Samhain 2022 Rituals, Meaning, and Traditions You Need To Know
Samhain is an important holiday to many modern Pagans, witches, and other spiritual practitioners. This time of year, we’re noticing the shorter days and long cold nights.
As more darkness starts to consume our days, we turn inward. Samhain is the time for resting, celebration, rituals, and self-reflection.
Many Pagans, Witches, and those interested in Nature Spirituality celebrate the seasonal cycles. Sometimes referred to as the Wheel of the Year, and consisting of eight celebrations. Four of these festivals (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain) are rooted in Celtic history and origins.
The other four (Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox, and Winter Solstice) represent the sun’s location. I created a complete guide to each season, including history, traditions, symbols, correspondences, ritual ideas, and how you can celebrate.
Please note that I make every effort to ensure this information is correct and accurate through my own experiences and referencing sources throughout AND at the bottom of this article.
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Samhain is pronounced Sah-Win, but is sometimes pronounced SOW-in. Some people believe it means “summer’s end,” while others debate it means “fire of peace.”
When is Samhain 2022?
Samhain is a cross-quarter fire celebration and the halfway point between the Autumn Equinox (Mabon) and the Winter Solstice (Yule).
Since ancient Celtic people recognized sunset as the start of the day, Samhain is typically celebrated at sundown on October 31st until sundown on November 1st. (May 1st in the Southern Hemisphere).
Early sources describe Samhain as a three-day, three-night festival. However, some spiritual practitioners are very passionate about celebrating at the exact halfway point between the equinox and solstice and celebrate based on current astrological timing.
There is also evidence to suggest ancient people celebrated Samhain on the new moon closest to the Autumn Equinox.
The Gauls marked the year into just two havles, the dark or winter half being Sam or Samonios, the light half Gam or its Latinized form, Gamonios.
….Samonios, the dark half of the year, was reckoned first in the Celtic calendar. The festival marking the beginning of Samonios was Samhuinn (Samhain), a three-day feast celebrated on the new moon closest to the autumnal equinox.The Book of Celtic Myths
What is Samhain?
Samhain is a time of year when the veil between this world and the Otherworld is said to be thinnest. This Pagan holiday marks the end of the harvest season and is considered to be one of the two most important fire festivals celebrated by ancient Celtic people (the other being Beltane).
Samhain represents the ending of one year and the beginning of another, which is why in modern times, it’s often called the Witches’ New Year.
Caesar described this in detail when writing about the Gallic Wars:
All the Gauls assert that they are descended from the god Dis, and say that this tradition has been handed down by the Druids.
For that reason they compute the divisions of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights; they keep birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such an order that the day follows the night.C. Julius Caesar (translated)
2023 Pagan and Witchy Planner (Physical PRE-ORDER)
Samhain Traditions and History
Samhain celebrations included many traditions centered around this time of transition. Let’s jump into a few examples!
Hearth fires in family houses were left to burn out while the crops were harvested during this time of year. After the harvest was collected, everyone would gather with local Druid priests and ignite a shared fire using a wheel that would scrape and spark a fire.
The fire wheel symbolized the sun, and eventually, everyone would return home with a flame from the town’s bonfire to light their home’s hearth.
Samhain was also a time for divination about the future to plan for the coming year. Samhain festivities typically included bonfires, parade-like processions through town in animal skins or costumes as symbolic sacrifices to the deities of the Otherworld, and feasting on foods that were laid out on Samhain altars.
The bonfires were not the only fire rituals associated with Samhain. A popular ritual called “lating the witches” involved a solemn candlelit procession, the purpose of which was the discovery of dark magic.
If a candle flickered or died out during the procession, it meant that the person carrying it was a certain victim of witches, and special precautions would be taken to protect him or her.The Book of Celtic Myths
Not only does Samhain mark an end to harvesting crops for winter storage, but it was also traditionally a time used by early peoples to cull their herds. Farmers would bring their livestock down from summer grazing pastures in the hills and slaughter some animals to feed themselves through the long winter months ahead.
