Apples, Photos of
October 31--November Eve--Samhain
Samhain is pronounced as sow-in (in Ireland),
sow-een (in Wales), and sav-en (in Scotland).
It marks the end of the harvest, the end of the year,
and the death of the god.
Self-reflection becomes not simply a custom, but a necessity.
One cannot (or at least should not)
allow the Wheel of the Year
to turn without some kind of examination
of what has occurred.
Just as Samhain ends the old year, it must begin the new,
tho' many witches do not celebrate the New Year until Yule.
Samhain symbolizes both the past & the future,
illuminated by the cycle of seasons,
forever linked as steps on the journey we must all make.
The night lengthens
& we work with the positive aspects of darkness
in increasing star- and moonlight.
Many Craft traditions consider this the eve of the New Year
(as day begins with sundown, so the year begins
with the first day of Winter).
It is one night when the barriers between the worlds
of life & death are uncertain,
allowing the ancestors to walk among the living,
welcomed & feasted by their kin,
bestowing the Otherworld's blessings.
We may focus within ourselves to look
"through the glass darkly",
developing our divination and psychic skills.
A Solitary Samhain Ritual
Prepare your house or room.
Use black & orange candles, pumpkins (carved or not)
& other traditional "Halloween" items if you wish
(most are actually traditional for Samhain).
Prepare the table for the Feast of the Dead.
It should be covered with a black table cloth
& set with black dishes (black paper plates will work fine).
Place a chair at the head of the table,
draped in a black cloth, to represent the spirit.
The spirit's place is set with a white votive candle on it.
Set places for each of the dead that you hope will join you,
and place black votive candles on thier plates.
Plates for the living
(in my solitary ritual, just one)
are empty, of course, awaiting the feast food to be served.
You can keep it simple: bread, fruit, nuts, and juice or wine.
If you've invited living guests,
it is common to make the feast potluck.
However, since the actual feast will take place in silence,
try not to have too many things that
would have to be passed or requested.
Light the candles and turn out the lights
Call the quarters
(ask the Guardians of the Watchtowers
to witness & protect your circle).
Cast a Circle (use whatever method you've been taught).
Invite the deities
There are certain Goddesses that I always invite to my rituals.
It seems esp. important to invite them on Samhain,
as I will want to thank them for thier help
during the past year, and of course,
ask that they continue to help me in the coming year.
If the departed loved ones were esp. close to any deities,
invite them as well.
Feast of the Dead
Light the candles on the plates of the dead & the spirit.
The feast should take place in silence
so that you can think about departed friends & relatives.
Think of their passing
& your hopes for their joyous return.
If someone is recently departed,
try to put aside you sadness
& think of that soul as well & happy
in presence of the Goddess.
Speak in silence an invitation to these loved ones,
asking them to join in your feast.
Use you own words for this.
You know these individuals & can speak to them in a way
to which they are likely to respond.
Sit at your table & eat the food you have brought to it.
Feel the presence of those who have joined you
& rejoice in their presence.
Allow them to speak to you
of whatever they want to communicate.
Take as long as you wish at the table,
listening to those you have invited
& speaking to them in silence.
When the feast is over,
thank your spirit guests for coming,
bid them farewell,
extinguish the candles on the plates,
and leave the table.
Banishing and Resolutions
Before Samhain, write a list of things from the last year
that you want to banish:
bad habits & addictions, unkind feelings towards others,
unkind feelings toward yourself...
anything you do not want to carry over
into the New Year.
Light a black candle & burn the list,
asking the Goddess & God to help you get rid of these
& all negative things in your life.
If you prefer, you can put about 1/4 cup of alcohol
in a cauldron, light it, and burn the paper there.
Speak to the deities about those things you want
to bring into your life in the New Year.
Asking the deities for future rewards
must be accompanied by resolutions
as to how you will accomplish you goals.
They will help you if you are sincere in your efforts
to help yourself.
Because the two worlds are so close at Samhain,
it is the perfect time for divination.
I prefer to use a cauldron of water for scrying,
since the cauldron seems to fit the mood of Samhain
(not to mention Halloween tradition).
You may prefer Tarot cards, a pendulum, or Runes...
whatever method works best for you.
Obviously, the goal of this divination is to see what
lies ahead in the next year.
All of my rituals include some form of meditation.
This is when I ask my personal Goddesses
to guide me, advise me,
and generally keep me on the right path.
I also use this time to thank them in a more personal way
than by reciting a poem of thanksgiving.
At Samhain, I thank them for all thier gifts in the last year
& ask them to continue helping me in the New Year.
Sometimes this part of the ritual
takes the form of a Shamaniac journey
in which I am taken to a faraway place
(sometimes familiar, and sometimes not)
and where I may be given signs that will help me know
what I should do
(either in general or in specific solutions).
Take as long with your meditation as you need.
Thank the Deities
Give thanks to the deities you have invited by offering them food.
I usually say something like
"all things come from the Earth and to the Earth
they must return."
Whatever food & drink I offer (usually bread & wine),
I eat a little & save the rest to place or pour on
the Earth later.
Open the Circle
Thank and dismiss the Guardians
Chocolate de Mexicanos (serves 4)
4 1/4 cups milk
4 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
5 tablesp. sugar
1/2 teasp. cinnamon
1/2 teasp. vanilla
1/8 teasp. allspice
1 shot tequila
Place ingredients in a large saucepan
and bring to a boil.
With a hand-held mixer, or traditional molonillo
(a wooden beater resembling a honey dipper),
beat the mixture until it stops boiling
and becomes slightly frothy.
Stir in tequila.
Serve immediately in mugs
garnished with cinnamon sticks.
Colcannon (serves 8)
4 cups mashed potatoes
2 1/2 cups cabbage, cooked and chopped fine
1/2 cup butter (avoid corn oil margarines
as they will not add the needed body and flavour)
1/2 cup evaporated milk or cream
3/4 cup onion, chopped fine and sautéed
1/4 teasp. salt
1/8 teasp. white pepper
Sauté onions. Boil the potatoes and mash them
(do not use artificial potato flakes).
In a large pan place all of the ingredients except the cabbage
and cook over low heat while blending them together.
Turn the heat to medium and add the chopped cabbage.
The mixture will take on a pale green cast.
Keep stirring occassionally until the mixture is warm enough to eat.
*Lastly drop in a thimble, button, ring, and coin.
Stir well and serve.
*It was old Irish tradition to hide these in it:
a ring for a bride, a button for a bachelor,
a thimble for a spinster, and a coin for wealth,
or any other item which local custom
decreed in keeping with the idea of the New Year
as a time of divination.
If you make Colcannon with these little objects inside,
please excercise caution against choking.
Wassail (makes one large punchbowl)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 baked apples, cut into small pieces
5 egg whites
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teasp. nutmeg
2 teasp. allspice
1 teasp. cinnamon
1/2 teasp. ginger
8 whole cloves
1 quart ale
1 cup cooking sherry
1 cup Irish whiskey
Bring water and cream to a slow boil and remove from heat.
Beat the egg whites well.
Thoroughly mix in all the remaining ingredients
except the alcohol.
Allow this mixture to cool slightly-
enough so the heat from it will not crack you punch bowl.
If you have a non-glass container for your Wassail,
you can skip the cooling process.
Blend in the alcohol just before serving,
and be sure to offer the traditional toast
to the old apple tree before drinking.