One of my favourite festivals of the year, Halloween marks the start of the party season in the run up to Christmas. Today its main purpose is to entertain children and provide teens with the opportunity to cause irritation and annoyance to intimidated citizens in many places across the world.
The origins of this festival are found in the ancient Celtic tradition of celebrating Samhain on the 1st November, which was the beginning of winter for our ancestors and also the start of the Celtic New Year. As you can imagine, it was a dark, cold and gloomy time, the completion of the last harvest before everyone would huddle up in their huts and fight for survival during the harsh winter months ahead.
No wonder the Celts thought of death, ghosts and misery in general, so they believed that in the night from the 31st October to the 1st of November they could communicate with their departed relatives and friends. To make this time of year even more atmospheric, the Celts would start their days at dusk, as darkness was seen to be a time for beginnings. Death was regarded as important as life, reflecting the Celts’ embracing and understanding of the perpetuous cycle of life and death.
Samhain was truly the darkest time for our ancestors, and today this is reflected in the way the festival is celebrated as Halloween. The custom of Trick or Treat came across to Britain from America, yet its origin is European, honouring the trickiness of the season and the human being. We all have a dark side in our personalities, and Samhain is the time of hauntings, when the spirits of the dead seek the warmth of the fireplaces and candle lights. The spirits of departed loved-ones were welcomed, but not all spirits were deemed to be friendly; the pumpkin lantern with the scary face was introduced to frighten away the demons attempting to disrupt that night in a nasty sort of way.
Here’s some inspiration to get you into Halloween / Samhain mood:
Activities and Rituals
End of summer, honouring /communicating with the dead, scrying, divination, last harvest, meat harvest.
Sandalwood, sweetgrass, wormwood, mugwort, sage, myrrh or patchouli. Buy incense.
Besom, cauldron, tarot, obsidian ball, pendulum, runes, oghams, Ouija boards, black cauldron or bowl filled with black ink or water, or magick mirror.
Black, orange, red, green
Symbols & Decorations
Apples, autumn flowers, acorns, bats, black cats, bones, skulls, corn stalks, coloured leaves, crows, cross, divination and the tools associated with it, ghosts, jack-o-lantern, nuts, oak leaves, ivy, pomegranates, pumpkins, scarecrows, scythes, waning moon.
Apples, apple dishes, cider, meat (traditionally this is the meat harvest) especially pork, mulled cider with spices, nuts—representing resurrection and rebirth, pomegranates, potatoes, pumpkins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, roasted pumpkin seeds.
Anubis, Arianrhod, Astarte, Baba Yaga Beansidhe (Banshee), Cernunnos, Cerridwen, Crone, Demeter, Hathor, Hecate, Hel, Horned God, Kali, Lakshmi, Lilith, the Morrigan, Nephthys, Odin, Osiris, Persephone, Tlazoteotl.
Herbs and Flowers
Almond, apple leaf, bay leaf, calendula, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, ginger, hazelnut, hemlock cones, mandrake root, marigold, nettle, passionflower, pine needles, pumpkin seeds, rosemary (for remembrance of our ancestors), sage, sunflower petals and seeds, tarragon, wild ginseng.
Stag, cat, bat, owl, jackal, elephant, ram, scorpion, heron, crow, robin.
Release of bad habits, banishing, faery magick, divination of any kind, candle magick, astral projection, past life work, dark moon mysteries, mirror spells (reflection), casting protection, inner work, clearing obstacles, inspiration, workings of transition or culmination, manifesting transformation, creative visualisation, contacting those who have departed this plane.
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