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5 Ways to Make Halloween Sacred Again

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5 Ways to Make Halloween Sacred Again

Michelle Pilley shares her formula for a sacred Samhain
Michelle Pilley
Michelle Pilley More by this author
Oct 29, 2015 at 05:00 AM

For the ancient Celts, Halloween, or Samhain as it is known in the Celtic tradition, was the most sacred day of the year. Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ sah-win or /ˈsaʊ.ɪn/ sow-inIrish pronunciation: [sˠaunʲ]) is a Gaelic word for the last day of the Celtic year and is celebrated from sunset on October 31st to sunset on November 1st, marking the end of the harvest season and the close of the year. It was widely observed throughout Ireland and Scotland, whilst similar festivals were held in the other Celtic lands such as Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.

In these times Samhain is very important to witches, pagans and everyone who honours the Earth-based and Goddess traditions. It is celebrated as the end of the year and the beginning of the new year – the most important day of ceremony for the witches. Starhawk, one of the leading voices in Earth-based spirituality, describes this day beautifully in her book The Spiral Dance:

 “The night when the veil is thin that divides the worlds...when the harvest is gathered and the fields lie fallow. The gates of life and death are opened and to the living is revealed the Mystery: that every ending is but a new beginning."

Samhain is a night that death is honoured as part of the cycle of life – death, regeneration and rebirth. We give thanks for the ending of life and the rebirth that will follow. The Crone goddesses, such as Hecate and Cerridwen, preside over this day and guide us as we embrace death and reach across the veil to the ancestors and our loved ones who have passed into spirit. It is a time of prophecy and visioning for the year that is ahead. 

Crone mother  used with permission and painted by wonderful artist and musician Carolyn Hillyer©  ( ​

On this night, at my home in Dartmoor National Park, I light a fire for Samhain in the tradition of the ancient fires that used to light up across the land on hilltops, sacred sites and burial mounds to mark this special time when the last fire festival of the year took place. We sit in the firelight with beautiful incense burning and quietly think back across the last year, remembering all the people and animals that have passed. We say their names one by one, offer herbs to the fire for each one and quietly mourn them, giving thanks for their lives, and the gifts that their presence brought to the world. Sitting in the stillness, we then pull tarot cards to reveal the old patterns and negative behaviour that need to be let go of to allow the new possibilities revealed in the card spread to come into being.

Ancient Mexican cultures also honoured this day as Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead”.

My friend, Mexican Priestess Alma Santiago Martinez, shared pictures with me of the altar she created to honour her mother on this day. She set up an exquisite altar with a picture of her mother and an abundance of flowers and offerings across the floor, which was left in her home for several days so that the whole family could honour her. By honouring our ancestors in this way we can feel the continuity of their spirits in our lives.

Here are 5 simple Samhain suggestions to honour this day:

  • Set up an altar with a picture of your loved ones who have passed – put candles and flowers by the photo and send love and thanks to them.
  • Sit quietly by the candle and the altar and be open to any messages or inspiration that you might receive at this time when the veil is at its thinnest.
  • Take yourself on a guided meditation where you meet one of the goddesses of renewal and rebirth. Ask her to guide you and show you what you should leave behind at this time and the new energies that you can now embrace.
  • Put out an offering of food and a glass of wine in your garden, back yard or balcony for the spirits who are wandering or travelling on this special night. Honouring the spirits in this way is always said to bring protection and good fortune.
  • Sit with a fire or candle and take a look at the things in your life that are rotting away or need to be released. Either write these on paper and burn them in the fire or candle flame, or simply visualize them burning and being transformed in the flame. Allow the death of these old aspects of yourself to be replaced by the new energies that you want to bring into your life for the year that lies ahead. Draw a tarot or oracle card to see the new energies that are coming into your life.


Hopefully you will have fun marking this very special day!

About Author
Michelle Pilley
Michelle Pilley is the Managing Director and Publisher of Hay House UK.  Like Michelle's Facebook Page Continue reading