Samhain and Halloween In My Practice

Today’s post is brought to you by one of my Discord servers. Below are some discussion questions that were posted for a “witchy chat” that they had on their server. Although I couldn’t attend the chat, I thought I’d answer the questions here.

Samhain Questions

  • Is Samhain a holiday you celebrate or intend to celebrate?

Absolutely. Samhain is a holiday that my sister and I celebrate together each year.

  • What does Samhain mean to you?

Samhain is the time of year when the veil is at its thinnest between our realm and that of the spirit world. It is a time to acknowledge and honor our ancestors and those loved ones that have passed on. It is also the witch’s new year, and marks the end of the wheel of the year’s cycle. After Samhain, the world goes into dormancy for a time and will then begin to rouse once more following Yule in December. This makes Samhain a perfect time for letting go of the past and past habits.

  • What are your Samhain plans?

Each year my sister and I have a dumb supper to honor our ancestors and loved ones, followed by a ritual with much of the same theme. At the end of the ritual we include spellwork to assist in the letting go of things best left behind as we move forward and step into the energy of a new cycle on the other side.

  • Do you consider Samhain to be the start of a new year? Do you have any “New Year” traditions you enjoy on Samhain?

I think I pretty much covered this above. L has shifted her new year to Beltane in the spring, but she still also participates in my celebration of it during Samhain in the fall. So in essence, we’re celebrating two new years, each one distinct from the other. For the fall new year, we often will write out things we wish to leave behind on bay leaves and cast them into the fire to release their energy from our lives. This part of our ritual is something we include each year without fail.

  • Do you celebrate any other holidays around the same time as Samhain? What are they? How do you celebrate?

No. My previous holiday was Mabon in September, and my next will be Yule in December. That said, there are a lot of concepts of Samhain that are shared by other holidays in other cultures, a common theme and common thread of beliefs connecting these different holidays around the world.

  • What do you think of the way that October has become “the season of the witch”? Do you enjoy that witch-themed things become more mainstream for at least a little while?

I don’t mind it. I guess the commercialism of it all should bug me. But the thing is? It is a time of year that makes it easy to find certain supplies and decor that you just can’t seem to get your hands on any other time of year. It opens society to a more accepting (if commercialized) view, which in turn makes it less dangerous to be a witch in the first place. So, in accepting the good with the bad, I suppose a little “Season of the Witch” each year isn’t an entirely horrible thing.

  • Do you separate Samhain from Halloween and celebrate them distinctly from each other?

To me “Halloween” is about candy, parties, and trick or treating. It’s about costumes and fun and games. So yes. It is very much a separate thing from the solemn and respectful theme of Samhain.

I absolutely do celebrate both, sometimes with more leaning on one than the other… but always both.

Countdown to Samhain – Part 2

I discovered this little challenge on Instagram and thought I’d give it a go.  Since it’s not demanding a card pull each day, I thought it might be fun to use it for a couple of my Pagan’s Perspective posts instead of adding it to my daily rotations.

Countdown to Samhain #samhaincountdown

16 Halloween Tarot
Two of Imps – Make good choices using the knowledge and advice that they give me.
The Chariot – Take control of your life and steer it in the direction you want to go while allowing my ancestors to help guide me.
The Hanged Man – Make time along the way to see others perspectives and try and see my ancestors perspectives as well.

17  Off and on around this time of year some things happen.  But it comes with the territory, as the veil between the spirit world and the living one is very thin at this time of year. I am rather certain I had a visitation from my father last Samhain season, and it was not a positive influence for me.  I’ve made precautions this year in the hope of it not being a repeat occurrence, but I would never forbid him from visiting entirely unless it became a repetitive issue.

18  As with the answer to the tarot card question asked in part one of this series, I don’t really have a suit that I associate specifically with this time of year.  I think this might be because I see the suits as elements rather than seasons.  When I am required to assign seasons to the suits, the Autumn season is earth/pentacles. But that is not limited to just Samhain, but the entire Autumn/harvest season.