Driving cattle between two fires to protect them from disease or evil spirits lurking among the smoke of the bonfires was a popular Samhain tradition.
Transition To Winter
Samhain became associated with death due to the slaughter of animals and because Samhain marked the beginning of Winter and the end of a season.
As a result, Samhain became associated with ghosts, spirits, certain types of Fae, black magic, communing with the dead, and banquets.
The Corn Spirit
Note: Remember, ancient Celtic people had never heard of the Native American maize corn we know today. When using the word corn dolly, imagine a grain dolly.
At the end of each harvest season, the Celtic people would not harvest a limited amount of grain. It was thought that if all the plants were harvested, the Corn Spirit would be displaced, and it would drift away, unable to find its way back.
The leftover grain would be crafted to look like a man, woman, or significant spiritual symbol. Since the corn dolly symbolized the spirit of the Corn, it was often included in important ceremonies and celebrations. Come Spring, the corn dolly would be ceremonially burned before planting any new crops for the year.
Why is The Veil Thin During Samhain?
Ancient Celtic people believed that on Samhain, the doorway to the Otherworld was open, and Fae (Sídhe-folk), or spirits of dead ancestors, could walk among the living. During this time, Fae Folk would reveal themselves to humans.
For this reason, they prepared meals for their departed kin and placed lit candles in their windows to guide them home. They would also make offerings of milk and bread around places known as Sidhe mounds; this was sometimes called a fairy tax.
To the Welsh, the Otherworld was Annwn, also a land of youth and plenty.
…The door to Annwn may of course be an allusion to the feast of Samhain, the solar feast day on which the doorway to the underworld was believed to lay open. The name Annwn means “deep” or “under earth.”
…Annwn came to be called Avalon, the name by which the Otherwold is most commonly known today. The name Avalon is believed to derive from the Welsh Ynys Afallach, “Isle of Apples,” a reference to the abundant fruit of the Otherworld.The Book of Celtic Myths
Nature appears to be dying all around us, but in reality, it’s resting just beneath the surface, preparing for renewal and new life once Spring arrives. Remember to set new goals for yourself too!
Now is the time to say goodbye to the past year. Saying farewell to those we have lost while celebrating and honoring their life. This is a season when children and adults face the reality of death but are given the opportunity to embrace and come to terms with it.
At Samhain, we can reflect on our accomplishments and failures from this past year and what we can do to improve ourselves and our lives moving forward. Do you have any unresolved projects? Now is a great time to finish them up so you can start the new year fresh!
Every year at Samhain, witches, Pagans, and spiritual practitioners, commune with ancestor spirits, celebrate the harvest, honor deities, and decorate altars with symbols and correspondences.
They may create a sacred space outdoors or within their home by lighting candles in every room and placing them in circles around themselves. Fresh herbs are usually used for extra potency. Here are some Samhain correspondences to help you celebrate Samhain!
Samhain Spiritual Intentions
- New Journeys
- Sorrow / Loss
- Knowledge / Insight
- Defense against evil
- Premonition / Visions
- Planning and preservation
- Shadow Work
- The Crone
- Thinning of the Veil
- Fae mythology
- Spiced Cake
- Mulled Wine
- Soul Cakes (see Bread under How To Celebrate below)
- Fermented Food (a few examples) –
- Deep Purple
- Silver / Grey
- Dark Red
- Red Roses
- Psychopomps (Greek – a spirit, human, or being who guides souls that have recently crossed over. They help them transition into the afterlife from the mortal realm. I listed a few examples below)
- Ancestors or loved ones
- Hermes (Greek)
- Anubis (Egyptian)
- Aurora Borealis (Inuits)
- Shiva (Hindu)
- Azrael (Islam)
- Anito (Filipino)
- Arch Angel
- Grim Reaper
- Sugar Skulls
- Divination Work (Norse Runes, Tarot, Ouija Board, Pendulum Board, Celtic Oghams, Candle Magic or Scrying)
- Jack O’ Lanterns – Pumpkins, Turnips, Gourds
The swan was revered by the earliest Celts, as far back as the Urnfield and Hallstatt cultures (circa 800 BCE – 500 BCE). Although they are creatures of water, swans were, oddly, connected with the sun, sometimes even appearing as bearers of the chariot of the sun god.
