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Celebration of the Ancestors

Lunar Samhuinn-(New Moon in Scorpio)-3 November 2013 7:49am ET
Traditional Samhuinn/Samhain-31 October/1 November
Actual Samhuinn (Sun 15* Scorpio)-8 November 2013

Samhuinn, Oiche Shamhna, Samhain (pronounced Sah-wen, Sow-een, Sow-in, sah-ven, sa-ween or for some even Sam-hayne) is a cross quarter marking the halfway point between the Autumnal Equinox and Winter Solstice. "Samhain" or "Samhuinn" is Celtic meaning "Summer's End", it marks the end of the growing season, the beginning of the Celtic Winter (the Celtic peoples lived with two seasons, Summer and Winter). Also known as the Witches' New Year, this is when the God symbolically dies (to be reborn at Yule) and the Goddess enters her Crone phase, we (in the Northern Hemisphere) are entering the dark half of the year.

Remembrance is the keyword here, we remember and honor the by animals, plants and the earth who provided us our nourishment and sustained for the last year. We also remember our loved ones who have passed as the *veil* between here and the spirit world is thin.

It is also a night for divination, many scry for their year ahead.

An excellent book, if you can find a copy (sadly it is now out of print) is "The Pagan Family" by Ceisiwr Serith. He provides fantastic ideas for celebrating Samhuinn over a three day period as well as providing fine family rituals. Margie McArthur's WiccaCraft for Families also has something similar only stretching over the month of October with themes for each night that month.

Samhuinn at Mama Moon's

In the Mama Moon household we decorate our home beginning October 1st. pumpkins, cornstalks, skeletons, ravens, bats and witches. I tend toward various types of witches, not the traditional green-faced, warty hag that is typical of traditional Hallowe'en. Closer to Samhuinn our yard and porch are decorated with jack o'lanterns and the eerie hanging Samhuinn turnip heads.

We decorate our ancestral shrine with candles, bits of found treasure from our walks, belongings of the loved ones who have passed (and whose photos adorn the shrine). We also include little bits that remind us of certain ancestors. For my maternal grandmother's father as well as his father both known for their skill with "horse whispering", I include horse statues. For my sea going/loving ancestors I leave bits of sea treasures gathered from beach walks. I also pull out our pages upon pages of family genealogy to set on the shrine (for more on family history read here) and we feast!

Dumb suppers are typical of this night for some but anyone with small children will know that a true dumb supper in their presence is pretty much impossible. My daughter has a robust spirit and the spirits of my loved ones always preferred the warmth and cameraderie of a friendly, boisterous family dinner anyway (What can I say, I'm Scottish and Irish, and her paternal line is mostly French!), so I say do what suits you and yours. We have a fully decked out dinner table, complete with candles, we will add extra candles for any loved one newly passed in the last year. We chat and remember our loved ones, tell funny stories and what we loved best about them.

Our Samhuinn meal typically features a pork dish, I love pork for Samhuinn, laced with rosemary, garlic, sage and thyme. We also have a squash-based bread product, a side dish of potatoes-either roasted with apples or smashed for Colcannon or Champ, wild rice, hazelnuts and apples feature in as well. Samhuinn is pretty much the only time I don't get adventurous with our feast. I like our old favorites.

October 2011: Please check out my recipes for the 31 Days of Samhuinn Cooking over on my blog!

My daughter Pixie loves to go trick or treating, sadly for her we now live very rurally so it is no longer an option. Now that she is getting older I plan to find a Samhuinn UU gathering where she can enjoy the company of other children and really have fun celebrating. Before she goes to sleep we sit and I will say that she is the granddaughter of _____ who is the daughter/son of _____ and so on. Listing her ancestors and sometimes I will pause to tell her a bit about the person, or at least what I know of them. We do a short ritual calling to those ancestors to watch over her as she sleeps. One year my wee girl hoped that they would come and talk to her in her dreams! Ahh, that's my girl!

Once she's asleep it's my time. I may do a meditation or a ritual, one of my new favorites is a Mothers in Time meditation featured in Ann Moura's (Aoumiel) "Grimoire for the Green Witch: A Complete Book of Shadows" whatever it may be it usually features my family and rememberance of them and anyone who has passed during the year. The evening ends with an apple and something from our meal left outside and the lit squashes remain lit until the candles gutter out.

"Friendly Fairy, Witch or Fay
Fulfil the Wish
You wish to-day"

For decorating: pumpkins, cornstalks, hazelnuts, apples, gourds, colors: orange, red and black (look to nature for color ideas), some also include ghosts, skeletons, witchies(old crones to represent the darkening year) (still others may find that the green faced hag represents those tortured and killed over the centuries).

