This festival marks the end of the Wheel of the Year's cycle. As the seasonal year is a wheel, it is also the beginning, as all ends hold within them the promise of a new birth. Samhain is a festival which honours the dead. There is great emphasis placed on history and tradition in modern Paganism, and the ritual recognition of ancestors at Samhain is of great importance. As at Beltane, the veils between the worlds thins, which is to say that the otherworld (or spirit realm) seems much closer to us, allowing us to communicate with those beyond the veil.
Samhain is not a time to fool around with ouija boards or to go roaming through cemeteries. Rather, it is a festival which allows us to examine our lives and say goodbye to those projects and people who are no longer with us. In the mythological cycle surrounding the Wheel of the Year, this is the time when the God descends to the Underworld, having been sacrificed along with the grain of the crops. The Goddess is in her Crone aspect, the Veiled Lady who gathers the dead to her bosom, holding the scythe and the knife.
Seasonally, this festival marked the beginning of Winter for the ancient Celts, who recognised only two seasons (Summer begins on Beltane). It is the third and final harvest festival. It marks a time of quiet and reflection that will occupy our minds and hearts until Yule, or Midwinter, when the God will once again be reborn.
Samhain is a festival that our modern society has truly grasped and brought into the mainstream. Dressing up in costume echoes the folk practice of disguising children so that malicious spirits will be fooled into thinking they too are abroad to create mischief among men. Carving jack-o-lanterns descends from either the practice of keeping a lantern in the window to guide the spirits of ancestors back to the bosom of their family for the night, or the practice of creating glowing maleficent faces to convince the evil spirits that the house had already been targeted by one of their brethren. As this Sabbat revolves around ancestors, it is a festival that usually involves much storytelling. Some families perform a Dumb Supper: they lay a place at the table for those who have passed over, and serve them a portion of their meal. The meal is eaten in silence, allowing each family member to receive whatever impressions or message from the other side that the ancestors wish to communicate.
Correspondences:Colors: Orange, Red, Golden Yellow, Black & Brown.
Gemstones: Jet, Obsidian, Onyx, All Black Gemstones.
Decorations: Apples, Autumn Flowers & Leaves, Gourds, Jack-O-Lanterns, Marigolds, Photos of Passed Family & Friends, Skeletons, Witch Hats.
Deities: Hecate/Carmenta, Anubis, Isis, Nephthys, Osiris, Hel, Arawn, Don, Merlin, Morrigan, Idunna, Winter King, Cailliach.
Foods & Offerings: Ale & Cider, Apples, Beets, Corn, Cranberries, Gingerbread, Hazelnuts, Herbal Teas, Nuts, Pomegranates, Pumpkin Pie, Pork Dishes, Nuts.
Herbs: Acorn/Oak, Apple, Broom, Catnip, Corn, Dittany of Crete, Hazel, Fumitory, Mint, Mugwort, Mullein, Nightshade, Nutmeg, Sage, Thistle, Wormwood.
Scents: Apple, Clove, Damp Woods, Fir Needle, Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg, Patchouli, Pumpkin, Sage.
Spells: Spells to Neutralize Harm, Protection, Spirit Communication.