If you’re looking for Samhain rituals and traditions to do in 2023, then read on: we’re sharing everything we know about Samhain as practicing pagans.
If you’re fan of Halloween, then you probably know that there’s something different about Halloween night. Even before I practiced witchcraft, I could always feel the energy shift. I just didn’t realize that this was because October 31st is also called Samhain, which is a popular pagan holiday with a lot of meaning and energy.
The Samhain holiday is a time to honor the dead and those who have passed on. It is celebrated during the last few days of October, typically on Halloween night. More specifically, Samhain celebrations begin at sunset on October 31st and end at sunset of November 1st.
Samhain is almost exactly halfway between the the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. The name “Samhain” comes from an old Irish word meaning “summer’s end,” and it marks the beginning of winter. Samhain is pronounced “Sah-win” or “Sow-win.”
Known as the witch’s new year, Samhain is a perfect opportunity to release old grudges and feuds, especially with anything associated with your past.
It is also a time when the veil between life and death grows thin. Food is set aside for ancestors and lost loved ones as gifts, and rituals honoring the dead take place. You can commune with friends in the mortal realm or join witches and fly through the night in the astral.
I think it’s fitting that Samhain falls on Halloween, because Samhain does have a sinister vibe, mainly because it’s a symbolic death and rebirth. This pagan holiday focuses on the end of the summer (and the seasons that provide plenty of food), so sacrifices must be made to get through the winter. It’s also the night when spirits of the dead are closest to our physical realm, which can be a bit spooky.
How Did Samhain Originate?
Samhain originated from the ancient Celtic peoples of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
The Celts believed that this time marked a boundary between two worlds: the world of the living and the world of spirits who had passed on to another life. It was observed as a festival where people would wear costumes in order to share food with those they were honoring who had passed on.
The Samhain ritual was really important because the Celts were so superstitious. They believed that terrible things would happened if Samhain rituals weren’t perfectly followed.
For instance, it was said that any crops sown during this time would never grow because this would displease the spirits, so people were instructed to leave their fields unplanted until the spring.
This holiday is typically observed on Halloween, and some of its most iconic symbols include pumpkins carved into faces to represent ghosts, as well as bonfires lit in order to ward off spirits.
It’s also a day where people would share food with those they were honoring who had passed on. Often, this was a dish of potatoes and apples, which has evolved over the years into today’s tradition of pumpkin pie.
The Catholic Church adopted the traditional Celtic holiday Samhain when they attempted to institutionalize Christianity in England. The Church renamed it All Hallow’s Eve and incorporated elements of pre-Christian ritual into their observances; this blending eventually led to the creation of Samhain Halloween.
Many Halloween traditions started as pagan rituals, mutated as the Church claimed them, and evolved into the modern, non-religious practices that we now enjoy.
However, much of the meaning and ritual behind Samhain has been lost. As a practicing witch, I believe that there is lots of importance to Pagan holidays, not only because we all love a good holiday, but because these days mark specific occurrences in nature and shifts in the seasons. Our bodies often sense these shifts are occurring, even if our minds don’t.
If you want to feel closer to nature and to the energy of the spiritual world, then consider incorporating a few easy Samhain rituals into your day on October 31st this year.
Why Do We Celebrate Samhain?
Because Samhain is also known as the witch’s new year, think of it as a reset. Similar to our New Year celebrations, Samhain is a time to look back on the past (both the past 12 months as well as the past in general – personal and historical) and to set goals for the future.
Samhain is a time of release. Instead of holding onto the past, you can let it go. It is an ending and a new beginning.
This is why ancestors are so often incorporated into Samhain rituals. We can look back and remember our ancestors, honor them, and release any grief or ties so that their souls can be free.
You probably celebrate Samhain without even realizing it. If you put up fall decorations, clean your home, walk in nature and enjoy the leaves, or do other classic fall activities, you’re actually celebrating Samhain.
However, I like to actively participate in Samhain traditions. I find that the night of Samhain Halloween does always feel like an end, and recognizing this (the Pagan calendar) is a great way to get in-tune with nature.
Samhain, also known as the Witches’ New Year, is a time when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, making it an ideal time for divination, honoring ancestors, and working with herbs and crystals that are associated with the season.
Some of the herbs commonly associated with Samhain include:
- Mugwort: This herb is often burned as incense during Samhain rituals to enhance psychic abilities and promote lucid dreaming.
- Sage: Sage is used for purification and protection, and is often burned to clear negative energies and create a sacred space.
