Samhain is the Witch’s Sabbat celebrating the peak of the Autumn season, the third and final harvest in the Wheel of the Year, and is the High Holy Day often viewed as the culmination of that year’s The Great Work of Magick. The name of this holiday is pronounced Sow-wen because it derives from the Gaelic samhuinn and the Old Irish, samain. According to the online etymology dictionary, it literally means “Summer’s End.” To the Celts, this was the beginning of Winter, and the New Year.
In American society, Samhain is often conflated with secular Halloween (October 31), the Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos (November 1) and the lesser Catholic holidays of All Saint’s Day (November 1) All Soul’s Day, (November 2). All of these celebrations turn their attention to the “death” phase of any cycle. The religious holidays at this time tend to include a veneration of our beloved dead, whether they be Saints or family members. Witch’s Samhain drawn heavily from the Celtic Pagan themes of a conclusion of the harvest season, the necessity of death to sustain life, and the inevitable journey to the underworld.
Depending on the tradition of witchcraft you practice, Samhain may be celebrated October 31st according to the Catholic calendars, or astrologically when the sun reaches 15 degrees Scorpio, which is the exact mid-point of the season. Astrological Samhain typically falls sometime within the first ten days of November. To discover the astrological date of sabbats this year, I recommend archaeoastronomy.com.
This is my favorite holiday, so I’ve written much about it over the years. Following is an index of my articles about Samhain, Halloween and the Autumn, including meanings, reflections about our past celebrations, our rituals, and a few spells for the season.
Blessings of Autumn,
The Meanings of Samhain
Samhain – The Poison and the Antidote
“This last harvest is about letting what no longer serves us die away, clearing out the refuse, and making space for that fallow period. It *can be* a somber, austere time, polar opposite of the juicy decadence of Beltane, which lies on the opposite side of the wheel. Whereas Beltane was the wedding, Samhain is the funeral.” Click the image below to continue…
When the Samhain Bell Tolls for You
“At some point, sooner rather than later, our Great Work should take the form of writing our Last Will and Testament, and End of Life Medical Directives, buying life-insurance policies and expressing our organ donor status, and funerary preferences.” Click the image below to continue reading…
A Wish Upon Dying
What I can tell you from my intimate experience with funeral planning, is that their purpose must be two-fold: To honor the dearly departed in accordance to their spiritual beliefs, and most importantly, to give the mourners a way to process their emotions while fully releasing their loved one to the Next Big Thing.
So for my Samhain work, I’ve been thinking about my own passing, and also what rituals may have better helped me to release my own mother. I guess I’m directing this wish to my children, though I hope they are sage and crone when I pass on.” Click the image below to continue reading…
The Rituals of Samhain
For Tomorrow we May Die – The Witch’s Dumb Supper
“We set a place at the table for the Spirits of our loved ones, and fix them a plate of delicious food in offering. Then we eat together in total, reverent silence – well, we do have some soft back-ground music on to set the tone. There is such power in a room full of people eating together, but focused inwardly. There is no casual banter around this table. Every bite is a meditation. We chew slowly and savor each bite deliberately, fully present in the delicious enjoyment of mere existence. We invite our beloved dead to join us at table – to enjoy the meal through our own living bodies – and live once more in our memories.” Click the image below to continue reading…
Samhain Ritual: Wake of the Fallen King
Priestess: “The veil between the world is most thin this Samhain Night – Height of Autumn – Our ancestors cross the veil to dance among the living once more. On this night we bid the Dark God, and Eternal Goddess farewell as they descend into the underworld to the rest and rejuvenation of the coming winter. The vitality of the Goddess – who is both the womb and the tomb – now withdraws from the middle world, into her time of seclusion. As winter’s dark blanket of death descends, she nurtures the spark of life within her that will be reborn as the newborn God into the next cycle at Yule.”
