Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ending & Renewal | Celebrating Samhain

October 31st marks the Pagan Sabbat of Samhain. Samhain often has associations with death and spirits. The veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at it's thinnest, and the Halloween tradition of the pumpkin lantern stems from the practice of leaving a turnip lantern out to guide the dead back home for a night. Personally, I haven't had a lot of experience of death, and it seems incongruous for me to focus on this aspect when it is not of great personal significance. I've developed my own ways of celebrating this Sabbat, focusing more on the ending and renewal aspects, and I thought I would share them. I live in the Northern Hemisphere so my rituals are geared towards that.
Samhain marks both the beginning and the end of the Wheel of the Year, so it's a point of both endings and new beginnings. Some people believe it was originally the Celtic new year, and refer to it as such. I've always found it to have that sort of twinkly fresh start feeling that new year or a new academic term can have, and so that is what I usually focus on.

In the weeks leading up to Samhain I always get the urge to clean and clear out my living space, and I think it's the perfect time to do this. Not only does it help spiritually, cleaning out the old energies and making space for the new as the Wheel turns, but it's great on a practical level. In the Northern Hemisphere, we're just about to enter the darkest and coldest months of the year, where we'll probably be spending the most time indoors, so it makes sense to create a clean, tidy and pleasant space to hibernate in over winter.

The only death related practice I have around Samhain is that I like to reflect on the cycle of life and death in nature. A good way to do this is to go for a walk in the woods, noticing things like the colourful fallen leaves, fungi growing from the decaying leaf litter, and fallen trees which have new shoots growing from them. Nature is full of endings and new beginnings. Life springs from death. Both endings and beginnings are necessary for balance. Another option would be to visit a graveyard that has been overtaken by nature, for a more literal visual representation. Even if you live in an urban area, you may be able to find examples of this-broken paving stones that have allowed plants to grow in the missing areas, street trees which have been cut down but whose stumps provide nutrients for fungi.

Samhain is a great time for self reflection and looking back over the year that has passed, deciding wat you want to let go of and what you would like to welcome in. On Samhain, once darkness has fallen, I like to turn this into a ritual. I write down all the negative thoughts, feelings and habits I would like to let go of on strips of paper, which I then burn in my cauldron. Here is a good guide to safely burning things in a cauldron. It would also work by ripping up the strips of paper and throwing them away or letting them blow away, burying them, or by crossing out the words with a black marker pen. Obviously only use fire or candles in rituals if it is safe to do so. Fire safety is important! Once I have burned away the negative things from the old year, I write down my plans for the coming year and what I would like to welcome in and develop. Usually I have just written these on a piece of printer paper with a basic pen, and that's absolutely fine, but I think this year I will try to use a nicer pen and some special paper, just to emphasise the significance for myself. I read through all the things I have written to set my intentions. Then I fold up the piece of paper and store it somewhere special and safe. It can help to store it underneath a crystal, but it could also be put into a jar or a tin, or even tucked in between special books. As long as you know where it is, and it isn't just shoved in a drawer and forgotten.

I don't think death necessarily has to mean literal death, so another thing I like to do around Samhain is to mourn any more metaphorical losses and then let them go. It could be the loss of a friendship, the loss of a dream job, a life plan, a partner and so on. Take some time to reflect on the good times you had with the person or the positive feelings you felt around the plan/job/etc. Then visualise the feelings of loss leaving your body and being replaced with positivity. Think about letting those positive feelings and good times into your life in different and new ways.

Another thing I like to do on Samhain is to do a Tarot reading for myself. It's a really good time for divination, especially as it's the beginning of the phase of the Crone, so a time associated with wisdom. I particularly like this spread from The Woman Who Married A Bear, as it goes with the idea of endings and new beginnings, and also self reflection, really well.

The day after Samhain seems like a really great time to cleanse everything. I will be cleansing my space, my tarot cards, my crystals, my cauldron and any other tools I've been using, to get rid of any bad energies or lingering spirits. I usually do this either with salt, water (for things which won't be damaged by getting wet) or with white sage incense.

I'd be really interested to hear other people's Samhain rituals, so if you also celebrate this Sabbat I'd love for you to leave me a comment about it!


  1. I love your take on the "death" theme! Thanks for the inspiration, I'll make sure to write about my personal Samhain tradition as well. :)

  2. I almost never get it together for rituals but yours seem like a great reflection on life through renewal