- Rosemary: This herb is associated with remembrance and is often used to honor ancestors and loved ones who have passed on.
- Yarrow: Yarrow is used for divination and protection, and is often carried as a talisman or used in spells to enhance psychic abilities.
Some of the crystals associated with the season include:
- Smoky quartz: This crystal is associated with the element of earth and is often used for grounding and protection.
- Obsidian: Obsidian is a protective stone that is often used for scrying and divination.
- Black tourmaline: This crystal is also used for protection and is often carried or placed around the home to ward off negative energies.
- Amethyst: Amethyst is associated with the third eye chakra and is often used for psychic development and spiritual growth.
Days of the week: Samhain is traditionally celebrated on October 31st, which falls on a different day of the week each year. However, some pagans also celebrate the festival on the nearest full moon, which may fall on a different day of the week.
Colors: Black and orange are the traditional colors associated with Samhain. Black represents the darkness of winter and the underworld, while orange represents the changing leaves and the harvest season.
Foods: Foods that are associated with Samhain include apples, pumpkins, squash, and other seasonal vegetables. These foods are often used to create traditional dishes like pumpkin pie, apple cider, and roasted vegetables.
Symbols: Some of the symbols associated with Samhain include jack-o-lanterns, skulls, ghosts, and other spooky imagery. These symbols are often used to decorate homes and altars during the festival.
12 Samhain Rituals
There are so many ways to celebrate Samhain. These are some of my favorite simple ways to incorporate ritual and celebration into your life during the month of October.
First, I want to go over some simple Samhain rituals you can incorporate. Later in this post, I’ll get into more intense, in-depth rituals for hardcore pagans.
Keep in mind that these are simple rituals, not full-on spells. For more information about what types of spells work well on Samhain, scroll down a few sections.
Spend Time In Nature
I love spending time in nature during the autumn months. During Samhain, the world is getting colder and darker, but that isn’t necessarily bad. Instead, nature is just changing and preparing for the next season.
To get in-tune with nature, I like to walk, sit under a tree, put my feet on the ground, and even speak aloud to the spirits of the wind, trees, earth, etc.
Have A Bonfire
Bonfires have been lit on Samhain for centuries. Traditionally, a bonfire was a way to welcome the spirits to the earth so that we could communicate with our ancestors.
However, this theoretically welcomed both good and evil spirits. Other folks believed that the bonfire was a way to honor good spirits, but the flame would keep negative entities away.
Even nowadays, you can light a bonfire to welcome your ancestors or spirits you want to communicate with.
You can also use a bonfire in a therapeutic manner. Get paper and write down the things that don’t serve you in life, things that you want to let go of, and burn it.
If you’re not able to have a bonfire, you can also have a fire inside, or even light candles and celebrate the flame.
Give Fall Offerings To Deities Or Spirit Guides
If you work with deities or spirit guides, now is a great time to leave them a fall offering in the spirit of renewal. This thanks them for their help over the last year and sets the intention of working together for the coming season. We’ll go over Samhain ritual deities later, but you can also give an offering to any deity that you work with.
Do A Samhain Tarot Spread
Tarot is a great way to celebrate Samhain. It’s safe and super effective, especially when the veil is low.
There are many Samhain Tarot readings available. Here are some of my favorites:
Past, Present, Future Spread: This is a classic tarot spread that can be used at any time of year, but it’s particularly fitting for Samhain rituals. It’s a simple three-card spread that can help you reflect on the past, assess your current situation, and look ahead to the future.
Ancestor Spread: Samhain is a time when many people honor their ancestors and connect with the spirit world. This spread is designed to help you connect with your ancestors and receive guidance from them. It involves drawing four cards, each representing a different aspect of your relationship with your ancestors: the past, the present, the future, and the advice or message they have for you.
Shadow Work Spread: Samhain is also a time when we confront our fears and shadows, so this spread is designed to help you do just that. It involves drawing three cards: the first represents a fear or shadow that you need to confront, the second represents the lesson or gift that you can learn from facing that fear, and the third represents the outcome or resolution.
Wheel of the Year Spread: This spread is designed to help you reflect on the past year and prepare for the year ahead. It involves drawing eight cards, each representing a different sabbat or seasonal milestone on the Wheel of the Year. You can use this spread to reflect on what you’ve accomplished in the past year, what you need to release or let go of, and what you want to focus on in the year ahead.
Engage In Divination
You can also engage in various divination activities when the veil is low.
Consider scrying or using the pendulum. If you’re feeling brave, you can also use a ouija board, though I recommend that you set up adequate protection before doing this.
