You probably associate one holiday the most with witches: Halloween! But we call it Samhain (pronounced sow-wen). And it means a lot more than dressing up as ghouls and giving kids candy! The witch's calendar of holidays is broken up into 8 celebrations! Four are solar as the equinoxes and solstices. Four are agricultural, think harvest and growth. Samhain is a holiday of agriculture. It is the time that the Sun God has gone below to the Underworld, and the Crone, missing him, goes to be with him. Witchcraft is rich in symbolism and metaphor. Let's dive in deeper!
Let's start with this story. The tale goes that the Green God and Goddess worked all spring and summer to grow the Earth. Each new bud was a union between the God and Goddess. But in the fall the crops are cut down, and with them the God is cut from the Earth as well. Literally cut. He naturally goes to the Underworld to await his Goddess, when they will meet again in the Spring as she grows new life inside her. But the Goddess is saddened by his leaving, and she has the power to go to the Underworld herself. On Samhain, she travels below. But the Earth cannot separate from her, so the veil between the worlds is dissolved. Basically, she went on a booty call and we get to experience the thinning veil because of it! Pretty cool, right!?
So, what does the thinning veil mean? This is a time we can connect with our ancestors in a deeper way. This is a time we can get access to deeper memories or past lives. This is a time to celebrate the dead, and the rebirth. For the story does not end there. The Goddess returns to this plane and the God stays in the Underworld until she gives birth to the new God in the Spring and the cycle begins again. Death is a necessary part of rebirth. If the God stays here, that means we did not cut him down in the harvest. Maybe we starved that winter. If he doesn't go to the Underworld, then the Goddess doesn't go after him, and we don't get the thinning of the veil between worlds. With each death, always comes new life. This is the story of Samhain.
So, how do we celebrate? This day is typically seen as the new year in the witch's calendar, so setting new intentions and clearing out the old ones from last year is one way to celebrate! Certainly, you could do magick on this holiday, although there is disagreement if witches should because they see it as a day of celebration, not magick. But I think if magick feels productive this day then do it! Always remember that this is your personal magickal path, and you should listen to your inner self above all else. I like to see what other witches do, but I also stick to my own feelings and intuition. At the heart of this holiday is the celebration of death and rebirth. So, do whatever represents that truest to you. Talk to your ancestors, make new plans for the future, scare some children! Whatever!
Witchcraft is full of correspondences. An easier way to understand correspondences is that they are metaphors or symbols for other things. So, we use all sorts of symbols to drive home the core of the holiday. Here I'll go over some of the popular correspondences with Samhain! You can use these to go deeper into the meaning of the season! Altar items: pumpkins, gourds, leaves, acorns, animal horns, crow feathers, plates of food, photos/mementos of ancestors, black candles or scrying mirrors. Colors: black, orange, scarlet, brown. Herbs: herbs of Scorpio, poisonous or hallucinogenic herbs, roots, rhizomes, apples, pomegranates, oak, ginger, sasparilla, ginseng, mushroom, wormwood, almond, hazel, garlic, yew. This is not an exhaustive list, but something to get you going.
If you desire a deeper understanding of and practice into Samhain, I recommend starting with the basics of witchcraft first. Yes, the celebrations are a fun way to get into witchcraft, but I think the way to really feel the holiday is to focus on the inner temple first. Focus on developing your magickal mindset, meditation, light work, energy, and spirit. With this foundation, you will be able to experience the deeper, truer meanings of the holidays. By all means, do as you will, but keep this lesson in mind.
INSPIRED ACTION: Plan a small ritual for this Samhain. Maybe you take a few photos out of your ancestors and speak with them. Maybe you clean your altars and prepare them for the New Year. Maybe you meditate on the story of the God and Goddess. Maybe you even go out and find a Samhain celebration to join! This is a time of cheer! Go do it!