A Kitchen Witch’s Samhain: Ancestor altars, divination and dumb suppers

Samhain – 31st October/1st November

This has got to be I would think, quite possibly the most celebrated pagan holiday?  I love this time of the year, autumn is my favourite with the crisp fresh air first thing in the morning and the colour of the autumn trees.  It is the end of summer and the third and final harvest of the year.  A  time to celebrate the lives of those that have passed and to remember and honour our ancestors.  Oh … and eat lots of sweets.  Samhain is an appropriate time to look back over the past year and let go of that which did not serve you and look forward to the year ahead.  It is also an excellent time to work with your divination skills.

Aside from all the Samhain goodies that will give us all a sugar overdose, foods for this season make me think of big hearty casseroles, home baked bread and stick to your rib puddings.

Autumn is a fabulous time of the year to go out for a walk.  Although there isn’t a huge amount to be found in the hedgerows now you might be lucky enough to bag yourself; nettles, sorrel, cow parsley, horseradish, crab apples, juniper berries, rosehips, sloes, chestnuts, walnuts and wild mushrooms.

Samhain Rachel Patterson

Symbols:

I am sure you will know the symbols for Samhain already but here are the ones I associated with this Sabbat;  pumpkins, gourds, black pointy hats, broomsticks, black cats, bats, skeletons, skulls, spiders, wolves and moons.

In the garden:

Not a lot going on in the garden at this time of the year.  If you have been lucky enough not to get a frost yet some of the late flowers might be struggling through still.  But generally a time to finish tidying up and getting everything ready for the winter slumber.

Herbs:

Mugwort, allspice, mandrake, sage, rosemary, chrysanthemum and deadly nightshade. Bay, Broom, Catnip, Garlic, Heather, Mandrake, Mugwort, Mullein, Nettle, Oak, Passion Flower, Patchouli, Pine, Rosemary, Rue, Sage, Sunflower, Wormwood

Foods:

Pumpkin (of course!), apples, root vegetables, mulled wines, meat, candy, ale, cider and mushrooms.

Colours:

Black, orange, white, silver, gold and red

Activities:

All forms of divination.

Make a witch ladder adding your intent for new projects for the coming months.

Make resolutions, write them on small slips of paper and then burn them in a candle flame.

Research crone goddesses such as The Cailleach.

Spell workings:

Samhain is a valuable time for workings involving; divination, psychic abilities, new beginnings, banishing, past lives, astral projection, clearing, inner work and manifesting.

Ancestors Altar

Make an ancestors altar.  This can be as simple as a photograph of a grandparent that has passed over.  Find a suitable space, a shelf or a small table but don’t put your ancestor altar in the bedroom.  Use a black or white cloth as the base and put out photographs of your ancestors.   You could also add a crystal ball if you have one.  You can also add mementos if you have them, old pieces of jewellery and ornaments you have inherited.    Add white candles.  Leave offerings of food or drink and make sure to change them regularly.

A dumb supper:

This is a lovely way to honour the dead. I am not sure how old the tradition is but it is fun to work with.

The first thing to do is decide on which room you are going to hold your dumb supper in.  And make it a sacred space by casting a circle or smudging the area.  Make sure there are not electrical items turned on in the room such as televisions or telephones.

The main theme of a dumb supper is silence.  It is not a miserable, solemn silence but one of respect.

When you invite your guests, ask each one to bring along a note to the dinner.  Don’t ask what is in the note, this is private for them, but should contain what they wish to say to any friends or relatives that have passed over.

Set a place at your dining table for each guest but keep the head of the table empty, this is for the Spirits.  Place a small candle, tea lights work well at the place setting for Spirit, one candle for each deceased person you wish to honour.  The chair at this place setting can also be covered with a white or black cloth.

No one is permitted to speak as they enter the dining room and not at any time during the entire supper.  As each guest enters the room they take a moment and stop at the Spirit chair, this is when they can take a moment to honour the dead.

Once each person has taken their place at the table, everyone joins hands and all offer a silent blessing to the deceased.

No one should start eating until everyone has been served and that includes a serving for Spirit.

When the meal is finished, each guest may then bring out their personal notes to the dead.  In turn each person goes to the place setting of Spirit, they focus on the message they have written then they catch the edge of the note in the flame of one of the candles and burn it.  Also a sensible idea to have a small cauldron or fire proof dish at this place setting too!   When everyone has taken their turn they all join hands once again in a further blessing.

Once this is all done everyone may leave the room, still in silence, stopping at the chair of Spirit to give a final blessing.

"Thank you for sharing! Blessings to you and yours x"

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