- Sam Whittle
On October 31 a celebration is afoot for witches. Samhain, pronounced “saa-wn” is a pagan celebration that originated from an ancient Celtic tradition. This celebration marks the new year within the Sabbat calendar and is a night to honour your loved ones who have passed on. On Samhain, it is commonly believed that the veil between the world of the living and the dead is the thinnest. This is said to allow ghosts, spirits, and some even believe demons, to walk amongst the living for one night. Throughout the history of Paganism, Samhain was a frightening night where many proclaimed believers would worry about protection from the supernatural beings walking amongst them. Interestingly enough, that’s where many activities still practiced today originated: Halloween masks were originally created as a way to protect children from the spirits, ghosts, and demons that inhabited the living world on the night of Samhain. The masks were created as a means to protect their identities and frighten the supernatural beings away. This is similar to the origin of jack ‘o’ lanterns that were carved and lit to ward off negative spirits from people’s homes!
This Samhain is especially important for me, as a first-time participant of the ancient celebration, I've been preparing for this night for many moons. Firstly, a background into how I began participating, I first stumbled upon videos about practicing witches, specifically hellenistic wiccans. Hellenistic wiccans are witches who worship and are blessed beneath the wonderment of the Greek Gods. I was immediately interested in researching and learning more, mainly because I was already the type of person who does research for fun. During the months before this year's Samhain, my sister and I decided to participate in this sabbat and follow the traditions that hellenistic wiccans practice on this special evening.
Now, the interesting part. I researched quite a lot to prepare and read all about the different activities, altar decorations and food one should have when celebrating. An important aim of Samhain is to set intention and goals for the rest of the year; this can be through manifestation or whatever method you’d like. You also celebrate your loved ones that have passed on, for example, this year we’re remembering my grandmother, my great aunt and even my cat. Much like the Day of the Dead in Mexican traditions, many believe that the dead walk amongst the living during this night; this is why many honour and celebrate their loved ones, because of the chance that they are there with them. The colours black, red, and gold are generally associated with the sabbat; most practicing wiccans wear these colours in their best celebratory attire.
Another traditional activity of Samhain is a potluck that is shared among your closest family and friends, but considering the ongoing pandemic, I'll simply be having a small celebration with my sister. On the topic of dining, one should make food involving apples, pumpkins, roasted birds, cider, dark wine, pears and root vegetables. These ingredients are widely deemed as important for Samhain celebrations. Finally, hellenistic wiccans will decorate an altar with gifts and offerings to their gods and goddesses of choice. Samhain is an important night for gods and goddesses such as Hades: the god of the dead, Dionysus: the god of wine and festivity, Thanatos: the god of death, Hekate: the goddess of witchcraft, the moon, and ghosts, and Persephone, who is widely deemed the goddess of death. Wiccans will decorate their altars with crystals such as smoky quartz to disperse fear and negativity, amber for good luck, obsidian for protection, and carnelian for positive life choices and success. Crystals are an important tool for witches.
Finally, as an offering, some make bouquets out of calendula for communication, sunflowers for longevity, edelweiss for devotion, rosemary for remembrance, and wormwood for absence. An altar is also usually decorated with candles and for Samhain many decorate it with photographs and personal belongings of loved ones who’ve passed.
Samhain is deemed one of the most important sabbats in the sabbat calendar for practicing Wiccans. I think it will be a wonderful experience to follow the practices and give this special celebration a try, especially on a full moon!