Pronunciation: SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SOW-een
October 31 – November 1
Themes: death, rebirth, divination, honoring ancestors, introspection, benign mischief, revelry
Other Names: Samhuin, Halloween, Third Harvest, Day of the Dead, Feast of the Dead (Félie Na Marbh), Ancestor Night, All Hallows Eve (the 31st).
This celebration marks the end of the growing season and the beginning of Winter. Herbs, fruits and vegetables are prepared to be stored for use through the cold months. In autumn, the leaves and flowers die. Many animals migrate or prepare for hibernation. The world becomes more still. These natural cycles remind us that everything dies, and yet will be reborn. It is believed the veil grows thin between this world and the world of the afterlife and so many take this time of Samhain much like Dia de los Muertos on November 2, to honor our ancestors who are just beyond the veil.
This is seriously, my favorite time of year. The days shorten and night falls earlier, the shadows grow, and the veil between this world and the realm of the spirits and ancestors is at its thinnest. The air is crisp with the scents of autumn, and the magical possibilities seem to be all around us. Nature is about to take back within herself what has stopped living to nurture the earth to be reborn in spring.
The turning of the Wheel toward Samhain is a turn toward the dark months ahead. The nights are growing longer, and time is catching up with us. Our trees are filled with dried figs, dried grapes, things once living now dying, to remind us of the stages of all of life. In almost every country outside of the United States, death is talked about as an accepted and reverent part of life, people dance and it’s even celebrated with parties and filled with colorful adornments. Here in the US we place our cemeteries to the outskirts of our cities and towns, and now in modern times, place headstones flat and parallel with the Earth so that when we drive by they just look like nice parks instead of where we lay our dead to rest, we hide them in plain sight. In most other countries, cemeteries and mausoleums are front and center in towns and cities with upright headstones that tell you yep, here are our beloved who have passed from this earth and here you too shall lay to rest. In the US we make death a scary, depressed occasion that we tend to shy away from talking about.
The Celts of our distant past didn’t shy from the subject, this portal to the other side, because they understood how to harvest wisdom in the process of facing their own mortality. They understood that when you bury something with intention, it can feed future crops and nourish them from within. And yet, the word itself – Samhain – means nothing more than summer’s end. The end of growth. This day reminds us that death is just a natural stage of life. We can’t have life without death any more than we can have light without dark, truth without lies, or good without evil. They are all two sides of the same coin, forever entangled and forever inseparable.
Decorate with pumpkins, gourds, black orange and yellow candles, photos of your ancestors, autumn leaves and representations of autumn. Crystals to use; smokey quartz, obsidian and onyx.
*”All hallow tide, the triduum of Halloween, recalls deceased spirits, saints (hallows) and martyrs alike, in one collective commemoration. The word Halloween is of Christian origin, and many Christians visit graveyards during this time to pray and place flowers and candles at the graves of their deceased loved ones. The two days following All Hallows Eve—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day—pay homage to the souls that Christians believe are now with God. In medieval England, Christians went “souling” on Halloween, begging for soul cakes in exchange for prayers in local churches. Halloween’s secular side has emerged during the past century, and today, trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, visiting haunted houses, watching horror movies and dressing up like favored characters has become custom in Western culture. Recent estimates are that the very diverse American business of “haunted attractions” brings in hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and the commercial elements of Halloween have spread from North America to Europe, South America, Australia, Japan and parts of East Asia.”
Candle Ceremony for The Ancestors
This is a simple ceremony which can be shared with both friends and family, or worked alone. You can include children in it – it begins in darkness and ends full of light. You will need:
- a supply of small candles, either black or white (or you can use the little battery operated ones for the littles)
- a heat proof container or tray of sand or earth to put the candles in if you use candles. Place one in the center of the container from which all the others will be lit.
Switch off all the lights and sit gently in the darkness. Allow yourself to feel the darkness but not in a spooky way. In a brave and comforted way. Ask for the presence of your ancestors to come to you. When you are ready, light the central candle saying:
“We welcome our departed loved ones into this home and honor your presence among us”.
Allow each person in the circle to spontaneously remember someone who has passed and remember something about them and light a candle for each person from the central candle: ‘I remember Uncle Harold he was a kind and thoughtful man….’. Allow this to continue for as long as it takes to complete the re-membering. You will end with a tray full of radiant candles. When all is complete, give thanks, and allow the candles to burn to completion. Turn on the lights whenever you are ready.
