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. 

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