In modern times it's hard to find someplace where you can do a giant bonfire and not worry about getting a fine or being arrested for arson. Samhain is a fire festival, and there was a reason for the bonfires.
Hearth fires were left to burn out before the celebration and everyone gathered to witness the communal bonfire lit by the Druid Priests. A special wheel was used along with friction to light the fire. When the lighting was over a person from the home would take some of the fire with them and re-light the hearth, other bonfires in their fields or torches on the edge of their fields.
Food offerings were left out at the edges of the village for passing spirits and fairy folk, since at that time the Celtic felt the Fae were troublemakers and bad news.
It is the time of the thinning veil, visitors of family would come and offerings were made in memory. Divination was often done at this time because of the veil being thin and the connection to the other world was easily done.
Dressing up was thought to be used to hide from the evil and dangerous spirits so that children and the young wouldn't be taken by fairies or other things that may have crossed to the living along with the ancestors. I mean, it's an open door, anything could walk on through right?
There was so many different traditions with Samhain this is just one. Things become different in the middle ages when boys between 8 and 10 would like torches off of a communal bonfire and run through fields planting them around the area. If you ventured out at night you carried sticks with carved turnip with a flowing piece of coal inside, tied on a string.
***The Jack-o-lantern may come from the Christian legend of OLD JACK - a man so evil that both heaven and hell refused him. With nowhere to go but purgatory, he had to roam the roads on Halloe'en night with nothing but a turnip lamp to light his way.***
In victorian times things changed. Instead of being fearful of the Fae or creatures from the other side, the influence of the church made people prone to fear "witches". A celebration of dead, the crops, survival, and divination because fearing most if not all of it. Some areas would throw a straw "crone" into the fire to ward from witches.
In modern times the celebration of Samhain is just as different as it was back then. Different beliefs follow different celebrations and different locations do different practices. Wicca celebrate the god and goddess story, honour the dead, and the thinning of the veil. Celtic Wiccans follow the Wiccan Rede and the God and Goddess story. They celebrate with ancestor alters, suppers, and divination. Some invoke the gods and goddess of the dead to speak and work with during this time. ***This is the practice that I am most familiar with***
There are so many different practices it'd be a long winded if I tried to go into even some of them.
I am going to skip over spells, I am not putting anything in this blog that can used in the wrong way, even though I trust many of you to not try them without consulting something I feel an obligation to monitor what is written.
There are however crafts and yummy food I have no problem sharing with you. Recipies like Baked Apples, Sugar Skull Candys, and Pan de Muerto (Bread of the dead) are some of the recipes that I will post in a second blog that will be released later.
Crafts are a great way to express your practice for Samhain. Carving the pumpkin is following the old tradition of carving turnips or beets. Make a mask, a gravestone rubbing (please be considerate), or a Parshell.
There are even ritual crafts that you can work on during this time. Things like Samhain Oil, Bath Salts, and Loose Incense. Prayers, invocations, and ritual celebrations. These are just some of the things and there are a lot of them.
There is just so much to get into with this holiday that I would suggest doing your own research and asking questions.
A good book for learning about a lot of what was written here is Llewellyn's Sabbat Essentials SAMHAIN (there is one for every Sabbat). You can also come in and speak with Sean or Amber about ritual or have questions answered.
I will put up the recipes for Samhain in the next blog.