As pretty much everyone is aware, Halloween was this past week.
But, what many people do not know is that All Hallow’s Eve is the same day as Samhain (pronounced Sow-in), which is the Wiccan New Year.
Even though I’ve been practicing Wicca for about two and a half years (ffs has it been that long?!), this was the first time I’d actually celebrated Samhain.
One of the things I love most about Wicca is that there isn’t only one particular way to do things. There are loads of variations of the craft, such as Gardnerian, Dianic, Alexandrian, and Shamanistic to name a few.
I am an Eclectic Wiccan, which means I don’t follow a certain religion or practice, but, instead, I study the numerous Wiccan paths and take bits from various practices that I connect with in order to create a system that works for me as an individual.
The Wiccan holidays/festivals/Sabbats are no different than the practices themselves in that you can choose how you celebrate.
For me, doing a big get together or certain traditional rituals just wouldn’t help me feel connected to the festival and its meaning. So, having the freedom to “do my own thing” is really important to me when it comes to my spirituality. Growing up as a Catholic, I feel that the lack of wiggle room was a part of what made me feel so disconnected from the faith. There were definitely other reasons, but that’s a story for another time.
Before I tell you how I celebrated this festival, I feel like I should probably give you some insight into what the actual hell it is.
So, Samhain is a designated time for us to celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth. For many Pagan traditions, Samhain is a time where we can reconnect with and honour those who have passed.
During this time where the processes of autumn are in full swing, the veil between our world and the spirit realm is thin, so it’s the perfect time of year to make contact with the dead.
Now, many people think of seances and spooky zombie resurrections when I say this, but it’s not like that. See, in autumn, things are beginning to die as winter draws closer and they will come back again with a renewed sense of energy once spring comes around. This cycle of death and rebirth in nature is a direct mirror to what most Wiccans believe happens when we die. We pass away and our energy gets dispersed into the world, giving it a renewed sense of being. So, during a time where, once again, nature holds up a mirror to human life in a very big way, the divide between realms is a little easier to overcome.
Right, what’s this shite all mean then?
Well, it basically means that the energy from those who have passed is given a new lease of life and can spread throughout the world during this time. I personally don’t believe that loads of ghosts are rollin’ around showing up to pubs they miss trying to sneak a cheeky drink from the taps. Nah, for me it’s just the energy that they left behind gets a new opportunity to spread to the living.
But what does Samhain have to do with Halloween then?
Well, as it was believed in some Pagan traditions that various ghouls roamed the earth on Samhain, food and drink were customarily set out to welcome them. Later on, people began dressing up as ghosts and other creatures as another way to welcome spirits and show them that their kind were allowed in a space. As time went on, this practice spread and people began claiming the goodies that were being left for the spirits for themselves, sometimes performing tricks in exchange for food and drink. This eventually evolved into the trick-or-treating that we know today.
OKAY NOW, HOW DID I CELEBRATE SAMHAIN?
Because the veil between realms is lifted, there is a lot of extra energy floating around, which means there’s a lot of extra energy to help you out with Wiccan endeavours!
This makes Samhain a really good time to perform any magickal (‘magick’, with a ‘k’, because it differentiates between commercialised/stage magic and the practice of magick, which contains workings that Alister Crowley [read: the man, the myth the legend] defines as “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will”) workings that involve big changes or particularly personal goals.
So, when the clock struck midnight (and by that I mean a little alarm went off on my iPhone) I performed an anti-anxiety working to celebrate this time and in preparation for the new year to come.
The process began with a little setup, which included lighting a sage stick to cleanse my room of negative energy, opening the window to invite any roaming positive energy in, and writing down on a piece of paper the words I would read to banish all negativity from my mind and create a space of positivity within my mind.
Afterward, I prepared a little cloth bag with fresh lavender and two stones in. Each of those elements has energy properties that dispel negative energy and encourage positivity/confidence. I set this bag down in the space where I was performing my practice.
Next, I lit a light blue candle, which helps call upon the peace and patience of the element of water. Because I am a Pisces, water is the element I connect with the most. For this reason, my calm place is anywhere near a body of water. My most favourite calm place is the Brighton seaside.
After briefly meditating and focusing on the flames of the candle, I read aloud the words I had written while holding onto the bag charm I’d made. I did this three times in honour of the one rule of the Wiccan Rede – The Rule of Three. This states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times over.
Once I’d finished reading, I lit the paper with the flame of the candle and put it in a fire-safe dish to let it burn out completely.
Once this was finished, I said parting words to the energies that had helped me, “blessed be,” and blew out the candle.
I slept with the bag charm I’d made under my pillow to let the energy sink into my body and now keep that charm in my rucksack so I can carry it with me everywhere I go.
So, here’s to new beginnings for the new year and I hope you all find your own ways of bringing peace to your mind, body, and soul.