A Samhain Smorgasbord
Happy Halloween! Fun things inside...
I love this time of year. The little ones going door to door, the chill in the air, sweaters, coziness. Apple Cider. Costumes.
I love the rituals of Samhain (pronounced sow-wen): one of the eight yearly witches’ sabbats.
It’s the time when the veil between the worlds is at its most thin and the spirits of the departed are said to wander the earth.
As a child, my mother would lead ceremonies at this time of year, we’d gaze into black bowls filled with water, scrying into the dark to receive visions of the future.
We’d passed around pomegranates and eat their seeds, to symbolize, as my mother wrote in her Book of Shadows, “the food of the dead and the regeneration of the seeds of the future.”
Why do we call Samhain the witches’ New Year?
It’s the time of death and rebirth. Celtic tradition says that the spirits who have died in the past year can’t pass into the Summerlands until Samhain, when the porthole opens.
Legend has it that Samhain, otherwise known as Halloween (or Hallow’s Eve) is the day the Celtic Cailleach – the Crone of Winter – is emerges from the great below.
The Cailleach is blue, as someone who has wandered in from the snow or was found frozen in its drifts. Her teeth red are and bloody, if she has them at all.
She’s a destroyer, a storm bringer. A merciless wielder of weather who has power over life and death.
A goddess of the land, she lives in places that are hostile and remote. On sharp jutting cliffs and at the top of bleak mountains. In whirlpools whose roaring can be heard for miles.
She is the Storm Hag. Build to her a shrine of stones.
Samhain is a turning point, an inbetween time and omen day, a sacred threshold between seasons.
During threshold times, boundaries dissolve.
Boundaries – between the sexes, between the living and the dead, between the past, the present and the future – become thin and porous.
Thresholds times are when anything is possible and everything is connected, when you are both ancestor and descendent.
Liminal holidays are times of chaos.
But chaos times are also times when problems we once thought fixed can move and shift in surprising directions.
Rituals are important during chaos times. They help us stay grounded, like boulders in the storm.
Samhain is the beginning of winter. In the northern hemisphere we’re moving into the months of dark and cold, into celebrations of the night, the times of the ghosts and spirits of the void.
At Samhain we:
Honor our ancestors, we place pictures of them on our altars, we leave meals for them on our dinner tables, and candles lit for them in the windows so they know how to find their way home
We gaze into black bowls of water or into the light of a single candle, scrying into the dark to receive visions of hidden truths and future loves
Witches can leave out “soul cakes” for our ancestors (a tradition which evolved into giving out candy to children in costumes, or travelers and beings wandering about on Hallow’s Eve) - so says Grandmother witch Laurie Cabot
We eat the seeds of the pomegranate, the food of the dead, to remind us of the powers of regeneration. Seeds hold the promise of a living future. Eat the seeds of the pomegranate, one for what you’re letting go of, one for what you’re calling in, and one for what is, was, and will always be with you.
These are simple rituals you can do alone or with your loved ones to celebrate Samhain and connect with your community and the people you love.
Happy Samhain! Happy Halloween!
The Postmodern Witches’ Guide to Samhain
Find out what this holiday means for contemporary witches and learn about what you can do to celebrate it on today’s episode of my podcast, Between the Worlds ( produced by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs). Today, we’re joined by special guest writer and tarot reader, Jessica Jernigan, author of "A Postmodern Witches' Guide to Halloween."
Have a listen to the episode below!
Hope you enjoy!
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Candle Spells: A Review and A Promise
Founders Level Subscribers! Remember how I did a candle spell for you on Mabon / Autumn Equinox? Well, I also started my PhD program around that same time and in all the relentlessness of it, I never had the chance to send you the results. Here they are!
(You can see a little video of how I did it above…)
First I set out goblets of milk and water and wine.
I anointed brown candles (the color of the earth and her harvests) with a lovely peppery olive oil, then rolled them in incense for Venus in Pisces given to me and hand-made by the poet astrologer Diana Damscena.
Then, I said the name and gratitude prayer for each petitioner as I carved a runestave for gratitude into the candles.
As I lit the candles I sent their light and warmth to the spirits, through the matrix of life, healing it as it went.
When all the candles were lit, I chanted over them:
May the love of the gods flow to and fro, between us all, between us all. May our love nourish them &
bring them joy, may the bounty overflow, through us all, through us all.
What I noticed during the ritual was that pure gratitude, not attached to any requests, acts like a pipe cleaner. It clears the conduit between us and the spirit realms. I felt the field of energy between you and I, and between us and the divine, open up and become stronger.
During the ceremony, the spirits told me that, “When you nourish the gods, they can nourish you. All the centuries they have gone without food and care, leaving them emaciated and alone. But with your offerings of love and gratitude, they grow fat and healthy again.”
I also noticed that as I said the names of each petitioner, I felt my own bond to each of you grow. I could feel the swish of love as it passed between you and the Old Ones, and it was such a profound honor and delight.
Tonight I will be doing another candle spell, to help you heal ancestral wounds that still plague your lineage, or ask for ancestral blessings. I feel like because of the last candle ceremony, it’s like the windows have been cleaned and the light we shine out for our ancestors will be that much brighter.
Become a Founder’s Level subscriber and receive a candle blessing on each of the eight witches’ sabbats per year.