Samhain is the third harvest ritual of the year and marks the descent into the dark time. At equinox we celebrate that moment when there are equal parts of day and night, at Samhain the nights have already begun to outlast the days and at this point we celebrate the completion of harvest and the move toward winter.
It is a fire festival that sits opposite Beltane on the Wheel of the Year. At Beltane we talk about he veils being thin, and often reference the opportunity this provides for us to connect with the fairy realm.
At Samhain the veils are also thin, yet this time is a sacred honoring of our beloved dead. We have an opportunity to connect with our ancestors, our deceased loved ones, and, some people believe, the souls of those to come.
As the earth quiets and many plants die back for their own period of regeneration/hibernation, we find ourselves honoring this final harvest of the season, the last stores of winter that will support us as we ourselves regenerate and hibernate through the winter.
This holiday is also considered to be the Witches new year. This is the pivoting point where the earth dies back making space for the new birth to come. It is a time to celebrate both death and birth, the cycle of being.
How to celebrate
There are so many ways you can celebrate Samhain, but the following are some of my favorite.
What better way to celebrate a Harvest, than to feast!
Leave an offering plate. In my circle, we always feast at the end of our Samhain ritual. During this time, we dish a plate for the ancestors and make sure they have a place at the table for this.
You can make an offering plate and set it on your altar, or create a space at your dinner table for your ancestors and/or beloved dead.
Host a Dumb Supper. Invite friends and loved ones over for a dinner party. Partake of this meal in silence, in reverence for those who have come before.
Alternately host a celebration potluck dinner where each person brings a dish that reflects either their heritage or a food that a loved one who has crossed over, used to make. Then spend the dinner sharing stories about the food you brought, why you chose it, and stories of your beloved dead.
You can create one for those that have come before, sit in front of it and take time to speak their names. Remember.
Because the veil is thin we also honor the little souls that have made their way into this world this year. Make an altar for them and speak their names too.
Journey to the Isle of the Apples
In some traditions the Isle of Apples is the place where souls go, once they leave their body before they return to this realm. My own experience of Samhain rituals has often involved a journey (or guided visualization) to this place to connect with a loved on who has passed or an ancestor. Over the years I have been surprised by who I have met on the Isle. Often it has not been who I expected at all.
You can create your own journey by listening to music or drumming and envision yourself stepping into a boat and journeying across the water to the sacred isle. Then spending some time once there discovering who comes to meet you and visiting with them. Thank the before you go and climb back into your boat. When you leave and head back to the mainland, be sure to check your boat for anyone who might have hitched a ride. It has been said that sometimes souls journey back with you in order to be reborn (this might be fine if you are wanting to get pregnant).
Spirits of the Land
During this time of thinning veils, I encourage you to take a few moments and leave a offering for the the spirits of the land. This that have walked the land you call home have left their imprint there. Thank them, honor them. You can leave offerings of food, biodegradable ribbon, letters written on paper that you bury, flowers, seeds or bulbs. Spend some time on the land and see if they have messages for you. What better time of year than now.
However you celebrate, a blessed Samhain to you Wise Women!
Emily Morrison MA, MFT