How I Celebrate Samhain

When I was little, I used to throw very extra Samhain parties, with the whole house decorated like a haunted mansion and big buckets of sweets everywhere. We'd play games and perform pranks on guests, dress up however we wanted, and dance. I still love to attend those kinds of parties, but my own celebrations at home have become much more low-key. These days it's mostly a time for introspection, witchcraft, baking and mental preparation for the long winter ahead.


Samhain (pronounced "sow-en") is the Celtic New Year, on which many nature-based religions honour their dead and celebrate rebirth, whether that be in the form of reincarnation or simply returning to the earth from which we came. It is the last of the harvest festivals, heralding the start of winter and the "dark half" of the year. It's also supposed to be the best day of the year to do divination; perfect for Tarot reading or envisioning the new future you want. The veil between worlds is said to be especially thin, so the idea is that it's easier for spirits, guides, ghosts or deities to contact us, should we wish to speak to them. This is why lots of people try using a Ouija board on Samhain night, which I wouldn't recommend, to be honest. Most Wiccans and Pagans will put out pictures of their deceased loved ones, or a plate of food and drink for them. Pumpkins, leaves, dried herbs, conkers, and skulls are all used as altar decorations. However we celebrate, festivities always revolve around endings, closures, our ancestors, letting go of the past, looking back on what we've accomplished, looking inside ourselves to face our shadow, and killing off old habits or relationships that no longer serve us and will not last the winter. I like to carve elaborate pictures and characters into my pumpkins as well as scary faces, and cook comfort food. We rarely get trick-or-treaters at my top-floor apartment, but we still get in heaps of sweets and chocolate for ourselves and whoever should come knocking. One must never turn away a visitor on Samhain night!

Some Wiccans don't like the way people associate Samhain with fear and horror; they believe that this demonization of life's natural darkness only shows our immaturity as a society. To me, the release of fear and a celebration of our shadow selves is a cathartic and a necessary process for the soul - not in a Purge kinda way, mind - and hedonism has its place in the cycle of life. Fear is to be embraced if we are to overcome it. Especially on Samhain. So, I tell ghost stories and I honour my dead. I watch horror movies, and I work magic. It's a time to embrace the skeleton woman, to dance with the devil, to dive deep so that we may find treasure. By doing this we learn to revel in the darkness as well as the light. Samhain is reaping time, when things must die if we want to continue our journey, our life cycle, and our growth. We can perhaps go a little further into our own minds on this night, to meet the demons there, and find them friendlier than we thought. 

Basic Witches

When I was really young, a teenager who didn't quite know the length of her limbs yet, I liked to read Silver Ravenwolf books. They've aged a fair bit by now, and they show it here and there in problematic language with a 90's American mentality, but those books taught me a lot. They taught me that magic isn't about controlling the outside world, or bending it to your desire. In fact, they stressed the importance of respecting free will, and of never dishing out that which you aren't happy to receive in return. It gladdens my little rebellious, moon-worshiping heart when I see books like this emerge for a new generation, who might be drawn to the idea of witchcraft, but not know where to start. I was lucky, I had wise women I could go to for advice, but not everybody is so fortunate. 

Basic Witches, by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman, is an utterly beautiful-looking book. The illustrations, courtesy of Camille Chew, are pretty magical on their own. If you're looking for instruction on rituals, the witch's calendar, goddesses and gods et cetera, then it probably won't be very helpful, and it doesn't claim to be. More than anything, I feel it's a kind of feminist manual for discovering, or rediscovering, your own personal power and balance. It guides you through caring for your body, creating your life, and nurturing your friendships in a deliberate way full of witchy intention. It's packed full of many cool, simple spells that are easily adapted to suit your needs, if that kinda thing is up your street. You don't need any prior knowledge of witchcraft to have a go at them. Throughout the book you'll also pick up some of the associations witches connect to colours, crystals, days of the week and such, so that you can begin to create your own spells (in my opinion, spells you create from your own knowledge are the most effective and fulfilling) but these aren't the main point or substance of the book. It deals with some weighty and very current issues; body positivity, contraception and abortion, imposter syndrome, consent, libido, abusive relationships, self-care, social media, and mental health are all up for discussion. These conversations are woven through with more light-hearted magic, such as emoji runes, pop culture witches, cutting your own hair, whipping up your own makeup, and choosing a pet familiar. There is levity in the substance, and vice versa. You never feel talked-down-to or silly, and I would have loved the chapters on Glamours (beauty magic) and Enchantment (love and sex magic) to be a bit longer, as I found them so enjoyable.



The finished product is a book about witchcraft that feels very accessible, grounded, and modern. It's a sisterly work filled with witty and progressive advice for anyone, regardless of gender or religious background, who relates to the archetype of the witch: one who is persecuted for taking matters into their own hands, or for possessing too much knowledge. I would especially recommend it to people who might not consider themselves "magical", or "spiritual". I read a lot of books about the craft, about the ins and outs of herbalism, astrology, sex magic and goddess worship, but I also love to dive into books like this just as much; ones that are less about ceremony and more about the badass spirit behind all witchery. You don't have to believe in anything to read this book, except perhaps the power and potential within women, and the marginalized of this world. The magic being cooked up here is all in your mind, and there can be little debate about the power of the mind. Whether you're an atheist or just starting out on your journey into nature-based religions, there's much fun to be had in Basic Witches, and also much empowerment. Let's raise hell.


This post in NOT sponsored, but items were sent for consideration. All opinions are my own and completely honest, as always. For more, see my PR page.