The Veil separating the world of the living to the dead has parted, and the last harvest has ended. I cast my circle and invite into it my ancestors, and my loved ones who have passed through the Veil. Come to me and together let us celebrate your time here on Earth!
Samhain Shadow Self Meditation
Meditation to Find Your Shadow
Find a quiet, comfortable place to perform the meditation, some place where you will not be disturbed. Be sure to answer the questions after the meditation below.
Close your eyes. Imagine that a soft white glow is forming at your feet. It begins to swirl upward and it forms a protective shell around you. It lifts you up and takes you on a journey to the core of your being.
The misty glow sets you down and dissipates to reveal a marble staircase that spirals downward. The light is very dim along the walls of the staircase and you can’t see all the way to the bottom, but you know this is a place into which you must venture.
You begin down the staircase and you notice it spirals in a counterclockwise direction. The light in the staircase comes from candles flickering in small carved niches along the walls. The staircase walls are made of smooth, cold marble that your occasionally touch as you continue to journey downward.
As you work your way down the stairs, notice on the walls that there are occasionally symbols formed out of metal and embedded into the walls. These are the symbols of your shadow masks. Take note of whichever one is most prominent. This is the symbol for your primary shadow mask.
Reach up and touch the symbol of your primary shadow mask and you’ll find that it comes loose from the wall. As you hold it in your hands, you can feel the cold weight of the metal symbol and you can see it from all sides. Hold on to this symbol as you continue down the stairs.
When you reach the bottom, you find before you a great golden door. You try the door, but it is locked. Look at the keyhole and you will find that it is oddly shaped. Slip the metal symbol you hold into the keyhole and you’ll find that it unlocks the door. Open the door and enter the chamber.
The room is cold and quite dark, except for a single point of illumination that emanates from the far side of the room. The light comes from a mask that hangs on the far wall. Go over to it and look at it. You notice that it is well within reach, so you take it down and examine it thoroughly. On the inside of the mask is its name. Take note of it.
After you’ve examined the mask, place it on your face and ask: “How do I resolve this shadow mask?” Listen carefully to the answer. Once you’ve heard the message, ask one more question: “What does this shadow mask keep me from doing?”
After you’ve queried the mask, take it off and place it back on the wall. Exit the chamber and lock the door with the metal symbol you retained. As you climb the stairs, you can place the symbol anywhere along the wall and it will set itself within the marble. Continue to head to the top of the stairs,this time moving much more quickly than before.
Once you have reached the top, the white glow enfolds you once again, lifts you up, and brings you back into your body.
When you have arrived back fully, take a moment to contemplate your experience and draw to the best of your ability the symbol of the primary shadow mask. Now draw your shadow mask. Then answer these questions…
- What is the name of the shadow mask?
- What part do you play in keeping this mask alive?
- What are the effects of this shadow mask on your life?
- What does this shadow mask keep you from accomplishing?
- What action must you take in order to resolve you primary shadow mask?
- What have you to learn from this shadow mask?
Intention Setting Ceremony
One of the biggest Samhain traditions is known as the Feast of the Dead or Dumb Supper. It’s kind of like Thanksgiving for the spirit world, the Feast of the Dead is a big celebratory meal for all of the people who came before you. Most who celebrate Samhain set an extra place for their ancestors, putting servings of food on the plate as an invitation to their departed to join their feast. Once the meal is over the food is often set out in a natural place as an offering to the deceased.
For some this is a quiet thoughtful occasion with contemplation as each remembers the departed and enjoys a completely silent meal, sometimes referred to as a Dumb Supper. For others this is an exciting experience where you serve the favorite foods of your loved ones who have passed on and share memories and good stories of those you love who are no longer with us.
Many people around the world including Pacific Islanders, Peruvians, the Ancient Romans, and multiple European cultures all have some version of a Feast of the Dead as part of their cultural celebrations. Many Buddhists and Taoists also have a similar celebration called the Ghost Festival where they prepare elaborate meals and set places for the deceased, making this a much more common practice than you might think.
