Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Wheel of the Year — How to Celebrate Samhain

The season of Samhain, which takes place on October 31st, is a powerful time for many of the Wiccan faith. It can be said that there are as many ways to celebrate this holiday as there are Witches. A Samhain ritual is probably the most common way to mark this significant date, but there are other ways to mark this occasion.

Decorating and Crafting for Samhain

Decorating for Samhain is a fairly simple process. This is the Feast of the Dead, and in ancient times it was the final harvest of the year. Samhain lore speaks of the spirits of the departed returning to be with their loved ones, and this is said to be the time of the year best for communicating with the dead. So, decorations associated with the dead are most appropriate.

Since this day is also Halloween, decorations shouldn’t be difficult to come by. Spirits, ghouls, and ghosts are especially good choices. Black, a favorite color for this time of year, is most often used to decorate altars, temples, and shrines.

Crafts are equally easy to decide upon. Masks and costumes can be made to represent different aspects of the Goddess and the God, or the spirits of the dead. These masks can also be simply painted black, and can be used to decorate a ritual space.

Jack-o-lanterns are a great deal of fun for people of all ages. They can be carved in many different patterns, and when they are finished, they can be used in ritual. For example, one option is for all participants to lift the lanterns above their heads and slowly make their way to the ritual site. In times of old, folk could frighten away both spirits and other people by carrying their lanterns aloft. In those days, these lanterns were made of turnips.

During the ritual, these jack-o-lanterns become Spirits of Nature. In some groups, each participant takes a turn to speak for these Spirits, giving wise counsel to the group. The ritual continues with divination, scrying, and meditation. Then, the lanterns are once again raised to depart the ritual site.

Making Merry at Samhain

Some Wiccan groups enjoy the practice of selecting a Winter Queen and Winter King at Samhain. These two preside over the festivities, and hold a place of honor. Sometimes they are selected at random, other times they might be elected.

Relighting the Samhain fire is still occasionally practiced by some Wiccan covens. The ‘hearthfire’ of the home is extinguished first. This used to be the central fireplace of the home. In modern times, it can be symbolic, perhaps a large candle in the center of the ritual site. Whatever is used, it is relit from the Samhain fire or cauldron.

The reenactment of mystery plays is a wonderful way to celebrate Samhain. Tales such as the Descent of Inanna or the story of Persephone and Hades (not forgetting Persephone’s mother, Demeter) are perfect fits for Samhain.

Many solitary Wiccans enjoy creating an ancestral altar, to honor the spirits of those who have passed before. This altar is ceremonial in nature, and used only for meditation and communing with the spirits of the dead. It is usually decorated with black candles, and with the pictures of the departed.

Mundane Actions to Mark the Sabbat of Samhain

This is a good time of year to pay off debts and settle quarrels, since it is the Witches’ New Year. The idea is that these things not carry into the next cycle. Another common practice to is ensure that one has room in their schedule in the coming year for rest and reflection. For some, this might prove difficult to accomplish.

Writing a will, or updating an old will, seems particularly appropriate at this time of year. Most Wiccans prefer to have a Wiccan funeral or memorial service, and this preference should be put in writing. Samhain is the perfect time to ensure that this has been done.

There are many more activities that can be enjoyed during Samhain. This is a period of rest and reflection, a time to meditate more than usual and indulge in the quieter activities of life. Any activity that's associated with these qualities is a perfect activity for Samhain.

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