19  Pumpkins (obviously) and other gourds.  Apples.  Dried orange and lemon rinds.  Dried grasses and grains.  Chrysanthemums, wormwood, and thistle.

Halloween Tarot20 Listen to me… Listen to your inner knowledge… Listen to your intuition. Just listen and know.

This card is about making sure that I’m listening to my inner voice, inner knowledge, and intuition.  These elements are things not based in logic or fact, and yet have the ability to guide you forward with true purpose toward your soul’s completion. 

In acknowledging that my ancestors and guides speak to me through the signs and signals that my intuition and inner knowledge use to guide me, this essentially “doubles down” on the importance of making sure I’m not turning a blind eye to those messages, regardless of the fact that they come from a “less logical” source.

Halloween Tarot21 Stop judging yourself so harshly. It’s okay to be tired, it’s okay to take breaks, it’s okay to take a little time for yourself.  

You work hard and do a lot for other people as well.  There’s nothing wrong with taking a little time for yourself when you need it… or even when you don’t feel like you need it, but just want it.

Don’t allow your father’s voice and judgements rule your life and take away your joy, or enjoyment of the world around you.

Look at all the good you’ve done and stop judging yourself on the little things that don’t matter.

22  Yep.  I used to love dressing up and going to parties with my sister. These days we don’t party all that much, but for the past few years I’ve still decorated for Halloween and handed out candy.  And, as outlined in part one of this little quiz, I obviously also celebrate Samhain.

23  Every year around Samhain I watch two movies without fail. The 1968 version of the Night of the Living Dead and the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

24  IMG_7078

IMG_7076

Halloween Tarot25 I need to stop trying to close myself off emotionally from others that are just trying to help (Four of Ghosts).

I can do this by making sure I stay in contact with Gideon, and by making sure that I express my feelings to him honestly so that he can help in understanding what I’m feeling and other people’s feelings and reactions, as well as guide me in making better emotional choices.

26  Not this year. For the first time since I moved into the building I live in, I won’t be answering the door to trick or treaters this year. So… I won’t be dressing up.   Altho… I might wear a pair of bunny ears to the farm in the morning when I go.  Just for the hell of it.

Halloween Tarot27 The shadow aspect of myself being revealed here is my “Not enough, never enough” shadow. 

This shadow rose up pretty heavy and strong last year, and I’ve noticed a slight resurgence of it this year as well. It makes it difficult to ask for help, and that is something I struggle with year round but usually becomes even more prominent during this time of year when I’m trying to get prepped for the holiday rush.

Halloween Tarot28 Take time to learn how to step away from the scarcity mindset.

This was an interesting solution to giving love to the shadow mentioned above, and yet… it also makes sense to me.  

The thing is, that when I am feeling like nothing is ever enough, I’m also feeling like I can’t catch up and can’t get ahead.  That scarcity is right there on my heels, nipping at me along the way.  It drives he harder and pushes me to do more. But it also feeds that shadow’s feelings of inadequacy.  

Therefore, if I want to give this shadow some love, easing those feelings of scarcity is a must.

29  I don’t think that I have a favorite song for the season, actually.  Although… Enya maybe, as far as music in general goes. Her music always feels just right at this time of year.

30  Halloween Tarot

IntentionPage of Imps – Exploring and expanding upon my interests and curiosities. This summer, I had the intention on doing a lot of different little craft projects and inspirations.

ObstacleStrength – The problem? Was that you can only put so much on your plate at once.  I allowed myself to put myself first instead of the business, which for me is pretty huge. 

Best OutcomeSix of Bats Rx – Staying put. I didn’t really advance all that much in my business over the spring and summer months. My heart just wasn’t into it and I was far too focused on my own self care and life stable and balanced.  As a result, there was very little progress and very little change.  Which honestly?  Isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it didn’t damage my business or cause a backslide and/or loss as a result.

31 Thinning Veil Tarot Spread by TwisttheLeaf

Countdown to Samhain – Part 1

I discovered this little challenge on Instagram and thought I’d give it a go.  Since it’s not demanding a card pull each day, I thought it might be fun to use it for a couple of my Pagan’s Perspective posts instead of adding it to my daily rotations.

