Halloween, or Samhain (“sah-win”) as we call it in the Celtic Shamanic tradition, is an opportunity to explore the lessons that might be lurking in the dark. If used wisely, we can journey to meet our ancestors, open to their teachings as well as our own, and enter the Celtic New Year (a time of renewal on Nov’ 1st) comfortable in this dark time of gestation, relaxed and ready with clear intentions.
Celtic Shamanism follows the cycle of nature and so Samhain, being the end of October, marks the end of harvest season. It is a time of darkness; of reflection, rest and reseeding our focus. The Celts honour the intertwining forces of darkness and light; night and day; death and life – you can see this in the knotwork of Celtic Art.
This is the time of the Crone, goddess of wisdom, symbolised by an old hag or witch (hence the reference in Halloween celebrations). The land, our great mother goddess, has offered all it can this year and so now we take stock, reflect and refocus with wisdom, planting seeds of hope for the new year in our cauldron for gestation.
How to Celebrate Samhain (Halloween)
Remember Your Ancestors
The veil between our reality and the Otherworld is thin at this dark, almost timeless moment in the year. So you might like to use this time to connect with your ancestors. Create an altar (ideas for which are noted below) and place a photo of the deceased you’d like to connect with. You could also light a candle of remembrance beside their image.
Once your altar is ready and your candle is lit, then take a moment of stillness, of quiet contemplation or meditation, to connect with this person (if there are a few people you’d like to contact, then do this preparatory work each time). You might like to consider a question for them. Then invite them in.
You can keep your eyes closed, if you wish, or you might like to focus on the candle and their photo. Allow whatever messages want to come through – try not to judge or question or analyse; simply let the journey happen. At some point you might wish to ask your question and see what comes.
Sometimes the messages you receive might not make sense initially. When this happens, I encourage you to sit with it – let it gestate within. Often the message will become clear, or you will find your way with it. You could also meditate on it at a later date.
Once your connection with your ancestors has passed, then thank them for their time and close the space out loud with ‘It is done’.
Reflect And Refocus On Your Life
Samhain is almost timeless, which is why the veil of our reality is thin – it is a transition time between summer and winter; light and dark; life and death. And so we can use this time to consider what we need to finish off and let go of before the end of the year. In this sense it is also an opportunity to learn from what has past and then leave all regrets and mistakes behind before moving on with awareness. It is also a time to plant the seeds of new projects; to consider what it is you wish to call in for your new year. And then again, relax, let those seeds germinate and develop in their own way.
Some ideas for this enquiry:
- What do I want to finish before the end of the year?
- What do I want to let go of from this year? Projects/people/plans.
- What have I learnt from this year? Mistakes and growth opportunities.
- What do I wish to call in for next year?
You might like to make a quick note to burn in your candle to close this ritual:
I let go of…. / I call in….
And then carefully set it alight, perhaps offering the burning paper into a symbolic cauldron or metal pot, letting it gestate over the dark, winter months.
Creating Your Samhain Altar
Create a space where you can take some quite reflection time and then create an altar to ceremonially work your intention. You could use harvest-like colours of red, orange and yellow. Add photos of passed ancestors and a candle of remembrance. You could also add/use some of these sacred plants for this time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere:
- Associated with remembrance. Use sprigs on an ancestor altar or blend into incense for rituals.
- These colourful autumnal flowers are often associated with protection, particularly of the metaphysical sort, so they come in handy at this time when the veil is thin. Again, the dried heads could be used in a loose-leaf incense blend, or simply added to an altar.
- Apples, Branches and Blossoms
- Apples are considered a symbol of immortality and are sacred to the Gods. They’re also seen as a food for the dead. In Celtic myth, an apple branch bearing grown fruit, flowers, and unopened buds is considered a magical key to the land of the Underworld.
- Again, these fruits are associated with the realm of the underworld and can be used in rituals involving communication with the dead. They are also associated with fertility magic. Pomegranate teaches us to cast our seeds far and wide; to find strength in a diverse or wide array of creative pursuits. It also reminds us to be aware of our environment – to choose wisely where and when we sow our seeds, and to be uncompromising in the conditions we require for our growth.
- Squashes, including Pumpkins
- These vegetables offer a final colourful abundance from the harvest, and so they can signal a strong or weak year, and therefore an opportunity to learn and plan for next year. They can also be used as a symbol of protection, carved and placed in a window or doorway to protect you from a metaphysical attack.