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What is Samhain?
Samhain is pronounced ('sow-inn' or 'sow-een'), Druids call it Calan Gaeaf, Calan Gwaf, Kala-Goanv, or Nos Galan Gaeof. It is also known as All Souls Night, Feast of the Dead, Festival of Remembrance, Feast of Apples. Samhain is celebrated as the Dia de los Muertos in Mexico (Day of the Dead--usually held on November 1) and All Saints Day (also on November 1) by the Catholic church. As a spiritual New Year, Samhain is celebrated from sunset on October 31st to sunrise of the November 1st.
Samhain is one of the four major festivals of the Wheel of the Year, for many Pagans the most important festival of all. This is because it is the time when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest and we can speak to the ancestors. It is the third and final harvest/fire festival, when all the root crops, nuts, and berries are harvest for the winter to come.
The God (Sun King) is sacrificed to the land with his seed until the Winter Solstice (Yule). The Goddess now in her Crone stage, mourns for him until his rebirth at Yule.
This is the ending of the life cycle beginning of the death, and now the earth is starting its preparations for the long winter's sleep. We as humans, start our change from being outside and outgoing, to inner contemplation and rest. Out of this time will new life, new ideas, and new understandings of self.
At this time, when the veils between worlds are thin, we pause to honor our ancestors and those we have lost along our path. We this by setting a place at the table for them that night, but a picture of them on the altar, and light a candle in their memory.
Samhain is a powerful night for divination: read the tarot cards, cast runes, I Ching, or oghams. You can scry in crystal balls, dark mirrors, bowls of black ink or pools of water, or swing a pendulum.
Symbols and Decor of Samhain:
bat, cat, blackbird, cauldron, jack o 'lantern, ghost, scarecrow, waning moon, Autumn leaves, fall flowers, pomegranates, apples, pumpkins, ears of corn, sprays of grain, corn dollies, gourds, nuts, seeds, acorns, chestnuts and images of ancestors are all appropriate. Use whatever is in the season where you live, whatever feels right and looks good to you.
Animals of Samhain:
Bat, black cat, owl, phoenix.
Herbs and Flowers of Samhain:
Pumpkin, apple, grain, pomegranate, mugwort, wormwood, Dittany of Crete, acorn, oak leaf, gourds, root vegetables, rosemary (for remembrance).
Foods of Samhain:
Apples, pumpkins, roasted game birds, cider, dark wine, pears, root vegetables.
Incenses and oils of Samhain:
Calendula, sunflowers, wild ginseng, Copal, sandalwood, mastic resin, benzoin, sweetgrass, wormwood: to get the sight, to see the spirits of the returning dead.
Colors of Samhain:
Black, brown, yellow, purple, gold, silver, red.
Stones of Samhain:
Smoky quartz, amber, obsidian, pyrite, onyx, carnelian, turquoise.
Activities of Samhain:
Masks, costumes - trick-or-treating - feasting and partying to defy the coming darkness (bob for apples, roast nuts, pop popcorn) - harvest feasts - rituals to honor the dead - Witches' Ball.
Spellworkings of Samhain:
Candle magick, astral projection, past life work, dark moon mysteries, mirror spells (reflection), casting protection, inner work, propitiation, clearing obstacles, uncrossing, inspiration, workings of transition or culmination, manifesting transformation, creative visualization, and honoring the Ancestors.
Deities of Samhain:
Goddesses- Crone, all crone goddesses, Cerridwen, Hecate, Hel, Oya, the Morrigan, Lilith, Kali, Ishtar, Arianrhod, Rhiannon, Tlazoteotl, Nephthys, Persephone, Beansidhe (Banshee), Inanna, Baba Yaga, Isis, Pomona and Cailleach Beara (Brigid's crone aspect), who is reborn this night.
Gods- Orsis, Loki, the Horned God, Herne the Hunter, Cernunnos, Anubis, Odin, Bran, death gods, dying and rising gods.