Samhain, (pronounced sow-in) also known as Halloween and Hallowmas, is a time to honor our ancestors and connect with our past. If you want to feel more connected with your ancestors, try this simple Samhain ritual to honor them!
What is Samhain
On the Wheel of the Year, Samhain is a pagan festival celebrating the end of the harvest season and welcoming in the dark half of the year. It is celebrated on October 31st to November 1st, when the veil between worlds is thought to be at its thinnest.
It is also a time to honor our ancestors, look back on the year and look ahead to the new year, and reflect on where we have been and where we are going.
Samhain is a time of transition from one season into another; it’s when all things must come to an end, including life itself. This can be sad for some people, but others find it comforting because it means that death isn’t something scary or negative—it’s just part of life!
For the ancient Celts, Samhain was the most significant of the four quarterly fire festivals, occurring at the midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice.
During this time of year, hearth fires in family homes were left to burn out while people gathered in sacred cummunity spaces for the lighting of a bonfire and to take part in a feast. A flame was then taken to the hearth of every home to light the way and warm the home through the dark and cold winter to come.
Around the time when Halloween started to become popular, families in the medieval period would traditionally make soul cakes in remembrance of the dead. Children and poor people would go from door to door, singing or praying and receiving a soul cake in return. The custom was known as souling and the cakes were sometimes known as souls. The tradition is still followed in some places. It’s thought to have been at least part of the origin of our modern custom of trick-or-treating.
Here’s our recipe for Soul Cakes dto get you in the spirit of Samhain: Recipe For Soul Cakes: An Offering to Our Ancestors
Why celebrate Samhain?
It’s the time of year when the veil between our world and the otherworld is at its thinnest. In fact, it’s believed that on Halloween night, you can actually cross over into that other dimension and meet your ancestors who have passed before you.
Today, it’s not uncommon for people to perform a Samhain ritual to honor these ancestral spirits. Some simple rituals include dancing, feasting, taking nature walks, and building altars to honor their ancestors.
Below you’ll find my favorite simple Samhain ritual for honoring those who have passed before.
Simple Samhain ritual to honor our ancestors
- To perform a ritual to honor our ancestors, you will first need to create a sacred space. To designate a sacred space, first identify an area of your home that feels safe for you to perform your ritual where you can be alone. Then begin to think about designating an area in your home for engaging in your rituals. Ideally this can become a sacred space to return regularly. Your altar becomes your anchor. Nourishing it with your presence charges the bond and improves the quality of the connection.
- If you are doing your Samhain ritual outside, select a location that feels safe for you and where you will not be disturbed. This area should provide you with a good feeling – a place where you can return to foster a relationship with the spirits of place.
Come prepared to make an offering that represents something meaningful to you. It could be water that you have blessed or spoken kindly to; perhaps a stone cleansed in moonlight; perhaps leaves and other nature treasures that you have found; even a strand of hair. Take some time to form a connection with this special place and ask permission to perform your ritual there, being witnessed and blessed by the spirits of that place.
- Set up the area in a way that pleases you. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish to make it. Consider your ancestral lineages, cultural traditions and indigenous systems of thought while setting up your altar. How do you align yourself with the elements? How do they influence your spirituality?
- Create a “spirit altar” to honor the deceased members of your family or others who have passed on. Place photos, heirlooms and other mementos on the altar, along with several votive candles. Light the candles in memory of the people you honor, saying their names aloud and express well wishes. Sit quietly for awhile and focus on what you experience. Note any messages you receive in your journal. This spirit altar can be created just for Samhain or kept year round.
Above, you have a simple Samhain ritual for honoring your ancestors. This ritual is designed to help you connect with the ancestors who came before you and affected your life in some way.
Before beginning, it’s important to know why this is useful. By acknowledging our ancestors in this way, we show them that we are aware of their presence and the effect they have on our lives. Not only that, but by showing respect in some form to those who came before us we can honor the bloodline we share with one another. Think of it as an exercise in gratitude.
If you’d like to host a seasonal celebration for the final harvest, this post 6 Ideas for Hosting the Perfect Samhain Celebration might be helpful.