A Family Samhain Ritual


 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.
  • 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.

A Family Samhain Ritual


4 responses »

  1. Some traditions celebrate Samhain (and other holy days) astrologically as well…. I’m not fully in the know on it but some Thelemite friends of mine do this. Flexibility is important if it means sharing meaningful holidays with family! Thanks for the reminder!

    We *always* trick or treat as a family (of course with only the kiddo doing any actual candy seeking). It has served us really well as a way to just talk about ancestors and what Samhain is on our walk from door to door. I think this year I will do actual family ritual. She’s been excited about Paganism lately and I think it will work out well.

    I also always do a private ritual for myself late in the night. This is a time for me to do potent magick and serious workings for my personal development, shedding inner demons, getting insights from ancestors and divination. It’s really served me well. I love Samhain. We celebrate for three days! This year we have a Halloween party hosted by Pagan friends with space for divination and releasing things in the fire mixed into an otherwise typically family party. Saturday of course trick or treating, family ritual, and private ritual…. Sunday I have a black feast, hosted by one of my sisters, where we celebrate Samhain/Day of the Dead. I love it all!

    Blessed Be!

  2. I am SO excited to find your site. I have been looking for a family-oriented Pagan site for a long time. I live in Oklahoma and it is VERY difficult to be outwardly pagan here. Sounds like I need to move to Arkansas, where it is beautiful and I can celebrate my ways in peace.

    I traditionally have a private ritual with a traditional family dinner. In our home we set an extra place your our ancestors and we always give an offering of food to them as well, by burying the food while saying a prayer. This year my 9-year-old daughter would like to be a part of the ritual, so I am incorporating some different aspects into the ritual, as well. I would very much like her to say a prayer to our ancestors. I hope you do not mind, but I am going to borrow portions of your family ritual, because it is exactly what I have wanted to do for years.

    Thank you so much for sharing your life with the rest of us. You don’t know how incredibly helpful you are. You have empowered me to be the Pagan I have always know I can be, and to pass the traditions down to my children.

    With light and love
    Blessed Be,


    • I’m glad you like it Tracy! Use any part of it that suits you- that’s what it’s here for. Also, I’m glad I could help on your Pagan Parenting journey. It can be hard when you’re a minority religion, to find the resources you need.

      • This is a really good ritual; thank you for sharing it. I too feel that trick-or-treating is a very important part of Samhain; we prefer to start our Samhain ritual at midnight on Halloween anyway.

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