Typically celebrated on October 31st.
The Basics of Samhain
Also Called: Halloween (October 31) - in American
traditions; Samhain/All Hallows Eve (November 7th) - Celtic
traditions; Martinmas/Old Hallowmas (November 11) - Scottish/Celts
traditions; Shadowfest - Strega traditions.
The Wiccan New Year represents the complete circle of the seasons and is the last of the three harvest Sabbats. Although the traditions celebrate Samhain on different days, they are the same festival with the same celebration and intent.
It is a festival of thanks and gratitude for the year past. A time to look back at the lessons you learned, the spiritual evolution you traversed and the special unions you made. A time to thank the God/Goddess for the bounty you received and shared.
Represented by black candles to ward off negativity, gold to recognize the Sun God essence and orange to represent the joining of the higher and lower forces within and without.
On the night of Samhain the veil between the spiritual world and the physical world is at it's thinnest. Therefore many will conduct rituals to honor the dead or those they lost during the past year. Many Witches believe this is the best time to communicate with those they lost or wish to converse with on the other side. Divination is especially heightened on this night, but extra caution for positive forces should also be heeded. Jack-o-lanterns, gourds, cider and other "Halloween"esque items can be used to decorate your home. Along with large golden-yellow mums in and about the house.
It is also a good time to buy a new broom, change the wardrobe, the curtains and colors in your home.
The last of the 3 harvest festivals, and the celebration of the Witch's New Year. Many witches look upon Samhain as the festival to renew the Wheel of the Year. The Celtic pagans believe this is the time with the God of the Witches year dies and is mourned by the Goddess. It is a time when the people are cast into darkness as they await the rebirth of the God at Yule.
Many people call this time the Night of the Dead, which can be a dramatic phrase for the one time during the year when the veil between the living and spiritual world is at it's thinnest. It can be looked at as the night when past relatives and friends walk the earth and share their knowledge and wisdom with the living. It is a night when much spiritual growth can be achieved and blockages that hold you back can be broken.
For many this is the most important festival of the witches year. It is very sacred and represents the time between October 31st and the Yule Sabbat for a witch to turn their attention inward for growth, knowledge and spiritual advancement. A time to take stock of what you have learned and what you have left to accomplish. Also known as Hallowmas, Hallows Eve, Samana and Samhuinn.
The colors of the festival are black and orange. Black to represent the time of darkness after the death of the God. Orange to represent awaiting the dawn of his rebirth at Yule. Jack-o-lanterns originated from the custom of lighting candles for the dead to follow as they walk the earth and it's still a wonderful custom today. Treats also originate from an old custom of leaving cookies and other foods out for those relatives to enjoy as they shared this one night of embodiment. Feeding the dead is still widely practiced in Celtic lands.
Traditionally Sabbat festivals begin at sun set on the eve of the Holiday. You can use the daytime hours of this holiday eve to search and harvest that perfect pumpkin, and gathering wood and straw for a balefire (make it safe and please keep a fire extinguisher handy).
Clean your special ceremonial cauldron and some witches like to create a ceremonial mask. Costumes are a Samhain tradition as well. You may enjoy spending a few days in early October gathering some simple craft supplies and then spend the 29th making some whimsical masks for the festival night. Clean your robes and layout your festival garments.
Your alter can be decorated in shades of black and orange. We like to use one black candle for the Ceremonial center piece and four light orange candles for the four quarters. I also like to include a black table cloth covered by an orange lace cloth. If you like crystals on your alter, try Kyanite (a black stone) which can be an excellent attunement stone, good for meditation and aids in past life regressions. Obsidian (Black snowflake) used to sharpen both the internal and external visions. It teaches one the truth of oneself in relation to their ego, depicts the contrasts of life and death; day and night, darkness and light, truth and error. And if you can find it, Orange Tourmaline Works as a protective shield - it transforms and consumes negative energy without releasing it into the atmosphere. It also has to do with visions and "seeing" with compassion; good for the eyes, teaches to expand limited concepts of thinking; relates to aspirations for higher love. This is a very complete stone.
If you notice, all of these stones work for the individual. They are chosen to help a witch go within and look at themselves from a point of compassion and truth. To honestly see the negative patterns that might be creating blocks and to embrace oneself with love to release the old and to help transform the soul/mind/body to a life of spiritual balance.
Gold or brass serving trays and goblets for ritual offerings are also placed on or around the alter for easy access. Arrangements of early fall flowers and foliage should also be included to recognize the harvest part of the festival. If your alter is outside or you have space on your interior alter, you might include baskets filled with all the examples of this seasons harvest from the previous two Sabbats.
There are several ways of conducting a ritual. Each witch should learn many different methods and then construct your own within the boundaries of the festival