Samhain [sah-win] is the most important event of the year for most pagans and all witches. It’s known by most non-pagans as Halloween, and is of course focused on a night of candy, costumes, and harmless pranks. Yet in the pagan communities, Samhain has real meaning; it is a night to honor the ancestors. In the northern hemisphere, Samhain is celebrated from sundown on October 31 through November 1. Some groups hold Samhain celebrations on the nearest weekend or on the Full or New Moon closest to this time. Other pagans observe Samhain a bit later, or near November 6, to coincide more closely with the astronomical midpoint between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice.
This ritual involves casting a circle, a short history lesson, and ample time for remembering those known and unknown. If you choose to use this ritual for your own future gatherings, feel free to customize it to your own beliefs, styles, or group dynamics. You have my permission and my thanks for considering it.
You’ll need the following items:
Quarter Candles (yellow, red, blue, green)
Fire pit or cauldron
Tea Light Candles (at least 2-3 per person)
A plate of food (anything you choose)
A goblet of wine or other drink
“From the sky above and below to the ground; guarded by winds and water and fires of the realm, this humble circle, our holding space, outside of time….now a sacred place!”
Calling of the quarters
We beseech you! Great Guardians of the Eastern realm; where the invisible forces of air originate. Where the sun starts its journey each day; shining light to vanquish the darkness; where the seeds of inspiration are sown to remind us of that which is innocent and new; where the eagle and the hawk and the condor fly. We honor you and bid you welcome! <light yellow candle>
Greetings noble Guardians of the lands of the South; where the insight and understanding are forged in the great fires. The lands from which celebration and lessons of the heart are nurtured and the seeds of the visionaries are planted; the coyote sings its sweet song of the night until the forges give forth searing heat and the powerful light of the noontime sun. We honor you and bid you welcome! <light red candle>
Salutations to the gathered Guardians of the Western lands; where the water spirits guide us on our journey inward; to reflect on the ever expanding universe. The lands where the fallen leaves gather to nourish the earth and the bear and the crow bring forth their offspring. It is also the direction of the ancestors who give guidance and direction so that we may gather the strength for the cold winter ahead; and the source of energy that the healers draw strength from. We honor you and bid you welcome! <light blue candle>
The element of Earth; so great and so encompassing that mere words cannot demonstrate the great mystery and great vision which emits from the Northern lands. The place where dreams are cast with the help of the nocturnal animals and the great owl; where warriors are born, the wise ones enlightened, and the immortal elders which carry forth the tenants of life, love, and happiness to each mortal soul are learned. We honor you and bid you welcome! <light green candle>
Blessed be to the season of Samhain; the time of the wise Crone Goddess, the night of the death of the God, the eve to celebrate the closeness of the spirit world. Oh Great Goddess, we humbly ask for your presence in this circle tonight and forever in our lives! <light Goddess Candle>
Hail Great Goddess and Welcome!
Welcome and Blessed Be to Everyone!
Tonight we gather to celebrate Samhain. This day is significant to many cultures for many different reasons. It’s the third and final of the annual harvest festivals; on Lammas, we gave thanks for the grain with the first loaf of the season and the first ales; on Mabon we feasted and gave thanks for the fruits and vegetables from all parts of the land; and tonight we give thanks for the herbs, the nuts, and the meats. It’s the culmination of all which the Goddess provides. Yet it’s so much more; tonight is the inauguration of winter. It is the Wiccan New Year, New Year’s Eve for Witches, and the beginning of the New Year for those who follow the Celtic path. It’s also the one night of the year when the veil is at its thinnest; a day when faeries are afoot making mischief, spirits are roaming the moors, and anything is possible.
