All Hallow’s Eve has always held a special place in my heart and soul. It invokes ancient memories of bonfires, music, drums and dancing outside under the moon and the stars; smells of the crisp air and autumn leaves, apples and cinnamon…and of course frolicking and merry making! But most of all it is a day to honor all of those who have gone before us, the spirits, our ancestors.
In honor of this magickal night, I thought I’d touch on some history. There is a lot of it so I am just giving you the bare bones here! No pun intended-lol
The word Hallow means ‘sacred’, ‘holy’ and also ‘saints.’ Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve is also known as Samhain (pronounced sow-en or sa-ven) It is a deeply magickal time, a festival of the sacred Celtic New Year and also considered one of the ancient Celtic fire festivals. At this time of the year, it is officially end of the harvest. Cattle and animals were often slaughtered then and any plants left out in the fields past Samhain were considered taboo, under rein of the nature spirits.
Samhain also means “summer’s end”. In the Scottish-Gaelis dictionary, “sam” plus “fuin” put together is “Samhain” or Hallowtide, the Feast of All Souls. It is a time to celebrate before we enter the dark half of the year. It is a magickal window, considered outside the laws of time and space. So the night may be used to view any other point in time. The veils between this world and the spirit realm are very thin, revealing an ideal time to communicate with those who have passed on as well as the nature spirits. It is a night where those of the otherworld walk amongst the living. Divination was often practiced on this night in ancient times, as it was and still is believed the spirits could aid us in foreseeing the future and also help us. Samhain is about honoring and welcoming the cycles of life, death and rebirth. It is a wonderful time to honor and celebrate the lives of loved ones passed on. It was common for the Celts and many ancient religions or spiritual practices to honor the dead and our ancestors. Celebrations and practices exist in other cultures around the world honoring the dead, such as Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, in Mexico, and All Saints’ Day festival, which spans many countries across Europe and the Mediterranean, Czech Republic, Romania and the Philippines. It is a beautiful custom, one I feel that became lost in America over time and one that I choose to practice now. It also reminds us that the soul is eternal.
Interestingly, since Samhain is rooted in Celtic history and Europe, the pumpkin was not around then. Pumpkins are an American vegetable so back in ancient times, mostly turnips and root vegetables like beets or even potatoes were used in decoration and for making lights. I think since pumpkins were more readily available, they were/are much easier (and more fun) to carve than turnips. The pumpkin is connected to the feminine aspect of the Divine, being that it is round in shape. It is ruled by the moon and resonates with the water element. The magickal associations with the pumpkin are protection and abundance of harvest.
The celebration commences at sundown and lasts for 24 hours. A wonderful and simple Samhain/All Hallow’s ritual one can do is just to put pictures of loved ones out on a small table or altar. If you don’t have pictures it’s ok, too. You can just sit quietly with a black candle (or white) and connect with the energy, offer prayers and gratitude to all of those whom are passed on, your ancestral lineage, those you are grateful for in spirit form. You can also honor those whom are living. Such as someone who helped you, maybe someone you look up to or admire, whether you know them or not, even spirits of children and animals unborn…Take a moment to relax and send out your own personal prayers, gratitude and love.
Many enjoy leaving offerings out. It can be an extra plate of food left at the table or outdoors. The fairies especially enjoy sweets like honey and cakes or breads. You can also adorn your altar or tables with apples, the fruit of Samhain, or pumpkins, gourds, corn, turnips, acorns, sage, autumn leaves such as Oak… You may leave them outside under your favorite tree as an offering as well. Make it as personal and creative as you wish. Even though the spirits don’t physically eat, they take in the essence of the food. =^_~= I believe with Halloween, while candy has become a major focus in America, it does have its roots in offerings of the ancient past.
Crystals and stones are wonderful to have out or give as offerings as well. Some crystals associated with Samhain are: smoky quartz, obsidian, jet, fairy quartz (also called spirit quartz,) onyx. I think some of the orange stones are great too, such as carnelian.
Samhain is also the most powerful time for letting go. We embark upon the descent within our souls; looking within, facing the shadow aspects of our psyche, learning what we need to and letting the rest go to start anew, rebirth ourselves. One can call upon the spirits of our loved ones and ancestors for extra support or assistance during this process. (Always surround yourself in white light or violet light and ask, pray for Divine protection first) It is a great time to release negativity and negative energies we may have accumulated in our energy fields. Samhain is also an ideal time for forgiving and healing broken relationships, at least for making peace within ourselves and our hearts. The cosmos is very supportive of this process at this time.
In addition, you may wish to reflect upon how far you have come, how much you have grown and put your intentions out there as to what you wish to cultivate for the upcoming year. (Just as many write New Year’s Resolutions the end of December)
I am not sure where the scary aspect comes in with devils and all that… But one of my *feelings* is that over time as the Christian church deemed these practices unacceptable, the concept of honoring and communicating with the dead was considered evil or scary. So it was more fear of the unknown- lack of being connected to our roots & the Divine, a lack of understanding knowledge combined with the fear the church instilled into many people. Personally, I think many in America here that are obsessed with devils, ultimate scare, gore and candy o.d. are missing the big picture. Some chills and scares… ok yes. Tis fun to sit around the fire and tell ghost stories. (Except none of those killed babysitter ones- thank you friends in my childhood-LOL) I have read it was acceptable for the Celts to engage in mischief and play practical jokes on this night. Partially because they viewed it as a psychological release before the onset of the dark and cold winter.
Whether you choose to call it Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, All Souls Day... remember you are partaking in a mystical festival that has a historical lineage of more than 6,000 years- possibly being older than that! Honor this night, and all of those who have gone before us, the spirits, yourself. Enjoy this truly magickal time and be safe! Choose to stay centered in peace, love, gratitude and light.
A wonderful book to read about the history and customs of Samhain/Halloween is “Halloween” by Silver Ravenwolf. It is full of fascinating information, customs, rituals, spells, recipes and activities. I am including her recipe for Witches Brew below.
Witches Brew ♥
1gallon apple cider (love)
One orange (love)
One apple (love, wisdom, knowledge, health)
3 cinnamon sticks (love and psychic powers)
1/8 tsp. nutmeg (fidelity)
One handful rose petals (love) -You can also use dried rosebuds-
One big pot
Pour the apple cider into a large kettle. Peel the orange and squeeze its juice into cider, discarding the pulp. Tear the orange peel into 1-inch strips, and add to mixture. Core apple and cut into ¼ inch slices. Add to mixture. Break the cinnamon sticks in half and add to mixture. Add nutmeg. Warm over low heat for 2 hours. Do not bring to a boil. Stir often, saying:
From the moon to the vine
From the vine to the fruit
From the fruit to this brew
May the Goddess (or Lady) send her blessings
May the God (or Lord) grant your desires
Serve warm in your favorite punch bowl and sprinkle with rose petals.