…Many of the later Celtic Gods appear in tales as swans or with the ability to change into swans. The ability seems closely connected with women, althought in some stories male gods have the same power, invariably with a femal of the same ability.
As seen in the tale of Aenghus, both the god and his magical lover have the ability to transform into swans during the festival of Samhain.The Book of Celtic Myths
Crystals, Metals and Stones
- Black Tourmaline
Incense, Candles and Scents
- Star Anise
Samhain Rituals and How to Celebrate
Samhain is a time to communicate with the spirits of loved ones who have passed. It’s also a chance to connect with ancestors or deities and work with them during this important holiday. Here are some ritual and celebration ideas to help get you started!
Dumb Supper Ritual
This Samhain ritual is often referred to as a “dumb” supper (a synonym for silent or mute). The dinner is held in silence to respect the spirits and give them a chance to communicate.
Begin with an empty place setting for those you would like to honor. You can include a picture of them, decorate with things or trinkets they love, or cook their favorite meal or food.
Since the veil is thin at this time, you can help guide them to your table by placing candles in the windows (typically black or white ones). All electronics are put away. You can also write messages to the spirits and release them by burning the paper in a candle flame.
Personally, I enjoy telling stories about my loved ones to help keep their memories alive. Especially stories that make us laugh and remember how lucky we are to have had them in our lives. Feel free to celebrate however you like!
Baking and Soul Cakes
Nothing makes me feel more festive than baking in my kitchen and filling my home up with delicious smells! Anything pumpkin or apple-related is perfect, like bread, cookies, or pies.
I think it’s important to mention Soul Cakes because I often hear new practitioners asking about them, and you can see how going door-to-door for treats emerged from this practice.
Underprivileged people would go door to door on All Souls’ Eve, promising to recite prayers for the family’s deceased loved ones. They would often be given a Soul Cake in exchange.
By the ninth century, Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older pagan rites. In 1000 A.D. the church designated November 2 as All Souls’ Day, a time for honoring the dead. Celebrations in England resembled Celtic commemorations of Samhain, complete with bonfires and masquerades.
Poor people would visit the houses of wealthier families and receive pastries called soul cakes in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives. Known as “souling,” the practice was later taken up by children, who would go from door to door asking for gifts such as food, money, and ale.History.com – Halloween Trick or Treating Origins
I personally don’t make them, mostly because it’s likely Christianity had already immersed itself into the Celtic culture by the time Soul Cakes were given out. I’m always trying to find ways to deconstruct, evaluate, and remove any Christian beliefs from my practice. But to each their own! Feel free to bake them if it resonates with you!
This is an excellent time of year for a refresh, and why not help someone else out while you’re at it? Donate items to a thrift store, volunteer at a soup kitchen or food bank, visit nursing homes and find ways to honor and be thankful for the abundance life has given you.
Prepare for Winter and Yule
Samhain is a great time to freshen your home before Winter sets in. Personally, Autumn always makes me feel like nesting. Cleaning and organizing my home comes naturally to me this time of year. Open your windows and let in that chilly Autumn air.
Samhain is the third and final harvest celebration. A fantastic way to honor this AND your heritage is by mimicking whaty your ancestors would have done in pre-industrialized times—preserving the harvest for the Winter days ahead through canning, freezing, and drying.
It can also be a fantastic time to snuggle up and work on some DIY projects. Try preparing for Yule/Winter Solstice/ Christmas by hand-making items to give away as gifts. You can create so many unique gifts: extracts from your herb garden, infused liquor, soaps, candles, knitted items, create journals or Grimoires from scratch, or anything else you think loved ones would enjoy! I personally enjoy making vanilla extract to give to friends, family, and neighbors. Anything you can start preparing now, your future self will thank you for once December rolls around.