Yet more importantly, it’s the day we celebrate the lives of those who have passed on throughout the year and a day to offer honors and accolades to our ancestors. There is an awakening happening across the lands and many people are beginning to feel the call from their ancestors; both to understand where they came from and to preserve the ancient rites and rituals that they practiced many decades ago. Tonight we’ll give the highest honors those who have crossed over. As the veil is at its thinnest, spirits may be present in our circle, but have no fear, for tonight is a perfect time to commune with them. We also have the responsibility as a community to ensure we remember those who are alone in the spirit world; with no living relatives left to pay them homage. And it’s also the time for personal reflection – have we strayed from our path this year? Have we lost focus? Are we achieving our goals; both personal and spiritual? I’m not asking for answers, but I implore each of you to self-examine and make any necessary corrective actions in your life.
This night, when the gateway between our world and the spirit world is thinnest – this night we call out those who came before us; to remember means to never forget.
Honoring Our Ancestors
“Spirits of our ancestors, we call to you; we welcome you to join us tonight. We know you are always watching over us; we know that you are silently protecting us and guiding us in all aspects of our lives, and so tonight, with great honor and reverence, we thank you.”
Our altar is simple tonight – open spaces to be filled – names to be whispered – memories to be remembered. The candles await any one of you – come forward and light one in memory of a loved one who has passed recently – light one for someone who is on the other side, but is still influencing your life – light one in memory so that you shall never forget.
<this is a time for quiet reflection – these candles are sacred, as are the thoughts of those who light them>
“Brothers, sisters, mothers; wives, husbands, fathers; loved ones, lost souls, friends and family alike – we ask you to hear our voice, listen to our hearts, feel our breath, and share in this gathering. We are all descendants of the great family tree of life; an honorable and ever reaching tree. We call you to come from beyond the veil and share the wisdom of the afterlife with us and to bless each of us with the good fortunes of an honorable life.
Behold – this plate is set for the dead who have no one to remember them – those whose stories are lost to annals of time – those whose tales of bravery and hardship were plowed back into the earth along with them as they passed – who shall fill it lest they be forgotten?
<this is a symbolic statement – if you really want to get involved with your group, ask each person to bring a small treat with them to the circle and fill the plate accordingly>
<The ritual leader makes the first toast (below) and then passes the cup to the next person who make’s theuir own toast until everyone has spoken>
This cup shall be our introduction and we shall offer them a toast of great honor – introduce yourself and your lineage as we pass it around! “I am (state your name), son of (father or mother), grandson of (name), and great grandson of (name) and I bid you welcome and good tidings!”
“Memories only exist when they are given energy; the past has eternal life when it’s never allowed to fade away. These candles burn with a pure flame; each reverently dedicated to someone who has moved on. This plate; filled with the stored energies of Mother Earth is presented to those whose names were forgotten yet their spirits now remembered. This cup; full of libations to those who have ventured into the world of the living tonight; let it be known that you are not alone!”
<Take time to meditate on the actions and more importantly to remember those who came before us>
Closing the Samhain Circle
Power of earth, spirits of the north, we give thanks for your energy in the form of food and drink, for the fertile fields which feed our families, the deep forests which provide us with solitude, and the majestic mountains to keep things in perspective. Thank you for your gifts and your presence! <extinguish green candle>
Power of water, spirits of the west, we give you thanks for the sparkling streams to quench our thirst, the mighty rivers where our nets are always full, and the endless oceans which demonstrate the regenerative powers of the planet. Thank you for your gifts and your presence! <extinguish blue candle>
Power of fire, spirits of the south, we give you thanks for the brilliance of fire; for the heat and warmth that it provides us in the cold months, for the forges where we create the tools of civilization, and for the dying embers which remind us that all things that live will eventually die. Thank you for your gifts and your presence! <extinguish red candle>
Power of air, spirits of the east, it is on your gentle winds that the seeds are spread, the air is cleansed, and the birds and creatures of the sky take flight. The invisible gift of breath fills our lungs, and for that we are forever grateful. Thank you for your gifts and your presence! <extinguish yellow candle>
Great Goddess, thank you for your abundance, your wisdom and the unconditional love shared with us this Samhain night in our sacred space. Thank you for showing us how to achieve balance in our lives; night and day; male and female; summer and winter. <extinguish Goddess candle>
And so the wheel turns…blessed be!
If you are interested in more rituals, please go to the Rites & Rituals Archive