Priest: “The effigy of the God of Nature – known as John Barleycorn, the Oak King, The Dark Lord – is prepared for release this sacred night. As his funeral pyre burns, the veil is split and the way beyond is opened. The God and Goddess descend into the underworld. We send our intentions for personal evolution with them.” Click the image below to keep reading…
Rites of Passage: Eldering of Crone and Sage
“Typically, there is a giant gap between “parenthood” and “funeral.” Blatant fear of “getting old” is a big part of society’s problem. This has not served us well at all, and paganism is working hard to correct that, deciding that we VALUE the wisdom of age. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that we would also commemorate that passage into elderhood with the same vigor as we celebrate a new baby.” Click the image below to keep reading…
Reflections of Samhain Past
The Spirit of Halloween
“Every year as October 31st approaches, I get this twitchy, itchy, witchy feeling, and I’m suddenly a mischievous kid again! (ok, ok…I’m like a mischievous kid every day, but Halloween is especially so!) I wrote this poem to try and capture that…feeling…that spiritual stirring that ignites a witch’s fires at this dark time of year. Perhaps you are feeling it, too? I hear the call once more…I am overtaken by the Spirit of Halloween!” Click the image below to keep reading…
The Grinch Who Stole Halloween
“I admire anyone who found the wherewithal to carry on like everything is just fine – but I can’t muster enough damns to participate in much of the frivolity this year. For the first time in 12 years I didn’t throw a gigantic Witches’ Ball/Masquerade/Carnival for our community. That just seemed like a “bread and circuses” distraction that I refuse to attend. Isn’t it sacrilege to expend those resources while the world is erupting, drowning, blowing away, burning down and being gunned down around us?” Click the image below to keep reading…
The Apocalypse of Autumn
“During Autumn, the beauty of the green earth dazzles us with the colors of fall foliage. The truth is that those leaves are so beautiful because they are dying, and soon they will fall away to decay in the bleak desolation of Winter. Autumn is like the apocalypse where the colorful veil of illusion falls away and we see the bones of the difficult truth. America was never all that Great; No savior is coming; Everything we’ve been taught was an illusion meant to keep us sleepwalking.” Click the image below to keep reading…
Lessons of Autumn’s Holy Mess
“In order to move forward into the next phase of life, one must ask: as my New and Improved Self, what do I now value? What things will aid me in living that valuable life? Then purge the old crap that will only be in your way – its likely just collecting dust, and a deep cleaning is good for both your health and your soul.
You can’t keep on hiding filth behind closet doors forever. Turn it ALL out. Use detached discernment. Kill the funk. Polish what’s precious, and tuck it back into just the right spot – labeled for clarity, or you may never find it again (if you are like me.)” Click the image below to keep reading…
A Funny Thing Happened at the Dionysian Ritual
“This is the tale of that fateful Samhain in the wilds, where Jason “Pan” Mankey invoked the God Dionysus and a dance party broke out to the greatest hits of the 80’s and 90’s. Young and old, we all let our hair down and danced around like crazy teenagers until some magickally curious, and seriously funny shenanigans went down….” Click the image below to keep reading…
Spells and Magick of Samhain
The Bagabi Incantation: A Summoning to Samhain
“The Bagabi Incantation is often associated with witchcraft rituals at Samhain, and with initiations in British Wicca. I’ve also seen it used by Modern Witches to raise power for magickal workings, and to summon Spirits. But where does the Bagabi incantation come from? Does it conjure the “devil,” or invite witches to come scrub the Samhain feast dishes? As per standard witching procedure, there are a host of varying opinions. Either way, it has summoning power.” Click the image below to keep reading…
A Samhain Hazelnut Charm for Luck and Protection in the New Year
“Hazelnut charm, nine in a ring
through smoke of Samhain’s fire bring
To all within our humble home
grant us good luck wherever we roam,
with wisdom and safety, a shield from all harm,
imbued now with power this hazelnut charm!
Guard us this year, dear Mercury!
As I will, so mote it be!”
Click the image below to keep reading…
Pumpkin Spice Witchcraft Spell
“Everywhere you turn, there will be pumpkin spice flavored everything. This is nothing to mock, my witches. The spices typically used in those “pumpkin spice” lattes, cookies, and muffins all have potent magickal associations of elemental Fire. This powerful blend of Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Allspice and Nutmeg bring the Four P’s: potency, protection, passion and prosperity.” Click the image below to keep reading…