Host A Feast
Another way of celebrating Samhain traditions is by hosting a feast- big or small.
Come together with your closest friends, family members, mentors, and colleagues to partake in this event.
You may set up an altar for the spirits to be appeased, offer them food and drink. You may also give thanks to loved ones who have passed away with a short speech followed by a toast.
Even if your family or friends don’t have the same spiritual beliefs as you do, you can still serve food with intention and decorate with subtle symbols of Samhain to celebrate without making anyone uncomfortable. This is one of my favorite Samhain rituals that virtually anyone can participate in, even if they don’t understand the pagan Samhain meaning.
Make Old Family Recipes
Find out what some of your favorite family recipes are and make them this Samhain. It’s a good time to come together as a family and enjoy some food!
Plus, making old recipes is the perfect way to celebrate your ancestors. Again, this is a great way to celebrate with those you love who don’t understand the Samhain meaning. Don’t forget to leave portions out for your ancestors and invite them to dine with you.
Set Up A Samhain Altar
I always set up a Samhain altar for my ancestors around the beginning of October. However, you can dedicate this altar to just about anything and anyone.
Consider making an altar for self renewal, energy release, or dedicating your altar to your ancestors, spirit guides, or deities.
Here are some ideas for items you can use to create your own Samhain altar:
Candles: Candles are a traditional symbol of Samhain and can be used to represent the element of fire. You can use black, orange, or white candles to represent the season, and you may want to include a special candle to honor your ancestors.
Crystals: Crystals can be used to represent the element of earth and can help you connect with the energy of the season. Black tourmaline, smoky quartz, and obsidian are all good choices for Samhain, as they can help you release negative energy and connect with your intuition.
Ancestor photos or mementos: Samhain is a time when many people honor their ancestors, so you may want to include photos or mementos of your loved ones who have passed on. You can also include items that remind you of your ancestors, such as jewelry or clothing.
Pumpkins or gourds: Pumpkins and gourds are traditional symbols of Samhain and can be used to represent the harvest season. You can carve or paint them with symbols or words that are meaningful to you.
Incense or herbs: Incense or herbs can be used to represent the element of air and can help you create a sacred atmosphere for your altar. Sage, cedar, and frankincense are all good choices for Samhain.
Tarot cards or divination tools: Samhain is a time when many people connect with the spirit world and seek guidance from their ancestors. You may want to include your favorite tarot deck or other divination tools on your altar to help you connect with your intuition.
Burn Samhain-Inspired Incense
A really simple ritual for Samhain is to burn autumn incense. I especially love clove, cinnamon, and apple incense.
While I often make this into a ritual (cleansing and warding), I’ll also burn incense every night during October just to celebrate.
Here are some other types of incense typically associated with Samhain traditions:
Sage: Sage is a powerful herb that is often used for cleansing and purification. Burning sage during Samhain can help you release negative energy and connect with the spirit world.
Cedar: Cedar is another herb that is often used for cleansing and purification. Burning cedar during Samhain can help you create a sacred atmosphere and connect with your intuition.
Frankincense: Frankincense is a resin that has been used for thousands of years for its spiritual and healing properties. Burning frankincense during Samhain can help you connect with the divine and receive guidance from the spirit world.
Myrrh: Myrrh is another resin that has been used for its spiritual and healing properties. Burning myrrh during Samhain can help you release negative energy and connect with the energy of the season.
Patchouli: Patchouli is an earthy herb that is often used for grounding and protection. Burning patchouli during Samhain can help you connect with the earth and create a protective barrier around you.
Tell Family Stories
Samhain is a time when spirits are active and able to communicate with the living. Many people take this opportunity to tell family stories, share memories of loved ones who have passed away, or ask specific questions to relatives who are still living.
It may also be worth considering which ancestors you would like to invite into your home on Samhain night for a meal.
Take this opportunity to celebrate the lives of those who are gone, or even to celebrate events of the past, by retelling these stories.
Carving pumpkins is another way of celebrating. You may use the pumpkin to carve a Jack-O-Lantern to put outside for all to see on Samhain Halloween night.
Even as an adult, I love carving pumpkins because I carve with intention. One of my favorite things to do is to carve sigils into my pumpkin, so that my home is protected while the pumpkin remains on my step.
Cook Autumn Meals With Intentions
One of my favorite ways to celebrate this holiday is by cooking. There are many different traditions associated with what you might cook, so you can get really creative, depending on your background and tastes.
