/Morrigan, Rhiannon, and Cerridwen. Key actions to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of the Year include return, change, reflection, endings and beginnings, and honoring the Dead. Other meanings behind this Sabbat celebration include the Wisdom of the Crone, the Death of the God, and the Celebration of Reincarnation.
Samhain is considered by many Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches (especially those of Celtic heritage) to be the date of the Witches' New Year, representing one full turn of the Wheel of the Year. This is the time of year for getting rid of weaknesses. A common Ritual practice calls for each Wiccan to write down his/her weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment and toss it into the Cauldron fire. Other activities might include Divination, Past-Life Recall, Spirit Contact, Meditation, Astral Projection ("Flying"), and the drying of Winter herbs. It is considered "taboo" by some to travel after dark, or to eat grapes or berries.
Spellwork for protection and neutralizing harm are particularly warranted at this time of year, because Samhain is considered to be a good time to boost your confidence and security.
Many Witches use their own personal Besom, or Magickal Broom as a part of their rituals. Some Besoms are structurally different in shape from the flat ones sold today, being round on the end and having a smaller sweeping surface. They can, however, be fashioned flat or however you personally desire. These Magickal Brooms are commonly used for cleansing and purifying Sacred Space, but can be used for many other things... such as using one in place of a Wand, Athame, or finger to project your personal energy when casting your Circle.
Here is a simple way to create your own, quoted from one of Edain McCoy's wonderful books:
If you would like a Besom of your own, they are fairly easy to find in craft stores, country markets, or folk art fairs. You can also invest your energies into making one, a good idea if you wish to use it in place of a Wand or other ritual tool.
To make a Besom you will need a four-foot dowel one inch in diameter, a ball of twine, scissors, and straw or other long strands of pliable herbs.
Take the straw, or another herb you have chosen for the bristles, and allow them to soak overnight in warm, lightly salted water. The water softens the straws to make them pliable, and the salt soaks out former energies.
When you are ready to make your Besom, remove the straws from the water and allow them to dry a bit, but not so much that they lose the suppleness you will need to turn them into your Besom.
Find a work area where you can lay out the length of your dowel, and begin lining the straws alongside the dowel. Starting about three inches from the bottom, lay the straws, moving backward, along the length of the dowel. Begin binding these to the dowel with the twine. You will need to tie them very securely. You can add as many layers of straw as you wish, depending on how full you would like your Besom to be.
When the straw is secured, bend the top straws down over the twine ties. When they are all gently pulled over, tie off the straws again a few inches below the original tie. Leave the Besom overnight to allow the straw to dry.
The dowel part of the Besom can be stained, painted, or decorated with Pagan symbols, your Craft name, or any other embellishments you choose. Dedicate your finished Besom in your Circle as you would any other ritual tool.
(The above "Making a Besom" is quoted directly from Edain McCoy's book The Sabbats: A New Approach to Living the Old Ways, page 36, Llewellyn Publications, 1994.)
The most common colors associated with Samhain are Orange and Black. However, Red, Brown, and Golden Yellow are also appropriate colors for this Sabbat. Altar candles should be black, orange, white, silver and/or gold. Stones to use during the Samhain Celebration are Obsidian, Onyx, and Carnelian. Animals associated with Samhain include bats, cats, and dogs. Mythical beasts associated with Samhain are the following: Phooka, Goblin, Medusa, Beansidhe, Fylgiar, Peryton, Erlkonig, and Harpies. Plants and herbs associated with Samhain are Mugwort, Allspice, Sage, Gourds, Catnip, and Apple Trees.
The traditional Pagan foods of Samhain include beets, turnips, squash, apples, corn, nuts, gingerbread, cider, pomegranates, mulled wines and pumpkin dishes. These are all appropriate as well as meat (especially pork) dishes (if you're not a vegetarian - if so, tofu seems ritually correct).
Some Wiccans leave a plate of food outside the home for the souls of the dead. Placement of a candle in a window and burying apples in the hard-packed Earth is believed to guide them on their journey to the lands of Eternal Summer.
According to Margie McArthur, in her book WiccaCraft for Families, the following dates are celebrated by many for the entire week preceding October 31st, called "All-Hallows Week":
October 24th - Festival Prelude and Night of Seers -
decorate and remember those who have seen the future.
October 25th - Night of Heroes and Martyrs - honoring members of families who died in war and peace, those who have died for their faith.
October 26th - Night of Artists - for remembering those who speak of the Old Ways through the arts.
