Samhain, The Witches New Year

Samhain

Thy soul shall find itself alone

‘Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone;

Not one, of all the crowd, to pry

Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,

Which is not loneliness — for then

The spirits of the dead, who stood

In life before thee, are again

In death around thee, and their will

Shall overshadow thee; be still.

An excerpt from Spirits of the Dead

Edgar Allan Poe, 1809 – 1849

 

Time of the year/Date: October 31 – November 1

What is Samhain? It’s only my favorite festival!

If you are a Witch you feel it, we are well into what is called The Season of the Witch. Many of us feel something that can’t be described. Mysteries are present, doors open, Magick is easy to manifest, and we feel things more deeply that we might at other points in the seasonal calendar. Like the trees bursting with color, we too seem to be emanating and receiving an abundance of energy. Perhaps this energy is present to help us through the long dark winter or perhaps it is because the veils are thin. Perhaps it is a little of both. Undoubtable, the wheel of the year has once again turned and we are where we need to be.

Samhain (usually pronounced Sow-win) is the Gaelic festival honoring the darker half of the year when the harvests are complete or at their very end. It takes place at sunset on October 31 through sunset November 1. Samhain is also a time to honor and remember our ancestors, departed loved ones, and recognize the thinning spiritual veils. It is also a time to prepare for and recognize our own spiritual renewal and rebirth.

Cultures (modern and ancient) all over the world have their own version of Samhain. Many observances seem to take place around the same time of the year and are known by many other names. Some common names are The Witches’ New Year, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Feast of the Dead, Day of the Dead/Dia De Los Muertos, etc. I am sure you can name much more on your own.

Some festivals are dark and mysterious while others are bright and cheerful. One great example of a bright celebration is, Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico. There are parades, colorful paper flowers, elaborately decorated sugar skulls, candy, and more. A good example of the darker side of this festival could be taken from here in the USA. It is common to find attractions featuring gory scenarios staged in corn mazes and or modified buildings.

It is easy to see why Samhain or Halloween could instill fear and reluctance in most. In our conventional society we are taught to fear death, fear the dark aspects of humanity, and fear the unknown. Samhain teaches us to recognize then and asks us to concur these fears. Conventionally to compensate for our fears we exploit them, making them larger than life.

When practicing a spiritual path, the balance of light and dark is important. To many this is an uncomfortable road to venture. We must accept our own mortality along with the mortality of those we love. When the wheel turns to Samhain we are reminded that all good thing must end, which leaves many feeling scared and empty.

Although, many would portray this holiday evil and mischievous, I have to disagree. As a Witch on my own path, I feel this festival is necessary and in many ways as it brings spiritual balance. Without death, rot, and darkness, rebirth cannot happen. A flower will not germinate without adequate nutrition. Many of the things we might consider foul and disgusting are the very ingredients that provide nutrition to the flowers of spring and sustenance from the earth. I am speaking literally and figuratively of course.

As Samhain marks another turn of the seasonal wheel we realize and honor death, darkness, and the unknown. This is a time of cleansing and remembering. It is a time for knowing our roots. It is also about having fun, maintaining relationships, and preparing for winter. In the spiritual sense of Witchcraft, winter is our time of gestation. Winter is the womb of the mother where we regenerate and renew ourselves. The Season of the Witch is when we prepare for this gestation and rebirth.

Many might disagree with this theology as many tend to see Samhain as the time of rebirth. As I follow the laws of nature and the example nature provides I see this time of the year as when we should prepare for rebirth. The Earth is preparing for sleep and rebirth will come in the spring with new leaves and flowers. I too follow this model. So take time now to prepare yourself. Fill yourself with merriment and sorrow, experience all there is for this season. Meditate, reflect, and find the areas in your life and spiritual path that need work and prepare to work on them.

Samhain is the counter balance of Beltane when the trees display their brilliant color rather than flowers. Both festivals are seen as times of liminality, a time when the veils between the living world and spirit/Fae worlds are at their thinnest. It is during this time when spirits, fairies, and other-worldly creatures are able to pass through. 

The tradition of carving pumpkins into lanterns, speaks directly to the belief that spirits and fae pass through the thinning veils. This belief has brought us the Jack ‘O Lantern. Originally apples, gourds, turnips, and other bulbous root vegetables were carved. Today we use large pumpkin which prove to be easier to carve and tasty to eat. The faces carved into root vegetable and gourds were thought to distract vengeful spirits from entering your home when the lanterns were placed on your doorstep or porch or carried with you in the night.

