Celebrating Samhain in Modern Times
Most of us love Halloween and everything surrounding it. There are feelings of nostalgia associated with pumpkin pie, candy corn, and sugar skulls. Along with Halloween and Day of the Dead, is a celebration you may not have heard of: Samhain. Samhain is a Wiccan tradition, one with deep, spiritual roots.
Many intuitive people identify with Wicca, even partially, due to its accepting nature, association with astrology, and appreciation for psychic gifts. Wiccan holidays, called Sabbats, are a wonderful time to finely tune your gifts and connect with mother nature.
Samhain, meaning “Summer’s End,” is a sacred holiday that is considered the spiritual new year by many Wiccan practitioners. It is sometimes associated with Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, however, it is less secular and more spiritually charged. It is the celebration of the end of harvest, and a festival honoring the dead.
It is also the time of year when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, making it a great time for mediums to contact their guides or loved ones.
Samhain occurs on or around October 31st. Many prefer to celebrate on the full or new moons surrounding this date. Samhain is originally a Gaelic custom and traditionally represented taking stock of the herd and food supplies. Like many celebrations throughout history, it has evolved in many ways. It is considered to be the most important of the greater Sabbats in Wicca.
When spirits were a regular part of life, witchcraft was a way to communicate with them. Seances were a regular part of the culture and there was a particular reverence for nature, it’s harvest and the cycle of the seasons marked changes in the way of life of the people. Astrologically, Samhain occurred when the Sun reached the halfway point of the sign Scorpio. This marked the halfway point between the Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice.
It represented a time of going into the darkness. Literally, the days were getting shorter and the light of day would be less but astrologically we were in the fixed sign of Scorpio, the sign of death and transformation. Each season we now celebrate is actually officially kicked off when the sun moves into one of the cardinal signs.
Ways to Celebrate Samhain In Modern Times
There are many ways to celebrate Samhain. Here are a few ideas:
Time to Honor The Dead
First, be careful that you are celebrating for the right reasons. This time is a tradition that that dates back to pre-Christianity and is for those who wish to honor the dead, not for those who are wishing to throw a typical spooky Halloween party.
Scorpio is a sign that is obsessed with dark subjects (if you’ve ever met someone with a lot of Scorpio in their chart, you’ll notice they aren’t afraid to talk about death). We are all affected by the energy of Scorpio when the Sun moves through this constellation because we will all experience various spiritual deaths of parts of ourselves over our lifetimes. We must lay to rest our grudges, our sadness, old beliefs that aren’t helping us, and our Ego.
We honor both the death within us that occurs so we can purify our soul and rebirth ourselves as well as the spirits of those who have walked the earth. While some choose to use this time to communicate with deceased loved ones in a mediumship circle called a seance, some choose to participate in the traditional costuming and trick or treating probably unaware of the real spiritual and astrological history of this time.
Feast of the Dead
Celebrate by preparing a lovely meal, dedicating it to those who have passed on. Provide a place setting at your table, or near your altar for the Dead, and provide small bits of food and drink from your meal.
Find a wooded path and delight in your surrounding as you soak up all that mother nature has to offer. Take in the sights, smells, and sensations. Express gratitude for being alive and respect for those who are no longer with us. Feel their presence and their love surrounding you.
An Alter for the Ancestors
Dedicate an altar to represent your ancestors and loved ones who have passed. Include pictures, candles, crystals, incense, and mementos you see fit. Wish them well and send them love as you light your candles.
Keep a journal near you, should you receive any messages, and sit quietly in the presence of your loved ones who cannot be with you in the physical world.
A Gift to the Senses
Indulge in the sights, smells, and sounds of autumn, beckoning the winter to bless you with its properties of letting go, and shedding unnecessary layers. Surround yourself with smells of cinnamon, apple, and pumpkin. Indulge in nutty, robust coffees, or hazelnut liqueurs.
Take a moment to take in the vision of autumn leaves, reveling in their changing nature and their willingness to shrivel in the winter, and reinvent themselves in the spring.
On the new moon preceding Samhain, put extra energy into your moon ritual. Make a list of everything you’d like to accomplish and make happen in the following months. Take stock of everything you’re grateful for, and everyone you love and appreciate having in your life.
Throwing A Samhain Inspired Halloween Party
As we honor those that like to whoop it up in this spiritually charged season, we’re serving up every tip you need to throw a Samhain inspired Halloween party! From décor tips and fun activities to spiritual rituals that date back centuries, prepare to be amazed by the many Samhain elements you can add to your Halloween party that will be the talk of the block!
9 Samhain Rituals as Décor for Halloween Parties
Here are some rituals that you can use as decor for you Samhain themed Halloween party. The themes of Samhain center around many familiar Autumn themes. We honor those that have passed but also use the elements of the Earth to celebrate life now and the harvest of the season. So these are the things you want to think about when you are thinking of décor for a spiritually charged Halloween party.
1. Bonfires & Candles
These are traditional things that we put out for Halloween. There’s something about the light that just draws folks in. An actual bonfire is a wonderful ritual to have at Halloween and over Samhain, if you can. It sends the message to the Universe and to those in your life that have passed that you honor their light and keep that flame burning in this life.