October 27th - Night of Nurturers - those who keep the home fires burning, caring for those in need of care.
October 28th - Night of Remembrance of Family Pets, recalled and cherished.
October 29th - Night of Remembrance of Forgotten Ancestors, heritage, and origins.
October 30th - Night of the Recent Dead - trip to cemetery.
October 31st - Family Fire Festival
Next I will list several recipes appropriate for the Samhain turn in the Wheel of the Year. I have gathered these from various places, noted on each...
Halloween Pumpkin Muffins
4 cups Flour
3 cups Sugar
1-3/4 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 tablespoon Ground Cloves
1 tablespoon Cinnamon
1 tablespoon Nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon Ginger
1-1/2 cups Raisins
1/2 cup Walnuts (chopped)
2-1/2 cups Mashed Cooked Pumpkin
1 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Water
In a large mixing bowl, combine the first eleven ingredients, and then make a "well" in the middle of the mixture. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs lightly and then add the pumpkin, vegetable oil, and water. Mix together well. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. (Do not overstir!)
Spoon into paper-lined muffin pans, filling about two-thirds full. Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 375-degree oven and then immediately remove the muffins from the pans to prevent them from scorching and drying out. (This recipe yields about 3 1/2 dozen muffins.)
(The above "Halloween Pumpkin Muffins" recipe is from "The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch's Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes" by Gerina Dunwich, page 171, Citadel Press, Carol Publishing Group Edition, 1995.)
3/4 cup softened butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Cream the butter in a large cast-iron cauldron (or mixing bowl). Gradually add the brown sugar, beating well. Add the eggs, lemon juice, and rind, and then beat by hand or with an electric mixer until the mixture is well blended. The next step is to stir in the flour and pecans.
Cover the cauldron with a lid, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
When ready, shape the dough into one-inch balls and place them about three inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake in a 375-degree preheated oven for approximately eight minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks until completely cool.
This recipe yields about 36 cookies which can be served at any of the eight Sabbats, as well as at Esbats and all other Witchy get-togethers.
(The above "Cauldron Cookies" recipe is from "The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch's Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes" by Gerina Dunwich, page 167, Citadel Press, Carol Publishing Group Edition, 1995.)
Granny McCoys Pumpkin Pie
This recipe makes two nine-inch pies.
3 cups Cooked Pumpkin (canned is fine)
1-1/4 cups Evaporated Milk
2-1/2 cups Granulated Sugar
1/2 heaping teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 scant teaspoon Salt
1/4 rounded teaspoon Allspice
1/2 rounded teaspoon Cinnamon
4 well-beaten Eggs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all ingredients thoroughly and pour into two deep, unbaked pie shells. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a knife comes out of the center clean.
(The above "Granny McCoy's Pumpkin Pie" recipe is quoted directly from Edain McCoy's book "The Sabbats: A New Approach to Living the Old Ways", page 32, Llewellyn Publications, 1994.)
Potatoes, harvested from August to October, were a part of the feast in Ireland where they were made into a Samhain dish known as colcannon. Colcannon is a mashed potato, cabbage, and onion dish still served in Ireland on All Saint's Day. It was an old Irish tradition to hide in it a ring for a bride, a button for a bachelor, a thimble for a spinster, and a coin for wealth, or any other item which local custom decreed in keeping with the idea of the New Year as a time for divination. If you make colcannon with these little objects inside, please exercise caution against choking.
4 cups Mashed Potatoes
2-1/2 cups Cabbage, cooked and chopped fine
1/2 cup Butter
(avoid corn oil margarines as they will not add the needed body and flavor)
1/2 cup Evaporated Milk or Cream
3/4 cup Onion, chopped very fine and sauteedbr> 1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon White Pepper
Saute onions (traditionalists saute in lard or grease, but butter is acceptable). Boil the potatoes and mash them (do not use artificial potato flakes). In a large pan place all of the ingredients except the cabbage and cook over low heat while blending them together. Turn the heat to medium and add the chopped cabbage. The mixture will take on a pale green cast. Keep stirring occasionally until the mixture is warm enough to eat. Lastly drop in the thimble, button, ring, and coin. Stir well and serve.
(The above "Colcannon" recipe is quoted directly from Edain McCoy's book "The Sabbats: A New Approach to Living the Old Ways", page 38, Llewellyn Publications, 1994.)
