Thank the Goddess, it’s finally Samhain! As a Wiccan and a person who loves fall (and chocolate) Samhain is hands down my favorite holiday. But, as we Witches know, the day that most people call Halloween is much more than a day for costumes and candy. This greater sabbat is the magical equivalent of New Year’s Eve; it is also a time of remembrance and – since the veil between this world and the next is at it’s thinest – a time for celebrating the spirits of those who have passed away during this past magical year.
But, it’s also a festival of harvest and celebration (the last of the three Wiccan harvest festivals), so don’t get too lost in introverted reverence and solitary thought. Just because it’s a day about death doesn’t mean it can’t be one about life too. The year is coming to an end, winding down into winter, but remember that the dark half of the year is just as important as the light half. Balance is a key part of nature. Without death there can be no rebirth, so celebrate the life that has come before, and the reincarnation that will come soon – both of the world awakening in springtime and of our loved ones whose energy will return in new life despite the shortening days.
So what to do on Samhain? Well, air on the side of ritual not magic. Remember that thing about the veil between worlds? Well, that means that even if you’re not really looking for it, trouble has an easier time of finding you in the form of a mischievous or malicious spirit that might just invite itself into your life. Magic, as it requires the flow and interchange of energy, opens you up and lets down your guard just enough to make you vulnerable. Still, you can have a perfectly fine Samhain without preforming any magic.
There are many little rituals dating back to older Pagan traditions that find their way into modern families. Such things as setting a place at the table for a departed loved one or leaving a candle in the window to guide spirits home are common. If you are looking for a full ritual, I recommend you light some candles, burn some incense, and create a small alter spread featuring a picture or personal affects of the loved one. As to actual words, I can’t help you there; I firmly believe that everyone should write and preform their own rituals, spells can be generic, but rituals are a deeply personal thing and I would never dream of telling someone what was the right or wrong way to go about one. If you like you can invoke the Goddess as she manifests through Isis (or another goddess dealing with death and the afterlife) or simply do something like talk about what you loved about the person. It’s up to you.
Now then, about that fun. Again there’s a lot you can do on Samhain. You can get all dressed up and go to a party or (if your age permits) go trick-or-treating; you can have a large harvest dinner with foods such as pumpkin, squash, turnips, poultry, beef, pork, apples, or nuts; you can get sparklers and sparkling apple cider and wait up until midnight to see the birth of the new magical year (I recommend that you remember this is a work/school night before you make any decision about this one); you could grab a couple friends or family members and pop in some scary movies; you could turn out all the lights and hide from the trick-or-treaters and eat all the candy yourself (but expect some icky karma if you do that); you could even have a small family gathering where you exchange gifts. I’m not claiming any of these are traditional, but they sound like fun.
Above all, remember that today is a day to look back and remember, and inward at yourself, but also to look forward toward the coming rebirth. Be proud of your ancestors and where you come from and honor them today, but also be proud of your faith and revel in this wonderful day when everybody (even if they don’t really know it) is jumping on the Pagan train – er broom, that is – and magic is on everyone’s mind.
Goddess keep you, and have a marvelously magical Samhain!