Monday, 29 October 2018

Celebrating Samhain/Hallowe'en

It's time for Samhain! This year it's on a Wednesday (31st October). Samhain is my favourite sabbat (apart from Lammas). I also celebrate Hallowe'en, the modern version of Samhain. I celebrated Hallowe'en as a child, so I have combined celebrations these days.

Note: If you're in the Southern Hemisphere it's Beltane! Check out my Beltane Celebration posts here:

In the past two years I've done posts about celebrating Hallowe'en and Samhain. You can read them here:

This year I'm sharing more ideas for celebrating both Samhain and Hallowe'en, so hopefully there's something to suit you if you celebrate both (like I do) or prefer one or the other. :)

Hallowe'en info

Hallowe'en (more commonly spelt Halloween, but you can also spell as "Hallowe'en because it's a shortened version of All Hallows' Even) is thought to have originated from Samhain. In later years 1st November was made All Saint's Day by the Christian church, and the night before was known as All Hallows Evening (shortened to All Hallows' Ev'en or Eve). It's the time of year when the veil between the worlds (this world and the next, or the world beyond the one we know) thins and your loved ones may come back to visit. Also spirits are more likely to be around in general and the practice of lighting a pumpkin is thought to have originated from the pagan ritual of lighting a candle to honour and welcome your ancestors, and keep unwanted spirits away. (See below for more).  For more about the history of Hallowe'en you can read this article:

More on Samhain

Samhain is the 3rd and last harvest festival on the Wheel of the Year. (The first two are Lammas and Madron/Mabon aka the Autumn Equinox). It's also the Witches' New Year; the end of this year and the start of a new one. Unlike some of the sabbats (such as equinoxes and solstices), Samhain is always celebrated on 31st October, or the night of 31st Oct to the night of 1st Nov (sundown to sundown). It's a cross quarter sabbat. Samhain is the official end of summer and the beginning of the winter season. If you didn't grow up celebrating the sabbats/pagan festivals (as many of us didn't) then you might find Samhain one of the most familiar ones.

We're now moving properly into the dark half of the year. After Litha aka Midsummer/the Summer Solstice in June which was the longest day, the days started getting shorter, but it became more noticeable in August and September, especially after Madron/Mabon, the Autumn Equinox. Now they will continue getting shorter until Yule aka Midwinter/the Winter Solstice in December, which is the shortest day and longest night. As I mentioned in my Autumn Inspiration post, I've really noticed a shift in the past few weeks. The weather is colder (about 9 degrees Celsius today) and sunset is earlier, especially since the clocks went back early Sunday morning, so it's now going down around 4.45pm instead of 5.45pm. Last night I put the fires on in my house for the first time in months!

While summer is more about expanding, autumn and winter are times of pulling in. For some people (such as me) this time of year can be a bit depressing now that summer's well and truly gone. But winter isn't quite here yet and we still have lovely autumn leaves (although they're falling fast) and of course Samhain/Hallowe'en!

Here are some links about Samhain and Hallowe'en:

From a Druidry perspective:

Video from Tess Whitehurst about the wisdom and power of Samhain:

And check out these posts for celebration ideas:

Ideas for solitary witches:

Lots of suggestions from Michaela at the Penniless Pagan:

Samhain/Hallowe'en article round-up:

Good suggestions from Moody Moons (5th link) include make your own candies and make your own hard cider. I do have recipes saved for making toffee (candy) apples but haven't got round to it yet. Maybe next year!

Also I especially like the idea in the Mumbles and Things post (last link above) about taking a meditative nature walk (No. 1). I walk in the park year round (depending on the weather; I occasionally miss out a walk if it's really bad in winter) and also go to the beach and country,  mostly in the warmer months though. I went to the beach a couple of weekends ago at sunset and it was a nice evening. I like to go up to my local nature reserve (on a hill) on some sabbats. I last went around Madron and I may go again the week of Samhain, like last year.

Now let's look at some more ways for celebrating. :)

Carve a pumpkin

A popular thing to do at Hallowe'en is carve a pumpkin and put in a candle in it, aka a Jack O'Lantern. There are various meanings behind it, such as welcoming your ancestors, guiding lost spirits to the light and keeping away evil spirits. Jack O'Lanterns were originally made from turnips, potatoes or beetroot and were carved in Ireland, then when the Irish emigrated to America they took the practice with them, and later on people started using pumpkins which were available there. It's based on the legend of "Stingy Jack". You can read more at the links below:

The pumpkin carving tradition came to the UK from the US. I enjoy having a pumpkin and chose this year's on Friday. In recent years I've had tealights in them. It's a fun way to celebrate. Alternatively you could...