So create your party for loved ones who have passed and do it in a way that honors your families traditions and rich history. You can make it as elaborate as you’d like with a huge feast, story telling, a tended bonfire, rituals, ceremonies and all the trimming, or maybe just a silent Dumb Supper and even just setting out photo’s and looking over them along with mementos handed down the family line to be shared with the littles (kids) along with sharing tidbits about their family members who are no longer on this plane of existence. I wish I had had something like this in my childhood since my Mom and Dad had me in their 50’s, my grandparents were all either deceased or passed when I was pre-school age. I still know very little of my ancestors and our family who have passed.
Incense & Oil
Samhain Loose Incense
- 2 teaspoon dried Apple
- 2 teaspoons of chopped Pine needles
- 1 teaspoons of Rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 3 Acorns
- 1/2 teaspoon of crushed Dragon’s Blood
- A few pearls of Frankincense
- 2 drops Patchouli Oil
Using a mortar and pestle, crush the Frankincense, then Dragon’s Blood, and then the Cinnamon and Acorns. Crush and add the remaining ingredients into a bowl one at a time, then add the Patchouli Oil and mix everything together. As you mix the dried fruits, herbs, and spices, focus on your intent with Samhain and your Ancestors in mind.This is the time of the year to Honor our Ancestors and to contemplate the cycle of life, death and rebirth.Burn this incense on top of a charcoal disc or use as a dry or simmering potpourri. Some other items you may consider to customize your incense to your liking are Cedar, Cedarwood, Clove, Hyssop, Juniper, Marigold, Mugwort, Patchouli, Pepper, Sage, Salt, Wormwood to name a few. Keep in mind what each item represents for the Samhain Season.
- Apple are associated with the dead & Samhain
- Bay for psychic powers
- Cinnamon for protection
- Marigold for protection and honoring ancestors
- Mugwort for physic awareness
- Patchouli for honoring the earth
- Pepper for ghostly protection
- Pine for honoring the earth and winter
- Rosemary for remembrance
- Sage for purification and wisdom
- Salt for purification
- Wormwood for protection against evil spirits
- Bonfires, or “Fire Watches” are basically a lit fire to help your ancestors find their way to you as the veil thins. Often full celebrations are held around the fire through the day as the fire is kept burning. Usually the fire starts at sundown and goes till sunrise but in modern times it’s usually sundown till midnight (or whenever your local fire department policies are). You can have designated fire watchers, or tenders from the family through the day and evening. Gather to sing, dance, tell stories and eat good food.
- Collecting Autumn flowers such as chrysanthemums are popular. Marigolds are associated with death, cemeteries, and Dia de los Muertos in Mexican tradition. Some people dry bouquets of, wilted dying flowers.
- Share stories and memories of your ancestors. Delve into your family tree and see how far back you can trace to the life and times of your ancestral tree.
- Gather leaves for creative decoupage crafts.
- Make incense blends of myrrh, mugwort, patchouli, sandalwood and pine.
- Dumb Dinner or Silent (Mute) Supper. Throwback to the Ancient Celts and their 3 days of feasting? Ancestors were called to share food. Families would set the table with extra seats and plates filled with the same food they were eating. They would sit and eat, and update the spirits on what had happened throughout the year.
- Make resolutions, write them on a small piece of parchment, and burn in a candle flame.
- Carve a jack-o-lantern. Place a spirit candle in it.
- Drink apple cider spiced with cinnamon to honor the dead. Bury an apple or pomegranate in the garden as food for spirits passing by on their way to being reborn.
- Make a mask of your shadow self.
- Create an ancestor altar. Add photos of loved ones who have passed away, keepsakes, anything that has special importance to you and your loved ones in spirit.
- Create and fill an ancestor box. Decorate the outside with things that make you think of or feel your ancestors. This is often things from your families culture, heritage, ethnicity or legacies. Then fill the box with mementos, photos, and things passed down. Place it lovingly on your mantel or other special place of honor to be a place of remembrance through the year.
- Collect and recreate old family recipes.
Samhain Door Wreath
Materials: Items from Nature, fine wire, sheet of corrugated cardboard, collection sack, small nail.
First, take a Nature hike. Have the littles collect items from nature, such as pine cones, seeds, leaves, berry bunches (remind the child how important it is to thank the plant for its gift, and to take only what is needed.), acorns and caps, flowers, etc. When you get home, spread out collection on some newspaper. Cut out a circle about 15″ in diameter, from the cardboard. Cut a smaller circle out of the middle. Have the child choose which objects go where on the cardboard background, and hand the object to you. Wrap the wire around each object so it can be fastened to the cardboard. Poke two small holes in the cardboard ring for each item. Feed the wire through and twist in back. Keep fastening objects onto the ring until it is full and no cardboard shows. Hang the wreath on the front door with the nail. (Explain that “wreaths of bounty” used to symbolize giving thanks for a prosperous year, and an invitation for others less fortunate to share in the good fortune.)
