RELIGION
10/28/2016 02:32 pm ET

Samhain 2016: Traditions And Rituals For 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.

A pagan altar is decorated for Samhain. Altar items include a sage smudge stick resting in an abalone shell, a hazel wand, a
CaroleGomez via Getty Images
A pagan altar is decorated for Samhain. Altar items include a sage smudge stick resting in an abalone shell, a hazel wand, a metal bowl of salt, a candle and various natural items.

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.

A file picture taken on October 17, 2006 shows druids performing a pagan Samhain blessing ceremony at Stonehenge, in Avebury,
CARL DE SOUZA via Getty Images
A file picture taken on October 17, 2006 shows druids performing a pagan Samhain blessing ceremony at Stonehenge, in Avebury, Wiltshire, in southern England.

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.

Members of PRANCE (The Pagan Resource and Network Council of Education) conduct a Samhain celebration.
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Members of PRANCE (The Pagan Resource and Network Council of Education) conduct a Samhain celebration.

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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