I love Samhain, it’s my favorite Sabbat. Partly because it doubles down with Halloween, which is a different celebration for me, and has more to do with some dear Childhood Memories. But most of all, it’s all about this Magical Feeling happening around this time of year. The changing colors in trees, the slowing of pace, the spooky atmosphere, the veil getting thinner – whatever that means.
As a Pagan or a Witch, there are so many things you can do to celebrate Samhain. It can be a little overwhelming sometimes, but I find that it’s the easiest Sabbat to find inspiration for, and there is undoubtedly a lot of info and material out there to help you get started. Books and websites are usually packed full of content for this Sabbat in particular.
But anyway, I’ve been asked on my Instagram about the ways I celebrate this time of year, which is so special and dear to my little witchy heart. And well, since I couldn’t possibly fit a 2600+ word response in a single comment, here we are. Plus I realized that it is something I didn’t go into detail when I talked about re-imagining my own Wheel of the Year earlier this year.
The thing is, I gathered a good amount of traditions and rituals during my twenty-ish years of Spiritual Practice and I realized at some point that I couldn’t fit all of them in a single day anymore. I needed to adjust things and find something else that would work for me.
Inspired by Yuletide, the 12 nights around the Winter Solstice and the end of the year, I started to think about extending the period of time during which I’d celebrate Samhain. I’ve always loved the idea of having several days and nights dedicated to a particular Sabbat, but I don’t care as much about Yule as I do about Samhain, and I’m usually pretty busy during this time. Doing the whole Yuletide thing? Heh, probably not. Samhain on the other hand… Well, as I said in the beginning, it’s my favorite.
I guess I also wanted something more magical, with a bit more flavor to it. 13 nights it is then! I like that number a lot (remember Mildred Payne’s Secret Pocket Charm Oracle? It’s not a coincidence that I crafted it with 13 pieces of wood). And if that doesn’t sound witchy enough to you then I don’t know what does.
Of the 13 traditions I’ve created around Samhain, a few of them have fixed dates, like The Sacred Space on the very first day, Samhain Night on… well, Samhain Night, or The Night of the Pentacle which concludes the whole thing. Other events I’m free to move whenever it suits my schedule best. For example, Halloween Treat is basically a movie night that I can enjoy any day of the week, and I tend to decide when to go on my Samhain Wood Walk by having a look at the weather first.
Also, here are some of the main themes that you will find running through all my rituals and activities. They are pretty much common to your basic Samhain traditions: death and transformation, honoring your dead loved ones, getting prepared for the new year. In my case, it also involves a dedication to the Craft, a little bit of divination, and a lot of Halloween fun, craft, and cooking.
All right, let’s have a look at these traditions of mine, shall we?
🍂 The Sacred Space
The very first night of my Samhain Celebration. Pretty basic, but important nonetheless, because it is definitely setting the mood for the days coming after. It’s the moment where I change things up on my Main Altar, clean the whole space, and dress it up for the Sabbat.
This night is all about the balance between the Inner and the Outer World. Focusing on the decoration and choosing the various elements that I’ll have on my Altar is as much important as focusing my mind on what I intend to do in this space. So I take the time to pick and choose my tools, and I spend some time in quiet meditation, clearing both spaces.
The Altar is set, the Brass Bell that lives on it rings twice, and I get to enjoy a Mindful Moment in the dark. Silence, Stillness, and Solitude are my companions. Nothing more, and nothing less.
🍂 The Year to End
Samhain being a transition period and a perfect moment to prepare for the year to come, I like to have a look at what happened in my life during the last twelve months or so. Between all the journals and notebooks I keep, I tend to write a lot about my Spiritual Path, my relationship to the Land and its inhabitants, as well as my experiments with Spells and Witchcraft.
So I usually need at least a couple hours to go through everything I’ve recorded and get some perspective on the whole year. Depending on my dedication to writing, it can take a bit more time, and sometimes less. One thing is for sure though, it always amazes me how much I’d forget if I hadn’t written down my experience on paper. A lot of my dreams would just disappear in the air, signs and omens would be lost to the past, and I wouldn’t even know about that great idea I had for a spell.