I like to focus on dishes that involve apples, which are one of the agricultural symbols of Samhain season.
Foods are often offered in worshiping rituals at Samhain. Remembering our loved ones who have passed away and having a meal with them is a common ritual during this time period, so baking is a great place to start if you’re looking for ways to celebrate Samhain’s meaning.
Decorate For Samhain
Just like decorating for Halloween, I find decorating for Samhain to be a great ritual activity. This can be as simple or as complicated as you want!
Some of the best items to use for Samhain decorations include:
Make Blessed Samhain Moon Water
If there was ever a time to make strong moon water, it is during Samhain.
This moon water will definitely have regenerative properties and will be perfect for any spell about release or banishment. This way, you can harness Samhain’s meaning well after the holiday is over.
Do A Past Life Regression
Past life regression is a hypnotherapy technique that seeks to explore the idea of reincarnation.
When you do a past life regression, you not only see your past life, but you also release any negative emotions or ties associated with that lifetime. Of course, this makes a past life regression a great activity to do on Samhain, a day all about release.
See A Trusted Medium Reader
The veil is low on Samhain, so it’s a great time to connect with a medium reader, especially if you aren’t confident in your own divination skills.
Remember to keep an open mind, as things can come through that you didn’t expect.
Incorporate Samhain Symbols Into Your Life
There are specific symbols related to Samhain. These include:
Do A Ritual To Release The Past “You”
Samhain is the perfect time for release. If you feel that you need to let your old self go, or release a piece of you that no longer serves you, consider doing a ritual on Samhain.
You can celebrate the past self and how far you’ve come with a release ritual, too.
I personally like to dig a grave and bury the qualities of myself that I want to leave behind (written on paper), but you can also dig a grave and bury your past grievances, either with yourself or others.
Spend some time in self-reflection, meditate, or journal and think about where you want to go next.
This is a symbolic death and rebirth ritual that’s really moving and effective. It can also be a great way to receive clarity.
Work With Demons Or Hidden Entities
Have you been interested with working with a specific demon or Underworld-related deity? Samhain rituals often revolve around these types of beings. Because as the world grows dark and dies around us, we are more easily able to descend into our own unconscious mind and contact shadow figures.
I talk a lot on the Patreon about why I choose to work with demons and Underworld deities. This work isn’t for everyone, so feel free to totally ignore the paragraph if this makes you nervous. There are plenty of options for everyone to enjoy Samhain rituals that feel right for them!
Initiate Into A Specific Tradition
If you’re interested in pagan initiation into the mysteries, the Kabbalah, or the Qliphoth tree, the month of October may be an ideal time to start. The view is thinner than normal and the world around us is dying, descending into darkness. It then makes sense that the soul is more easily able to descend into the metaphorical Underworld as is often required during initiation.
Looking for group rituals? Keep scrolling – I’ll cover some of my favorite group Samhain celebrations and rituals shortly!
More Traditional Samhain Rituals
Traditionally, Samhain was celebrated by some set rituals. These Samhain traditions have mutated over time, so it can be cool to learn about the original tradition and why it began.
One of the most popular ways to honor the the dead was by cooking a feast and setting out a portion of the feast for spirits. This tradition spanned for centuries, so cooking became a very important ritual on Samhain.
In fact, most villages celebrated Samhain with a feast. This was a really big event in many different areas of the world. Villages would cook, bake, dance, sing, and do other activities to honor the dead.
Another tradition was to light a bonfire or a candle near/in the home to welcome spirits. Many believed that it was necessary to actively welcome the spirits of the dead, so they wouldn’t get angry and enact revenge.
Others opened western-facing doors or windows and placed a candle in the opening since it was believed that ghosts came from the west.
In Ireland, folks carved turnips with scary faces and set candles in the turnips in order to frighten away “Jack,” a man who was denied getting into Heaven, and who supposedly roamed the earth as a ghost. Because Samhain is the day when the veil is lowest, turnips were carved in preparation of October 31st.
Now, we carve pumpkins instead of turnips, but the superstition remains the same for many people.
Trick-or-treating is another common Samhain Halloween pastime that evolved out of Samhain practices. Starting in the middle ages, people would dress up like their deceased loved ones (hence the costumes) and go door to door, receiving offerings for the spirits of the dead. This was a way to honor these spirits, even if they couldn’t be present in the flesh.
Types Of Spells To Cast On Samhain
Samhain is a night when natural energy is very strong, so you can cast just about any kind of spell. If you’ve been waiting for a special night to cast a big spell or have something in mind, go for it!
