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Samhain & The Witch's New Year

The third and final harvest of the year. 

It's that time again... Samhain. Sometimes known as the original Halloween, Shadowfest, Day of the Dead, or Hallowmas. Samhain is observed each year on October 31st and marks the end of the final harvest for the year. It's a time to prepare for winter and begin harvesting - canning vegetables, drying herbs, and preparing to be nourished throughout the rest of the season. 

In most other Sabbats, the role of life and fertility is a core focus. Instead, Samhain focuses on honoring the role death plays and our ancestors. 

Why is it that we call it the New Year? 

The translation of Samhain: Summer's End 

Those warm and bright summer days are gone by the time Halloween rolls around. It's the end of summer and the beginning of winter. Before there is light, there is dark. Even while we were still in our mother's womb, so to speak. Darkness is needed in order to grow properly. 

Samhain originated in ancient Europe as a Celtic Fire festival, but is now observed around the world. Depending on your beliefs and where you're located, the timing of it varies. Most of us celebrate it all month long! This might include coven/community gatherings, solo rituals, ceremonies, feasts, or bonfires. Some Pagans in the northern hemisphere celebrate it only from sundown on October 31st until the next day. Others might begin celebrations the weekend before or the full moon closest to the day. 

October 31st 

Halloween or All Hallow's Eve. It's a favorite day in general for many worldwide. But, Samhain and Halloween are different. They are two different holidays with two different purposes. Halloween is more of a secular folk holiday for most cultures or heritages. We see kids in school dress up, trick-or-treating, cosplay/costumes, pranks, and scary stories being told and remains very family-oriented. 

Yet, Samhain has religious and spiritual counterparts that are observed. Honoring the dead is a practice we participate in and take quite seriously. And for those of you wondering, there are no human/animal sacrifices involved. Most rituals are performed alone or with a small group of friends or family. Samhain corresponds with nature and the end of harvest. Frost kills plants, so it's literal when we say death is in the air. 

You might have heard the saying, "I can feel how thin the veil is already.

Do you know what that means? It means the veil between the living world and the realm of the dead. The communication between the two is accessible. If you have lost a loved one, this would be the ideal time to reach out and contact them. 

Celebrating Samhain 

I might be partial, but Samhain is a beautiful time of year. The cold, crisp air. The smell. The colors of the Earth. It's literally breathtaking. Take a walk outside at a park or around your neighborhood. See, feel, and breathe in the sensations of the season. It's mediative and good for the soul. You are a circle of life. Gather some leaves or rocks and take those home with you as a part of your Samhain décor. 

Decorate your space and home with symbols or decorative items related to the season. Hang a wreath on your front door, place pumpkins on your porch, or place apples and gourds on your countertop. A few candles here and there in cauldrons will set a mood. 

For your altar this month, dedicate it to your ancestors or someone you loved who has passed on. Place photographs, heirlooms, and other valuable treasures on it with votive candles. Kindle the candles and speak aloud of lasting memories of them and wish them well. Now would be a good time to write in your journal. 

Prepare a silent dinner or feast of the dead. Whip up a magical dinner in the kitchen and set the table, making sure to leave one empty seat and meal for a deceased loved one. If you can, set this table near your ancestor's altar; if not, no worries. Invite them in to join you. Dine-in silence since they cannot conversate with you. It's common to oust the leftovers outside post-dinner for the dead as an offering. 

If you're on a budget this month or looking for a simple way to participate in Samhain, I have a few ideas for you. Consider visiting a cemetery. Visit a loved one and tend to their grave by pulling weeds, placing flowers, or setting up small décor. Take this time to talk about what you miss most about them and that you wish them the best wherever they might be. 

If going to a cemetery is not on your agenda, try meeting up or host a Samhain potluck with friends/family to talk about memories with this loved one. It's a great way to learn more about them, family history, and reminiscence. 

Build a bonfire and experience the magick from it. If you cannot build a fireplace outside, that's quite okay. Instead, kindle candles inside or in a fireplace. Write down any bad habits you wish to end and throw those into the flames for release. 

Take time this month to reflect on this past year. Admire your accomplishments, reminisce and look at old photos, and review your notes or journal. Find alone time in a safe space to wind down, meditate, and write your reflections in your journal. 

Call upon the Horned God of Nature and/or Crone Goddess. Give them honor and invite them in during your remembrance of deceased loved ones. If you are grieving, ask for their support for comfort. Use methods of divination such as tarot cards, runes, or scrying to ask for guidance in the new year. 

Samhain Blessings! 

No matter if you are planning to practice solo or with a group, be sure to take time to reflect on the past year and everything you have achieved and plan future goals. 

Happy New Year! Let's make this next one joyous, purposeful, and divine.

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