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A Solitary Samhain Ritual

One example of a Samhain altar featuring both photos and mementos from ancestors and loved ones who have passed.
One example of a Samhain altar featuring both photos and mementos from ancestors and loved ones who have passed.Teresa Reshet Cassinelli

For many pagans, Samhain is a holiday that holds special significance: an honored, distinguished guest at our table of festivals. Not only does Samhain signify the conclusion of the harvest season, it serves as the end of the old year – even if the new year has not yet fully begun. Samhain’s festivals and rituals are fraught with references to time and space between worlds, to the thinning of the Veil between life and death. This is when we take time to honor our ancestors and remember loved ones who have passed through the Veil.

Samhain is a time to take stock of what we have harvested for the year and preserve the reserves we will need to survive the snowy seasons. Bustling with tasks that must be done before the harvest spoils, Samhain teaches us to honor the cycles, and to be prepared both for the timely responsibilities at hand and for the upcoming cycle. Samhain’s season is the crafty old crone, the wizened wizard, the child in utero.

At every public Samhain circle I have attended or facilitated, energetic focus has been on straddling the space between worlds. Pagans do not fear the dead; we honor them. Guided meditations encourage us to reach beyond the Veil to communicate with deceased loved ones, or to hear messages from our spirit guides. These are important, valuable community rites that keep us connected to our roots and to each other.

This Samhain, I wanted to share a solitary, personal ritual that I perform to celebrate a different perspective on ancestry and heritage.

Because you withstood trials, bent and did not break

Believed in my existence

I was born.

-excerpt from Letter to my Past

Materials: paper, pen or pencil, candles and incense if desired, photographs or mementos from significant moments in all phases of your life, any additional altar items you would like to include.

Location: Because of the recent beautifully blustery wet weather, I would recommend a safe, secluded spot indoors. However, if your photos are in frames and will not blow away, outside this time of year is delightful.

Precautions: Because I’m eclectic, I will simply say: set up your altar and cast your circle in the way in which you feel most appropriate. Don’t forget to turn off the phone!

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