Making a Besom
Materials: 4ft dowel- 1″ in diameter, ball of twine, scissors, straw or other pliable herb stock.
Take the straw or other herb stalk that you have chosen and soak overnight in luke warm salted water. The water swells the stalk slightly for bending without breakage, and the salt dispels former energies. When ready, remove stalks from the water and dry for just a bit. Not too much or the stalk will stiffen up, again. Place the dowel on a table where you have room to work. Start lining the stalks along the dowel , about 3 inches from the bottom, moving backwards. Begin binding the stalks to the dowel with the twine. Tie very securely. You may add as many layers as you like, depending on how full you want the Besom to be. When stalks are secure, gently bend the top stalks down over the binding. When all have been bent over, secure the stalks again with more twine a couple of inches under the first binding. Allow to air dry for a day or two. The dowel can then be stained, painted, or carved into to make personal. Remember to concentrate and charge at the next full moon. (Explain to the children that the Pagans used to “ride” their Besoms through the fields, jumping as high as they could. This was to show the God/dess(s-es) how high they wanted their crops to grow the next year. Also jumping over bonfires at the Sabbat festivals was for good health and prosperity.)
Recipe for Samhain Soul Cakes
Recipe by Karen from Lavender and Lovage.
- 175g butter (6ozs)
- 175g caster sugar (6ozs)
- 3 egg yolks
- 450g plain flour (1lb)
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice
- 100g currants (4 ozs)
- a little milk to mix
- Pre-heat oven to 375F.
- Cream the butter and sugar together and then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
- Stir in the currants and add enough milk to make a soft dough, similar to scones.
- Roll the dough out and cut out little cakes with a biscuit cutter.
- Mark each cake with a cross and then place them on a greased and/or lined baking sheet.
- Bake the cakes for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin for up to 5 days.
- 4 cups mashed potatoes
- 2 1/2 cups chopped cooked cabbage
- 3/4 cup onion, chopped very fine and sauteed
- 1 cup mashed turnips
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk or cream
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- Place all ingredients, except the cabbage, in a large pan and cook over low heat while mixing them together.
- Turn the heat to medium and add the cabbage.
- The mixture will take on a pale green cast.
- Keep stirring occasionally until well mixed and heated through.
For a delicious and simple soup, peel the outer skin from the pieces of pumpkin and boil until very tender (about 30 minutes). Mash with a potato masher or run through a food processor. Saute 1 chopped onion for every cup of pumpkin. Add the mashed pumpkin, 11/2 cups milk, 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper, and 1/4 tsp. curry powder. Serve hot with a sprinkling of cinnamon or nutmeg.
Make Ahead Vegan Samosa Shepherd’s Pie
- 1 1/2 pounds potatoes or sweet potatoes
- 2/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
- fine grain sea salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 cups cooked yellow or green split peas
- 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
- To serve: a drizzle of melted coconut oil with chopped serrano chiles, micro greens, scallions
- Preheat oven to 375F with a rack in the center.
- Place the potatoes/sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water, salt as you would pasta water, and bring to a boil for about ten minutes, or until tender. Drain, and return to saucepan over heat for a minute or so to dry out a bit. Add the coconut milk, and the salt, and mash together. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the coconut oil with the onion and garlic, and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté for a few minutes, until onions are translucent, and then turn the heat up and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until the mushrooms release their water, and start to brown. Add the tomatoes and spices. Stir well, then add the cooked split peas and peas. Cook for another minute or two, taste, and adjust with more garam masala or salt if needed.
- Transfer the mushroom mixture to a 8-inch baking dish (or equivalent), spreading it across in a somewhat even layer. Dollop the potatoes across the top, and gently push them around until they cover the entire top of the casserole, run the tines of a fork across the top if you like a bit of texture.
- Bake for 25 minutes, and finish under a broiler to add a bit of extra color and texture to the top. Serve as-is, or sprinkled with any (or all) of the suggested toppings.
