Not sure how to celebrate Samhain? Look no further!
This year, Halloween falls on a sabbath, making the spookiest holiday even spookier. So why not connect with your witchy side and celebrate Halloween like witches do?
Called Samhain by the Celts, Halloween’s roots are just as weird and wonderful as the festival is today. But for the spiritual among us, Halloween isn’t just about costumes and trick-or-treating. This is the time of year when the veil grows thin, bringing our world and the otherworld closer together. If you’re a magical practitioner, this is the perfect time for spells and rituals — and that’s only enhanced this year by the full moon.
So if you’re looking for a more spiritual way to celebrate Halloween, let us take you through our favourite Samhain traditions…
Step One: Fire
As Samhain is a fire festival, the best way to start would be to build a fire. If you can’t create a bonfire, candles would do just fine. Cluster a bunch of them together as the sun sets, and your fire will drive away the darkness and keep the spirits at bay. If you can build a fire outside, light a candle from the fire and bring it into your home — this is a longstanding Samhain tradition.
Step Two: Food
Samhain marked the end of the harvest, so this was a time of feasting and merriment. Pile a table high with harvest goodies — corn, root vegetables, and of course any kind of pumpkin. Have you carved your pumpkins yet?
WITCH TIP: If you grow herbs, don’t forget to harvest them before winter! Dried herbs are a good replacement for fresh herbs during the colder months. (More on how to prepare your herbs.)
Step Three: Don’t Forget The Ghosts
As you settle down to eat, don’t forget to leave a plate for any ancestral spirits that might be in residence! The Celts would often set a bowl of food outside their homes, inviting ghosts to have their fill and move on.
Step Four: Games
Plenty of Halloween party games have their roots in ancient traditions. Apple bobbing is one of the best known games, and it’s one of the simplest. Just fill a bowl with water and throw in some apples. You and your guests then take it in turns to try and pick up an apple with only your teeth! (Though to be hygienic, it might be best to ensure everyone has their own individual bowl!) And save the apples for divination later.
Step Four: Time To Get Witchy
Let in the moonlight or get outside if you can. It’s time to open your circle and begin the witchiest part of the night…
This time of year is perfect for divination, and fortune-telling has been practiced for centuries on Samhain night. This year, we’ve got the double whammy of the veil being thin and the full moon falling on Halloween night. Expect any divination you do this year to be especially insightful…
Apple Peel Divination
Remember those apples you gathered earlier? If you haven’t turned them all into spiced cider, you can use one now to find out who you’ll marry. Using a vegetable peeler, strip the skin off the apple. Then, throw the piece — or pieces — behind your shoulder. If it falls in the form of letters, those are the initials of the person you’re going to fall in love with next!
Samhain Tarot Spreads
Samhain has long been associated with thresholds, as the seasons swing from summer to autumn. This spread — created for The New Chapter Tarot — is intended to help you navigate a personal crossroad.
1: Base — what you need to leave behind
2: Left Fork — what you must face and resolve
3: Right Fork — what you will gain from this decision
4: Light — what’s pulling you forward
But what if you want to harness the full ghostly potential of Samhain 2020? Communicating with spirits can be tricky, but as they’re particularly active on Samhain, now might be the time to break through the veil…
This spread invites any spirits in residence to speak through the cards. Before you begin, be sure to cleanse your space!
1: Invocation — use this card to call upon a psychopomp, like crossroad spirits, or deities like The Morrigan or Elen of the Ways.
2: Who are you?
3: Do you have unfinished business here?
4: How can I help you move on?
Feel free to add any cards with more queries. And afterwards, don’t forget to close!! See the next section for spells to bind malicious spirits.
Now you’re all warmed up, it’s time to make some magic…
Wishes For The Year Ahead
As Samhain is the witches’ new year, here is a spell to focus your intentions for the year ahead, and help bring them about!
You will need:
- Four small pieces of paper
- A candle for each of the four elements
- Four small glass jars or envelopes
First, prepare your Samhain altar for the spell. You may want to invoke the power of the Nine of Cups (the card of wishes) by displaying this on your altar. You can chose sacred objects to lay on your altar. These can be personal to you or specific to your intentions for the upcoming year. Or, you could pick objects that emulate the tarot, like a wand, a chalice, a coin, and a dagger. Choose incense that focuses your mind. Place the aces from each of the Minor Arcana suits on the altar to represent the elements.