Light a candle

If you prefer you could light a candle and skip the pumpkin. Or light candles as well (like I do). Good colours are orange and black, or just plain white if you like. I also use green. Samhain (along with Beltane, Lammas, Yule and Imbolg/Imbolc  is a fire festival, so candles and lighting pumpkins fit the theme well. You can also light a candle to honour an ancestor/loved one who has passed away (see below under the Connect with ancestors section).

You can also have your own bonfire (please do this in a safe place and make sure you have permission first!) . Samhain comes just before Bonfire Night in the UK, so lots of us will be doing this anyway. (See below for more on Bonfire Night). Candles and bonfires are also good ways to celebrate Beltane.

Go trick or treating

This is more one for children but I thought I'd include it! As I mentioned in 2014's post,  I never went trick or treating as a child, my mum didn't believe in knocking on strangers doors, lol. I also don't think it was as popular here then (in the late 80s/early 90s) as it is these days. As with the pumpkin tradition, it came over to the UK from America but the practice is thought to have originated in Britain and Ireland with the Celts, in particular Scotland and Ireland where there was a custom called "guising", children dressing up as spirits and going door to door asking for treats. According to an article on, they would perform a "trick" such as singing or telling a joke to get the "Treat". 

In the American tradition it's evolved into asking for a treat, and then playing a trick on the person whose house you ask at if they don't give you one! (E.g toilet papering, "TPing" their house or throwing eggs). I'm not sure how many kids actually play tricks though, lol. I do remember some teenagers randomly throwing eggs at cars quite a few years ago.  My grandma lived in Scotland until the mid 1940s and I remember her mentioning guising, but I think these days it's more like the American trick or treating there. (Sorry if I'm wrong!). For more on Hallowe'en in Scotland visit these links:

There was also a similar tradition in the UK associated with Bonfire Night aka Guy Fawkes Night, where children would go round with a figure made of rags called a "Guy", asking for a "Penny for the guy". The Guy represented Guy Fawkes, the man who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November 1605. (He was caught and this evolved into a celebration that Parliament was saved). The "guy" would be burnt on a bonfire. You can read more about Bonfire Night in this post:

They still used to do this when my mum was young in the 50s and 60s, but these days the practice has basically died out. An interesting thing to note is that in a Chronicle Live article they said the children also sang when they asked for money and there was sometimes an implied threat, which is similar to  trick or treating. Bonfire Night is usually celebrated by having public fireworks display and bonfires, or your own fireworks at home. I usually go to a local celebration which happens to be on Hallowe'en this year! (It's on the Wednesday before 5th November normally).

You can read more about the history of history of trick or treating here:

Update 5/11/18: Also in the book The Real Witches' Year by Kate West, she says that trick or treating originated in a time when getting revenge on others by being a nuisance to them was acceptable, and Hallowe'en was when debts would be paid and people would return the things they'd borrowed. (October 29th entry).


As Samhain is also a harvest festival, I'm suggesting baking again, like with Lammas and Madron!  I usually bake gingerbread for Lammas and sometimes Madron as well, but in recent years I've made ginger cakes instead. I also like to bake gingerbread for Samhain. This year I'm making gingerbread skeletons using a recipe from Closer magazine, which I first used in 2015. The recipe is a Flora one (you can adapt it, I'm using Stork instead because I already have that). This is their recipe for gingerbread people biscuits:

I think this one is very similar as well:*

Update 22/10/20: I just got a "potential security risk warning for the site above (Yummy Mummy), although it's been fine in the past.

Also the original Flora recipe is gone, but this one is basically the same and you can adapt it for skeletons:

And here are a few skeleton ones:

Chocolate version:

Another suggestion is baking with apples since harvest time is finishing up. For Madron 2017 I made a ginger and apple tealoaf.

Make food/drink

I enjoy making food and drink for Samhain/Hallowe'n. My favourite drink to make is Demon's Blood from Kate West's The Real Witches' Kitchen. It's just ginger beer mixed with apple juice and orange, then coloured green. (One year I used red because I couldn't get green food colouring, but of course red works as well!). You can find more Hallowe'en drinks here:

I will also make potato salad based on a recipe from Soraya's The Kitchen Witch book (I make it with chives and spring onion instead of rosemary) and get buffet type food to go with it, like cheese and pineapple, crisps and dip etc.

Apples fit Samhain as with the other harvest festivals. So the Demon's Blood or some other apple drink is good. Demon's Blood would be good for a kids' party and cider for an adult one. You could also bake apple pie or cake. And there's the classic game of bobbing for apples! Toffee apples are a Hallowe'en treat.

