Samhain feast

At Samhain, held on November 1, the world of the gods was believed to be made visible to humankind, and the gods played many tricks on their mortal worshippers; it was a time fraught with danger, charged with fear, and full of supernatural episodes.

Sacrifices and propitiations of every kind were thought to be vital, for without them the Celts believed they could not prevail over the perils of the season or counteract the activities of the deities. Samhain was an important precursor to Halloween. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Samhain ancient Celtic festival. See Article History. This article was most recently revised and updated by Brian DuignanSenior Editor.

Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Beltine is…. On the day corresponding to November 1 on contemporary calendars, the new year was believed to begin. That date was considered the beginning of the winter period, the date on which the herds were returned from…. Celtic religionreligious beliefs and practices of the ancient Celts.

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Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. More About.Relish the end of fall with these Samhain recipes. Because of this, family and friends that have passed away are often honored during Samhain.

Most observers practice Samhain traditions from sundown on October 31 through November 1, while others prefer to celebrate on a later date that is closer to the midpoint between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice. Samhain is often celebrated with food of some type.

Since Samhain is usually a communal event, which is sometimes centered around a bonfire or a type of group ceremony, a feast is commonly served. Below are several recipe suggestions that will make your next Samhain a delicious one:. One of the most commonly served foods for Samhain are soul cakes. Although their origins in history are a bit hazy, everything from appeasing evil spirits to feeding beggars, it has become a dish that is closely associated with the fall celebration.

Just as the origin stories vary greatly, so do the recipes for soul cakes. They come in all shapes and sizes, and the texture can be anything from biscuit-like to cakes. Most recipes seem to include a type of dried fruit, such as currants or golden raisins, and a dash of nutmeg and saffron. We love making our fluffy crumpets recipe with a few raisins sprinkled onto the batter just before baking. These make for a great starting place to customize as you choose.

Mulled wine is a centuries old drink, meaning it could have been consumed during more ancient Samhain celebrations. Flavored with cinnamon, cloves, and other spices, sweet red wine is balanced out with a dash of bright citrus in our Spiced Mulled Wine recipe.

Yet another baked good associated with Samhain, barmbrack is a recipe with Celtic roots. Traditionally this yeast bread is sweet and studded with dried fruits like raisins and fresh citrus zest.

What to Eat for Samhain—4 Traditional Recipes

Every item has its own meaning and can include things like rings marriagea coin wealtha piece of cloth hard timesand more. You can easily mix and match the trinkets you include to have personal meanings or predictions. You can create a more modern loaf, inspired by barmbrack, by baking up some fruit-filled Irish soda bread. A traditional Irish food, a variation on colcannon was likely eaten during Samhain celebrations due to potatoes being in season.

Colcannon is made with a base of creamy mashed potatoes, with cooked greens typically cabbage, but spinach or kale are also great options and onions mixed in. This type of stick-to-your-ribs dish, much like our Spinach and Garlic Mashed Potatoesis perfect for a cold evening around the bonfire.

What to Eat for Samhain—4 Traditional Recipes. By Hayley Sugg October 26, Pin FB ellipsis More. Image zoom. Photo: Jessica Colyer. Photo: Oxmoor House. Close Share options. All rights reserved. Close View image.Samhain is a time-honored tradition followed by witchesWiccans, ancient druids and countless other modern pagans across the world, celebrated as October turns to November.

Samhain is typically celebrated by preparing a dinner to celebrate the harvest. The holiday is meant to be shared with those who have passed on as well as those still with us. Set a place at the table for those in the spiritual plane, providing an offering for them upon every serving throughout the meal. In addition to those who have passed, invite friends and family to enjoy the feast with you.

Typical beverages include mulled wine, cider, and mead, and are to be shared with the Dead throughout the meal. Despite occurring at similar times and containing similar themes, Samhain and Halloween actually are not the same holiday.

On the other hand, Samhain is more religious in focus, spiritually observed by practitioners. There are some more light-hearted observances in honor of the dead through Samhain, but the underlying tone of Samhain is one of a serious religious practice rather than a light-hearted make-believe re-enactment. Another difference between Samhain and Halloween is that most Samhain rituals are held in private rather than in public.

