XIX - Sabbats: Samhain

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Pronounced either SOW-win or SHAV-nah (most common one is SOW-win. SAM-hayne is considered incorrect by most). Samhain is one of the eight Sabbats. The modern celebration of Halloween is originally based on Samhain and its traditions. Around the same time as Halloween and Samhain, many other cultures in the world celebrate a holiday honoring the dead as well.

- Other names: Halloween, Day of the Dead, All Hallows' Eve, the Third Harvest, All Souls' Day.

- Date: October 31st (Northern Hemisphere), May 1st (Southern Hemisphere). Some witches in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate on April 30th; explore, research, and experiment to find which one suits better for you if you're in the Southern Hemisphere.

- Samhain, probably the most well-known and biggest pagan festival, is also the Witch's New Year. We honor our ancestors and those who've passed on, and prepare for winter.

- Samhain is the third and final Harvest Festival. We harvest the last crops, Samhain being particularly for the harvest of berries and nuts. But harvest also means a metaphorical harvest, and now at the end of the year we wrap our last unfinished projects up and welcome the calm of winter.

- Just like Beltane, Samhain is an excellent time for divination and contacting spirits. These two festivals are in fact called "spirit nights" because of how likely it is that you'll meet or see spirits. The veil between our world and the spirit world is thin, making divination easy and more accurate – in divination witches peek behind the veil. Of course, it's possible to communicate with ancestors and departed loved ones as well, not only unknown spirits, because they all journey through this world on their way to the Summerland (afterlife) on Samhain. Many pagans also try to help and guide spirits on their journey.

- Some consider Samhain the beginning of Winter, while for some it is later on Yule. Many also believe that the God dies on Samhain (some believe he dies on Mabon), sacrificing himself with the harvest so we can eat. This is because the harvest is often associated with the God and the Sun instead of the Goddess.

- Symbolism and meaning: both endings and new beginnings, the Cycle of Life, darkness, death, harvest, honoring ancestors, the Mysteries, New Year.

- Colors: black, gold, grey, maroon, orange, purple, silver, white.

- Symbols: acorns, apples, berries, black cats, besoms, bonfires, candles, cauldrons, dry leaves, fruits, ghosts, gourds, jack-o-lanterns, the Moon, nuts, pitchforks, pumpkins, scarecrows, skeletons, turnips.

- Stones: amethyst, calcite, carnelian, citrine, clear quartz, garnet, hematite, jasper, jet, obsidian, onyx, opal, red jasper, ruby, smokey quartz, sunstone.

- Incense: ash, cedar, cinnamon, clove, coriander, frankincense, ginger, heliotrope, juniper, mint, myrrh, nutmeg, patchouli, rosemary, sage.

- Herbs: allspice, apple, calendula, catnip, chrysanthemum, hazel, mandrake, mugwort, nightshade, oak, sage, thistle, wormwood.

- Foods & drinks: ale, all pumpkin dishes, apples, beef, cider, cranberry (e.g. bread, muffins), gourds, grains, hazelnuts, herbal teas, meats (tofu for vegetarians), nuts, pears, pomegranates, pork, poultry, pumpkin pie, turnips, wine.

- Spells recommended for Samhain: banishing negativity, both endings and new beginnings, contacting spirits, divination, faery magic, healing, honoring ancestors, prosperity, reflection.

- Animals associated with Samhain: bat, cat, crow, faeries, owl, spider, werewolf.

Samhain activities and ways to celebrate:
• Honor your ancestors. Think about all those souls that have departed from your life, both family and friends (children may wish to remember pets too). Place photographs of them on your altar. Offer them your hospitality, welcome their presence into your home. At your Samhain feast, consider leaving an extra empty chair for them to join you at the table – cook and eat their favourite dishes, talk about them, remember them, bring them closer. Light a single candle in a window to help guide the spirits of your ancestors and loved ones home.

• Think about the other spirits journeying through our world too. Leave food offerings on your altar and doorsteps for the "wandering dead". Bury apples along roadsides and paths for spirits who are lost or have no descendants to provide for them.

• Make Jack-O-Lanterns. Hollow out turnips and pumpkins and carve them to look like protective spirits, because this is a night of magic and chaos.

• Do magic and try to meet a spirit or a faery. Remember to be careful and cautious, and if anything goes wrong, take down your magic circle and sprinkle salt around the place. Spirits can always be unpredictable and Samhain is a magical, magical night, so be careful. But don't forget to have fun!

• Bake an apple pie, cranberry pie, or blueberry pie.

• Make a besom (broom) or a magic wand. You can use oak, holly, ash, rowan, birch, hazel, elm, hawthorne or willow, for example. But any type of wood will do, and I usually just go for a walk and look for a straight stick or branch fallen on the ground.

"Samhain Lore and Traditions", site: wicca.com

"Samhain/Halloween", site: goddessandgreenman.co.uk

"Samhain", site: circleofthesacredmuse.com

"Symbols of Samhain", author: kayshalady England, site: pendencrystals.blogspot.com

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