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(October 31)

Related Deities: Hecate, Pan, Persephone, Hades, the Morrigan
Related Herbs: Bay leaf, lavender, mugwort, nutmeg, sage
Related Stones: Obsidian, black onyx, bloodstone, amethyst, opal

Samhain [sow'-en] is held on October 31, and is also known throughout the world as Halloween, Hallows, or All Hallows Eve. It’s the only festival we observe that deals directly with the dead. For this reason, the Samhain celebration completely defines the role of Death in the cycle of Life, and the importance of its lessons in our personal realities.

In many ancient cultures, Samhain marked the last day of the calendar year, For that reason, it was a time for tying up loose ends and putting things to rest. Grazing days over, herds were gathered from the fields, and either selected for slaughter or put up for the winter. Farmers put their crops to bed, and gave anything that was left back to the Earth Mother by leaving it in the fields to rot. Other tasks were tended to as well: Unpaid debts were rendered in full and arguments were settled. In fact, anything that might mar personal luck in the New Year was not only handled completely, but expediently and efficiently.

Perhaps the main function of this day, however, had to do with those who hah died during the year. It was important that they be put to peaceful rest before the coming year, that they were honored and given their due, and that their spirits not be allowed any discomfort or displeasure, lest they walk the face of the Earth. And since the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is very thin on Hallows, it was an excellent day to tend them.

Like our ancestors, we still tend the Dead on Samhain today. We invite them into our Circles, give them peace of mind, and let them speak through us. We honor them, praise their worldly deeds, and give them their due. Then we lead them back through the veil where they may rest until the time comes for them to live on Earth again.

Since the veil is thinnest at Samhain, we also learn much from those in the Spirit World. It’s the one time of the year when their messages reach us easily. This is why most people work with divinatory tools at Samhain. While I usually use the tarot for messaging during ritual, others work with runes, pendulums, black mirrors, and so forth. And sometimes, tools aren’t necessary at all; the messages are so loud and clear, you’d think that someone was speaking directly into your ear! Be that as it may, many messages come through very quickly, so it’s a good idea to keep a pencil and pad near you to take notes. Every message is important, and you won’t want to forget anything you’ve been told.

Samhain Circle Notes

Use an orange or black altar cloth, orange and black candles, and decorate with apples, pomegranates, chrysanthemums, and marigolds. Burn Samhain Incense (a mixture of bay leaves, nutmeg, and sage). Use small jack-o’-lanterns to mark the Quarters, placing Element-appropriate colored candles in each.

Cast this Circle using the athame. After the Circle is cast, go to the Western Quarter and draw an invoking pentagram with the athame to open the gate. Then evoke the Dead by saying:

Spirits walking on this night –
Hearken! Hearken to my call!
Gather in this Circle Light
Enter! Enter! One and all!
Whether you are plant or pet
Or human spirit roaming free
Into this Circle you are let

Blessings we bestow on thee Please say to us what you must say And give us all your worries, deep And we will guide you on the way To peace and rest and gentle sleep Spirits walking on this night – Hearken! Hearken to my call! Gather in this Circle Light
Enter! Enter! One and all!

Then invoke Pan, the Guardian of the Summerland, and bestow blessings upon the Dead by saying:

0 Mighty Pan of the Summerland:
Guardian of the beloved Dead
We pour forth love on those You keep
Safely, in Your peaceful stead
We bless those who have walked the path
That someday, we as well, shall rove
We offer peace unto their souls
While resting in Your arms, below

Perform any divinatory measures that you wish, then return to the Western Quarter with the athame. Say something like:

Blessings be upon you, 0 wondrous Spirits of the Dead. We thank you for your presence in our Circle and honor you on this sacred night. We beseech you, 0 Pan, keeper of the sacred Dead, embrace once again those souls within your keep and hold tightly to your breast those that have been lost and wandering. Grant them safe passage to the Summerland, where they may rest peace-fully in your strength until they are refreshed and reborn again in perfect love. We bid you each a fond farewell. So mote it be!

Using the athame, draw a banishing pentagram at the Western Quarter to close the Circle gate. (Note: Closing the gate is of utmost importance here. Left open, the spirits cannot find their way to the Summerland, and will continue to roam the Earthly plane. They will be left in a state of confusion and could actually wreak havoc in your personal life, It’s an aggravation that you and the walking Dead can both do without.)

Samhain Celebration Ideas

Place a white seven-day candle in the window to guide the Dead to the Spirit
World. Light the candle and say:

0 little flame that burns so bright
Be a beacon on this night
Light the path for all the Dead
That they may see now what’s ahead
And lead them to the Summerland
And shine until Pan takes their hands
And with Your light, please bring them peace
That they may rest and sleep with ease

Because this is a time of endings, magic is often performed to get rid of unsavory personal characteristics or break bad habits. Just write the character trait or habit on a piece of paper, light it, and toss it into the cauldron or a fireproof dish, saying something like:

I burn this trait now from my life
Upon this sacred Samhain night
It is gone from me at last
Just a memory from the past

Since this is the beginning of the dark time of the year, say goodbye to the Sun and wish Him well as He rests now until the time of His rebirth on Yule. At the end of ritual, include a farewell by saying something like:

Farewell, Dear Sun, Who warms the Earth
Who, with Your Light, brings joy and mirth
Close Your eyes now – go to sleep
Rest peacefully in Darkness, deep
Until the Yuletide fest begins
And You are born to us again

Then extinguish all candles to signify His absence.

Then extinguish all candles to signify His absence.
To feed the Dead on their journey and gain their blessings, either leave or bury a few apples and a pomegranate outdoors after libation. As you leave the fruit, say something like:

0 Fruit of Death and Fruit of Life
Fruit that eases mortal strife
Ease the hunger of the Dead
Until They reach Their final stead
Be food enough for everyone
Until Their journey’s fully done


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