Tag Archives: samhain

Samhain: Honoring the dead

IMG00100Most pagans know of Samhain as a time of the year where we honor those who passed on before us.

Some traditions include lighting candles to represent each person who died this passing year. Others might set photos or mementos of loved ones, sharing stories of them on Samhain.

One year, my study group decided to include not just those who passed on, but other symbolic deaths, so we might reflect on them. One man shared the death of his marriage (divorce) while another shared the death of a job. This might also remind us that death can also offer rebirth, and the Wheel of the Year turns to another cycle.

Some ideas to honor the dead:

  • Share stories. I’ve always felt this it the most powerful way to honor those who passed on, by sharing memories of them.
  • Share songs. If you know favorite songs or music, share in ritual to honor those who passed on.
  • Hang photos, ribbons, or ornaments that represent the dead.
  • Offer prayers, thanks, and offerings. You can offer to honor them by making a promise you’ll keep in the coming year. For instance, I might promise to donate to veterans to honor my grandfather who was a veteran of WWII. I could make an offering of charity or good dead, to promise to quit smoking or take care of a family member to honor them.

What traditions do you partake in for Samhain to honor the dead? Share in comments below.

Halloween/Samhain plans

DSC00028This year I’ve decided against a formal ritual and opt for a social gathering instead. In Maryland, specifically our town, we have trick or treaters around the time we’d have ritual anyway, so I felt we’d simply enjoy the night as a party with a mix of friends and family as well.

Hurricane Sandy also might impact the holiday, potentially ruining the door to door begging for candy as well. I want a party, regardless, even if the power goes out. We’ll manage with candles to share stories, play games, and just enjoy the special day.

Some common activities;

ouijaDivination– Due to the Veil between the world of mortals and that of spirits, using Tarot, Runes, Ouija, and other form of fortune-telling are traditionally practiced.

Gathering rain (if raining)- We’re expecting rain due to Hurricane Sandy, so this should offer interesting properties for ritual water.

The Dumb Supper– Traditionally, this is a meal set out for those who passed on before us. You eat in complete silence, honoring their presence to the meal.

Celebrate the coming year. Consider lighting a candle and sharing stories of the deceased, and talk of things passing from the old year to the new year. (October 31st is the Celtic New Year).


What are your favorite Samhain traditions? Post in comments.

The Celtic New Year

highres_2171224Halloween/Samhain is the New Year, according to the Celtic calendar.

I remember teaching my son in homeschool about months and weeks when he was little, and how fascinating it was to discover the number of calendars we’ve had throughout history.

We measure a year by the earth rotating around the sun once. This is approximately 265 days, but its not exact. Even months, which stem from the moon phases, are 28 days but the months are 30-31 days (or 29 if it’s a Leap Year).

There were other calanders as well;

Hebrew Calendar

Julian Calendar

Among others.

You can also find differing numbers of a ‘week’ was, such as the 10-day of France in 1793. Or the Russian five day week, then a six day week, in 1929.

The Celtic Year started and ended on October 31st. I found after a number of years that whatever goals you set in the Celtic Year tends to work better. You basically accomplish all your goals by October 31st, giving you breathing room to enjoy the holiday celebrations, and the winter months, instead of pushing yourself to complete goals as you would in our usual January 31st New Year.

Having said that; consider what goals you hope to accomplish for the coming year. What seeds/goals do you hope to see will come to harvest? What steps will you take to accomplish them?

Plan now so on Samhain night, light a candle for each goal you want to come to pass. Visualize how to reach your goal, make it solid in your mind, and when you feel ready, blow out the candle to release the energy to the Universe.

Samhain is also a traditional time to start a Book of Shadows. I will be posting challenging and assignments, if you wish to use them.