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At Samhain, whenever I celebrate it, I often turn to the traditions of my youth and bring in new ones each year, inspired by the season and my earth-based spirituality. Some of these are strictly just for fun!

I celebrate all the possible Samhain dates from the traditional date sunset 31-October to sunset 01-November, plus the full moon closest to Samhain (31-October this year), at the “true” cross-quarter date of November 7th at 22:56 UTC, and at Lunar Samhain (the new moon in Scorpio), which this year falls on November 14th.

In our latest course, Samhain Season, I shared many of these activities…. and many new ones too! Three is a special number in Celtic cosmologies, so 3 x 3 is even more magical. Of course, there are many many many more ways to celebrate Samhain that are even more spiritual in nature, but this year especially, I need something that brings joy. I have the remainder of Samhain season to delve into the deep reflective and restorative energies of Samhain and the beginning of the new spiral in the Wheel of the Year.

What are your favourite Samhain activities?

1 Bobbing for apples. I loved this as a child! This is actually a very old tradition, perhaps as old as the days of the Roman Empire. And the apples were used in divination! If you can do this safely in your “bubble”, great! Read more about apple bobbing traditions in our post, Samhain Traditions: Apple Bobbing, The Celts and the Romans

2. Create a Rowan Cross with twigs and berries from the Rowan Tree (aka Mountain Ash), tied with red thread for protection and to honour the Ancestors.

3. Create a loose incense for your Samhain meditation, altar or bonfire, or for smudging the home. This is one of my favourite formulations, especially at Samhain: a mixture of frankincense and myrrh resins plus the fresh woody aromatic scents of cedar, rosemary and juniper. And if you prefer working with essential oils, you can use this same formulation with Essential Oils instead of fresh or dried ingredients (1 part = 1 drop, if you plan to use in a diffuser).

4. Carve a pumpkin or turnip, to light the spirits’ way back home to the Otherworld. Pumpkin is a New World vegetable (fruit?) and before that, folks carved turnips for their Samhain, and later Hallowe’en, celebrations.  The turnip skin is not quite as forgiving as that of a pumpkin, and much more challenging to scoop out!  Here is  a video from the National Museums of N. Ireland on traditional turnip carving.

5. Divination  Try a little scrying using a dark bowl filled with water, seeing what images you might be there.

6. Do a Release Ritual, letting go of ghosts or burdens from the past to create room for new growth and goals in the New Year, such as the one of my favourites, the An Cailleach’s Cairn: A release ritual for Samhain.

7. Plant a seed for new intentions in this new turn of the wheel of the year

  • At your altar, write your intentions for the new year on a small piece of paper.
  • Hold the paper to your heart chakra and breathe deeply while mentally reciting your intentions, to bring their essence and truths deep within.
  • Imagine those intentions manifesting fully and tap into how it feels in your body, mind and spirit to live from those intentions.
  • Ignite the paper with your altar candle and drop it onto a fire-proof vessel (such as a small cauldron or shell) and watch it be consumed by fire, sending its energy up to Spirit.
    • Optional: Collect the ashes and, when fully cooled and thoroughly extinguished, blow them into the night OR collect the ashes, leftover herbs and botanicals – and even the candle wax – from this ritual, for saving and adding to a bundle (an ancestral bundle, a new year bundle…) which you can give back to Mama Earth.
Save your pumpkin seeds when carving a jack-o-lantern, and use in crafts

8. Use actual seeds in your celebrations! 
Pumpkin seeds, traditionally associated with Autumn and Hallowe’en, would be great. Save them from your jack-o-lantern carvings.

Shirley Two Feathers shares a simple Pumpkin Seeds Prosperity Spell in this post.   And Silver RavenWolf shares her pumpkin seed prosperity charm in this post, along with other suggestions.

9. Host a “silent supper” to honour the Ancestors and the recently departed, with a place and chair set for their presence. Some follow this tradition on Thanksgiving, as well. These were formerly known as “dumb” suppers (in the sense of “mute”, but this word is now considered ableist or inappropriate language). Mark a portion of the dinner time for silent contemplation, perhaps with a bell rung to signify the beginning and the end of that period (it can be as short as 10 minutes).

Curiously, in the 19th century, the then-called “dumb suppers” were often held by young women who were also practising “love rituals”, a form of divination which would identify a future husband. They prepared the supper “backwards”, setting the places incorrectly, turning the chairs away from the table, and serving dessert first, and also being silent throughout. If the spell was done correctly, the spirit of the future husband would walk in — or arrive in person!  

Samhain Blessings!

Bonus: Create an ancestral altar

Possible elements for your Ancestral Altar

  • Pictures or mementoes of loved ones who have passed
  • Pictures of your ancestral birthplaces
  • A scroll of parchment inscribed with some favourite memories
  • A candle for your ancestors or for those who recently passed
    • Optional: Personalize it by carving the initials of the recently departed into the candle, and light it in their honour
    • Tip: Let the candle extinguish naturally. Any colour may be used, but many people prefer black or white.
  • Mementoes of your spiritual heritage
  • An item to represent the land on which you live, and its heritage
  • Using a fireproof container (a smudge shell, a cauldron, a metal pot), burn sage leaves or local herbs to honour the departed, such as a rosemary twig (rosemary symbolizes remembrance).
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