All Things Samhain & Halloween (Histories, Rituals, and More!)

All Things Samhain & Halloween (Histories, Rituals, and More!) October 23, 2015

This article is one stop shopping for anyone looking for Samhain rituals, Halloween histories, and other assorted Samhain/Halloween tricks and treats. Since I’m the channel editor of Patheos Pagan I’m a little biased in favor of my own writers, so we are heavy on Patheos Pagan here, but there are things from outside of PP too. I hope you find this list useful. Blessed Samhain and Happy Halloween!

The_Ghost of Clytemnestra Awakening the Furies by John Downman from WikiMedia.
The Ghost of Clytemnestra Awakening the Furies by John Downman from WikiMedia.

RITUALS

Not surprisingly I tend to list my own rituals first in collections like this, but in my defense, my rituals are really good. I honestly believe that a ritual should be more than 200 words long, and that seems to be most of what I end up seeing online. I’ve got three very different Samhain rituals on Raise the Horns:

A Big Group Ritual-This is the Samhain ritual for when you’ve got more than thirty people in the circle.
A Coven Rite-This ritual was designed for a coven, meaning it’s great for groups between four and twenty people.
A Ritual for the Mighty Dead-This ritual is a bit less intense than the other two and honors many Pagan and Craft folks who have passed on.

crowningthedarkgod

Where else are you going to get the Charge of the Goddess of Death?

Charge of the Goddess of Death
“I am she who is feared, yet she who would bring comfort. I am the end of all things and the beginning of all else. I would give you peace, freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before you. My gifts are rarely sought, yet freely I offer them. I am she who embraces every woman and every man. None shall escape my touch, but fear it not, for I hold the Cauldron of Life within my hands, the power of immortality for all those that would be reborn in your world.”

“I am feared, yet I am the balance in this world without end. Without me thou would not live again. I am the end of suffering, the release from all pain. I gather the spirits who have left your world and offer them a place in it once more. I am the mystery of the end, and the wonder of beginnings.”

Beyond my own rituals there are a few more things I like. These two rituals from Compost Coven are worth checking out, and there’s a genuinely funny story introducing the first ritual there too. A Samhain ritual list also wouldn’t be complete without one of John Beckett’s solitary rituals, if you are practicing solo for any of the sabbats John has got you covered. If you are looking for some music to accompany your ritual here’s an eclectic playlist with a lot of ideas.

If you are looking for some ritual ideas outside of the Wiccan realm ADF has a whole page of Druidic Samhain Rituals. That link will take you to ten different rituals, lots to pick and choose from there. I had difficulty finding an Asatru Winter Nights ritual, but here’s a simple solitary rite. Not familiar with Winter-Nights, try this link.

The Nightmare by John Henry Fuseli, from Wikimedia.
The Nightmare by John Henry Fuseli, from Wikimedia.

HISTORY

While it’s true that Halloween evolved out of Irish Samhain observances the two holidays have become separate things. Halloween is not Samhain, and vice versa. For those looking for an unvarnished history of ancient Samhain you’ll want to start here. We don’t know very much about the holiday, but after reading that you’ll know exactly how much we do really know!

Our modern Halloween is the result of a variety of factors and evolved over hundreds of years (it not millennia!). Some of Halloween’s most beloved iconography and customs can be explored (including jack-o-lanterns, costumes, and trick or treating) in this article. Halloween is also home to a lot of myths, including ones about poisoned candy and sacrificial black cats, both of which aren’t true by the way.

"All Souls' Day" by Jakub_Schikaneder.  From WikiMedia.
“All Souls’ Day” by Jakub_Schikaneder. From WikiMedia.

If you are looking for a brief history this page hits some of the high points, and this one from the Huffington Post includes a few fun facts at the end along with some history. If you want a completely inaccurate history of Halloween along with a few laughs and a couple of scares this confused Christian has an interesting take, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t include my favorite Chick Tract for young people; the sad story of Stinky. New this year to Patheos is a gallery with 13 fun facts about Halloween. I admit that I wrote a bit of it, but it’s worth checking out none the less, and the images that accompany it are amazing!

REFLECTIONS ON SAMHAIN & HALLOWEEN

A lot of my favorite writers seem to enjoy writing about the holiday and all that’s associated with it; here are some of my favorites from the past couple of years.

My Ancestors Are Dead-Sam Webster
And Beyond Death I Bring Peace and Freedom by Vivianne Crowley
The Joy of Halloween-John Beckett
Halloween: An Interfaith Teachable Moment by David “Dash” Kees
Samhain, Ancestors, and Descendants by Rev. Catharine Clarenbach
To Death and Beyond by Vivianne Crowley
What in Sam Hain by John Halstead (This is one of my favorite things ever)
Samhain the Voodoo Way by Lilith Dorsey
Samhain: Looking Towards Death by John Beckett
A Sacrifice At Samhain by Jason Mankey

That’s enough right? Oh you wanted some perspectives outside of the Pagan world?

Hinduism and Halloween by Ambaa Choate at The White Hindu.
A Muslim Changes His Mind About Halloween by Dilsahd Ali at Muslimah Next Door.
The Metaphysics of Halloween by Chris Henrichsen.
Scarred, Scared, and Sacred: Spiritual Practices for the Fall Triduum of Halloween, Samhain, and All Souls Day perspective by Carl Greg
An Iowa Farm Boy Remembers Halloween by Galen Dalrymple. (And it was really hard finding Christians who have nice things to say about Halloween!)

HALLOWEEN FOR THE YOUNGER SET

My cat loves magic!
My cat loves magic!
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Halloween-time is for both children and adults. Since I don’t have any kids I sometimes forget that first part, lucky for us Meg Yardley at Pagan Families hasn’t. I want to read some of those books. The amount of material out there in the form of crafts and activities for children is mind-boggling, luckily Pinterest can do all the work finding that stuff for us. What would Halloween be without some ghoulishly themed treats that look like a trick? You can find some right here. I’m also amazed at how fun some of these games thought up by Martha Stewart look.

That’s it, and yes, I recycled some of this from the last time I wrote one of these two years ago.

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