Next, prepare yourself and the space. Light your incense and cleanse the air, focus on the Nine of Cups and and think of what you want to happen in the next year. Pick four things you want most. These should be based on the four elements:
- Emotional – water
- Knowledge – air
- Practical finances – earth
- Creativity – fire
Once you have decided on four wishes, each one corresponding to an element, write them down on separate pieces of paper. Roll each piece up and put it in a small glass jar or envelope, and seal it with the candle colour symbolising the element the wish falls under.
Place these on your altar in the position of each element, on top of the ace cards. Let your wishes for the year be known, and be thankful for all you have received and hopeful for all that is ahead. Leave these on your altar overnight, and then put them somewhere safe until next Samhain, when you can burn the wishes passed on your altar as an offering.
Make A Witch Bottle
If you’re feeling crafty, why not make a witch bottle? This practice dates back to the middle ages, when people would cram a bottle full of ritual objects like iron nails and bones. They would then entomb the witch bottle in a wall of their home, or bury it beneath the floor, in order to repel bad witches. Nowadays, many modern witches have co-opted the practice, creating their own witch bottles as a way to gather and enhance their ritual energy.
You will need:
- A bottle
- Power-enhancing objects (eg: crystals)
- Deity-invoking objects
- Anything of particular power or worth to you
First, choose a nice bottle, preferably glass. You can put anything you like in your witch bottle, but we recommend using objects that pertain to your practice right now.
Cleansing stones like Selenite and white quartz are particularly good, along with amethyst for confidence and empowerment, and citrine for luck and wealth. Objects that correspond with your chosen deities would also have a place here. Are you feeling the Morrigan or Odin lately? Pop in some crow feathers!
Speak With The Dead
This Scottish spell comes to us from The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells by Judika Isles.
You will need:
- A white candle
- Objects of protection
- A table
- A chair
First, cleanse the room. (Unless you’ve already cleansed it for the spirit tarot spread in which case you probably don’t need to again!) Cast a circle using the compass. Inside are you, and the table and chair. Place the protective objects on the table — these are things that make you feel safe, like your childhood toy. However, you could also use “trigger objects” if you’re trying to communicate with a specific person. These would be objects that they used in their lifetime, or anything that might provoke a response.
Next, extinguish any other light source and light the white candle. Place it on the table. Concentrate on your intention to speak with the spirit, and speak with it, inviting it in. Then you wait. The spirit will either appear to you in a vision, or it may appear in your dreams overnight.
Bind Malicious Spirits
This spell comes to you from… me! One night, when I was home alone, I heard someone tapping on the banister — in the exact rhythm of the theme song of the show I was watching. Our house is old, and other housemates have had encounters with a ghostly presence we’ve nicknamed Harold Gerrold.
Now, I’m not going to lock myself down to whether I believe in ghosts or not. But I was home alone, and I just wanted to enjoy The X Files, so I said “heck this” out loud (except I didn’t say heck), and marched upstairs to get my spell supplies. I improvised this spell on the spot, while obnoxiously singing along to my Halloween playlist, and I haven’t encountered any activity since. Take that, Scully.
You will need:
- Three white candles
- Sunflower oil
- Herbal graveyard dirt
Feel free to add any other spell ingredients for binding or banishment (I used lots more, like Balm of Gilead and rust from a railroad spike, but they’re not readily available!) Crush the herbal graveyard dirt together with a pestle and mortar. Add the oil and crush it again so it forms a kind of infusion. Really focus on your will and intent while creating the oil infusion. To give it an extra kick, you can invoke psychopomps and deities to help give your concoction power.
Then take your three white candles. On one, carve the Norse rune for protection (Elhaz). On the next, carve the rune for balance (Dagaz). On the last, carve the rune for home (Othala).
Anoint the candles using the oil you just created. Now, whenever you burn them, malicious spiritual energies will be bound and banished!
Of course, when you open a door you must close it again. When you conclude your spells, remember to close your circle. Thank the moon, release any spirits or guides you invoked, and ground yourself. Another cleansing afterwards probably wouldn’t go amiss. If you really want to lock the magic in, try a full moon bath with a purification scrub!
How will you be celebrating Samhain? Tell us in the comments or talk to us on Instagram!