Otherwise, I find that spells about release, regeneration, and the spirits of the dead tend to be quite successful when cast on Samhain.
Here are some of my favorite Samhain spells to give you inspiration.
Cleanse Your Home
Samhain, the time where the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest, offers a good chance to ward off negative entities. You can cleanse your home to allow benevolent spirits through, while warding against those with negative intentions.
Cord Cutting Spell
A cord cutting spell can be done in order to sever ties with someone or something that you unhappy with. Samhain is a great time to release negative energy, and a cord cutting spell will help you do that quickly and effectively.
This is a great ritual to do on the evening of October 31st. Fill your bathtub or other large container with water and add natural items like bay leaves, apple peels, rosemary or sage sprigs, honeycomb pieces, ginger slices, cedar chips etc. You can also include anything else you find pleasant smelling in the mix.
Add these items to the bath and stir them around. Then step into the water, close your eyes, take a deep breath and say: “As I wash away my old year, ____.” Speak your intention for the new year in the blank space.
You can also simply cleanse yourself in the bath without saying anything if you’d rather not speak aloud.
Next, say a prayer to whoever your deity or spirit guide is. After that you can scrub the parts of your body that need it most with a natural soap. Then rinse off and step out of the tub or container, drying yourself thoroughly before dressing in new clothes from head-to-toe. You are now cleansed!
This ritual will help you release negativity and make room for new ideas. I find that is a cleansing bath is a really effective yet gentle method of cleansing. I always feel rejuvenated and new after.
If you’re feeling daring and want to connect with spirits or entities, Samhain is the best time to conduct a summoning ritual since the veil between worlds is extremely thin.
Make sure that you have appropriate protections in place (wards, cleansing agents, etc.) before attempting any kind of summoning spell. Trust me – if you aren’t prepared, these spells can go bad quickly.
If you need to banish someone or something, Samhain is the time to do this. In fact, Samhain might be the best pagan holiday for a banishing spell out of the whole year!
There are many different ways you can banish something/someone. Check out my eBook all about protection spells (including a whole section on banishing) for more information.
Any Spell Or Ritual To Celebrate Nature
I like any sort of ritual that celebrates the turning of the seasons. After all, Samhain literally marks the transition from summer to winter.
For me, celebrating nature means that I’m more in-tune with nature and with the seasons.
You can perform just about any spell that celebrates nature, or you can make an offering to any nature spirit, the wind, the ocean, the rain, etc.
One simple Samhain spell that I like to cast goes like this:
- Find a tree, and carve your name into it.
- Light a pumpkin with a candle inside.
- Take five minutes to sit in silence – contemplate how nature changes and what you want to change in yourself.
- As the pumpkin starts to burn, take some of its ashes and throw them into a windy place (preferably outside).
- Leave the pumpkin at the base of the tree where you carved your name – this will symbolize that you are returning home.
Of course, make sure that you don’t injure the tree or yourself during this ritual!
You can also perform any ritual outside and harness the power of nature for your spell. On a warmer Samhain night, we like to gather under the moon for spell work.
This doesn’t mean you actually bury a person. Instead, you can bury just about anything else during a spell, and Samhain is the perfect time to do this.
For example, you can bury a (biodegradable) spell jar when you’ve gotten what you needed and are ready to release the intentions of the spell to nature. I do this a lot with freezer spells.
You can also write out your intentions for the coming year and bury them.
Lastly, you can bury offerings to your spirit guides, ancestors, or deity.
I love burial spells because I feel like I’m directly giving back the energy to nature.
Hexes or Curses
If you’re into hexes or curses, then Samhain is a good time to cast these sorts of spells. Check out this post for more info on how to cast hexes and curses.
Group Samhain Rituals:
If you’re getting together with a group, you can still do any of the above Samhain rituals, but you’ll just need to revise them a bit. However, I also want to include a section with my personal favorite group Samhain rituals.
Groups are tricky, because while you may share a lot of the same beliefs, you won’t be on the same page about everything. For that reason, I’m including lots of different rituals that work for different types of groups. You know your people, so do a ritual that everyone will be comfortable with to have a great yet meaningful night.
A Dumb Supper is a ritual meal that is held in silence to honor the dead. Each person in the group brings a dish to share, and the meal is eaten in silence as a way of communicating with the spirits. After the meal, you can share stories or memories of your loved ones who have passed on.