Countdown to Samhain #samhaincountdown Okay so this one might be just a lil’ weird since this is my blog and all.  But… Hi, I’m Twist. I’m in my early 30s and live in the Pacific NW.  I have a twin sister and a beautiful tortie cat named Luna.  I am a farm hand, a jewelry designer, a gardener, a nature photographer, a fortune teller, a teacher and a student, a non-theist pagan, a survivor (of cancer among other things), and I am in a life-long battle with the inky black pit of clinical depression. I have an education in botany and horticulture, and a deep affinity for the earth and those things that grow from it.

My favorite thing about Samhain is the crisp feeling in the air. I love that the weather has changed and the scent in the air at this time of year is more than just that of a season’s change, but speaks to me of so many elements from the thinning of the veil to the wet and decay that autumn brings.

My favorite divination tools are cards.  Sometimes tarot, sometimes playing cards, sometimes image only cards.  But it’s cards.  Always cards.  It’s not the only divination tools that I use, but absolutely is my favorite.

Samhain is about religion, Halloween is about aesthetic.  Samhain is about ancestors, Halloween is about spooky stuff.  Samhain includes a dumb supper, Halloween includes trick or treating.

SkeleTarot - Knight of Cups The page of cups is all about going after your heart’s desire.  It’s about taking that pursuit seriously and using your creativity combined with action to not just claim what your heart wants, but express your emotions clearly and openly… essentially wearing your heart upon your sleeve.  The Knight of Cups as the focus for this month is an indication that if I want things to go a certain way? It’s time to act upon those needs and heart’s desires to make sure that I am able to achieve what I want.  I feel this is a direct play off the COTD I had the other day which indicated you must “start as you want to go forward”.  In other words, don’t procrastinate in finding that grounding and balance with my life, responsibilities, and emotional growth.  Do it.

Turkey.  I mean, we’re talking seasonal food so, yeah.  Oven roasted turkey.

Okay, so I’ve done this before on this blog and you can see my altar setup in that past post. Nothing really has changed concerning it’s set up other than the fact that the hand mirror in the photos for that post has been removed and replaced with my great-great-grandmother’s divination cards.

To be honest?  I don’t really have a tarot card that I associate specifically with Samhain, or with any of the Sabbats for that matter.  I tried to think about it and pick one out, but I guess that I do not see the Sabbats in that way… or see the cards in that way?   It seems like an odd correlation to me.  Now, I have a crapload of decks that are Samhain/Halloween based.  But not a specific card.

I have created two of them for this month that are focused upon Samhain and the season.  One is focused on the animal and plant correspondences of the season… and the second is focused on the plant and stone correspondences of the season.

SkeleTarot - The Devil and Eight of Pentacles10  The Ghost of Samhain Past is represented by the Devil and the Eight of Pentacles.  These cards mark the path that I have taken in the past during this time of year.

The temptation to work myself to the bone and forsake sleep or any kind of self care in order to gear up for the holiday rush and be full prepared for what is to come.  It indicates that that temptation is something that has become a bit of an addiction, and a habit that I am working to now break.

SkeleTarot - Nine of Swords11  The Ghost of Samhain Present this year is represented by the Ten of Swords.  This card speaks of coming to the end of a journey.  Not just the end of any journey, but the end of a painful journey that has not been kind to me along the way.  That journey is the habits of my past that are indicated in the cards pulled for the Ghost of Samhain Past.   I am, in essence, working to kill those bad tendencies and the addictive pull to push myself too hard and treat myself too harshly.  The Ghost of Samhain Present says that I have reached a point where I can put that behind me and start anew on a new path… but only if I am willing to pick myself up from the ashes and keep moving forward… not looking back.