Herbs, Incense: Apple, Oak Leaves, Rosemary, Mugwort, Sage, Allspice, Frankincense & Basil to name a few

Activities: Ideas can be found here

Feasting: Typical dishes include ingredients such as apples, pumpkins and other squashes, hazelnuts (and other nuts), pork, rosemary, wild rice, anything harvestable from your garden this time of year (such as root veggies in the Northern Hemisphere), to drink, warmed mulled cider or wines.

Feast recipes may be found here and please visit my recipe blog for daily recipes for Samhuinn feasting during the month of October

A Rite For Evoking Ancestor Spirits

Source unknown

On Samhain Eve, when the veil of illusion which separates our world from that of the spirits is parted, our thoughts naturally turn to our passed over loved ones.

To help assure that your beloved dead are with you this Samhain, try working a simple spell using a portal incense consecrated to this purpose, and an incantation designed to reach their wandering ears. The incense should contain two parts lavender, one part sage, one half part cinnamon, and a dash of either wormwood or yarrow. As you mix the incense, be sure to visualize it as a gateway for only your own loving family.

You will need to have on hand one single, unlit candle for this rite. When you are ready to begin cast your usual circle. Place your incense toward the north or west (the direction to represent the Land of the Dead). Sit or stand in the center of the circle and cast another circle large enough to encompass just you. Remain in this inner circle and spend a few moments mentally attuning yourself to the spirit world.

When you are ready to start the rite, burn one third of the incense and being the following evocation:

Hear my cry, my ancestors. On this most magical night of the year, I open for you the portal back into my world. The veil is parted wide, the feast awaits. Come beloved ancestors, and join in the ancient rites.

(light another third of the incense and continue)

Come to me in love. Come to this plane in peace. Come with the blessing of Lord and Lady whom we will praise together this hallowed eve. The door is open, the beacon is lit (light the candle now), the way is clear. Arise, blessed dead, and celebrate with me.

Light the remaining incense in the coals and await the coming of your ancestors.

A Mini Ritual: Samhain


What you'll need: Salt, a candle, pennies, something to drink, a plate of food. You may want flowers a photo of an ancestor, and an apple

Preparation: From sunrise to sunset on Samhain. As the dead are hungry when they cross the threshold into our world, it is good to fast so that we can purify ourselves and honor their presence with a feast once the sun sets in the west. Reflect upon the season past, bask in the warmth of Summer's end, and look to the task ahead. The doors to the Otherworld stand open at this time of the year and we do well to remember that the Summerland is near - as close to us as a memory, or the breath of a baby against our cheek.

Set-up: Establish a little bit of "magical" or "sacred" space in your home. Such a place need not be large - just large enough for a small table which will serve as an altar. A stump will work fine if your outdoors. Decorate the altar with candles, flowers, or even photographs - make it as elaborate or as simple as suits your personal tastes. The idea is to provide a sacred space that is comfortable and attractive to the spirits. Be creative.

Feeding the Ancestors: Prepare a plate of food for the ancestors and set it out at twilight. In Celtic legend, red food, such as apples, were considered the food of the Otherword, symbolic of death and rebirth. Consider offering the ancestors some apple pie, cider, or apple slices. Consecrate this meal with prayer. Present it to the ancestors with respect, honesty, and sincerity - in this way you can do no wrong. Light the candle. Wait a while in the darkness and feel the energies swirling around your hallowed space. Meditate and reflect upon the memories, you have of those who have passed beyond. Speak if you will, listen if you can.

This is a good time to let go of the negative things you might have been carrying within you up to now.

Wait for a while to hear what you can, see what you will. When you are ready, bid the spirits a good Samhain, blow out the candle and return to your home - tell stories, dance, feast, and make merry, for the ancestors love a good party!

Samhain Incense

3 Parts Frankincense
2 parts Myrrh
1 Part Rosemary
1 Part Cedar
1 Part Juniper

Crush all ingredients together until ground to a fine paste, its best to use a Mortar and Pestle for this if you have one available. Burn upon lit charcoal blocks within a fire proof container.

SOURCE: unknown

Samhain Incense 2

3 parts Rosemary
3 parts Pine
3 parts Bay
3 parts Apple
2 drops Patchouli Oil

SOURCE: unknown

Hecate Incense

1/2 teaspoon Dried Bay Leaves
1/2 teaspoon Dried Mint Leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
pinch of Myrrh Resin
pinch of Frankincense Resin
13 drops Cypress Oil
3 drops Camphor Oil

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the Bay, Mint, and Thyme until almost powdered. Stir in the Frankincense and Myrrh resins. Add the Cypress and camphor Oils, and mix well. Store in a tightly capped jar and let the mixture age for at least two weeks before using. Burn on a hot charcoal block during your ritual.
(from "Wicca Craft: The Modern Witch's Book of Herbs, Magick, and Dreams" by Gerina Dunwich)

more incense recipes found here

more on the history of Samhuinn