Masks are also a long lived tradition for Halloween and Samhain. Wearing a mask on Samhain was thought to confuse spirits so the wearer could avoid possession, or discovery by the Fae and spirits. These Fae creatures were not thought to be very nice so it was very important to trick and avoid them. Now wearing masks and painting our faces is just fun!

My own traditions shared

I have two sides of my Halloween/Samhain practice. Like most American families we celebrate the traditional aspects of Halloween, we dress up in costume, carve pumpkins, visit pumpkin patches, corn mazes, decorate our home, Trick or Treat, and watch movies.

As for Samhain, I have my own traditions that help me commemorate the season. I host a Samhain tea which is much like a Dumb Supper. I bake up some eerie treats & bread. I serve traditional foods associated with Halloween/Samhain, I make my Sugar Skull Sugar Cubes, brew some seasonal tea, and we sit out on the desk to commune to enjoy the season. When you sit and enjoy someone’s company in silence you obtain a new way of perceiving and knowing them. It’s quite remarkable.

Divination is also part of our tradition. I use Medicine Cards and do full spreads at this time.  After our tea, we sit by our “balefire” and read cards. As the bats fly overhead we listen to the fire crackling and the leaves on the breeze. When we are done with the cards and usually after everyone has gone inside, I like to do Fire Scrying or a fire meditation.

At one time, we would host a large Mystery Meal. It was a game as well as a feast where my guests would have to guess their food in sequence. It was a fun event everyone enjoyed.

Since Halloween and Samhain are so vast in their symbolisms, celebrations, and observances, it is difficult to cover everything in one post. Below is a highlight of the rituals and traditions I enjoy each year.

Magickal & Traditional Aspects of Samhain

Magickal & Spiritual Aspects:   

  • Banishing
  • Divination
  • Past-Life Recall
  • Spiritual contact/Séances
  • Meditation

Associated Deities:   

All death, dying, and underworld Gods

Hecate, Lilith, Hel… All Crone Goddesses

Festivals, Observances, and Ritual:      

 

Sacred Feasts

Costume parties

Trick or treats

Storytelling

Canning, preserving, drying herbs, and foods from the last harvests

Bon or Balefires

Foods:    

  • Baked items like bread, desserts, cookies, etc.
  • Apple
  • Pomegranates
  • Corn
  • Pumpkins
  • Preserved/Canned/Dried Foods

Plants, Spices & Herbs  

  • Mugwort
  • Gourds
  • Sage
  • Allspice
  • Cinnamon
  • Catnip
  • Anise

Favorite Décor/Decorations:    

  • Pumpkins & Gourds
  • Corn stalks
  • Dried fruit, herbs, and plants
  • Colorful leaves
  • Skulls
  • Candles
  • Handmade brooms
  • The Cauldron
  • Besom
  • Masks
  • Mums

 

 

© The Magick Kitchen, 2014

Leandra Witchwood
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Leandra Witchwood

I just want good food and to live a Magickal life! Is that so much to ask?
Through persistence, I found the honest answer… I can have both! I realize that I could forge my own path using the skills and knowledge I gained, and the simplest of techniques.

I love food and everything that goes with it. I have spent more than 35 years in the kitchen, enjoying every minute. Okay… well, enjoying almost every minute of it.

In addition, I have disbursed nearly as many years studying Wicca, Witchcraft, and Paganism. Combining these two interests has created a Magickal path where I combine food and spirituality. To my delight they play brilliantly together.

My love of whole healthy foods, and unique recipes has also lead me to help run a local teen cooking program, where I teach kids valuable life skills in the kitchen. In addition, I teach a variety of cooking classes for adults and covens on subjects ranging from making the time spent in the kitchen more enjoyable, to cooking together as a group, and recipe-spell creation.

It only made sense that I would begin writing and sharing my experience. From this, The Magick Kitchen was born. My journey with you is about developing a spiritual experience with food, far beyond the dull habit of consumption. We have a marvelous opportunity here to take a most mundane task and make it Magickal!

The Magick Kitchen is about connecting to Divinity through food and the ritual of preparing and sharing food. It is about developing a sacred balance between nourishment, ritual, and spirit. Food has the power to heal, sooth, and bring us together as friends, families, and community.

I am so glad you joined me! Sharing knowledge, experience, and personal perspective with you is an honor. Thank you!
Leandra Witchwood
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