Also, remember to honor the creatures in your very own backyard! What better way to prep for Winter than giving the backyard birds some extra food with a pine cone bird feeder? It’s a great way to include your children in the seasonal fun!
Decorating your home is fun and a great way to bring more spiritual meaning into your sacred spaces during this time of year. Go for that Hygge vibe! Snuggle in front of a fire with a warm blanket & sip on mulled apple cider, mulled wine, tea, or hot chocolate.
Putting together a wreath is my favorite way to set the seasonal vibe when you first enter your home. I find most of my materials at Michaels, but I know plenty of people who prefer to use only naturally collected supplies. Why not watch some YouTube videos or scroll through Pinterest for some outdoor DIY’s to decorate your yard?
Samhain is a fire festival, and historically large bonfires were created to ward off evil spirits or bad luck for the coming year. The ashes were usually spread out into farmers’ fields to guarantee a bountiful crop for the following year.
A bonfire goes back to the days of the Druids when the surrounding villagers doused their hearth fires and then lit them from a flame carried from the Samhain fire.
While modern power companies have made this tradition moot, the bonfire still aligns with those old rites. Try having a formal ceremony where you light a candle from the fire that you then bring into your house.
You may also want to practice scrying by gazing at the bottom of the flames, observing what visions flash within your mind.Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween by Diana Rajchel
Visit To A Cemetery
Slow down and recognize the significance of death in the cycle of life. Reflect on how this affects you on your spiritual journeys and with others: loved ones, animals, and plants.
This is also an excellent opportunity for kindness by cleaning gravesites or adding flowers to some who may need them.
Honor and Connect With Your Ancestors
Go through old photo albums and find ways to display or chronicle family photos. Connect with places like Ancestry.com to discover more in-depth information on your family’s history.
Do you have anything that has been passed down to you that you can add to your household decor or place on your altar? Learn more about your heritage and how you can connect with traditions your ancestors would have celebrated.
Carve Jack O’ Lanterns
This is mostly just my excuse to binge on roasted pumpkin seeds. LOL! Not only is it fun to carve pumpkins with friends and loved ones, but it also can help protect your home from harmful spirits.
Draw or design your pumpkins with sigils, bind runes, symbols, or spiritual meanings you’re drawn to like sacred geometry or the pentagram.
Jack-o-lanterns were initially carved potatoes or turnips filled with coal. They would place them in windows or doorways to frighten and scare away evil spirits.
Now is the time for some serious inner work! Give yourself some time to rest. Whatever self-care means to you, now is the time to do just that. What if you just gave yourself a big hug and gave extra love to those parts of you that needed it?
Don’t be afraid to look into those dark parts of you and figure out what the darkness wants to show you about who you are! No judgment; be as kind to yourself as you would a loved one! Magic is born in darkness, and now is the time to explore yourself.
Give your physical body some self-love too! Schedule that spa day or haircut! Splurge and use extra of the fancy lotion or cosmetics you usually use sparingly. Maybe now is time to try some homemade and natural creams or beauty treatments you’ve wanted to try!
Now is a great time to do some dreamwork and look for any communications you may be receiving. Pay attention to any animals you come into contact with, especially ones that you would not usually see. Hold a seance, work with a Ouija, tarot, Celtic Oghams, oracle cards, or cast some Runes (maybe even create your own set)!
I love to do some tarot pulls this time of year since the veil is thin and ask my ancestors some questions. Remember to record your work in your Grimoire, Wiccan Book of Shadows, or spiritual journal so you can reference it later!
Samhain is a time to focus on renewal, knowledge, insight, and heritage. Find some guided meditations on YouTube, podcasts, or online to help connect you to these intentions.
Personally, I enjoy creating a special ritual for this on Samhain. It helps me set the tone for any ritual work I’d like to do. Then I put a blanket in a room where I won’t be disturbed and light candles with specific intentions. After meditation (guided or not), I typically practice some divination or work in my Grimoire.