Brie + Cheddar Apple Beer Soup with Cinnamon Pecan Oat Crumble
Cheddar Apple Beer Soup with Brie
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 sweet onion chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2/3 cup apple cider
- 2 small Honeycrisp apples or 1 large, chopped
- 2 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
- 1 (12 ounce) beer I used pumpkin beer
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 8 ounces brie rind removed + cubed
Cinnamon Pecan Oat Crumble
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- 1 1/2 cups whole raw pecans
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
To make the Crumble
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Working on a greased cookie sheet or pyrex dish, add the oats, pecans, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the softened butter and use your fingers to crumble it into the oats mixture until everything is moist and the butter is evenly distributed. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking, until crisp is golden brown and smells amazing. I like to serve this warm, so I make it while the soup simmers.
To make the Soup
- Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and a pinch of brown sugar. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. At this point, slowly add in the apple cider, let it cook into the onions, add more and continue to cook. Do this until the onions are caramelized. Add the apples and thyme to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened, 8 minutes. Add in any remaining apple cider, the beer, chicken broth and cayenne. Bring to a simmer and cook 5-10 minutes or until the apples are tender. (This is when I bake the crumble)
- Meanwhile, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Set aside.
- Once the apples are soft, puree the soup until chunky smooth or completely smooth (whatever you like). Return the soup to the stove and bring to a low bowl. Whisk in the milk mixture and boil until the soup thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the cheddar cheddar cheese and brie until melted and smooth. Simmer the soup 5 minutes or until ready to serve.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the cinnamon pecan crumble. Plus maybe some extra cheese too!!
- 4 turnips (I used butter or yellow turnips)
- 1 bramley apple (or 1 cox)
- 1 large potato
- 1 liter of chicken or vegetable stock.
toast ham or bacon for 1 minute in the microwave between a sheet of grease proof paper
toast stale bread and cut into chunks
- Dice all the vegetables and apple.
- Over a high fire heat two teaspoons of butter in a medium sized pan.
- Add all the vegetables and apple and stir so they don’t burn
- When slightly glazed add the stock and simmer for 30 minutes
- Mix the soup until all the chunks are gone
- Put back on the fire and bring to the boil for another minute
- Season to taste with pepper and salt
- Serve with the toasted bread and crispy ham or bacon
Enjoy and remember to set an extra plate for the spirits…
Quinoa Salad With Roasted Squash, Dried Cranberries, and Pecans
- 1 c. quinoa
- kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium Delicata squash, seeded and thinly sliced into half moons
- 1 bunch Tuscan kale, thinly sliced and stems removed
- 1/3 c. pecans, toasted
- 1/3 c. dried cranberries
- 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 c. crumbled feta
- Preheat oven to 425° and cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper. Spread out on a sheet tray to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, arrange squash on a baking sheet and roast until tender and golden, 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, toss together quinoa, squash, kale, pecans, and cranberries. In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Drizzle over salad and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper, crumble feta on top, and serve.
Pumpkin Bread with Salted Maple Butter
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp. ground cloves
- 2 large eggs
- 1 15-oz. can pumpkin purée
- 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp finely grated ginger (from about one 3″ piece fresh ginger)
- 1½ cups plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1½ sticks (¾ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- ¾ tsp. flaky sea salt, plus more for serving
- Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly coat a 9×5″ loaf pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment, leaving a generous overhang on both long sides.
- Whisk flour, cinnamon, kosher salt, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and cloves in a medium bowl.
- Whisk eggs, pumpkin purée, ginger, and 1½ cups sugar in a large bowl. Stream in oil, whisking constantly until mixture is homogeneous. Gently fold half of dry ingredients into egg mixture until no dry spots remain. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients, stirring to combine but being careful not to overmix.
- Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top with a spatula. Scatter pumpkin seeds over batter, pressing lightly to adhere. Sprinkle seeds with remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar. Bake bread, rotating pan once halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 80–90 minutes.
- Let cool slightly, then run a knife or small offset spatula around pan to help loosen bread. Using overhang, transfer bread to a wire rack and let cool.
- Do Ahead: Bread can be baked 4 days ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
- Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter in a large bowl, scraping down sides, until light and fluffy, 5–6 minutes. Add maple syrup and ¾ tsp. sea salt and beat, scraping down sides of bowl once more, just until incorporated.
- Transfer maple butter to a small bowl; season with more sea salt.
- Do Ahead: Maple butter can be made 5 days ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill. Let come to room temperature before using.