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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pagan Festival Shout Out: Samhain

Samhain is a festival of the Dead. Meaning "Summer's End" and pronounced saah-win or saa-ween, Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest and the start of the coldest half of the year. For many practitioners, myself included,Samhain also is the beginning of the spiritual new year.

Samhain and its related Christian holiday counterparts continue to be religious in focus and spiritually observed by adherents. Although observances may include merry-making, the honoring of the Dead that is central to Samhain is a serious religious practice rather than a light-hearted make-believe re-enactment. Today's Pagan Samhain rites, while somber, are benevolent, and, although centered on death, do not involve human or animal sacrifices. Most Samhain rituals are held in private rather than in public.



  • Feast of the Dead. Prepare a Samhain dinner. Include a place setting at your table or at a nearby altar for the Dead. Add an offering of a bit of each beverage being consumed to the cup at that place setting, and to the plate, add a bit of each food served. Invite your ancestors and other deceased loved ones to come and dine with you. To have this as a Samhain Dumb Supper experience, dine in silence. After the feast, place the contents of the plate and cup for the Dead outdoors in a natural location as an offering for the Dead.


I chose to make mine and my spouse's favorite meal, a very modern and American dinner (lol) of fried chicken, potato wedges and biscuits. Plus I am making soul cakes in colors that are associated with both Samhain and Halloween because I celebrate both side by side.



  • Seasonal Imagery. Decorate your home with Samhain seasonal symbols and the colors of orange and black. Place an Autumnal wreath on your front door. Create displays with pumpkins, cornstalks, gourds, acorns, and apples. Set candles in cauldrons.

Most of us do this with the pumpkins, mums, hay bails and fodder around the home. I also do a smaller assortment of these symbols of the season at my altar. 

  • Divine Invocations. Honor and call upon the Divine in one or more Sacred Forms associated with Samhain, such as the Crone Goddess and Horned God of Nature. Invite Them to aid you in your remembrance of the Dead and in your understanding of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. If you have lost loved ones in the past year, ask these Divine Ones to comfort and support you.


Samhain bonfires, called balefires in paganism, were once lighted on every hilltop in Britain and Ireland as soon as the sun set on October 30.  The word "balefire" comes from the word "boon", which means "extra".  The fires serve the purpose of containing the energy of the deadgod, lighting the dark night, warding off evil, ushering in the light of the New Year, purifying the ritual space or home, and being the focus of ritual.  In many parts of the British Isles these balefires are still lighted on Samhain to honor the old ways.



  • Bonfire Magic. Kindle a bonfire outdoors when possible or kindle flames in a fireplace or a small cauldron. Write down an outmoded habit that you wish to end and cast it into the Samhain flames as you imagine release. Imagine yourself adopting a new, healthier way of being as you move around the fire clockwise.

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