Samhain – Wiccan New Year

Samhain is coming up fast! While most of us know Samhain as Halloween, what is this Wiccan Altar Table Sabbat really about? What ways are best to celebrate the Sabbat? What special things should one do for Samhain? Why is Samhain so utterly cool? Read on, gentle reader πŸ™‚

Samhain is usually pronounced “Sow’an,” and is from the Celtic “Samhuinn” which means “summer’s end.” It is one of the doorways of the Celtic year – divided into light and dark, Beltane being the “light.” It is the final harvest of the year, and thanks are given for the year’s bounty.

Many believe that Samhain and Beltane are the two times during the year when the “veil” between the seen and the unseen is at its thinnest. This is the magical time when laws of time and space are suspended, and one can communicate with departed loved ones. On the night of Samhain (October 31) people often light a single candle in their windows to guide their loved ones home, and set an extra place at the supper table for them.

Samhain is also the time when the Crone and her Aged Consort are honored, this being a time for Dark Magic (not “evil,” just dark), and to honor the Dark Mysteries. Remember, without Dark there cannot be Light.

So, what should you do for your Samhain ritual? First, gather things that you feel are symbolic of Samhain. Pumpkins or other gourds, apples, besoms, or even pointy hats are useful articles to set the mood. If you happen to have the friendship of a black cat, ask her to participate with you.

Next, gather the herbs that are special to the Samhain Sabbat. Not all of the herbs that correspond with Samhain are easily available, and at least one takes preparation beforehand (as in soaking mandrake for two weeks or so before you can shred it properly for use). The herbs that I personally use are mugwort, motherwort, broom flower, belladonna (also known as deadly nightshade), mandrake (European mandrake, not American mandrake, which is a completely different plant used for other things), and white sage. I use these herbs to burn as an offering to my Matron Crone Goddess, and as incense.

Also on the altar, the stones of Samhain, which are black (go figure), but especially jet and obsidian. I don’t personally use hematite here because it is so grounding. I like using the hematite afterwards when I need to ground my energies.

Candle colors, while not absolutely essential, can be quite important to setting the appropriate mood. As one could likely guess, orange and black are the primary colors for Samhain candles. One can also use silver for the Goddess and gold for the God for candles on their altar if they so desire.

Once everything is together, cast your circle as you choose, call your quarters if that is part of your practice, and perform your ritual. What ritual, you ask? While Kestra is always one to suggest you write your own rituals, I suppose I’ll share one of mine with you, as a guide, or as a “yuck, I don’t want to do anything like THIS.”

We welcome our beloved dead

With offerings that they be fed

Let them hear this sacred night

Our love for them brought through this rite

We ask their guidance through this year

And that their blessings settle here

May their knowledge reach our ears

May their message come through clear

Light the herbs, and meditate for a time, waiting for any message that may be sent.

After you feel you’ve waited long enough, or after you’ve received a message, thank the Dead, and anyone else you invoked, take down your signal as you normally would, and end the ritual.


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