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For Wiccans and other Pagans, Samhain is very much rooted in the ancient Celtic traditions. It is often described as the night when “the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest,” and many choose to honor their ancestors and other departed loved ones at this time. Food and drink are left out for any wandering spirits, and many Witches seek communication with the Other Side.
We do not fear mischief or retribution from the dead, as we know our ancestors don’t mean us harm, but we do honor and respect their presence. The Wiccan belief in reincarnation is also meditated upon at Samhain, as we recognize that the life/death/rebirth cycle applies to all living beings. We know that we do not return to the Other Side permanently, but rest and enjoy ourselves there until we’re ready to be reborn into the physical world.
Samhain is a key occasion for divination of all kinds, including scrying, Tarot, runes and I-Ching, as well as various uses of apples. For those who work with the faeries, this is definitely an important night to leave offerings for them!
In many traditions, Samhain is also considered the start of the new year, as it is believed that the Celtic year began on the evening of October 31st. Scholars disagree about whether there is sufficient evidence for this, but Samhain is listed in Irish medieval literature as the first of the four cross-quarter day festivals, so the association has stuck.
Whether your tradition considers the year to begin now or at Yule, however, Samhain is an excellent time to reflect on your life and any changes you wish to make during the year ahead. This is the time in between death and new life, as the Crone/Mother Goddess waits for the God to be reborn.
What in your personal world do you wish to allow to die, and what new developments would you like to give birth to? What has ended that you need to fully let go of in order to make room for the new?
Coven rituals at Samhain are often held outdoors, at night, around a sacred bonfire. The coven members may focus on letting go of bad habits and other unwanted energies, symbolically releasing them into the fire to be transformed. Other ritual themes may include bidding farewell to the Old God, tapping into the wisdom of the Crone, and formally honoring the dead.
And of course, any Wiccans who practice spellwork are certain to do so on this night, the most potent time of the entire year for magic! Any type of work is bound to be effective, but in keeping with the themes of this Sabbat, goals related to banishing, releasing, and strengthening your psychic abilities are especially appropriate.
On your Samhain altar, include photographs or mementos from deceased loved ones and light a votive candle specifically for them. Since this is the Sabbat most associated with Witchcraft, include symbols like cauldrons, besoms (ritual brooms), and pentacles, even if you don’t necessarily work with these tools regularly. As always, seasonal decorations of all kinds are key, but try to include a pumpkin if you can—carved and illuminated if possible!
Finally, be sure to give your sacred space a very thorough sweeping before beginning any ritual or spellwork. As you clean, visualize all unwanted energies and influences from the past year being swept away and out of your life.