If you want to start honoring this pagan traditionyou might wonder when to start. Well, the timing of contemporary Samhain celebrations varies according to spiritual tradition and geography. Practitioners state to celebrate Samhain over the course of several days and nights, and these extended observances usually include a series of solo rites as well as ceremonies, feasts, and gatherings with family, friends, and spiritual community.

In the northern hemisphere, many Pagans celebrate Samhain from sundown on October 31 through November 1. Others hold Samhain celebrations on the nearest weekend or on the Full or New Moon closest to this time.

Some Pagans observe Samhain a bit later, or near November 6, to coincide more closely with the astronomical midpoint between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice. Most Pagans in the southern hemisphere time their Samhain observances to coincide with the middle of their Autumn in late April and early May, rather than at the traditional European time of the holiday. In many places, Samhain coincides with the end of the growing season.

Vegetation dies back with killing frosts, and therefore, literally, death is in the air. This contributes to the ancient notion that at Samhain, the veil is thin between the world of the living and the realm of the Dead and this facilitates contact and communication. For those who have lost loved ones in the past year, Samhain rituals can be an opportunity to bring closure to grieving and to further adjust to their being in the Otherworld by spiritually communing with them. There are many rituals you can partake in to celebrate Samhain.

Here are just a few ideas and none of them involve life sacrifice :.

The Irish Samhain Tradition

Take a meditative walk in a natural area near your home. Observe and contemplate the colors, aromas, sounds, and other sensations of the season.

samhain feast

Experience yourself as part of the Circle of Life and reflect on death and rebirth as being an important part of Nature. If the location you visit permits, gather some natural objects and upon your return use them to adorn your home. Decorate the altar with symbols of late fall, such as:.

Start out by preparing a meal for the family, focusing on fruits and vegetables, and wild game meat if available. Include a loaf of a dark bread like rye or pumpernickel and a cup of apple cider or wine. Set the dinner table with candles and a fall centerpiece, and put all the food on the table at once. Consider the dinner table a sacred space. It is the end of the harvest, the last days of summer, and the cold nights wait on the other side for us. The bounty of our labor, the abundance of the harvest, the success of the hunt, all lies before us.

We thank the earth for all it has given us this season, and yet we look forward to winter, a time of sacred darkness. Take the cup of cider or wine, and lead everyone outside.

Make this a ceremonial and formal occasion. We have planted and we have watched the garden grow, we have weeded, and we have gathered the harvest. Now it is at its end. Collect any yard trimmings or dead plants and use them to make a straw man or woman.Before Halloween was created as the spooky October holiday, Ireland celebrated Samhain.

In fact, the name Samhain is still used in certain traditions and is the same word used to refer to the whole month of November in modern Irish. However, it was November 1st that was traditionally known as Samhain, which literally translates to mean the "end of summer" and is pronounced something like sow-een.

This was the end of the Celtic year, the start of winter, and a time for reflection all rolled into one. The secret is in traditional Celtic calendar-lore and the Celtic practice of believing a day started at sundown instead of sunrise. One of the Celtic idiosyncrasies was the concept of everything beginning in darkness and then works its way towards the light. This means that, according to Celtic timekeeping, the night of October 31st was an integral part of Samhain, known as oiche shamhna or "evening of Samhain".

The date was also very important in a much larger sense each year. Much like solstices and equinoxes, Samhain was one of the four "quarter days" of the Celtic calendar, along with Imbolc February 1st, start of spring - also known as Saint Brigid's DayBealtaine May 1st, start of summer and Lughnasa August 1st, start of the harvest.

In the Celtic year, Samhain marked the beginning of winter — and thus the beginning of the year as well. Unfortunately, we do not have any hard evidence about how the Samhain festivities were conducted in pre-Christian times.

Samhain seems to have been a specifically Irish tradition. The first written mentions are by Christian chroniclers, but it is very likely that it existing long before they appeared and documented the tradition.