Grimoire, Wiccan Book of Shadows, or Spiritual Journaling
I personally enjoy doing some deep self-reflection, and journaling helps me put ideas on paper to consider. I put together a list of ideas and writing Grimoire, Wiccan Book of Shadows, or spiritual journaling prompts for Samhain and Halloween here if you’re looking for inspiration.
If you want to know more about Grimoires, Wiccan Book of Shadows, or spiritual journaling or are just looking for some inspiration; you can check out my series here!
Rituals are deeply personal and can be very private. Spend time researching spiritual paths or topics you’d like to learn more about like the Evil Eye meaning, magical elements, or types of witches.
If you’re looking for ideas, I came across this idea recently from Debs Summers-Cooper in an interview with Vice I think you’ll enjoy.
“Before dinner, we have the doorstep ritual,” she explains, as a waft of rosemary fills the air from the first loaf now unwrapped on the table. “I put five lanterns out on the doorstep—one for each point of the pentagram. I put an apple, some Samhain bread, some mead, and some water down too.”
The pagan tradition is to then light the candles before giving thanks.
Then, finally, it’s time to eat.
The first loaf Summers-Cooper delicately unwraps is rye loaf with rosemary, explaining where the strong smell has been coming from.
Before eating the bread, it’s customary to take time to concentrate on your creation. Take the loaf, turn it three times in your hands, and recite: From the fields and through the stones, into fire, Samhain Bread, as the Wheel turns may all be fed. Goddess bless.Vice – Why Pagans Spend Halloween Baking Bread – Blessed Samhain
You knew I was going to suggest this, right? Take a slow, thoughtful walk where you can daydream and connect your soul with Nature! Observe Mother Earth around you using all your senses.
Listen to the crunch of the leaves beneath your feet and the creatures scurrying about. Smell the Autumn air and discover the dizzying beauty of the colors surrounding you! If appropriate take off your shoes and practice earthing, and of course, don’t forget to bring a yummy Autumn snack with you!
Visit Someone You’ve Been Missing
Have you been missing a friend or loved one? Why not stop in to see them and bring a little gift? You could make some homemade bread, a dessert, goodies from your garden, or get lunch. Such a lovely way to show them you care!
Celebrate The Corn Spirit
This one is so much fun! It’s great to do with kids or friends and is a terrific way to immerse yourself in the season. Here’s an excellent tutorial by Sally Pointer.
You can also visit a local farm or corn maze! Take a hayride to a pumpkin patch, and eat freshly made donuts or apple cider.
For those with children, dressing up in costumes tends to be one of the more popular aspects of the season. However, do you know the history of Trick-or-treating (other than the Soul Cakes listed above)?
During ancient Celtic festivities, locals dressed up in animal-skin costumes to ward off evil spirits. Food was placed outside to satisfy troublesome spirits.
In later centuries, people began dressing as ghosts, demons, and other malevolent creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This custom, known as mumming, dates back to the Middle Ages and is thought to be an antecedent of trick-or-treating.History.com – Halloween Trick or Treating Origins
I hope you enjoy your Samhain 2022 rituals, traditions, and celebrations! Love of love to you and remember, as always…
Segalov, Michael . “Why Pagans Spend Halloween Baking Bread” Vice. 26 October 2015 https://www.vice.com/amp/en/article/d754yx/why-pagans-spend-halloween-baking-bread
“How Trick-or-Treating Became a Halloween Tradition” History.com 3 October 2019 https://www.history.com/news/halloween-trick-or-treating-origins
Rajchel, Diana. “Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween” Llewellyn Publications. September 8, 2015
“The Book of Celtic Myths.” Adams Media, a division of F + W Media, Inc. 2017
C. Julius Caesar. Caesar’s Gallic War. Translator. W. A. McDevitte. Translator. W. S. Bohn. 1st Edition. New York. Harper & Brothers. 1869. Harper’s New Classical Library.
Lecouteux, Claude. Demons and Spirits of the Land: Ancestral Lore and Practices. Inner Traditions. 20 July 2015.