🍂 Dancing with Ghosts
“A ghost can be a lot of things. A memory, a daydream, a secret. Grief, anger, guilt. “ This quote comes from the Netflix TV show The Haunting of Hill House, which happens to be my favorite series of all times. And in my mind, it is perfectly splendid to carry the meaning this day has for me.
It’s a ritual, a Sacred Dance which allows me to celebrate and embrace my own Ghosts – the ones that I carried with me during the year, the guilt, the anger, the grief, the fear – before gently letting go of them and saying goodbye as the Sun goes down and the Night brings a welcome emptiness and a sense of serenity.
It’s a powerful thing to experience, and I’d be struggling if I were to try and describe what it feels like to you. “Some things can’t be told. You live them or you don’t. But they can’t be told. “ Yep, that’s from Hill House again.
It’s a deep experience of release and self-liberation. It alleviates the burden and allows me to heal from the difficult experiences I had during the year. And I have to admit it was especially helpful this year. 2020 was fierce.
🍂 Samhain Forest Walk
Living in this wonderful corner of the world, with a trail only five minutes from my home, I’ve made a habit of going out on a Forest Walk at least once a week. Whenever I hear the call, I set aside whatever’s on my mind that day, grab my backpack and walk out the door, disconnecting from everything and everyone for a few hours.
It’s the perfect way for me to observe and get to know my environment: the Wooded Hill on which I live, the coyotes running around at night, the singing of birds, the shapes of mushrooms, the paths drawn on the bark of trees, the leaves catching sunlight at different times of the day.
Around Samhain and the Eight Sabbats, walking through these woods takes on a deeper meaning, and usually involves a couple more activities like casting Runes on the ground and making offerings to the Land.
🍂 La Garache
This is another important ritual of mine, one that I go through every year also. It’s the most personal I’d say so, unfortunately, I won’t give you too many details about it. But in a nutshell, I created the spell around a legend told where I am from in France. La Garache is not a well-known creature, it’s a mysterious woman capable of shape-shifting.
And this night is all about that, really. Shape-shifting, metamorphosis, shedding skin, and a Deep Transformation of the self.
🍂 Samhain Night
I’ve already mentioned it, but I consider Samhain to be the end of a year, a threshold that leads to a couple months of transition where I prepare myself and my environment for the new year to come in January. Winter Time is kinda like an in-between thing for me, a liminal space where death and rebirth can manifest on a different timeline.
On the night of the 31st of October, Midnight is the Magic Hour where the first transition happens. But I’m not a Night Owl. I don’t tend to stay up late at night and I don’t particularly have a lot of energy once the Sun has disappeared from view. So staying awake on this particular night to acknowledge the passing of this threshold is kind of a big deal for me.
I keep my ritual for Samhain Night really simple, but effective still. It involves a lot of candles – 13 to be exact, what a surprise, heh? – that I lit after sitting in the dark for a while. One after another, for myself and the twelve months to come.
🍂 Lifting the Veil
What would Samhain be without its traditional ties to divination and fortune-telling? There is this old saying that the veil is thinner at this time of year and that we can more easily have a peek at what’s waiting in the months to come. I don’t know if that’s true, but regardless, Samhain is a good time for me to proceed with a full Wheel of the Year Tarot Reading.
During this night, I like to take a look at the “main energies” if you will, seeing the kinds of patterns that emerge from the whole picture, and picking a theme to work around during the next year.
Again, it’s something that I do every year, and this tradition of mine lead to me drawing a picture capturing the essence of this Tarot Reading and acting as a reminder for what I want to focus on during the entire year. I don’t know if you remember, but I’ve briefly touched upon that when I took you for a tour of my Atelier.
🍂 Pumpkin Day
Here’s a secret: I suck at carving pumpkins. My fingers on one side, a knife on the other… I’ll leave the rest of it to your imagination. But I love having them all around the house when Samhain and Halloween come, and they are so pretty when decorated!
So instead of removing chunks of pumpkin flesh and making a big mess, I grab some paint and, well, I just make another kind of big mess. My favorite thing to do is decorating the tiny white ones with gold paint, I just adore what they look like when they’re sitting on my Altar.
