October 31 – November 1 (Northern Hemisphere)
April 30 – May 1 (Southern Hemisphere)
Throughout the world, Samhain is typically known as Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve is celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere. Historically, this was the last day of the calendar year to the Celts. It was a time when grazing days for cattle were over and the herds were either put away for winter or separated in preparation for slaughter. As such, Samhain is closely linked with death. Farmers have taken the last of their crops and gave the excess back to the Mother for the New Year. In Wicca, Samhain is the third and final of the harvest festivals. It is a time of death in the Earth when the final crops have been harvested and saved for the winter.
As the death of the Earth, Samhain is also a time for honoring those who have gone before us. The veil between worlds is thinnest during Samhain, and that allows for communication with the next world and receiving messages from our ancestors. Samhain is also called the Witch’s New Year. It may seem strange to have the beginning of the year in the fall, but it makes sense when you think about it deeper. This is a time of death, not only for the crops and herds but for the days as well. This is the time of the year when our days grow shorter and nights grow longer. It gets colder as well, in most places, and we know change is coming. Things are dying, and with dying comes change and new beginnings. We think about our hopes and dreams for the coming year and allow for our deaths (whether physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or otherwise) to bring us hope for a new beginning.
At Samhain, our beloved Goddess is in her Crone form and begins her descent with God into the underworld. She is the Old One who brings us wisdom from the year that has passed and allows us to let go of the things that are holding us back. Our beloved Lord is in the form of the Ancient One, following the Goddess to the underworld to recuperate and be reborn. The Ancient One, much like the Crone, brings us wisdom beyond our years and a knowledge of life after death.
There are many things you can do this night to honor the gifts that have been given to you by the God and Goddess as well as honoring the lives of those that have come before you. It is typical to celebrate with a feast of some sort and a ritual. However, not everyone knows their ancestors, or not everyone has anyone they know who has passed on. This is ok because even though you may not know who they are, they are still out there. This is a time of the year for them to roam closest to the veil and easily pass on messages to their kin (you!).
Samhain Correspondences and Associations
- Life Cycle, specifically death
- Last Harvest
- Fall Colors (orange, black, red, yellow, etc.)
Samhain Celebration Ideas
- Ancestor Altar: Decorate your altar with items passed down from your family, photos of passed on loved ones, and images of things that remind you of your ancestry. Meditate in front of your altar, taking time to be silent and receive messages from the beyond. If you have a Samhain feast, leave a plate of food and some drink on the altar as an offering to the deceased spirits of your ancestors, the God, and the Goddess. If you want, you can also leave an offering outside for the passing spirits who are making their journey to see their own loved ones.
- Light a white candle and place it in the window. This is believed to help guide the spirits when the veil is thin, so they can find their way in the darkness.
- Dumb Supper: Now, I know this one sounds a bit strange, but hear me out. If you don’t know what a dumb supper is, I’m going to explain it to you. A dumb supper is not a stupid dinner, as it sounds. It is simply a supper prepared and eaten in total silence with an empty place setting (or two, three, etc.). In total silence, the dead, as well as the Lord and Lady, are invited to feast with you for the evening. The meal is made, and places are set, including plate(s) for the physically empty seats. It is a time of reflection and communication between the living and dead and should be eaten in total silence. There should be no talking between guests, as this interrupts the spirits who will join you. As such, it is not a supper for children unless they can maintain total silence throughout the dinner.
- Take a nature walk! Experience the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth for yourself in the beauty that is nature. Take a hike through the hills if you can, or go to a local park, and observe the changing scenery around you. Reflect on the time that has passed since the start of Spring and know in your heart that the death of the plants happens to make way for new life to come forward!
- Meditation for Samhain is also a wonderful way to celebrate. Essentially, you hit the “pause” button on life for a second and take the time to reflect on your life so far. Have you accomplished any goals recently? Have you let go of things that were holding you back? Has part of you “died” to make way for something better? Sit in a quiet space and meditate on these questions and any others that may come forward.