By LaVonne (LaVonne) on October 26, 2010

Samhain, (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) means "End of Summer", and is the third and final Harvest. The dark winter half of the year commences on this Sabbat.


Samhain is one of the eight annual festivals, often referred to as 'Sabbats', observed as part of the Wheel of the Year. It is considered by most Earth based Practitioners to be the most important of the four 'greater Sabbats'. It is generally observed on October 31 in the Northern Hemisphere, starting at sundown.  Samhain is considered by some as a time to celebrate the lives of those who have passed on, and it often involves paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets and other loved ones who have died. In some rituals the spirits of the departed are invited to attend the festivities. It is seen as a festival of darkness, which is balanced at the opposite point of the wheel by the spring festival of Beltane, which we celebrate as a festival of light and fertility.

The easiest way to calculate the day is to use an ephemeris and look for 15 degrees Scorpio.  This is the method we Gwyddons use for all the days of celebration during wheel of the year. 

With the rise of Christianity, Samhain was changed to Hallowmas, or All Saints' Day, to commemorate the souls of the blessed dead who had been canonized that year, so the night before became popularly known as Halloween, All Hallows Eve, or Hollantide. November 2nd became All Souls Day, when prayers were to be offered to the souls of all who the departed and those who were waiting in Purgatory for entry into Heaven. Throughout the centuries, pagan and Christian beliefs intertwine in a gallimaufry of celebrations from Oct 31st through November 5th, all of which appear both to challenge the ascendancy of the dark and to revel in its mystery.

In early Ireland, people gathered at the ritual centers of the tribes, for Samhain was the principal calendar feast of the year.  The greatest assembly was the 'Feast of Tara,' focusing on the royal seat of the High King as the heart of the sacred land, the point of conception for the New Year. In every household throughout the country, hearth-fires were extinguished. All waited for the Druids to light the new fire of the year -- not at Tara, but at Tlachtga, a hill twelve miles to the north-west. It marked the burial-place of Tlachtga, daughter of the great druid Mogh Ruith, who may once have been a goddess in her own right in a former age. 

Today, for us, it is the time of reflection, to face our inner nature and reconcile both visible and invisible realities. It is a time when the veil between worlds is thinner, where the doorway to the Otherworld is left ajar.  It is the time to honor the Ancients who have gone on before us and the time of 'Seeing" (divination). As we contemplate the Wheel of the Year, we come to recognize our own part in the eternal cycle of Life. Samhain is about letting go. Taking your inner child by the hand and ask them to unclench their fist. Only then will you be ready with an open hand to receive the gifts of the Now — the Present.

In my Particular Druid College we tell the story of the great battle between the  Golden One, Taru, the Son of the Mother, and Esus, The Hunter, who roamed the world looking for a prey that was worthy of his appetite, and, a worthy foe.

The great feast that comes after the ritual (although still part of the evenings ritual) is fit for a King.  It is fixed by all the members and might consist of a hearty Stew, a Roast or Turkey with all the trimmings, Fall vegetables, salads, and fruits of the season.  A wine is chosen that is robust and fits the feast.  Before any of us eat we make a plate of food and a goblet of wine for our guests of the Otherworld and it is placed outside in our sacred grotto.

Our decorations are of the vibrant and muted Fall colors.  Mums adorn the altar and the table along with wheat stems, cat tails, red candles area placed at the points where our Lady and Lord reside.  The Ladies of our college wear ribbons in their hair that have been braided into a circlet.  Our robes also reflect the season.  Those who are our Elders wear a white robe and a black tabard decorated with silver accents.  The Lord and Lady of our College wear matching robes of fall maroon with a cream colored full length vest with gold trim.  Our third degree members wear robes of Harvest Green and a tabard of black with orange or red-orange ribbon stripes down the middle and across the chest.  All other members wear robes of the remainder of fall colors on the color palette.  A bit opulent, you say, well, yes it is….but our attire is only grand on the Great Days….as they are key points on the wheel of the year.

Samhain was a significant time for divination, perhaps even more so than May or Midsummer’s Eve, because this was the chief of the three Spirit Nights. Divination customs and games frequently featured apples and nuts from the recent harvest, and candles played an important part in adding atmosphere to the mysteries.

Apple Magic
At the heart of the Celtic Otherworld grows an apple tree whose fruit has magical properties. Old sagas tell of heroes crossing the western sea to find this wondrous country, known in Ireland as Emhain Abhlach, (Evan Avlach) and in Britain, Avalon. At Samhain, the apple harvest is in, and old hearthside games, such as apple-bobbing, called apple-dookin’ in Scotland, reflect the journey across water to obtain the magic apple. 

Dookin' for Apples
Place a large tub, preferably wooden, on the floor, and half fill it with water. Tumble in plenty of apples, and have one person stir them around vigorously with a long wooden spoon or rod of hazel, ash or any other sacred tree. 

Each player takes their turn kneeling on the floor, trying to capture the apples with their teeth as they go bobbing around. Each gets three tries before the next person has a go. Best to wear old clothes for this one, and have a roaring fire nearby so you can dry off while eating your prize!
If you do manage to capture an apple, you might want to keep it for a divination ritual, such as this one: 

The Apple and the Mirror
Before the stroke of midnight, sit in front of a mirror in a room lit only by one candle or the moon. Go into the silence, and ask a question. Cut the apple into nine pieces. With your back to the mirror, eat eight of the pieces, and then throw the ninth over your left shoulder. Turn your head to look over the same shoulder, and you will see an image or symbol in the mirror that will tell you your answer.

Symbolism of Samhain:
Third Harvest, the Dark Mysteries, Rebirth through Death.

Symbols of Samhain:

Gourds, Apples, Black Cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, Besoms.

Blessed Samhain to all


Related articles:
dark winter, Harvest, Samhain

About LaVonne
I am still learning who LaVonne/Dorothy is.

Statistically I am a 65 y/young mother of 3, grandmother of 9, and great-grandmother of 3. I am a High Priestess and founder of the College of the Boundless Truth, am an Ordained Minister and perform Handfastings, marriages during the Spring and Summer season. I am enjoying my Crone years.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
very interesting Lance Nov 5, 2010 8:36 AM 2
So relative AlohaHoya Nov 1, 2010 7:04 AM 5

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