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  • Writer's pictureBryan Stafford

Gathering of the dead

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

Submitted question covered in this blog:

"Do you or your family celebrate Hallowe'en?"

Many North Americans celebrate Halloween as a time to scare and be scared, dressing up in goulish costumes or attempt to scare others by creating fictional fun haunted houses, and hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters that walk door to door expecting either a trick or a treat given to them, etc. Skeletons, bats, graveyards, jack-o-lanterns, zombies, and even Hollywood themed witches are common symbols seen in the general public around Halloween, October 31st:

In my own personal perspective, this isn't something that is encouraged for my own children to do. However, they do participate. I teach my children to focus on noticing and embracing the seasons' changes, along with the changes that take place in our lives through out.

Quite often in society in general, it is assumed and sometimes even expected that everyone partakes in the traditional holiday seasons, including Christmas, Easter, etc. and including Hallowe'en.

There is a common misunderstanding around witches and the North American traditions of Hallowe'en that they are one in the same origin, or even related. Witches typically do not celebrate Halloween in the way in which it is widely known. Sure, it may be fun to participate, dress up, or go to a Halloween party. And, many of course do. However, Hallowe'en is not a pagan, witch or Wiccan event, even though partly inspired by such. Halloween is a modernized adaptation of some of the older celebrations that now minimally exist.

The celebration that most Wiccans participate in on the evening of October 31st and ending the night of November 1st each year is called Samhain. ...It's pronounced, "sow-win".

In it's basic form, it marks the end of the harvest season, and the beginning of Winter, commonly associated with death. This is usually a time of acknowledgement for life and death or celebration of passed loved ones and ancesters. The ways in which I personally celebrate Samhain is to have thrown a large gathering, or party inviting spirits to attend the event.

At this gathering, candles are lit for each of those invited to allow the flame to guide them to the party. The food and drinks served are what the invited would have enjoyed eating and drinking when they weren't alive, the music selected are from the choices from what the spirits would have listened too if still with us, and the stories shared from the living who attend are spoken of the memories of our loved ones whom were invited. In essence, through the food, drinks, music and stories shared, the departed actually attend the party amongst the living. And in this way, the dead is celebrated. During such event the spirits are felt and observed listening, sometimes there's interaction with the living party guests.

Usually wreath's are created and placed on the front door for protection and jack-o-lanterns are placed outside near the door to lurer away any uninvited spirits, and prevent spirit party-crashers. The living invited guests would be relatives and friends of the invited spirit guests, and can include coven members.

It is believed that at the time of year of November 1st that the veil between life and death is the thinnest (given all the dead represented in the season with the coming of darkness, falling of the leaves, the animals going into hiding, and mass death of the plants, insects, animals, etc. that seemingly takes place. It is the eve beforehand which it is celebrated most often. But, not always.

The above is just one way in which to celebrate Samhaim, night is the dead, or Hallowe'en, all saint's day, etc. Not all witches or covens celebrate the same ways. There are different traditions, rituals and time periods that can reflect the different traditions and practices. However, There is a general consensus amongst most that the time if year is most important.

Samhaim can be considered a witch's New Year by some as it is often considered the time when the Wheel finishes another turn and begins another. The wheel flourishing in its stages of life throughout. Beginning in darkness, coming to light and turning again as the cycle of life also predicts:

From Spirit, to Birth, to Life, to Spirit.

Also described as, Life and Death and Rebirth.

as with from Maiden, to Mother, to Chrone, to Spirit,

is as to Fall, to Winter, to Spring to Summer.

Blessed is the wheel, so mote it be.

Thank you to whom submitted this question. Please feel free to submit your own questions to

Update: More in depth information about Samhain can be found in the more recent blog post The origin of Samhain.

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