Samhain Ritual Potpourri
45 drops patchouli oil
1 cup oak moss
2 cups dried apple blossoms
2 cups dried heather flowers
1 cup dried and chopped apple peel
1 cup dried pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried and chopped mandrake root
Mix the patchouli oil with the oak moss, and then add the remaining ingredients. Stir the potpourri well and store in a tightly covered ceramic or glass container.
(The above "Samhain Ritual Potpourri" recipe is from "The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch's Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes" by Gerina Dunwich, page 164, Citadel Press, Carol Publishing Group Edition, 1995.)
1/2 teaspoon Dried Bay Leaves
1/2 teaspoon Dried Mint Leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
pinch of Myrrh Resin
pinch of Frankincense Resin
13 drops Cypress Oil
3 drops Camphor Oil
Using a mortar and pestle, crush the Bay, Mint, and Thyme until almost powdered. Stir in the Frankincense and Myrrh resins. Add the Cypress and camphor Oils, and mix well. Store in a tightly capped jar and let the mixture age for at least two weeks before using. Burn on a hot charcoal block during your ritual.
(The above "Hecate Incense" recipe is from "WiccaCraft: The Modern Witch's Book of Herbs, Magick, and Dreams" by Gerina Dunwich, Citadel Press, Carol Publishing Group Edition, 1995.)
And finally, here are several nice devotional
incantations and poems with proper credit given to each author...
Enjoy and May Ye Blessed Be!
It is Samhain ...The Night of Shadows.
The Circle is cast around the fire,
And through the darkness, we glance,
For the veils are thin, in this sacred night!
Ancient voices around us,
Whispering old and forgotten songs,
While we dance the Spiral Dance,
To meet Her.
And there She comes,
The Lady of the Gate!
Power and compassion evolving us,
As a dark but comforting wave.
Beautiful Queen of the Dark Night!
With Her mantle of raven's feathers,
And eyes deep with wisdom.
She opens Her arms,
in a welcoming embrace,
We feel around us the flow of love,
Of Her Eternal Grace.
And then we hear Her voice,
Melodious and grave,
That speaks from inside our soul,
As an echo in a cave.
Blessed Daughters of My Heart,
I hear your prayers from afar.
And that is why I came tonight!
Do not despair when the times are hard!
Do not abandon the Path you found!
For time has come for My return,
And you, Loved Ones, shall open the way,
Singing my name as the ancient bards.
I am always with you, do never doubt that!
I am the Old and the Young One!
I am the Keeper of the Gate!
I am the Master of Time!
I am the Dark Goddess of Death!
I am the Bright Goddess of Dawn!
I am The One!
I am Cerridwenn!
At Hallowmas, the veil between the worlds of life and death, conscious and unconscious, grows thin as we celebrate, in darkness, the end of the old year and the coming of the new. Hallowmas is a time of weeding and pruning ourselves under the auspices of our ancestors and guides and of remembering those parts of us lost during the past year. Hallowmas is a time to honor those who have come before us for their knowledge and help on the spirit plane, especially those sacrificed during the Burning Times. But beware, sexual union on Hallowmas can result in the reincarnations.
"An Autumn Chant"
I will dance
The dance of dying days
And sleeping life.
I will dance
In cold, dead leaves
A bending, whirling human flame.
I will dance
As the Horned God rides
Across the skies.
I will dance
To the music of His hounds
Running, baying in chorus.
I will dance
With the ghosts of those
I will dance
Between the sleep of life
And the dream of death.
I will dance
On Samhain's dusky eye,
I will dance.
"Invocation of the Old One"
Lady of the Red Desert,
Lady of the Great North,
Mistress of Moonlight,
Mistress of Earth
And the changing sky,
Come to us now.
Come to us,
You whose name
Is in all things,
Come to us now
And bless us
And feel our love.
We call to you now,
From the times before the Beginning,
from the place before time,
We call to you, Dark Moon,
By all your names
Spoken and unspoken.
Rhea, Mother of Time,
Macha, Lady of Power,
Baba Yaga of the forests,
Kali, Dark Mother,
Hecate of the Crossroads,
Queen of magic.
Mighty Goddesses and Crones,
And bless the Crones
Of our circle,
First among sisters.
Bless them, bless them, bless them,
We thank you.
Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
These pages have been created and are maintained by StormWing
Portions of the Poetry section are reprinted from various issues of "Circle Network News"
Please feel free to use the information contained on my Wiccan Web Pages for your own personal use or for the teaching of others... remembering the Wiccan Rede... and harming none... Blessed Be, StormWing...