Pittchcraft: Celebrating Samhain

Witches walk among us — seriously. Pittchcraft is a bi-weekly blog written by staff writer Emily Pinigis about her life as a college student and practicing Witch.

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Autumn is many people’s favorite season — Witches especially. While Christmas is often referred to as the most magical time of year, it is really the Halloween season that holds the most Magick. This time of year is the most active for Witches, when they strengthen themselves and their Magick.

Halloween may be over, but the celebration of Samhain is still going strong. Samhain is a Celtic holiday celebrating the last harvest of the year from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, which historically served as the origins for the now mainstream Halloween holiday. The festivities associated with Samhain were started by Irish pagans about 2,000 years ago. The original celebration consisted of harvesting the last crops for the year and slaughtering the last of the livestock so that their meat could be frozen to last throughout the entire winter. The bones and cartilage of the slaughtered animals were then burned in a massive bonfire. Believe it or not, these traditions actually evolved into many of the traditions still celebrated today.

One example of a Halloween tradition rooted in Samhain celebrations is trick-or-treating. In ancient times, Samhain, much like Halloween today, was seen as a day in which the veil between this world and the Otherworld was lifted. This allowed the spirits of the deceased and faeries to travel between worlds — but faeries are mischievous and often unwanted creatures. In order to ward them away from homes, homeowners would leave out bowls of food and snacks to appease them.

For a Witch, Samhain is perhaps the most important time of the year. No matter what type of Witch someone is or what religion they follow, the majority of Witches still follow a yearly Holiday cycle. This cycle begins with Samhain, and thus it is often referred to as the Witch’s New Year. Because of its importance, the two-day celebration of Samhain is often a rather large one full of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and large bonfires.

Celebrating Samhain can be something as extravagant as a 30-foot bonfire in the woods at midnight, or something as simple as munching on some fresh apples or pomegranates. However you celebrate, it is important to make use of foods, herbs, crystals and traditions associated with the specific holiday. As mentioned above, apples and pomegranates are foods largely associated with Samhain, but so are gourds, turnips and mulled wine.

The colors of Samhain are black, purple and orange, so any decorations or crystals of these colors are perfectly fitting for celebration. Additionally, the herbs associated with this holiday are mugwort, allspice, deadly nightshade, mandrake and sage. Herbs such as these are often associated with protection, divination and rebirth. These seasonal items can all be used in rituals as well. Rituals performed on Samhain deal either with honoring and remembering the dead, or asking for strength and health for the Magickal new year.

One of the simplest rituals you can perform to honor and remember a deceased loved one is simply to make their favorite food and say a blessing over it for them before you eat it. Or if you have an altar, you can decorate it with the aforementioned herbs, foods and stones. You may place your loved one’s favorite food in the center of the altar and dedicate the entire altar to their memory.

A ritual for the deceased can simply be sitting down for a while and remembering their presence in your life. Keep them close to you during Samhain and they are likely to pay you a visit. But be careful not to invite negative spirits into your space. You must take care to ward them off during Samhain.

According to Irish lore, a stone found with a natural hole in it protected its finder from all negative spirits and mischievous faeries. But if you can’t find a stone with a hole in time, there are a few easier ways to protect yourself from negativity. One very common protection method is to simply carry a vial of salt on your person. Iron does the trick as well, but that may not be as easy to come upon.

No matter how you chose to celebrate and protect yourself from evil spirits, there is truly something special about Samhain. It is a Magickal time of year and perhaps the best time to begin or strengthen your practice of Witchcraft.