I actually wrote a whole post with everything you need to know about how to host a Dumb Supper. If you want, you can host a Dumb Supper and then proceed to another ritual, too, but this is a great way to kick off the Samhain celebrations.
A Spirit Walk is a ritual where you take a guided walk through nature to connect with the energy of the season and the spirit world. You can invite each person in the group to bring a small offering to leave in nature as a way of honoring the spirits. This is great to do with a group if you don’t all have the same beliefs, because everyone can connect with nature in their own way.
A Divination Circle is a ritual where you use divination tools, such as tarot cards or runes, to connect with the spirit world and receive guidance. Each person in the group can take turns drawing a card or rune and sharing what it means to them. We used to do the ouija board on Samhain, which was a lot of fun (and super spooky!) when we weren’t that experienced. It’s a great place to start. Throw on some spooky music, invite the ancestors in, and do some divination.
Samhain Fire Ceremony:
A Samhain Fire Ceremony is a ritual where you light a bonfire or a small fire in a cauldron to honor the season and the spirits. Each person in the group can write down something they want to release or let go of on a piece of paper and toss it into the fire. This is a great Samhain celebration if you want to throw a Samhain Halloween party and incorporate a simple Samhain tradition that won’t make anyone uncomfortable.
Circle of Mirrors:
A Circle of Mirrors is a powerful Samhain ritual that can be done with a group. Arrange a circle of mirrors around the edge of the ritual space. The mirrors should be facing inward, so that they reflect each other and create a sense of infinity. Light incense, put music on, and clear the room of any negative energy.
Next, invite the spirits of your ancestors and loved ones who have passed on to join you in the ritual. You can do this by lighting candles or incense, or by using a specific invocation or prayer. Each person can call in one specific person (either an ancestor, spirit, or deity), or just invite ancestors in general. You will go into another room while you do this to allow the spirits to enter the room with the mirrors. You don’t enter back until you’re sure the spirits are there. Typically, you’ll hear a noise, feel a cold breeze, or get a strong sensation. I’ve never not had a sign.
Next, you’ll head back into the room with the mirrors and enter the circle. You can either just hang out in the circle and see what happens, or you can perform divination rituals. You’ll definitely see some crazy stuff in the mirrors, since it’s a lot easier for spirits to manifest in mirrors then in our atmosphere. You can also lead a guided meditation or visualization here.
A Circle of Mirrors is a powerful ritual that can help you connect with the energy of the spirit world and receive guidance from your ancestors. It’s important to approach this ritual with respect and reverence, and to create a safe and sacred space for everyone involved.
Deities For Samhain Rituals:
Samhain is a time when many people connect with the spirit world and honor their ancestors. However, it’s also a great time to work with deities. You can incorporate deities into your rituals, do an invocation, initiate into the current of the deity, or simply leave an offering and ask for guidance.
Here are some deities that are traditionally associated with Samhain and can be called upon for guidance and support:
Hecate: Hecate is a Greek goddess of magic, crossroads, and the underworld. She is often associated with Samhain because of her connection to the spirit world and her ability to guide souls between worlds. Learn more about working with Hecate here.
Cerridwen: Cerridwen is a Welsh goddess of transformation, wisdom, and the moon. She is often associated with Samhain because of her connection to the cycles of life and death.
Morrigan: Morrigan is an Irish goddess of war, death, and transformation. She is often associated with Samhain because of her connection to the cycle of life and death and her ability to guide souls to the afterlife. Learn more about working with the Morrigan here.
Anubis: Anubis is an Egyptian god of the dead and the underworld. He is often associated with Samhain because of his role in guiding souls to the afterlife.
Persephone: Persephone is a Greek goddess of the underworld and the harvest. She is often associated with Samhain because of her connection to the cycles of life and death and her role in the changing of the seasons. Learn more about working with Persephone here.
Hades: Hades is often associated with Samhain because of his role as the god of the underworld and the dead. He is responsible for guiding souls to the afterlife and ensuring that they are properly judged. Hades is also associated symbolically with wealth and riches, as the underground is often seen as a place of hidden treasures. Learn more about working with Hades here.
Demeter: Demeter is often associated with Samhain because of her role as the goddess of the harvest and fertility. She is responsible for ensuring that the crops are plentiful and that the earth remains fertile. Demeter is also associated with the changing of the seasons, as the harvest is traditionally celebrated in the fall. Learn more about working with Demeter here.
Odin: Odin is a Norse god of wisdom, magic, and death. He is often associated with Samhain because of his connection to the spirit world and his ability to guide souls to the afterlife.
