A note on timing: If you have your Samhain ritual on Oct. 31st, you will need to take into account your children’s desire to trick-or-treat. Trick-or-treating can last up into the night, giving your ritual a late start, not to mention that your kids may not be able to stay up late enough to attend. I’ve known many people who are resentful of trick-or-treating, thinking of it as a “secular” celebration of the holiday. But I see the Halloween trick-or-treat as very much a pat of the Samhain tradition. I’ve also known of people who send one parent out with the kids to trick-or-treat while the other parent has ritual. I’ve done this before, and although it seems like an ideal solution, it separates the family on what should be a family holiday. So if your kids are still at the age for trick-or-treating, you might want to have your Samhain ritual the day before or the day after “Halloween”. Keep in mind the old Samhain was a three day event, and originally, it wasn’t a date on a calendar. So many Pagans get hung up on celebrating on the “right” day. Consider though, that there has been two calendar changes- after the Roman invasion, it was to the Julian calendar, then in the mid-18th century to the Gregorian calendar, which put everything 11 days before the old reckoning. Also, the Celtic festival dates changed from year to year, in accordance to actual harvest times, and other seasonal indicators which vary for different places.
*This ritual does not specify who is to say/do what in most instances. This is for you to decide among your family.
Preparation: Prepare the Samhain feast, set the table, including a place setting for the Beloved Dead and a bowl of apples, and finish setting up the ancestor altar. Open windows a little in each room, if practical. Have ready a candle to light for your Samhain fire if not using a fireplace. In this ritual, everyone will be going from a shrine/hearth area to a dining area. These two areas should be close together, so that someone can keep an eye on the hearthfire and/or candles. (It is traditional to kindle the fire of Samhain at dusk.)
- Sain the house and family members with juniper smoke. All gather around the family hearth or ancestor shrine.
- Ring bell (or silver branch) to signal beginning of ritual.
- Do a Three Realms blessing or meditation, according to your family’s tradition.
- Light the Samhain candle (or fire in fireplace), signaling the beginning of the season.
- Offer a portion of the Samhain feast for the deities (into the fire of the fireplace, or on a dish on the household shrine) and recite a Samhain Invocation (inspired by/adapted from- Caitlin Matthews’ Samhain Threshold Invocation) :
“Grandmother Cailleach, Grandfather Cernunnos,
We honor and welcome you at the season of Samhain.
May you bless us with health, joy, and prosperity in the winter days ahead.
From the depths to the heights, from the heights to the depths,
as a blessing on the hearth of every home.”
- Prepare an offering for the Sidhe and place in a windowsill. This can be a wordless action, or say something simple like, “Fair folk, we honor you with food and drink.”
- Prepare a portion of the Samhain feast (including an apple) for the Beloved Dead and place on ancestor shrine (or designated table setting). You may choose to say something like “Ancestors and Beloved Dead, we honor you with food and drink as you cross the veil to visit us on this night.”
[All proceed to the dining area and sit at the table.]
- The Apple: “Behold, the fuit of the Otherworld, of immortality.” Cut an apple in half horizontally to reveal the star at the center. Pass an apple half to everyone at the table. Everyone eats their apple. “As we have eaten of the fruit of life, so our ancestors live in our memories.” Participants share stories and memories of the Beloved Dead and Ancestors.
- Ancestor Feast: Serve a feast of ancestral foods. (Optional- explain the importance and symbolism of each dish before passing it around the table.)
- Hidden Charms: Serve Fuarag and/or Barm Brack.
- Parting Blessings
“We thank the Fair Folk for dwelling in peace among us.
We thank the Ancestors and spirits of our Beloved Dead,
for coming among us in peace and blessing our rite.
Ancient Grandmother and Grandfather, we thank you for your presence.
May you receive the Beloved Dead and give them strength to come to rebirth.
As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be.
With the ebb, with the flow, blessed be.”
- Ring bell (or silver branch) to signify end of ritual.
- Gather in the family room for divination games and traditional Samhain stories.