As the spookiest time of the year approaches, we at Vampire Squid are psyched.
Halloween brings joy to hearts of horror fans worldwide, but the 31st October is not just a time for kids in costumes begging for sweets and watching scary films – it is also an important celebration for neo-Pagan faiths like Wicca, Druidism and Celtic Polytheism.
Most people know that Halloween has Pagan origins in the festival of Samhain but fewer know that Samhain is itself is still celebrated. Very much so, in fact.
In this article, we’re going to approach Samhain from an eclectic Wiccan point of view. But it is worth noting that (disclaimer alert) other neo-Pagan religions have slightly differing customs and even different Wiccan paths do their own thang.
With that out of the way and without further ado, let’s talk Wiccan Samhain.
Samhain (pronounced like ‘sow-in’ because Gaelic spellings seem to exist just to confuse you) is one of the eight Wiccan Sabbats. As we all know, it’s celebrated on 31st October, and so is roughly half-way between the Autumn Equinox (Mabon) and the Winter Solstice (Yule).
As a side note, this is the case in the northern hemisphere, but not in the southern. Some southern hemisphere Wiccans like to celebrate the Sabbats at the same time as those in the north, but as the holidays are all very much to do with the change in seasons, others celebrate accordingly. Therefore, for some Wiccans, Beltane is approaching.
Samhain literally means “summer’s end” and that’s pretty much what the holiday is about. The last harvest is over and winter is definitely on its way. Wiccans celebrate the summer we’ve had and look forwards to the darker months.
The central theme of Wiccan Samhain is the dead – the energetic veil between the living and dead is at its thinnest and they honour those who have passed. But this, by no means, means it’s a morbid celebration.
Samhain is the bomb-est holiday for Wiccans. It is kind of like the Wiccan New Year and it’s considered the greatest of the four ‘Greater Sabbats’. But instead of fireworks, excessive booze and drunken kisses, Wiccans often celebrate their New Year with a bonfire – cool, right?
Bonfires are used in a number of ways – whether for spell-work or honouring purposes. For example, a Wiccan might prepare a bonfire ritual to honour those who have passed, burn away any negativity of the preceding year and use all the extra Samhain mojo to bless the year ahead.
There are SO many other ways that Wiccans may choose to celebrate Samhain. Get your black cats and witch hats ready because we’ve devised a handy list below for those that would like to indulge their Wiccan sides.
Samhain Decorations and Your Altar
A Wiccan Altar is like your HQ. It is the centre of your faith and your practice, with symbolic items for deities and tools for spell-work. The easiest way to celebrate Samhain is for an altar makeover.
You might use Samhain-y colours like oranges and dark greens, dark blues and blacks as the theme and use corresponding candles, crystals and other decorations (like autumnal leaves). Wiccans often use incense scents that correspond with the time of year like patchouli or sandalwood.
Some even use food to decorate their altar and seasonal vegetables like squashes and pumpkins are a great way to do this.
Honouring the Dead
There are a million and one ways you can do this, but here are a few:
- Learning about your family history and ancestors.
- Cemetery/graveyard visit to a loved one who has passed.
- Hosting a ‘dumb supper’ – basically a dinner party where you set places for loved ones who have passed away.
- Place photographs of the dead at your altar.
- A freaking séance – seriously, a séance.
As Samhain is like the witchy New Year, reflecting on the year that has passed and the new year to come is an amazing way to celebrate. Whether it’s good ole thinkin’ or trusting the energies of your tarot cards, there are a lot of ways you can do this. Here are a few!
- Meditation is an important aspect of Wicca and witchcraft and this is the ideal way to reflect and grow.
- If you’re the kind of Wiccan who is also into divination, busting out your tarot cards, runes or crystal ball might also be a good shout for reflection and guidance on the upcoming year.
- Many also suggest that if you have a grimoire/Book of Shadows, you can reflect on the entries you’ve made in the last year and what you have learnt in your Wicca journey.
- Pray to any deities you may worship, ask them for their blessing and support in the year to come.
As Samhain is like any Wiccan Sabbat, some of your favourite ways to celebrate other holidays can be used on Samhain. Any ritual or spell-work will benefit from being performed on a Sabbat – use the energetic peak to your advantage! Or, if you prefer, a simple nature walk to connect with the energies around you is a simple but powerful way to celebrate. If all else fails, you can always put Mary Berry to shame and bake yourself some seasonal treats!
Whether you’re celebrating the 31st as a spiritual holiday, or you just want to wear a cool costume, we hope your Halloween is filled with spooky joy.