Baba Yaga: Baba Yaga is a Slavic goddess of death, rebirth, and transformation. She is often associated with Samhain because of her role in guiding souls to the afterlife and her connection to the cycles of life and death.
Hel: Hel is a Norse goddess of the underworld and the dead. She is often associated with Samhain because of her role in guiding souls to the afterlife and her connection to the cycles of life and death.
Osiris: Osiris is an Egyptian god of the dead and the afterlife. He is often associated with Samhain because of his role in guiding souls to the afterlife and his connection to the cycles of life and death.
Kali: Kali is a Hindu goddess of death, destruction, and transformation. She is often associated with Samhain because of her role in guiding souls to the afterlife and her connection to the cycles of life and death.
You can pretty much work with any death/underworld deities during Samhain, but you can also work with deities of the harvest/autumn for a more upbeat ritual. Follow what feels right to you, as each person’s lessons during this pagan celebration will be different.
The Horned God
There’s one major deity that I left off that list, and that’s because he needs his own section.
The Horned God is a deity commonly associated with nature, fertility, and the cycle of life and death. In many pagan traditions, he is also associated with the festival of Samhain, which is celebrated on October 31st and marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.
During Samhain, the Horned God is often seen as a symbol of the dying year, as well as the cycle of death and rebirth. He is often depicted as a hunter or a wild man, wearing animal skins and carrying a horned staff or spear. In some traditions, he is also associated with the underworld and the spirits of the dead.
The Horned God is often seen as a counterpart to the goddess, representing the masculine aspect of nature and the divine. Together, they symbolize the balance between the forces of life and death, light and dark, and the cyclical nature of existence.
Okay, but who actually is the Horned God?
The Horned God is known by many names in various pagan traditions. Some of the most common names include Cernunnos, Pan, Herne, and the Green Man. However, it’s important to note that the Horned God is often seen as a multifaceted and complex deity, and his name and attributes may vary depending on the specific tradition or culture in which he is worshipped. You can either worship the Horned God as an archetype or connect with his energy through a specific deity. Almost every pantheon and religion has a Horned God archetype.
Samhain Celebrations With The Fae
Samhain is a time of the year when many fairy beings are present and are willing to interact with humans through rituals, prayers, and offerings. In fact, Samhain is one of the most important holidays for the Fae.
If you’re out and about on Samhain, you may encounter the Fae. Sometimes, they disgusise themselves as humans, while other times you can see a fairy creature in their original form.
Samhain is a great time to throw a feast for your fairy friends, or you can leave them gifts in the spirit of the season.
The fae are known for their love of music and dancing. Play music and dance in a circle, inviting the fae to join you. Sing songs and chants that honor the season and the spirit world.
However, even if you’re familiar with the Fae, be careful around Samhain. This is the time when the darker Fae come out (such as the Unseelie) and even good manners on your part won’t necessarily stop them from enacting mischief or even doing something more sinister.
If you listen, you may be able to hear the Fae’s celebrations on the eve of Samhain, though I don’t recommend actually trying to find it.
Traditional Samhain Foods
Ireland has a rich culinary tradition that is deeply intertwined with its history and culture. During Samhain, the Irish would traditionally prepare a feast that included a variety of seasonal foods. Some of the most popular Samhain foods in Ireland include:
- Colcannon: A dish made from mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale, often served with butter and cream.
- Barmbrack: A sweet bread made with raisins, sultanas, and other dried fruits, often served with butter and jam.
- Boxty: A type of potato pancake that is typically served with bacon or sausage.
Scotland also has a long history of celebrating Samhain, and many traditional Scottish dishes are still enjoyed during this time of year. Some of the most popular Samhain foods in Scotland include:
- Cullen skink: A creamy soup made with smoked haddock, potatoes, and onions.
- Haggis: A savory pudding made with sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, mixed with oatmeal and spices.
- Cranachan: A dessert made with whipped cream, honey, toasted oats, and raspberries.
In Wales, Samhain is known as Calan Gaeaf, and is celebrated with a variety of traditional foods. Some of the most popular Samhain foods in Wales include:
- Tatws Pum Munud: A hearty stew made with potatoes, carrots, onions, and meat.
- Bara Brith: A fruitcake made with dried fruits and spices, often served with butter or cheese.
- Welsh rarebit: A savory dish made with melted cheese, beer, and mustard, served on toast.
