It’s Samhain-tide and for the two of us that means we observe all sorts of serious and not so serious traditions. Here’s our top 13 Samhain/Halloween activities. Yes 13…because 13 is witchy.
1) Ancestor Dinners – Think about the typical scene from your favourite holiday movie or hallmark commercial when the whole family gathers in the dining room around a beautifully set table. Now imagine that with a lot more black, and instead of great aunt Millie actually sitting over there at the head of the table with great uncle Tom by her side, there’s an urn with their ashes, lovingly placed. That’s how we do an ancestor dinner. Lots of great food. Toasting the dead. Remembering their names and telling their stories.
2) Dressing Up – What other time of the year can you wear what you want, dress in all of your witchy finest and “regular” folk don’t bat an eyelid? Okay…truth be told, we pretty much dress the same way all year anyway, and we can just about get away with it because of where we live and work, but it’s the “nobody batting an eyelid”part we like the best.
3) Movie Marathons -Cheesy and campy as it is and completely not Authentic Pagan (whatever that means) we do love our movie marathons. You know ‘em. You love ‘em. It’s time to watch “The Craft”, “Hocus Pocus”, “Nightmare Before Christmas”, “The Witches of Eastwick”, “The Wicker Man: (1973 only) and, of course, we cap it all off with our own midnight margaritas, as we watch “Practical Magic.” High-brow magic? Hardly, but ya know, cuddling on the couch together watching movies is still pretty cool
4) Going To The Pumpkin Patch – We still do this even if our kids don’t go with us (especially if our kids don’t go with us). We tromp up and down the rows of pumpkins, oohing and ahhing at the different shapes and sizes. Just what are those flat, bright orange warty ones anyway? There’s kettle corn and getting lost in corn mazes and hot cider and the promise of dark nights and cool evenings. Of course, it was 87 degrees Fahrenheit at the pumpkin patch, so it was a cold beer this year, but we really thought about the coming dark and cool nights.
5) Carving Pumpkins – We’ve done this for years with our kids. We roast the seeds and sprinkle them with garlic. We listen to soppy Halloween songs like
“the Monster Mash”. We’ve been known to do the “Thriller” dance in the living room. One of us does a pretty good Vincent Price impression and it isn’t Gwion!
6) Walking In The Graveyard – Sonoma County is blessed with several old rural graveyards. The earliest markers are from the mid 1850’s or so. We walk in near silence, stopping to remark on an epitaph that speaks to us of longing or love or terrible loss. We say the names on the gravestones out loud. We sometimes collect graveyard dirt for magical workings or leave spell work with the dead for them to finish for us.7) Deck The Halls – Alright, some might equate this phrase with the another big holiday in December, but for us, it’s a time to pull out everything Samhain and Halloween related. Our house is always bedecked with altars and candles and pictures of our beloved dead, but we really pull the stops out for Samhain.
8) The Veil Being Thin – In all seriousness, Samhain is an important and potent holy day (actually, it lasts for many weeks with us). We pay more attention to our Ancestors. We take stock of our year. We mourn and celebrate those that have left us since last Samhain and listen for whispers and messages and comfort that might come in dreams and visions.
9)Even Muggles Believe – Every year at public rituals, there are those lookie-loos that come and join us. Some want to gawk at the witches, some will write books without really asking permission (but that’s another post) and others come with a genuine, compelling pull to see if some thing or some gods might just be real. And occasionally they find just what they are looking for!
10) Pumpkin Flavoured Everything* – Pumpkin coffee. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin beer. Pumpkin pancakes. All pumpkin, all day, every day. There’s something interesting about pumpkins though. Most of us have access to fruits and vegetables all year long, whether they are in season or not. In the scheme of things, this is actually pretty terrible for our bodies and the environment. As much as pumpkin pie in June sounds terrific, we’re actually pretty glad that some things really are only available seasonally.
11) Samhain Rituals – Coming together with our various communities; small and large, public and private, sacred and profane, coven and the curious, is simply amazing. The trust and passion and care and holding and tears and
support and laughter and deep, deep witnessing and grief and being given space to grieve loudly and fully is just exquisite. We Pagans do this well.
12) Preparing To Rest – After the tumult and business of Samhain, we tend to go to ground. Yes there are those “other” holidays in November and December, but we tend to ignore most of those traditions in favour of our own family traditions. What we do most between Samhain and Imbolc is rest and let go and slow down and dream. One year we even created a hibernation rite to ritualize our intention of reeeaaalllyyy slowing down for a few months.
13) Happy New Year – There’s no evidence that Samhain was ever originally celebrated as “The Witches New Year”, but by Merlin’s beard, doesn’t it sound like a good idea? We actually write out intentions for the coming twelve months and then let them go to ground and rest in the earth for a few months. We look at the list again around Imbolc/Brigid and see what is calling to be brought forth.
So, for what it’s worth, Happy Witches New Year to you and yours.
*The inclusion of number 10 was purely Phoenix’s idea. Gwion will tolerate a pumpkin beer or two, but beyond that YUCK! Pun’kins are just gross.
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