Samhain has been celebrated for thousands of years, observed most recently as the Christianized celebration of “All Saints Day”, or “All Hallows Eve” (hallow is an Old English word for saint). Early American colonists banned festivals like this because of their pagan roots, but significant Irish immigration in the 1840s led to the re-spread of these ancient traditions. What we see today as Halloween is a modern interpretation of the most important festival of the Celtic year – Samhain (Oct 31), the last day of the year, followed by Nov 1, the first day of the Celtic year.
Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween) is believed to be a thinning of the veils – a time when the boundaries between seen and unseen, living and dead, real and unreal, all seem to blur. Ceremonies which promote connection to ancestors, reflection on your year, and letting go can be powerful at this time.
There are many ways of celebrating – be creative about how you want to bring this ritual into your life! You could spend multiple days, or just a few minutes. To give you some inspiration, I have shared the ceremony we did at our house – you could add more time to different aspects, add or omit pieces, or do something entirely different. For me this is not about magic/wicca/witchcraft, but more about finding ways to notice the passing of time, slow down and honour what has happened before moving forward. As we say in our house: you can make this stuff as hippie as you want!
- journal and pen
- tools to reflect on the year e.g. photos, journal, agenda
- momentos of loved ones who have passed e.g. photos, gifts, their favourite drink prepared and left out in their honour
- favourite foods of loved ones passed e.g. my grandmother’s famous biscuits, freshly baked and shared with our group – we didn’t prepare them this year but will in future years! Honouring these food traditions is a beautiful way to remember.
Steps of Our Celebration:
- Honouring our ancestors and those who have died
Sit comfortably in meditation, either alone or with close friends, with lit candles in the centre of your circle. Tune in together, then begin to deepen your breath. Notice where your physical body touches the earth. Notice your head, your shoulders, your hips and your heels.
Allow your mind to wander to those that have passed:
in your lifetime,
outside your lifetime.
Name them in your mind. Friends, family members, grandparents, even those people in your lineage you never met but you may have heard stories of. Thank them for what they have shared with you, what they taught you and those you love. (3-5 minute meditation, or as long as you like)
Come back to your circle and share stories of the people that arose, the memories rekindled, any messages you received (we set a 5 minute timer for each person so people each felt they had ample time to speak and didn’t have to rush).
2. Reflecting on your year
Enter your meditation again, this time allowing your mind to drift to all that has happened since last November 1. Notice any patterns or cycles – in work, in your emotions, in your relationships or what you were focusing on. Tune in to any messages you may receive in your reflection. (suggested 7 minute meditation)
Tune in together and share (we shared for 5 minutes each) what came up in your reflection about your year.
3. Letting Go
Give each member of your circle a candle and light it, then enter a meditation (we did 3 minutes) of what you want to let go of as you move into this new “turn of the wheel”, entering the Celtic new year. You may want to write these things on paper, write them symbolically on your hand, or simply imagine them in your mind; no matter the form you choose, focus on releasing these things into your candle (by burning the paper, placing your hand over the fire, or visualizing the flame taking it on). When everyone has finished, give each a few moments to share anything that they choose to.
4. Tarot – Reflection on this year, guidance for the next
With your candles remaining lit in the centre of your circle, give everyone a turn to be witnessed in a tarot reading. One person will take the tarot deck in their hands, decide how many times they will shuffle (I use 3), and then take the first two cards. The first card is reflections on your past year. The second is guidance for the year to come. If you are using a tarot book, read the card’s messages aloud and reflect with your circle what relates to your own reflections. Witness one another in this process; if you are alone, journal your reflections. (We used the Celtic Tree Oracle as our deck).
5. Gratitude and Closing
Tune in, give thanks, and close. We held hands, taking a few deep breaths together and giving thanks for the time to be together, the guidance we received, and the guidance we will continue to receive going forward.
Having cyclical rituals is such a beautiful practice in our fast-paced, ever-going schedule. Keeping time by noticing the changing seasons and utilising ancient festivals like Samhain can help us stay connected to the earth, ourselves, and our own cyclical nature.
Samhain blessings to you!
And don’t forget: today is the last day to sign up for my new course Healing Your Relationship to Money