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Samhain: The Witches’ New Year

Samhain: The Witches’ New Year

Samhain (pronounced Sow-in) is the third and final harvest sabbat of the year, and its name means “summer’s end” in Irish Gaelic. Often called the Witches’ New Year, it’s the perfect time to commune with and honor the dead, and celebrate the ever-turning cycles of life and death.

Samhain: The Witches’ New Year

The History of Samhain

Halloween is a contraction of the words Hallowed Evening, which is why you sometimes see the vintage spelling of the holiday as “hallowe’en.” When they came into the ancient lands, the church attempted to turn the night into a night of prayer, but in the Celtic lands, Samhain held strong. Today, it’s a night filled with merriment, trick or treating, and ancient symbols available in the decoration aisle at Target.

In the old traditions, Samhain was the night when the old God died, and the Crone Goddess would mourn him for six weeks. It’s easy to see that the crone became a symbol of Halloween in the form of a scary old hag. While witches know that there’s nothing to fear from the crone, this image became one of revulsion. She became a frightening witch, chasing children through the night. Today, her hooked green nose can still be seen among zombie and Frankenstein’s monster décor.

Another element of Samhain is the cauldron, popularized because it was an ordinary household object that the church couldn’t use against pagans as evidence of witchcraft. Today, as in times gone by, it can sit in for a chalice during magickal practices and often adds a witchy element to the month’s celebrations.

Of course, over time, the church fought against Samhain so much that Halloween itself was cast in the light of demons and communing with the devil. It renamed the night Eve of All Saints since it’s the day before All Saints’ Day, one of the highest Catholic observance days.

However, Samhain has never been about celebrating evil or harming others. It is a beautiful time to practice divination, honor passed loved ones, and express gratitude for the summer months.

Samhain Correspondences

Altar Decorations:

  • Cauldron
  • Acorns
  • Apples
  • Pomegranate
  • Photographs of your ancestors
  • Besom
  • Pumpkin
  • Black candles

Gemstones:

  • Bloodstone
  • Carnelian
  • Jet
  • Smoky Quartz
  • Aquamarine
  • Onyx
  • Obsidian

Herbs:

  • Allspice
  • Mint
  • Mandrake
  • Nutmeg
  • Sage
  • Thistle
  • Wormwood
  • Rosemary

 

Ideas for Celebrating Samhain

Since it’s a harvest sabbat, Samhain is the perfect time for a feast! Invite friends over or keep it small with just your household. You can even play fun games or do crafts together.

Get out into nature and breathe in the fresh autumn air. Build a bonfire Samhain night after the trick-or-treating for Halloween is done. You can write intentions on bay leaves or fallen leaves and burn them in the fire for the witches’ new year!

Carving gourds and pumpkins is a traditional Halloween and Samhain activity, too, so have fun with it.

Give thanks to your ancestors and Mother Earth during a private ritual. The cycles of nature are all around us. This is a beautiful time to honor those cycles.

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