Our best guess is that feasting seems to have taken over about a week for a few days either side of the actual Samhain day. After all the eating, everything was put in order, because winter is coming! The Samhain preparations mainly centered around cattle and other livestock. Records suggest that all members of the herd were caught and brought into enclosures or sheds near the homestead.

Animals who appeared too weak to survive the winter were slaughtered. This was not for any ritual reasons but was merely down to purely practical considerations. Their slaughter helped to fill the larder for winter. At the same time all corn, fruits and berries had to be harvested and stored. There still is a widespread belief in Ireland that after November 1st all fruit is bewitched and thus inedible. The pooka was said to roam free at Samhain - a black, ugly horse, with red eyes, and the ability to talk.

samhain feast

The creepy beast also had a penchant for kidnappings if you were stupid enough to accept a ride and was thought to urinate on all the berry bushes which explains why no berries were collected after Samhain. Many legends of the legends around Samhain concern the big meetings that happened at that time.

This was the time to take stock of the current situation and decide upon future activities for the new year. In general, a truce was called during this period to ensure that meetings could take place between sworn enemies and that diplomacy and social activities went as far beyond tribal and political boundaries as possible. It might have helped that all debts had to be settled in the Samhain season. Spiritual activities were another integral part of the feast.

Traditionally all the fires were extinguished when oiche shamhna set in, making this the darkest night of the year. The fires were then re-lit, marking the start of the new year. Tradition has it that druids lit a huge bonfire on the Hill of Tlachtga near Athboy, County Meath and burning torches were then carried from there to every household during the night which would have been physically impossible but makes for a nice story.

There was more than one ritual involving fire at Samhain and the most infamous of all was the "wicker men".Although traditionally a seance is a good way to communicate with those who have crossed into the spirit worldit's also perfectly fine to talk to them at other times.

You may find yourself walking into a room and suddenly reminded of someone you've lost, or catching a whiff of a familiar scent. You don't need a fancy or formal ritual to speak to the dead. They hear you. Why hold a Dumb Supper on Samhain? It's traditionally known as the night when the veil between our world and the spirit world is at its most fragile. It's the night when we know for sure the dead will hear us speak, and maybe even speak back.

It's a time of death and resurrection, of new beginnings and fond farewells. Please keep in mind that there is no one right way to hold a dumb supper. Your menu choices are up to you, but because it's Samhain, you may wish to make the traditional Soul Cakesas well as serving dishes with apples, late fall vegetables, and game if available. Set the table with a black cloth, black plates, and cutlery, black napkins. Use candles as your only source of light—black if you can get them. Realistically, not everyone has black dishware sitting around.

In many traditions, it's perfectly acceptable to use a combination of black and white, although black should be the predominant color. When you're hosting a Dumb Supper, clearly the point is that no one can speak—and that makes a host's job very tricky. It means you have the responsibility of anticipating each guest's needs without them communicating verbally.

Depending on the size of your table, you may want to make sure each end has its own salt, pepper, butter, etc.

samhain feast

Also, watch your guests to see if anyone needs a drink refill, an extra fork to replace the one they just dropped or more napkins. In some Pagan traditions, it has become popular to hold a Dumb Supper in honor of the dead. In this case, the word "dumb" refers to being silent.Samhain, the final harvest festival of the year, marks the Witches New Year. The veil between worlds is at its thinnest, making this a good time to contact passed loved ones and do some divination.

Samhain is often celebrated by honoring ancestors and loved ones who have passed. It is common to light a candle and place it in a West facing window to guide the souls of loved ones back home and to set places at the table for passed loved ones for the Samhain feast, also known as a Dumb Supper. The tradition of pumpkin carving began with carving sigils and protective symbols into pumpkins, or turnips if pumpkins were unavailable in the region, to ward off any evil spirits that may have been lurking in the shadows.

