The Themes and Practices of Samhain
The Goddess takes on the role of Wise One at Samhain, and so it is a time to practice divination and seek wisdom. The God leads the Wild Hunt to collect the souls of the dead. It is the end of the old year, the beginning of the new, and a time when the veil between the worlds is thin.
Many Wiccans set aside some time after sunset on October 31st. They perform divination using Tarot cards, runes, or whatever tools they prefer. Black candles are lit, which represent the passing year, and give those celebrating this holiday a time to reflect on the last turn of the Wheel of the Year. Thanks is given to the Goddess and the God for the past year.
White candles are lit to represent the year which has yet to unfold. Celebrants are given the opportunity to think about what they hope to achieve. They then ask the Lady and the Lord for blessings in these matters. Often, divination will be used to attempt to see into the possible future of these hopes and dreams.
As a part of the Wheel of the Year, Samhain is the time when the God perishes in Wiccan lore. The Goddess morns Him, but knows that She carries His seed within Her, and that He will soon live again.
Some symbols associated with Samhain include:
- Dark mirrors
Traditional foods at this time include many types of game, such as pheasant, partridge and hare. Seafood such as oysters and scallops are common also. While these things were wild and therefore inexpensive in the days of old, today they can be somewhat expensive.
Seasonal vegetables are often cheap and widely available, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, parsnips, peas and winter potatoes. Apples and pears are usually fresh as well.
Some feasting suggestions for this holiday are:
- Potatoes cooked in their jackets, either plain or stuffed.
- Lightly cooked vegetables, perhaps with cheese or herbs to add variety.
- Sausages are traditional since they were a way or preserving meat though the winter.
- Spare ribs, or pork belly strips served with chutneys.
- Pumpkin soup or a pumpkin pie heavily laced with cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Baked apples.
- Fortune cookies, while not Wiccan in origin, allow a type of uncomplicated divination.
Feasting With Children at Samhain
Children are notoriously hard to please when it comes do dinners and feasts. However, there are some foods that can be dressed up to help please the younger crowd and still fit in with the Samhain theme. Some of these are:
- Zucchini cut lengthways with zigzags and painted with tomato purée. These can be roasted and used as monster mouths.
- Mini pizzas can be decorated to make ghastly faces.
- Black pasta can sometimes be found at this time of year, and often entertains the children.
Beverages For Samhain
There are many beverages suitable to Samhain that can come right off the shelves. Red wine is great and often used to honor the Goddess and the God. Brandy or sugar can be added for a little more flavor. Harvest Mead, a rich blend of fruit and honey, is another popular drink at this time of year.
For family events, non-alcoholic cocktails are a perfect substitute. Fruit juice and carbonated beverages are also a good idea. Food coloring can be added to entertain the little ones, even if these drinks are milk based. For those who like sweets that are a little ghastly, red dye can be added to milk and ice cream, making a vampire’s blood drink.
There are many ways to celebrate Samhain. There are celebrations, both religious and secular, that are celebrated around the world on this night; Halloween, Guy Fawkes’ Night and All Hallows’ Eve, are just a few examples. For the most part, they reflect some version of the feast of the dead.
One very contentious subject at this time of the year for some Wiccans is trick-or-treating. For those families that choose to participate in this practice, it can be highly entertaining for the children. A simpler idea for children and the young at heart is bobbing for apples, either in water or on strings suspended in the doorway.
This is also a traditional time for scrying or divination of all kind, and many different forms of divination are used. Some enjoy attempting to see the initial of their future partner by peeling an apple in one piece and throwing the peel over their shoulder to see what shape it lands in. Other prefer to use more traditional tools such as the Tarot.
Many Wiccans and Pagans celebrate this season with a powerful ritual. As Sabbats are celebratory in nature, magick is generally not worked at these rituals.
Dressing For Samhain
Fancy dress is an excellent way to get everyone into the spirit of Samhain. Some Wiccans feel most comfortable in their ritual robes. Costumes are also in keeping with the spirit of Samhain. The particular costumes used do not matter, though ghoulish and ghastly costumes are more traditional. Traditional colors for Samhain include red, orange, and black. These can, of course, be incorporated into dress or celebration.
Samhain is a wonderful time of celebration for Wiccans around the world. It is a time of merriment and feasting, and a time to remember those who have passed from this life and into the next.