And there’s actually a bonus to it: since they are not cut open, Painted Pumpkins usually last much longer than the carved ones. All it takes is a thin coat of varnish on top of the painting and they’re ready to enchant your bookshelf for many weeks, sometimes even months – I’ve had one that only started to deteriorate after almost ten months.
🍂 The Witch’s Brew
Speaking of pumpkins, ’tis time for some Kitchen Witchery! I like to cook and bake following the course of the seasons throughout the year, mostly with what local farmers have grown, and the Pagan Sabbats are just the special days I need to get the magic going in the kitchen.
Some of my favorite recipe and ingredients to use during Samhain: a good ol’ Barmbrack (with dried cranberries instead of raisins), any kind of dessert with apples or maple syrup in it, oven-baked winter squash of all sorts (spaghetti, butternut, acorn… you name it), and of course, everything pumpkin spice flavored.
🍂 Day for the Dead
This one really speaks for itself I think. With Samhain, and a whole lot of other days of remembrance that happen around the same time, the emphasis is often made on honoring the dead, dressing up shrines for them, and even have dinner with them, cooking their favorite food and sharing it with them in a Silent Supper.
I don’t personally do those things, but I like to follow the ancient tradition of lighting a candle by the windowsill and leaving it there for the entire night. Traditionally, it is done with the intent of guiding the spirits through the darkness. I’m not sure it’s the reason why I still do this every year though.
Perhaps it has a lot more to do with the feeling of peace and serenity that this small gesture gives me. Seeing this candle first thing in the morning makes me smile, as does the memory of them and the pleasant moments we spent together.
🍂 Halloween Treat
As I said earlier in this post, this one is pretty much a movie night. In-between all these rituals and activities, it’s good to take a little break and just enjoy the spooky vibes of the season for a night. With a horror movie of course, or maybe a beloved Halloween classic like The Craft, Practical Magic, or The Nightmare before Christmas.
The only things that are mandatory here really are a comfy blanket, a pair of warm socks, a furry companion, and a big bowl of popcorn.
🍂 The Year to Come
Sitting in Sacred Space to review the past year is one thing, planning for the next one and writing down what I want to accomplish is another big step for me. I strive to live in the Present Moment, but I must admit that I’m much more a future-oriented kind of person, and I quite enjoy the process of visualization that usually goes along with goal setting.
And well, Samhain is a good time to start thinking about that and dreaming big. It’s a magical time, everything’s possible, right? Plus I know I’ll have some time during Winter to refine everything and make it more manageable, ready to cultivate my objectives and grow them as the seasons go by.
So there it is, another couple of hours spent sitting with my Bullet Journal and a cup of Herbal Tea, thinking about all the good things that are yet to come.
🍂 The Night of the Pentacle
Last but not least, here comes our final Samhain Ritual, or should I say, my final Samhain Ritual. This night is quite special for me because it is the very moment when, once a year, I renew my dedication to the Craft and vow to do my best to pursue on my Spiritual Path.
I also take the opportunity to enchant a couple pieces of jewelry that I wear at the Altar when performing spells there. Again, I won’t share the specifics of the ritual itself, but I thought I’d mention it too just to give you an idea of what goes on during this last night of celebration.
Obviously, I’m not putting this out there for you to just do exactly what I do and follow this to the letter, but I do hope that it can be useful as a source of inspiration to build your own rituals and traditions around Samhain and the various other Pagan Celebrations. If you already have some of your own, feel free to share them in the comment section below, I would love to know what you are doing during this time of year.
And if you feel like you need some kind of permission to mess around with the Wheel of the Year structure, here, let me give it to you. Go ahead, try and find what works for you ♥
There are a million possibilities when it comes to celebrating the Sabbats. Whether you choose to go on a more traditional route or make it entirely your own and express your creativity, just make sure to have fun with it. Observing Nature’s Cycles through the Wheel of the Year can be a profoundly spiritual experience, but that doesn’t mean that these moments can’t also be special times for festivities and joyfulness.