It was also thought that by dressing up in costume and building a bonfire, one could scare away evil spirits. During Samhain, it was customary to hand out treats in exchange for prayers and blessings for loved ones who had passed. Listed below are some correspondences for Samhain that you can use to decorate your altar. You can also place pictures of loved ones who have passed on your altar as this is a time to honor and remember them.

There are a plethora of different ways to celebrate Samhain.

Samhain - Bloodfeast

Below is just one example of a ritual that you could perform to celebrate. Feel free to edit this ritual to better suit your needs. For a more detailed explanation of the steps in this ritual, please read Ritual for the Beginner Witch.

You can finish off the night with a Dumb Supper. Set places at the table for all loved ones, here and gone. I am a Pagan Witch who was born in For most of my life, I never truly felt connected to any of the common religious or spiritual paths.

A Samhain Feast – What’s On The Menu

I had my own set of beliefs, but I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I believed in a God, but also a Goddess, Mother Nature. I researched many Native American religions to try to find one that fit my beliefs. It was not until my God and Goddess brought a very special person into my life that I discovered Paganism and the Craft. She introduced me to this amazing path by confiding in me that she was a Witch and answered every question I had. I dedicated myself at the age of 15 and it was the most amazing thing I ever did for myself.

Thank you for this post. Though I am Catholic, I am finding that I am coming to terms with my witchy roots. I am the fifth daughter of a 5th daughter who was also a Libra. Too many things have occurred in my life that cannot be explained — the universe has brought me to this moment. It is Samhain and I will begin my first ritual tonight of giving thanks to my family who have crossed over.

samhain feast

October 29, Morgan Moss. Cleanse area of negative energies Cast your Circle Call the Quarters Invite the God and Goddess or Deity ies of your choosing Take as long as you want to remember the loved ones you have lost. Think of the good times you had together and how much you love them. If you are in a group, take turns sharing your stories and memories. You can write a blessing for your loved ones. Here is one that I wrote for my loved ones who had recently passed. Although I miss you and being with you is my greatest wish, I know I must let you go; I mustn't be selfish.

May you find peace in the Summerlands. May all troubles be out of your hands.Samhain, the final harvest festival of the year, marks the Witches New Year. The veil between worlds is at its thinnest, making this a good time to contact passed loved ones and do some divination. Samhain is often celebrated by honoring ancestors and loved ones who have passed. It is common to light a candle and place it in a West facing window to guide the souls of loved ones back home and to set places at the table for passed loved ones for the Samhain feast, also known as a Dumb Supper.

The tradition of pumpkin carving began with carving sigils and protective symbols into pumpkins, or turnips if pumpkins were unavailable in the region, to ward off any evil spirits that may have been lurking in the shadows. It was also thought that by dressing up in costume and building a bonfire, one could scare away evil spirits.

During Samhain, it was customary to hand out treats in exchange for prayers and blessings for loved ones who had passed. Listed below are some correspondences for Samhain that you can use to decorate your altar. You can also place pictures of loved ones who have passed on your altar as this is a time to honor and remember them.

Samhain Rituals – How to Celebrate Samhain

There are a plethora of different ways to celebrate Samhain. Below is just one example of a ritual that you could perform to celebrate. Feel free to edit this ritual to better suit your needs. For a more detailed explanation of the steps in this ritual, please read Ritual for the Beginner Witch. You can finish off the night with a Dumb Supper.

Set places at the table for all loved ones, here and gone. I am a Pagan Witch who was born in For most of my life, I never truly felt connected to any of the common religious or spiritual paths.

I had my own set of beliefs, but I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I believed in a God, but also a Goddess, Mother Nature. I researched many Native American religions to try to find one that fit my beliefs. It was not until my God and Goddess brought a very special person into my life that I discovered Paganism and the Craft. She introduced me to this amazing path by confiding in me that she was a Witch and answered every question I had. I dedicated myself at the age of 15 and it was the most amazing thing I ever did for myself.

Thank you for this post. Though I am Catholic, I am finding that I am coming to terms with my witchy roots. I am the fifth daughter of a 5th daughter who was also a Libra. Too many things have occurred in my life that cannot be explained — the universe has brought me to this moment.


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