We’re coming into the home stretch of Blogtober and I’m pretty proud of how I’ve done, thus far. Scrapping the fashion posts aside, I stuck to my “theme” each day, was only late posting one or two posts, and even managed to get some things queued in advance (instead of rushing around at 3:00am to write something up… or writing it the day of). A pretty big step up from last year. Maybe next year I’ll get everything written and queued in September so I can just take October off!
The end of Blogtober means the end of October which means Halloween! For those of us witchy folks, it also means Samhain, the end of the witch’s year.
Samhain (pronounced: sow-in) historically marked the end of the final harvest of the year. In some Pagan practices (particularly Wicca), it marks the death of the old God and Goddess in her Crone form mourns him for six(ish) weeks, before going into Yule (the Wiccan/Pagan new year).
Samhain is a time to honor the dead. It’s said that the veil between this world and the next is thinner during this time, if that’s your thing.
In honor of the upcoming Sabbat (it creeped up so quickly!), I wanted to share some things you can do to celebrate.
There’s a fair amount of cross-over between Halloween celebration and Samhain activities. Carving Jack-O-Lanterns is a Samhain tradition which has carried over to the modern holiday, for example. Orange and black are traditional autumn colors used in both Samhain and Halloween decoration. Samhain is a day for honoring the dead and representing the late fall, so skulls and skeletons are popular Samhain altar decorations which can be found in abundance (and on sale!) this time of year. Cauldrons, brooms, and masks also make good Samhain décor.
Personally, I think the best way to celebrate any holiday, Pagan, Christian, or secular, is with family and/or friends. So, have a party!
Decorate with images of autumn–rusty and scarlet reds, oranges, browns, black, gold colors. Like I mentioned, Jack-O-Lanterns are a Pagan activity as much as a secular one, so carve a few and put them out!
Leaving candles in windows is said to help guide the dead to the spirit world. Most guests will just think they’re for creepy ambiance, but you and your spirits will know. 😉 A lot of people insist on using real candles–I suggest electric if you’re having a party. You don’t want someone to bump into one and start a fire!
Invite friends over for an autumnal rustic dinner of meat, potatoes, and other root vegetables. Drink rich red wine (or if you’re non-alcoholic, pomegranate juice or apple cider) with your meal. Serve apple or pumpkin pie for dessert. To really get into the honoring-the-dead aspect of the celebration, set a place at the table for a deceased loved one.
Doing an apple bob is loads of (sometimes messy) fun! Apples come up in many Samhain traditions and this is a great one that even your non-Pagan friends won’t bat an eye at.
Another fun apple-themed activity is apple peel divination. This divination is supposed to tell you about how long your life is. Using a sharp knife, start peeling an apple in a spiral motion, so you have one long peel. The longer the peel gets before breaking, the longer your life will be. Of course, this is just for entertainment purposes. Although if you get an incher you might want to talk to a doctor, just in case. 😉
Other acts of divination are great for Samhain celebrations, because the veil between our world and the spirit world is so thin. Tarot readings are good around this time, as is pendulum use. I personally love the pendulum and it’s really easy to do. All you need is a crystal on a string, a piece of paper, and a pen. Write two or three options spaced decently apart on your paper, ask your question, and hold your pendulum in the space between your options. Whichever the pendulum swings towards should be your answer.
As with all divination, you can’t get too specific. You can’t ask, “Who will I marry?” and then write down the names of your three favorite celebrities–it doesn’t work like that. But, yes or no questions such as, “Should I apply for this job?” or “Is Becky a shady ho?” work well with a pendulum. (Also, yes, Becky is a shady ho. I can’t believe you even have to ask.)
Watch scary movies or TV (I’ll have a list for you on Wednesday of some great things you can find on Netflix for the occasion). Or, even better, sit with your friends and take turns telling or reading spooky stories (Edgar Allen Poe is great this time of year).
You can set up an ancestor altar either as part of the party décor, or in a separate area of your home. Personally, because this is about honoring your dead loved ones, I would do this in a different room where there won’t be people wandering around disturbing things. But, hey! Maybe your grandpa who passed last year was a partier and would want to be where the action is! You do you. Honor your ancestors how you think they would want to be honored. A basic ancestor altar includes photographs, family heirlooms, and other mementos or things that remind you of your loved ones. This can be done for your departed animal friends as well as human family, too, so put Kitty’s collar up there. Maybe her spirit will come knock it down, because I imagine even in the afterlife cats are kind of jerks like that.
If you have kids, decorating paper-plate masks is a fun activity to get them in on the celebration. Traditionally, people make masks of their “shadow selves”–their dark side, then burn them (or maybe put them on the altar to honor the duality of nature). Some people also make masks representing certain aspects of the God or Goddess. But, most kids probably just want to make monsters or unicorns and that’s cool, too.
Of course, taking your kids trick-or-treating is A+ 10/10 the best way to celebrate with your family. If you live in a sketchy area, a lot of malls and local businesses will do in-house trick-or-treating. Or look to see if any churches or other organizations are doing a trunk-or-treat.
And for my fellow solitary witchy loves, don’t feel left out. You can still celebrate Samhain on your own if you aren’t comfortable sharing the festivities with others. This is a great time for you to practice your divination practices. Decorate your altar with Samhain imagery like skulls, fall leaves, and candles. Make your own shadow-self mask to honor the darkness within. You can still set up an ancestor altar, or make space for your ancestors on your regular altar. Write them letters and burn or bury them to send your message, or just sit down and pray to them.
Hell, put in a scary movie, sit down with a candy apple, and just scare yourself stupid.
At the end of the day, this is a day to celebrate the cycle of life and death. Do that however you see fit and don’t worry about playing by the rules. There are no rules to life or death, so just enjoy the game while you’re playing it.
I love you all.
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