2. Thanksgiving Rituals
Little signs or plaques with gratitude messages or putting out a large feast are all Thanksgiving rituals you can use at your Samhain Halloween party. Even a display with a feast or gourds and veggies honors this Samhain tradition. Putting out food not only celebrates a harvest, it shows gratitude and expresses thanks-giving, which is a key theme of Samhain. This display was traditionally not just set out to show gratitude, but to placate any spirits that may be passing by to discourage them from ruining a good Samhain festival (or Halloween party, in your case).
3. Open the Door
Find a door in your home or party venue that faces West. Opening the Western-facing door during Samhain and keeping a white candle lit near its opening is said to guide spirits home to the Other Side during the season.
4. Bouquets of Flowers
These serve two purposes when you are dealing with spirit season. First, they offer offerings to the dead or to a spirit that may arrive at your party. Secondly, they send the message of a promise of new life and new beginnings after one form of life have passed on to another.
5. Carved Pumpkins
Jack-O’-Lanterns aren’t just a fun Halloween tradition, they serve the Samhain purpose of warding off evil from the home. When the pumpkin is carved out, a light or candle is placed inside and it must face the road. Not only does this tradition protect you from evil spirits, but the light also connects you with loved ones living far away. It could also help you to welcome ancestors from centuries past into your home. It sends the message that you are home and eager to welcome good spirits but protecting your home from evil ones.
6. Barrel of Apples
You can use the barrel of apples as décor, and it makes for a good centerpiece on your feast table. Or, use the barrel of apples to play Bobbing for Apples. It’s an ancient Druid tradition used to help folks find their true love. If you have a bobbing apple barrel at your party, give each of your guests a witchy-looking card that instructs them NOT to eat their apple, but to take it home. At midnight, they are to eat the apple while brushing their hair by candlelight and looking in the mirror. The Druids believed if you did this over Samhain, the image of your true love would appear in the mirror. If you are playing Bobbing for Apples, the first that gets their apple will be the next in the bunch to get married.
7. Old Photographs
Anything that recalls your ancestors or family members will inspire the spirits of Samhain to protect your home. Even ancient black and white photographs of your 17th or 18th-century heroes in kitschy antique frames are a fun way to celebrate Samhain, and also connect you with love in the spirit world.
Place cloves of garlic on Western facing windows and ask the Universe to send goodness and love.
9. Table of Light
A table covered in white linen can be decorated with items from loved ones that have passed on. Anything from jewelry to pictures works. You can add other Samhain items here as well, like your antique photos and flowers.
Samhain Party Games
Who doesn’t love a good party game? Party poopers! For your Samhain Halloween party, we have a host of rituals and games that will leave your guests thinking, and laughing. And maybe even closer to money or their true love! It’s all for entertainment purposes only, and up to the individual guests to take home with it whatever they wish. Here are some fun games to try.
1. Love Call.
Here you want to use four dishes or saucers. One is going to be filled with clean water, another with dirty water, one will be left empty, and another one filled with small feathers. Arrange the dishes in a row on the table. Each guest is to be blindfolded, and while they are, the dishes are rearranged.
Turn the player around three times and tell them to ask the Universe their love question. Then when finished, ask them to reach out their left hand, and put it in one of the saucers.
- Clean Water – the guest’s lover will be the same age (approximately) as the guest. They will be available and on the way soon.
- Dirty Water – The individual’s lover will be older and maybe divorced, and possibly with a checkered past. But their love is real. They have character, like the water.
- Empty Plate – the individual will stay single until the next Samhain, and will need to use that time for spiritual purposes.
- Feathers – Soul mates are on the way, angels are around you and helping to guide you towards your soul mate. Pay attention to signs. You may also meet a wealthy soul mate or business person that will have you feeling like you are on cloud 9.
2. What’s Your Future?
For this one, you are also using four dishes, whether they are cups or bowls does not matter. Each one contains an object: a ring (any ring), silver coins, or Heather (the plant - a horseshoe works in place of heather if you can’t get your hands on it).
Turn the cups upside down and place each item under each of the dishes. The fourth cup gets nothing. Rearrange them many times as magicians do.
The first play gets twirled around three times while the cups are being rearranged. When the guest has been turned around they must touch one of them and say, “Three by three, what will my fortune be?”
- The Ring – Marriage or proposal within the year, or, great love.
- Heather/Horseshoe – Expect a year of wonderful luck.
- Coin – Money or promotion is on the way.
- Empty – Hard work is on the way but you will make your own and be successful.
Gather Your Loved Ones
Halloween can be a lot of fun, but it can also be very meaningful. Samhain is a season to celebrate and honor those who have brought us to this point. But it’s also an amazing opportunity once a year to find our soul’s journey. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! Use these games to get to know your guests better, and feel the spirit of Samhain in your home.
Take this opportunity to create an end-of-the-season get-together. This is a wonderful opportunity to spend time breaking bread with your family and friends, particularly if you would like to move away from the traditional, somewhat controversial Thanksgiving meal.
You may have rituals or traditions to incorporate or that appeal to you; follow your heart. The most important thing is to connect with nature and spirits alike on this magical day. Blessed Samhain to you.
Related Article: The Perfect Halloween Costume, Based on Your Sign
* Editor’s note: This article was previously published October 25th, 2017 and has been updated for astrological accuracy.