Connect with ancestors

This is a good time of year to connect with your ancestors because the veil is thin and our loved ones may come back to visit.

One suggestion is to have an ancestor altar. I created a small family altar last year as part of the book The Source by Ursula James. Mine is very simple, just a few photos, but you can make yours as simple or elaborate as you like. :)

A couple of other things you can do are look at old family photos and research your family tree. You may not have ready access to photos and/or old family documents. In my case I have lots of old pictures and birth and marriage certificates etc, of my mum's family (who are English and Scottish) but hardly anything of my dad's family (who are Cameroonian). In Cameroon they didn't keep/didn't have the resources to keep records like in Europe and I don't think there are many family photos. I've never seen a picture of my grandparents on that side. I have seen a couple of family pics though and a relative has told me about the family. If that's also the case for you (not having access to physical documents) perhaps there's someone you can talk to about family memories and traditions. I also plan to have a go at making some Cameroonian recipes.

The subjects of families and ancestors may bring up family secrets and difficult subjects. Perhaps your ancestors have done some things you're not proud of (maybe a history of abuse in the family, or participating in racist/discriminatory practices).

You might want to listen to this podcast from Darla Antoine on the subject of anti-racist genealogy for everyone, it includes some ideas of people of colour/non white/mixed people doing genealogical research. It's from an American perspective but still helpful for anyone:

I'm also including this post from Darla about ancestral healing for mixed race people, because I find it's  rare that this subject is addressed from a mixed race point of view:*

*Update 11/10/19: Unfortunately the link is now gone.

Here are some more ideas for honouring your ancestors:

You can also honour friends and pets who have passed away. In 2012 I lit a white candle for my grandma who had died that January,  Last year I lit one for my girl cat who died in early 2017. :)

Shadow Work

Since Samhain is the "dark" time of year, you might want to focus on some shadow work. It's about facing the darker parts of yourself and your fears and traumas. Please note: If you are suffering from trauma and/or mental illness it would be best to do this with a trained professional. Last year I started looking into shadow work and I referenced a couple of posts in 2017's More Halloween'en/Samhain Celebrations Ideas post.

Shadow work could also relate to the "shadow side" of your ancestors, as mentioned above. In this year's post about celebrating Beltane/May Day I linked to a post from Rockstar Priestess about the shadow side of Beltane and how you may find similar issues coming up at both sabbats since they "mirror" each other. Also I've been hearing a lot about how it's Venus retrograde at the moment (from 6th October to 7th November). Now it's Samhain (in the Northern Hemisphere) you may find issues related to the shadow side of relationships come up. If you'd like to explore shadow work this articles have some good information:

Since last November I've been doing  a series of posts at my other blog Falling Petals called Feeling Your Emotions. This month I looked at fear and anxiety. (It's actually 10 years this month since I was going though a very bad period of anxiety and I remember feeling really anxious and horrible on Hallowe'en). You can read the post here (it's Part 1 and Part 2 is coming soon):

You may also be interested in the posts on sadness and depression:

 Sadness and Depression (Part 1):

Sadness and Depression (Part 2):

At this time of year you could allow yourself to grieve people, places and things you've lost, or even to mourn the fact that your life hasn't turned out how you thought it would. Of course you can do this at any time of year, and if you are struggling to cope with your emotions/any mental issues, please seek professional help. :)

On Loner Wolf there's an article about exploring Samhain and shadows:

Demi of Rockstar Priestess also has a good post about the Crone at Samhain:


Divination (using certain practices/methods for telling the future) is good to do at Samhain. If you have tarot or oracle cards you could do a reading (perhaps a New Year spread or one for the next 12 months?). Or you could use another tool such as the I Ching. I've never used it but the books Watching The Tree by Adeline Yen Mah and  Positive Magic by Marion Weinstein give good explanations and instructions for using it. You can also scry in a mirror or other reflective object like a bowl of water. There's  a particular type of mirror called the Witches' Mirror (usually black glass). Other methods include gazing into a candle flame, throwing the runes and reading tea leaves.

Note: If you're going to try scrying I'd just say be careful because you don't want to open yourself to any energy that might be less than "good". I would just be wary of trying it without proper psychic protection. There's an interesting discussion about it on this forum:

Here are a couple of links about divination:

Hope that you gave you lots of ideas for Samhain/Hallowe'en! I will do another post about my celebrations next week. How will be you be celebrating? Happy Samhain/Hallowe'en! (Or Beltane/May Day!) :)

Want more Hallowe'en inspiration?  Check out this post on my Star Sparkle blog (entertainment focused):

Photo: Pumpkin patch in Sompting. Moonsparkle 2018.

No comments:

Post a Comment