Symbols of Halloween and their Pagan Origins
While it is true that Samhain is not evil, pagans have always been aware that evil exists. Our ancestors attempted to protect themselves by carving faces in vegetables to place in their windows.
These were the forerunners of the present day jack-o-lantern.
The idea that evil spirits walk the earth at Samhain is a twisting of the pagan belief that the veil of consciousness which separates the land of the living from the land of the dead is thinnest on this night. Deceased ancestors and other friendly spirits are invited to join the Sabbat, and be reunited with loved ones. This obviously does not mean that hordes of evil demons are crossing over and wreaking havoc.
Samhain bonfires, called balefires, were lighted on every hilltop as soon as the sun set on October 30. The fires served the purpose of containing the energy of the dead god, lighting the night, warding off evil, ushering in the light of the pagan New Year, purifying the ritual space, and being the focus of the ritual.
Masks and Costumes
Masks are one of the oldest body adornments known to humankind. They are used to invoke animal or totem energies, to aid sympathetic magick, to raise power, and to imitate the deities. It is possible that the earliest Samhain masks were of game animals, so that hunters would be able to catch the desired game and feed their clans through the winter.
The Witch's Besom
Another symbol of Samhain is the witch's besom, or broomstick. The besom was often used in the magickal practice of the Middle Ages. Besoms were often placed near the hearth of a home to protect the opening. Besoms were used in Handfasting ceremonies and fertility rites.
An Irish dish served on All Saint's Day. It was an old Irish tradition to hide in it a ring for a bride, a button for a batchelor, a thimble for a spinster, and a coin for wealth. This was in keeping with the idea of the New Year as a time for divination
- 4 cups mashed potatoes
- 2 1/2 cups cabbage, cooked and chopped fine
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk or cream
- 3/4 cup onion, chopped fine and sauteed
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/8 teaspoon of pepper
Saute the onions. Boil the potatoes and mash them. 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 mix will take on a pale green cast. Stir occassionally until it is warm enough to eat. Lastly drop in the thimble, button, ring, and coin. Stir well. Serve.
Samhain Ritual Potpourri
- 1/2 Cup Oakmoss
- 1 Cup dried Apple Blossoms
- 1 Cup dried Heather flowers
- 1/2 Cup dried and chopped Apple peel
- 1/2 Cup dried Pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 Cup dried and chopped Mandrake root
- 25 Drops of Patchouli oil
Mix the Patchouli oil with the Oak Moss, and then add
the remaining ingredients. Stir the potpourri well and
store in a tightly covered ceramic or glass container.Back to Top
Please note,as always, these are only suggestions. Your own rituals should feel right to you, suit your own needs.
Samhain has always been considered the best time for divinations and other psychic work. Divination is the art of seeing into the future. Popular divinatory devices in modern paganism are tarot cards, palmistry, the runes, and the Ouija board. However, the Ouija board relies on asking unknown spirits to take over the device. Opening such a portal has its risks, and should be approached with caution.
Because the veil between the realms of the living and the dead is at its thinnest on Samhain, it is a prime time to attempt spirit contacts, beautiful and meaningful communications with departed loved ones. The best way to do this is to simply cast a circle, sit in it alone, and begin to focus your mind on the one whom you wish to contact. You can use a wand, or amulet to help you focus your energy. Have with you one solitary candle to light your loved one's way.
Face either north or west. Close your eyes, allow your mind to calm itself. Meditate, concentrating on the form of your loved one. After some time has passed, visualize a beam of light streaming down in front of you, just outside your circle. Shortly after this you should feel a distinct presence in the room with you. When you feel your relative is present, you may speak to him or her either out loud or in your mind. Tell them they are missed and loved, then sit quietly and wait for a response. Soon you will feel the presence fading. Allow it to go. When it is gone, visualize the beam of light disappearing, shutting the portal. Close your circle and place the candle near a window to guide your relative, and other entities along their way.
Aiding Spirit Contact
If you have another method of contact you prefer, you can help its effectiveness by burning an incense of lavender and cinnamon. Mandrake tied to a personal belonging of a dead person will help him or her to contact you.
A Final Thought
In paganism, death has never been seen as an end, but as a transition. Just as the God dies , to be reborn of the Virgin Goddess at Yule, we too will be born anew as the Wheel of the Year turns on.