Ten Ways To Celebrate Samhain
Samhain (pronounced sow-en) is the traditional Celtic holiday of death, endings, beginnings and visionary magic. Straddling the transition from fall into winter, Samhain marks the start of the Celtic calendar year. Considered to be a time when the boundaries between the worlds dissolve, during Samhain the unseen energies of the earth are more apparent and we are able to make contact with the denizens of the Otherworld— including the ancestors, the faeries, spirit guides, guardian angels and our own souls. One of the most important of the Celtic pagan holidays, Samhain has shape-shifted over time to become our contemporary Halloween, but the threads of what this potent holiday truly represents still remain. This is the time of the year when magic walks abroad and reality itself becomes malleable.
If you are looking to honor this olden earthen holiday next week, or simply enrich the practices you already keep, read on for my top ten ways of celebrating this potent pivot in the wheel of the year.
Note: Today, we celebrate Samhain beginning at sundown on October 31st until sundown on November 1st. In the past however, Samhain has also been celebrated according to the moon and the stars. If you wish to celebrate with the lunar calendar just find the closest full or new moon (I personally prefer to celebrate on the new moon as I feel it’s more fitting for Samhain’s new year energy). You can also pinpoint Samhain astrologically by noting when the sun enters 15 degrees Scorpio. More than anything, however, Samhain is a celebration of that imperceptible shift from fall into winter, so know that whenever you celebrate it will be a powerful day.
10 Ways to Celebrate Samhain
1. Cover the clocks
2. Make an ancestor altar
3. Give yourself a Wheel of the Year tarot reading
Samhain is an excellent time for any kind of divination work. As the portal to the Otherworld (and time itself) is particularly thin, it’s easier to snatch wisdom from the beyond. In Celtic traditions it is also the beginning of the new year, so it’s a perfect opportunity to get a glimpse of what is to come. One of my favorite readings is a Wheel of the Year Spread. Beginning with Samhain, lay out eight cards in a circle, one for each month and a half of the year. Each card will represent a theme you can expect to encounter during that particular season.
4. Pick a word for your new year
5. Have a “dumb” supper
A dumb supper is a traditional Samhain practice of having a meal to honor the ancestors. To make your own dumb supper, set out an extra seat for the ancestors at your table. Lay out a plate of food in front of the empty seat and have everyone at the table eat in silence, reflecting on those who have passed, communicating with them through their mind, and generally being in a meditative space. At the end of the meal, offer that plate of food outside— the ancestors love to come partake through their various nature kin.
6. Clear a ghost
7. Burn an old memento
8. Journey to Meet an ancestral guide
9. Feed the Earth Spirits
The unseen energies that help keep a landscape alive— including the plant spirits, nature angels, fae and hidden folk— walk closer to our realm of reality during this time. Give gratitude to these beings and all they do to nourish the life force of our earth by leaving an offering outside. I like to gather healthy, unprocessed foods like apples, carrots, or honey, along with any late blooming flowers, and create a piece of artwork to be left upon the earth. Give this beauty to the land, and help her and all her unseen helpers, to feel nourished.
10. Make your last harvest
In Celtic cultures, it is considered unlucky to harvest any vegetables from the garden after Samhain. Before Samhain such crops are food for humans, afterwards they become a feast for the spirits. Restricting our harvesting to the weeks before Samhain ensures that all are fed equally, but it also creates a space of forced rest and rejuvenation for us humans after the business of harvest season. Even if you don’t have a garden, ask yourself what project is ready for its last harvest before it is put to rest for the winter. Is there any ongoing responsibility that you can release for now so that you can have more time to be in stillness? Write down at least one thing and make Samhain the last day you spend harvesting.
No matter how you celebrate, Samhain is a powerful time of the year. With just a little bit of ritual and intention, we can receive an incredible amount of intuition, healing, revelations and life changing direction this season.Interested in a road map to help navigate this otherworldly time? Come join me for Herbs for the Otherworld. Every year this course opens such potent experiences for folks. I’m excited to see what will be revealed with this new turning of the wheel.