RELIGION

Samhain 2015: Dates, Traditions And Rituals Of The Pagan New Year

It's considered a liminal time, when the veil between life and death grows thin.

In late October and early November, many witches, Wiccans and other pagans around the globe celebrate Samhain, believed to be an ancient Celtic festival in celebration of autumn harvest and the onset of winter.

1. Samhain is typically celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1, almost halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

2. Samhain is pronounced "sah-win" or "sow-in."

3. Some modern pagans consider it the "witch's new year," and the end of the harvest season. It is a time of renewal and spiritual intention-setting.

Druids perform a Samhain or pagan Halloween style blessing ceremony at Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
Druids perform a Samhain or pagan Halloween style blessing ceremony at Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

4. Rituals surrounding Samhain include bonfires, dancing, feasting and building altars to honor deceased ancestors. Some pagans bake special loaves of Samhain bread and leave offerings to the spirits outside their homes.

5. Samhain is one of eight annual festivals commonly celebrated by pagans of various traditions, along with Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Midsummer, Lughnassad and Mabon.

6. It's considered a liminal time, when the veil between life and death grows thin. Food is set aside for ancestors and protective spirits and rituals honoring the dead take place.

7. Samhain is believed to be one of the original festivals behind the holiday we know as Halloween. Some also associate it to the Christian All Saints' Day on November 1.

8. Some of Halloween's most common traditions are rooted in Samhain's harvest festival roots, such as the carving of pumpkins and bobbing for apples.

9. The Yellow Book of Lecan, a medieval book of tales, reported that people referred to Samhain as the "Feast of Mongfind," a legendary witch-queen who married the King of Tara in old Ireland and was central to ancient Samhain celebrations, Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary writes.

10. Some celebrate Samhain with a ritual to guide the dead home by opening a western-facing door or window and placing a candle by the opening.

How do you celebrate Samhain? Let us know in the comments!

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