Samhain, which means "end of the summer/' is celebrated on October 31. It is the end of the agricultural season and the beginning of the Celtic year. Samhain is the festival of the dead; it was Christianized when the day that follows it was designated All Souls' Day or All Saints' Day. This is a time of chaos and the reversal of normal order; endings and beginnings are occurring simultaneously.
For our ancestors, Samhain was when the majority of the herd was butchered, providing food for the winter months. Slaughter, barren earth, and decreasing daylight made the concept of death an ever present reality. Because of this, Samhain has always been considered a time when the veil between the worlds was thin, a night of magic charms and divination, when the dead could be easily contacted.
On an individual basis, this is the time to rest and reevaluate your life and goals. Now is when you want to get rid of anv negativity or opposition that mav surround vour achievements or hinder future progress. Samhain should have seen the accomplishment of your desires, and now you need to stabilize and protect what you have gained. This is important, since it is impossible to concentrate, let alone put energy into new goals, if what you have is not secure.
Ritual Toolsy Symbols, and Decorations
Altar decorations: Black altar cloth, red altar candles, cauldron or pot with water and a floating candle, black pillar candle, bowl of apples, wand tied with black ribbon, lighted pumpkins, black silk pouch, chalice covered with a black cloth, red and white wine.
Plants and herbs: Acorn, oak, hazel, apple, fumitory, mullein, nightshade, pumpkin, sage, angelica, wormwood, mugwort, peppermint, bay, rosemary, sandalwood, ginger.
Oil: Mix rosemary and bay oils together for anointing, or use pure sandalwood oil.
Food: Roast beef, goose, duck, or turkey; apple fritters; apple pie; pumpkin pie; mashed turnips; baked acorn squash; mulled wine and cider; roasted potatoes and peppers; hazelnut cookies; peppermint tea; pumpkin bread; corn bread; corn relish; and red onion and beet salad.
Symbols: Jack-o-lanterns, cauldron, scrying mirror or bowl, tarot cards, torches, bonfires, graveyard, tombstone, broom, corn stalks, runes for casting, photographs of departed ancestors, oak and hazel wands tied with black ribbon.
For this special occasion, prepare a protection bag to bless during your ritual. Write your desire on a small square of paper and place it in a black silk or cotton bag along with stones for protection (onyx, black tourmaline, and obsidian), herbs for strength (bay, mulberry, and thistle), and something personal (a ring, a lock of hair, or a photograph).
A Ceremony for Samhain
Light the right altar candle and then the left one, as you say the following:
Blessed be the dying King,
And the sacrifice of blood he shed. For he alone shall guide me,
Through the time of dark and dread.
Blessed be the Death Crone,
And her silent tides of death and birth. For she alone brings love,
At this point you will light each of the tea lights inside the four pumpkins. Pick up a pumpkin and place it in the East as you acknowledge the quadrant. Then place one in the South, the West, and the North, each time acknowledging the quadrant:
Let there be light in the East, the home of the eternal spirit.
Let there be light in the South, the home of the divine spark.
Let there be light in the West, the home of rest and regeneration.
Let there be light in the North, the home of the final atonement.
Cast the circle, call in the Guardians. Face the altar, anoint the forehead with seasonal oil, and then speak the following:
Death brings life, life brings death.
Say the following blessing, and light the black pillar candle:
Let this flame radiate through the night
Bring forth great wisdom and much insight. At this sacred time, and in this holy place
I beckon those of the past to come and share my space.
Pick up the bowl of apples. Hold the bowl in offering as you ask the following blessing:
The land has died, the earth is cold,
The Horned One comes from times of old. He brings the word, he is the Death,
He whispers my name with icy breath. Come close ancestral spirits of hallows' night,
Gather around my cauldron light. For all across the land, Death does roam, But here the Lord protects his own.
Place the apples around the cauldron. Light the candle inside the cauldron and do the Invocation of the God and then the Invocation of the Goddess. After the invocations, take time to do some divination or meditation on the meaning of the ritual. Next, energize the protection bag you made. Place your hands over the bag, express your desire, and then chant the following:
Blithe spirits' blessing, from cauldron light, Protect me now, with all your might.
Pause, then bless the wine or cider through the Rite of Union and the bread through the Blessing of the Bread ceremony. Begin your closing segment of the rite by offering this blessing:
Within my heart is devoted feeling Vainly should my lips express. I come before your altar kneeling
And pray this time and place you bless.
Beginning in the North, extinguish the candles in the pumpkins as follows:
Death now brings darkness to the North, the home of the final atonement.
Death now brings darkness to the West, the home of rest and regeneration.
Death now brings darkness to the South, the home of the divine spark.
Death now brings darkness to the East, the home of the eternal spirit.
Dismiss the Guardians and extinguish the altar candles, beginning with the left:
Blessed be Death Crone Transform my soul this night.
Take up the circle and allow the floating candle and the black pillar candle to burn out. Place the protection bag where you feel it will do the most good, such as in your car, in your desk at work, or in a special place at home.
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