What Is Samhain and How to Celebrate It

October 27, 2021

October 31 brings the celebration of Samhain, the halfway point between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice. It marks the beginning of the “darker half” of the year. The autumn harvest is now over, and we are slowly moving toward winter. The sun sets much earlier now that fall is in full swing, and the temperatures begin to drop in the Northern Hemisphere.

Known as the Celtic New Year, Samhain has blended with All Souls’ Day to become one major celebration of life. It is a time to put aside squabbles, come together as a community, and lean in to the darker and edgier sentiments of the season.

Although Samhain coincides with Halloween, they are two different holidays, celebrations that have blended together over time.

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Samhain as the Origins of Halloween

Samhain is a Sabbat, a pagan and Wiccan holiday during which the dead walk upon the earth. Sacrifices from harvests are made in order to ward off evil spirits and fairies. Halloween (All Hallows Eve) was the church’s response to Samhain, offered as an alternative to the older celebration’s magic and sorcery. Today, Halloween is a more lighthearted, fun way to enjoy Samhain’s vibe.

The veil between the spiritual and material world is very thin on Samhain, which can attract unwanted energies or spirits into our energy fields and homes. It is extremely important that you make sure you are protected from outside energies that may affect your vigor at this time.

Divination became an important activity on Samhain because the energy between the planes was more open. Telling fortunes and casting spells are still performed by magical minds and witches on Samhain, because spirits are thought to be more likely to be responsive and willing to work on spells.

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How to Celebrate Samhain

Trick-or-treating began when townsfolk would go door-to-door singing to honor the dead. It was believed that mischievous fairies, ghosts, and spirits “tricked” or tormented humans during Samhain and caused them harm. The itinerant singers received cake as “payment” for dressing up in costumes to scare away the evil spirits or fairies.

Today, dressing up in costumes to go trick-or-treating is a seasonal tradition. A great way to safely use costumes and trick-or-treating in your Samhain celebration is to join with your neighbors to pass out candy to kids or adults who want to partake in the fun. With the right forethought and some ingenuity when it comes to costumes, no scary ghosts or fairies will create havoc on Samhain.

Another Samhain tradition is lighting a bonfire, or a fire in a fireplace, to protect against evil spirits and the fairies that want to play tricks on us.

An important ritual on Samhain is cleansing and protecting the home. We don’t know the energy that is being attracted and brought into our homes, which is why it’s essential to protect your dwelling by placing some black tourmaline inside, hanging a lucky horseshoe by the front door, or burning lavender to remove any residual vibes.

This is also a wonderful time to get rid of objects and clothes that you no longer need or want and donate them to a local charity. Doing this creates space in your home and makes the energy feel lighter.

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Samhain and Sacred Acenstry

Samhain is a time of connection between the past and present. It is a momentary break from the mundane, a time when we take the opportunity to reflect. By connecting with our ancestors and familial roots, we can begin to understand ourselves on a deeper level.

Many cultures honor their ancestors around this time of year: All Saints’ Day and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) occur on November 1. This is a moment when we pause and honor our loved ones who reside in the spiritual plane. We can feel the shift as the energy between the physical and spiritual worlds becomes thinner on Samhain.

A wonderful way to honor your lineage is to hold a great feast with dear friends and family. Set a place at the table for those who have passed on. Even though they aren’t present in the physical world, their spirits are alive. Share memories of your ancestors and say their names aloud as you send them love and gratitude. Build an altar or revamp one you have for your ancestors by adding seasonal gifts like pumpkins, corn, mulled wine, or squash. Add photos of your ancestors and make offerings to them of objects they liked as you light candles in their memory.