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The symbolism of this Sabbat is that of The Third (and final) Harvest, it marks the end of Summer, the beginning of Winter. It is a time marked by death when the Dead are honored - a time to celebrate and "study" the Dark Mysteries. "Samhain" means "End of Summer". Its historical origin is The Feast of the Dead in Celtic lands. It is believed that on this night, the veil Between the Worlds is at its thinnest point, making this an excellent time to communicate with the Other Side.
Symbols for representing this Sabbat may include Jack-O-Lanterns, Balefires, Masks, The Besom (Magickal Broom), The Cauldron, and the Waning Moon. Altar decorations might include small jack-o-lanterns, foods from the harvest, and photographs of your loved ones who have departed from this world.
Appropriate Deities for Samhain include ALL Crone Goddesses, and the Dying God or the "Dead" God. Samhain Goddesses include Hecate, Hel, Inanna, Macha, Mari, Psyche, Ishtar, Lilith, The Morrigu/Morrigan, Rhiannon, and Cerridwen. Key actions to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of the Year include return, change, reflection, endings and beginnings, and honoring the Dead. Other meanings behind this Sabbat celebration include the Wisdom of the Crone, the Death of the God, and the Celebration of Reincarnation.
Samhain is considered by many Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches (especially those of Celtic heritage) to be the date of the Witches' New Year, representing one full turn of the Wheel of the Year. This is the time of year for getting rid of weaknesses. A common Ritual practice calls for each Wiccan to write down his/her weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment and toss it into the Cauldron fire. Other activities might include Divination, Past-Life Recall, Spirit Contact, Meditation, Astral Projection ("Flying"), and the drying of Winter herbs. It is considered "taboo" by some to travel after dark, or to eat grapes or berries.
Spellwork for protection and neutralizing harm are particularly warranted at this time of year, because Samhain is considered to be a good time to boost your confidence and security.
Many Witches use their own personal Besom, or Magickal Broom as a part of their rituals.
The most common colors associated with Samhain are Orange and Black. However, Red, Brown, and Golden Yellow are also appropriate colors for this Sabbat. Altar candles should be black, orange, white, silver and/or gold. Stones to use during the Samhain Celebration are Obsidian, Onyx, and Carnelian. Animals associated with Samhain include bats, cats, and dogs. Mythical beasts associated with Samhain are the following: Phooka, Goblin, Medusa, Beansidhe, Fylgiar, Peryton, Erlkonig, and Harpies. Plants and herbs associated with Samhain are Mugwort, Allspice, Sage, Gourds, Catnip, and Apple Trees.
The traditional Pagan foods of Samhain include beets, turnips, squash, apples, corn, nuts, gingerbread, cider, pomegranates, mulled wines and pumpkin dishes. These are all appropriate as well as meat (especially pork) dishes (if you're not a vegetarian - if so, tofu seems ritually correct).
Some Wiccans leave a plate of food outside the home for the souls of the dead. Placement of a candle in a window and burying apples in the hard-packed Earth is believed to guide them on their journey to the lands of Eternal Summer.
According to Margie McArthur, in her book “WiccaCraft for Families”, the following dates are celebrated by many for the entire week preceding October 31st, called "All-Hallows Week":
- October 24th - Festival Prelude and Night of Seers - decorate and remember those who have seen the future.
- October 25th - Night of Heroes and Martyrs - honoring members of families who died in war and peace, those who have died for their faith.
- October 26th - Night of Artists - for remembering those who speak of the Old Ways through the arts.
- October 27th - Night of Nurturers - those who keep the home fires burning, caring for those in need of care.
- October 28th - Night of Remembrance of Family Pets, recalled and cherished.
- October 29th - Night of Remembrance of Forgotten Ancestors, heritage, and origins.
- October 30th - Night of the Recent Dead - trip to cemetery.
- October 31st - Family Fire Festival
Samhain Ritual Potpourri *
by Gerina Dunwich
45 drops patchouli oil
1 cup oak moss
2 cups dried apple blossoms
2 cups dried heather flowers
1 cup dried and chopped apple peel
1 cup dried pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried and chopped mandrake root
Mix the patchouli oil with the oak moss, and then add the remaining ingredients.
Stir the potpourri well and store in a tightly covered ceramic or glass container.
Hecate Incense **
by Gerina Dunwich
1/2 teaspoon Dried Bay Leaves
1/2 teaspoon Dried Mint Leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
pinch of Myrrh Resin
pinch of Frankincense Resin
13 drops Cypress Oil
3 drops Camphor Oil
Using a mortar and pestle, crush the Bay, Mint, and Thyme until almost powdered.
Stir in the Frankincense and Myrrh resins.
Add the Cypress and camphor Oils, and mix well.
Store in a tightly capped jar and let the mixture age for at least two weeks before using.
Burn on a hot charcoal block during your ritual.
It is Samhain ...The Night of Shadows.
The Circle is cast around the fire,
And through the darkness, we glance,
For the veils are thin, in this sacred night!
Ancient voices around us,
Whispering old and forgotten songs,
While we dance the Spiral Dance,
To meet Her.
And there She comes,
The Lady of the Gate!
Power and compassion evolving us,
As a dark but comforting wave.
Beautiful Queen of the Dark Night!
With Her mantle of raven's feathers,
And eyes deep with wisdom.
She opens Her arms,
in a welcoming embrace,
We feel around us the flow of love,
Of Her Eternal Grace.
And then we hear Her voice,
Melodious and grave,
That speaks from inside our soul,
As an echo in a cave.
Blessed Daughters of My Heart,
I hear your prayers from afar.
And that is why I came tonight!
Do not despair when the times are hard!
Do not abandon the Path you found!
For time has come for My return,
And you, Loved Ones, shall open the way,
Singing my name as the ancient bards.
I am always with you, do never doubt that!
I am the Old and the Young One!
I am the Keeper of the Gate!
I am the Master of Time!
I am the Dark Goddess of Death!
I am the Bright Goddess of Dawn!
I am The One!
I am Cerridwenn!
*The above "Samhain Ritual Potpourri" recipe is from "The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch's Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes" by Gerina Dunwich, page 164, Citadel Press, Carol Publishing Group Edition, 1995.
**The above "Hecate Incense" recipe is from "WiccaCraft: The Modern Witch's Book of Herbs, Magick, and Dreams" by Gerina Dunwich, Citadel Press, Carol Publishing Group Edition, 1995.
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