SkeleTarot - Six of Pentacles12 The Ghost of Samhain Future is represented by the Six of Pentacles. As a card of generosity and economic balance, it’s appearance as the card of the Ghost of Samhain Future indicates that in riding out this change and using this time to find my grounding and my path, my balance and a better way forward, that the future ahead looks bright.  Allowing for balance to take hold and the ability to sustain and flourish with this new way of doing things not just possible but absolutely probable.  This card indicates that there is no need to worry about if I’m going to find a new balance that is healthier and more sustainable.  It’s not just possible… but the most probable outcome looking at the trajectory forward.

13  A number of them, actually.   My sister spend the time between Beltane and Samhain planning our Samhain ritual.  The time between Mabon and Samhain is our favorite time of year and we participate in a number of spellcasting and rituals together during this time of year, culminating in our largest ritual of the year on Samhain.  Included in this ritual is a dumb supper and respectful offering to our ancestors, as well as spellcraft that involves the releasing of stagnant energy and habits that are no longer useful us.

14 Green is slowly turning to oranges and browns.  There’s a great deal of evergreen plants in my area of the world, but the deciduous trees and seasonal plants begin to lose their leaves, which causes the forest’s greenery to take on a darker shade as there are more trunks and branches and more old growth evergreens rather than the brighter green of the plants that do not keep leaves year round.   Leaves start to leave their imprints upon pavement, stamping the pavement with the echos of their shapes as rain washes away the debris.  By the end of the month, most trees that are going to lose their leaves will have lost them all, and the gray skies will be back in full force making each day “sweater weather” damp and comfy.

15  Yes.   As I mentioned above, my sister and I will present offerings to our ancestors during Samhain, and invite them to join us in our dumb supper, setting places for them at the table and significant items for those we remember in the center of the table to make sure they know they are being remembered.

An Emotive Ramble on “Coolness”

So recently, on one of the Discord servers that I’m a member of, there was a question asked about if people are familiar with the Theban alphabet, and if we use it.

I got into a bit of a debate with someone on the server about whether the Theban alphabet is a language or not. I continue to insist that it is not, but rather in this instance is a tool used to conceal language, and not a language in and of itself. They insisted that it is a language, because it can be used to communicate between two people.

A Frustrating Encounter - Theban Alphabet
"A Frustrating Encounter" - Theban Alphabet

The thing is, during this debate, they insisted that the Theban alphabet has no true use, and that people learn it just because they think it’s “cool”. And the way that this was presented sounded very snide, especially in the context that they were insisting a better method of concealing one’s writings from others would be to learn an entirely different language, and use that instead of a cypher (which is what the Theban alphabet is).

Now, while I agree that learning another language would be beneficial to anyone and everyone, I disagree that the Theban alphabet has no place in today’s witchcraft. I also strongly disagree with there being anything to look down upon in learning something…. anything, for that matter, because you find it “cool”.

In fact, I would say that aside from outside influences (economic, parental, educational requirements, etc) that the “cool” factor is humanity’s key motivator in any learning or exploration process. It is what sparks our inspiration and curiosity, and thus from there we dive in and explore, learn, and eventually develop and then hone our skills.

I don’t understand why anyone would look down on people for thinking something is “cool” and thus deciding to learn about it, no matter what it is that has caught their attention.

In the end, this person’s dismissive invalidating and degrading tone really put me off (and pissed me off), and combined with the tension between myself and her as we tried to discuss… I ended up having to excuse myself from the conversation.

Which… is so fucking frustrating. And irritating. And damnit, I hate when people look down on others like that and it pisses me the FUCK off and, in this instance? There’s just nothing more I can do about it other than the posts I already placed in there to reassure anyone that read the discussion that it’s okay to explore and learn something because you find it cool. Why the hell wouldn’t it be?

Side note… The answer to the original question of if I am familiar with and/or use the Theban alphabet is that my sister and I were taught this alphabet by our mother when we were children, and were required to write our rituals and spell notes in it in order to become fluent in reading and writing with it. I no longer use the Theban alphabet, and haven’t since leaving my parent’s house at the age of sixteen. That does not change my opinion that it has it’s places and uses in today’s witchcraft, just not in mine specifically as I am very much “out of the broom closet” and not planning on spending any time in there.