~Magickal Graphics~Happy Halloween and a blessed Samhain, or All Soul’s Night, to those celebrating.
All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, is the modern name in English for the great north European festival which signalled the end of the light and warm half of the year, and ushered in the cold and dark one, and so divided the season of autumn from that of winter in these northern lands. It was known in Irish as Samhain, summer’s end; in Welsh as Nos Galan Gaeaf, “winter’s eve”; in Anglo-Saxon as Blodmonath, “blood month”; and in Norse as the “winter nights”. As such it was one of the greatest religious festivals of the ancient northern pagan year – x
Samhain also known as Halloween, Hallowe’en, All Hallows Eve, Lá Samhna and Allhelgona amongst others. It takes place on the last day of October. It is the end of summer, where only summer and winter are recognised as seasons. In certain traditions this is the start of the new year. Samhain is celebrated as the Dia de los Muertos in Mexico (Day of the Dead–usually held on November 1) and All Saints Day (also on November 1) by the Catholic church.
It is the last of the harvest festivals in the Wheel of the Year. Across the world, in the Southern Hemisphere, it is Beltane, a fire festival full of fertility symbolism – the time of Brighid rather than the Cailleach.
It is believed that the Veil between the worlds is at its thinnest at this time and so it is both a time to be wary of spirits – hence the jack’o’lanterns to scare away evil spirits. Pumpkins are carved into lanterns, though any squash can be used, and before the American influence of pumpkins took over, the more traditional turnips and beets prevailed. This article Original Irish Jack-o-Lanterns were truly terrifying and made of turnips discusses the original folklore behind the carving of gourds.
It’s also a time for remembering ancestors or those who have passed on. Some people hold a dumb supper at which their loved ones who have passed over are welcome at. Livejournal member introduced me to Allhelgona; the Swedish version of All Hallow’s Eve – full name Alla Helgons Dag which translated to English would be “All Saints Day”. For the protestants of the Swedish Church it’s the time to go put flowers and little white candles on the graves of their loved ones.
Samhain is an idea time for divination, be it through tarot cards, runes, scrying, or other means. Other themes and workings include reflecting on the past, release of bad habits/banishing, candle magic, protection spells, manifesting transformation, knowledge, death & rebirth/new beginning.
Apples are traditional for this festival, plain for apple bobbing, and covered in caramel as toffee apples/candy apples. Other foods and drink associated with the festival includes gourds, cranberries, baked potatoes, pork and other meats, soups, mulled cider/mead/red wine, nuts, sweets, pomegranates, dark breads, pumpkin pie, roasted pumpkin seeds.
Colours include black, orange, grey, deep blue, deep purple, gold, silver, and burgundy. Stones like obsidian, haematite, jet, onyx, and amethyst are appropriate for October.
Deities: Cernunnus, Horned God, Osiris, Hades, Anubis, Loki, Dis, Arawn, Erebos, Pluto, Iku, Eshu, Gywnn Ap Nudd (Welsh), The Crone, Hecate(Greek), Cerridwen(Welsh-Scottish), Arianrhod(Welsh), Demeter, Caillech (Irish-Scottish), Baba Yaga (Russian), Al-Ilat(persian), Santa Muerte (Mexican), Bast (Egyptian), Persephone (Greek), Hel(Norse), Kali(Hindu), All death and underworld/Otherworld Goddesses and gods.
A besom or broom is an appropriate decoration. Other correspondences include: skulls, bones, cauldrons, pumpkins, gourds, sickles, scythes, representations of your ancestors, cornucopia, root vegetables, dried leaves, acorns, elder flowers, mandrake, wolfsbane, sarsaparilla, allspice, mugwort, divination tools, bats, owls, crows and ravens, water, midnight. There’s a list here and a longer list here and some ideas on correspondences and ways to celebrate here and here.
Some pagans worry about the more fun aspects of Halloween, like eating sweet foods, dressing up, and watching scary movies. The Thought.co Paganism and Wicca (previously about.com) guide puts it like this: Think of Samhain and Halloween like this – one is spiritual, one is secular. There’s no reason they have to be mutually exclusive at all. You can still observe the fun and silliness of Halloween — and pig out on candy, if you like — while maintaining the more somber traditions of honoring the dead at Samhain. The reverse follows; there’s nothing pagan about putting on a costume for fun, and paganism has no exclusivity on honouring ancestors.
Soul Cakes –Discworld readers are familiar with the Soul Cake Duck, and this is the origin of that reference. Soul cakes were traditionally baked as a gift for the spirits of the dead. In many European countries, the idea of “Souling” became an acceptable alternative for Christians. The cakes took many different names and shapes — in some areas, they were simple shortbread, and in others they were baked as fruit-filled tarts. Still other regions made them of rice flour. Generally, a soul cake was made with whatever grain the community had available. That text comes this site which has four recipes if you want to try baking something for the festival.
Selected sources and further reading
Samhain by winter-elf-witch
Wheel of the Year: Samhain
Samhain names and correspondences
Original Irish Jack-o-Lanterns were truly terrifying and made of turnips
This page gives ideas and links to ideas for decorations, recipes, and rituals.
Wheel of the Year: October
Halloween? It’s more than trick or treat
Soul Cake Duck