Samhain, pronounced “Sow-en” is the Sabbat 6 months from Beltane, and the most important Sabbat. Together Beltane and Samhain cut the Witches year in half. In addition Samhain is the last of the three harvest Sabbats. This holiday is considered the Witches New Year, representing one full turn of the seasonal year. This day is a celebration of the end of the Goddess ruled summer and marks the arrival of the God ruled Winter. The name Samhain means “Summers End.”
At one time it was believed that the ghosts of all persons who were destined to die in the coming year could be seen walking through the graveyard at midnight on Samhain. Perhaps this is because it is on this night that the veil between this and the spirit world is weakness. Many of the ghosts were thought to be of an evil nature and so for protection, jack-o-lanterns with hideous candle-lit faces were carved out of pumpkins and carried as lanterns to scare away the malevolent spirits.
Samhain is also the Celtic/Druid New Year, the beginning of the cider season and the solemn rite and festival of the dead. At this time Witches honor deceased loved ones who have journeyed to the Summerland. It is not uncommon for the celebration to include a feast for the dead. For example in Belgium an old custom was to prepare “Cakes for the Dead” small white cakes or cookies. A cake was eaten for each spirit honored with the belief that the more cakes you ate, the more the dead would bless you.
It was also customary to light a fire on the household hearth which would burn continuously until the first day of the following spring. Huge bonfires were lit on the hilltops at sunset in honor of the old Gods and Goddesses and to guide the souls of the dead home to their kin.
Samhain is also the time of the year for getting rid of weaknesses. On a piece of parchment write weaknesses or bad habits you would like to lose. Meditate on these weaknesses and how your life would be improved on losing them. Then burn the parchment paper, preferably in the ritual fire, thank the Lord and the Lady and continue with your celebration.
Traditional Foods for this holiday include:
HazelnutsCakes for the Dead
Cranberry Muffins and breads
At the family dinner you could set and empty seat for those who have passed away who were dear to you. In this way you both honor the departed and teach your family about how a real Witch celebrates Samhain. If you are planning on a Samhain Ritual let all participants know they can and when the can state aloud the name(s) of loved departed ones they wish to remember. In doing so the departed individual(s) are honored and thanked for the special way they touched the participants life. What could be more beautiful on this night when the veil between worlds is at it’s thinnest? At the same time the Lord and Lady should be thanked for a bountiful harvest.