Samhain Food Symbolism
I have found that many of the foods associated with this festival have deep roots in Celtic and Gaelic culture. For example, the turnip, which was used to make lanterns, was a symbol of the Otherworld, a place where the dead resided. The custom of carving pumpkins, which originated in North America, is now associated with Samhain, and the pumpkin has taken on a similar significance as the turnip.
Another traditional Samhain food is the barmbrack, a type of fruitcake that contains hidden charms. Each charm represents a different fate for the person who finds it in their slice of cake. For example, a ring means marriage, while a coin means wealth. This tradition is said to have originated in Ireland and is still practiced today.
In addition to barmbrack, another traditional Samhain food is colcannon, a dish made from mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale. This dish was traditionally served on Samhain Halloween, and it was believed that the person who found the hidden ring in their bowl of colcannon would be the first to marry.
Blessed Samhain Recipes
I love to bake around Samhain. There are so many traditional blessed Samhain recipes that are really yummy and double as a ritual activity.
Here are some of my favorite blessed Samhain recipes from various blogs and sites:
I find that baking is a great Samhain ritual activity to do in the days leading up to the holiday. In fact, I end up baking for most of October!
Kitchen witches will also enjoy baking with intention. If you’re a kitchen witch, you can use traditional Samhain recipes (which are already steeped with intention) or design your own recipe using fall ingredients.
FAQs About Samhain Celebrations:
What is the significance of bonfires during Samhain?
Bonfires are an important part of Samhain celebrations. They are believed to provide protection, aid in purification, and help guide the spirits of the departed. Jumping over the bonfire is thought to bring good luck and ensure a safe passage through the winter months.
How does Samhain relate to Halloween?
Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Over time, the traditions evolved and blended with other cultural practices, giving rise to the modern Samhain Halloween celebration with costumes, trick-or-treating, and pumpkin carving.
What is the significance of masks and costumes in Samhain celebrations?
Masks and costumes have ancient roots in Samhain traditions. It was believed that wearing masks and disguises could help confuse and ward off wandering spirits. Today, costumes can be seen as a playful way to connect with the spirit of the holiday and embrace the transformative energy of the season.
Can I celebrate Samhain alone, or is it better to celebrate in a group?
Both options are valid. Some people prefer solitary celebrations for introspection and personal rituals, while others enjoy the sense of community that comes with group gatherings. Choose the approach that resonates with you.
How can I incorporate Samhain traditions into my modern life?
You can incorporate Samhain meaning into your modern life by lighting candles in honor of ancestors, decorating your space with seasonal items like pumpkins and autumn leaves, and taking time for reflection and gratitude. Exploring divination techniques and connecting with nature are also meaningful ways to embrace the spirit of Samhain meaning.
Remember, Samhain is a time for reflection, remembrance, and celebrating the cycles of nature and life. Feel free to adapt the traditions to suit your own beliefs and practices.
Are there any specific foods associated with Samhain meaning?
Traditional foods for Samhain often include seasonal produce like apples, pumpkins, and root vegetables. Some also prepare dishes like soul cakes, a type of sweet bread, which were offered to wandering spirits during the festival.
What is a “dumb supper” and how is it performed?
A “dumb supper” is a solemn Samhain ritual where a meal is shared in silence to honor and communicate with deceased ancestors. Participants set an extra place at the table, serve food and drink, and invite their ancestors to join them in spirit. Check out our full post on how to host a Dumb Supper here.
Can I incorporate my own cultural or religious beliefs into Samhain celebrations?
Absolutely. Many people blend their own cultural or religious practices with Samhain traditions. It’s a time to honor your heritage and connect with the cycles of nature in a way that’s meaningful to you.
What are some easy ways to honor the ancestors during Samhain traditions?
Apart from setting up an ancestor altar, you can light candles, share stories or memories of your departed loved ones, create art or crafts in their honor, or simply spend time in contemplation and gratitude for the wisdom they’ve passed down.
Can children participate in Samhain celebrations?
Yes, children can certainly be involved in age-appropriate ways. They might enjoy carving pumpkins, wearing costumes, or helping with crafting and decorating. It’s an opportunity to teach them about nature’s cycles and honoring ancestors.
How can I respectfully incorporate Samhain into Halloween celebrations?
You can infuse your Samhain Halloween festivities with elements of Samhain meaning by taking a moment to remember departed loved ones, lighting a candle, or even performing a quick ritual to acknowledge the changing seasons and the thinning of the veil between worlds. Other easy Samhain celebrations include a bonfire ritual and making Samhain recipes.
Hopefully, this post gives you lots of ideas for Samhain rituals that feel right for you. Blessed Samhain!