Samhain: Blessed Be All Souls

This week many Pagans celebrate Samhain, popularly known as Hallowe’en. It is the ancient, and modern, festival of the dead, of remembering and honouring those who have gone before us.


Photo credit: lobo235 – used under Creative Commons license

In pre-Roman times, there is evidence that the ‘Celtic’ peoples of the British Isles would leave doors and windows open to invite the spirits of their dead loved ones and their ancestors to join them for the evening. This is still a practice that some modern-day Pagans follow.  In the Americas, the spirit of communion between the living and the dead can be seen in the Mexican Día de los Muertos, the Roman Catholic feast of All Souls.The night of 31st October, moving into 1st November, is the time in the year when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead, of the physical and the spiritual, are thinnest.

My favourite expression of these traditions, though, is the Reclaiming tradition Spiral Dance ritual, which occurs in San Francisco every year.


The Spiral Dance is inspired by the altar-building traditions of the Día de los Muertos. But primarily, the ritual is a solidly Pagan, Goddess religion-centered remembrance of the Beloved Dead, the Mighty Dead, and the Ancestors – loved ones who have died in the past year, those who have died recently or in the distant past who inspire our spirits, and our personal ancestors of blood, bone and breath.

Remembering not only those who are dead, but those who are born

The Spiral Dance differs from either ancient Pagan or Catholic traditions of remembering the dead because  it is also a celebration of rebirth – both inner and outer. Its ritual facilitators take full account of Samhain not only as the year’s death, but also its birth into the ‘night’ of winter. In the ritual, all babies born in the community in the preceding year are named, honoured, and celebrated.

In the world as a whole, there are an awful lot of babies being born. There are now seven billion human beings on earth. Seven billion. Seven with nine noughts after it. 7,000,000,000.

That’s a lot of people.

One of the problems with such a huge number is that it is quite literally unimaginable. When we follow our spiritual instincts in connecting with our fellow humans all over the world, and try to feel that human connection deeply, our minds and hearts boggle at trying to imagine all those people. We often turn away to things we can grasp: the people we know and love, or (perhaps more often) whatever’s being waved in our faces by the media today, whether that’s our favourite soap opera / romantic comedy / police show / action film, our favourite hate figure or politician, or the latest scandalous news item.

Expanding our capacity for love

We must develop compassion, the passionate love of our spirits for all beings and the deep knowledge of our connection with them. Compassion is, undoubtedly, a natural human instinct, but in the face of the unimaginable – whether an unimaginably large number, or an unimaginable degree of suffering, or an unimaginable enfolding of love – we shrink away in fear.

Our fear is not of the unimaginability of numbers or suffering or love. Rather, many of us fear that our sense of self will be swamped by this immensity, overwhelmed, washed away in the deluge, disappear.

To deal with this fear, we have to start with where we are. First, we need to fill ourselves up with love – love from and for ourselves, our lovers and partners, our families, our friends, our pets, our spiritual guides and guardians – until we’re overflowing. Then we let the love overflow.

It really is that simple.

The more we fill ourselves up with love, the more love we can let flow over, the more we can cope with. When we allow ourselves to fill with love, there is no possibility that our selves will be washed away or overwhelmed, because we are not small in the face of anything. Instead, we are filled with the greatest, most powerful force in the Universe – the Love that is the Universe’s spiritual fabric.

Let yourself love and be loved by your Ancestors, your Mighty Dead, your Beloved Dead, the Newborns and all other beings in your life, for that is how all souls can indeed be blessed.


Elinor Predota is a spiritual coach, scholar, poet, and Priestess living in rural Scotland. This post is reproduced by permission from Ahamsa: A Blog Archive.

The Busy Witch: Snow and Stillness
The Zen Pagan: What Does It Mean For the Gods to Exist?
Alone In Her Presence: Just Breathe, The Practice of Permission, Affirmation, & Dedication
The Busy Witch: A Healing Ritual for Chapel Hill and Beyond
About Elinor Prędota

Elinor Predota was born in London in 1970, and was raised in England’s second city. Her hippy parents took her on endless, wonderful visits to birdwatching hides, Iron Age hill forts, Medieval Castles and ancient stone circles across Britain, which kindled her longing for green hills. She finally moved to the country in the year 2000, where the land has taught her more magic than any book or human being ever could. She is a priestess, a poet, a scholar, an accidental comedian, and lives in southern Scotland with her partner, a very big dog, and a vast range of more-than-human neighbours. She can also be found online at

  • Pingback: From the editor’s desk: Samhain()

  • Ssheppard825

    Halloween is an Irish Catholic holiday which is where ghosts came in, not from Samhain which is primarily a harvest festival. Samhain is the antecedent to Halloween, but the ghostly part of Halloween is based on Catholicism. 

  • pagansister

    The C of E tried to convert the pagans by using their customs with a Christian twist.       Pope Boniface IV around 800 AD was partly responsible for this.   Thus Oct. 31 became “All Hallow’s Eve” leading into  All Saints Day”.   The Churches were very bent on conversion!   

    • Logorrheaandtea

      All Saints day was originally celebrated on May 13, when the pope declared that the pantheon should honor Mary and the Saints (so yes, conversions were on their minds) around 600 and was then moved to October in the 800.  I’m not sure if they meant for it to coincide with Samhain specifically, or if they just picked it for being a cross-quarter day

      • pagansister

         Thanks for the information,  Logorrheaandtea.   I find all this very interesting.    :o)  

  • nnmns

    pagansister, Hi.  Long time no “see”.  I hope y’all are well.   And happy Samhain.

    • pagansister

       WOW!   It has been a long time, nnmns.          Hope you had a Happy Samhain.   Thank you, all is well in my neck of the woods, and I hope yours. 

      • nnmns

        Are you posting a lot on pathos?  I got so turned off by Bnet’s posting policies that I quit there.  I post here on rare occasions, at least in part because I discovered Facebook.  But also because there are a lot of other people saying the things I want to say, typically well.

        Btw jesterfyl (?) and I are now FB friends.

        • pagansister

           I too stopped posting on B’net, but still haven’t figured out how to get my name taken off —but I guess by not posting anymore they have figured it out.   I don’t miss it.  Started here because the Deacon’s Bench left B’net for this site. The Deacon has, however, stopped comments on his posts (he got tired of having to edit some of the comments—several folks got downright nasty) —so now I just read things on it once in a while.    I bounce about on the sites here—Bad Catholic being one, this site, a couple of Progressive Christian sites etc.  Usually on at least one time a day.    I miss your comments, and also Jestrfyl’s comments.  Happy you are FB friends with him.  I’ve never gotten into Facebook, even though my kids and sisters want me to join.  Happy to “see” you here.     Perhaps we will meet here again—-see if you can get jestrfyl to cross over to Patheos.  :o) 

    • nnmns

      ps, I sent j the URL for this; he was happy to “see” you and says that maybe one day he’ll join Patheos but for now he’s quite busy; his wife died a few months ago and he’s having to do a lot of new to him things, and he just turned 60 too.

      Best wishes.  See you around.

      • pagansister

         nnmns, I just read your post above—-I’m SO sorry to hear that jestrfyl’s wife died—-that is such sad news.    I can’t imagine what he is going thru.    PLEASE relay my Sympathy, and let him know he is in my thoughts.  I would appreciate it.  Thank you.  :o)

        My best to you also —hope to see you again soon!

  • Pingback: yellow october()

  • Pingback: blue ofica()

  • Pingback: water ionizer comparisons()