Steps to Celebrate Pagan Festival Samhain

Samhain is one of the eight pagan religious festivals that originated with Celtic witches, but as time went on, more than Celtic witches began to celebrate it. It became a popular way to celebrate the harvest and to mourn loved ones because Samhain like Días de los Muertos is often used by pagans to mourn the losses of the year and years past. 

This is done in a way that may seem weird to many but is really a very sweet tradition. To start the festival, you need to carve jack-o-lanterns and place them outside. In the old days they would use apples and turnips, but a pumpkin works just as well. 

The point of these is to ward off unwelcome spirits from your home and to guide the spirits of loved ones to your table. Once they are carved and placed you need to move into the home. Then you must clean everything. Your house cannot be cluttered when the guests arrive. Then you need to burn cypress,Mugwort(do not ingest if pregnant it will cause a miscarriage!),Incense or lavender. Remember never burn sage unless you have been welcomed by a shaman into their practice. 

Once the house has been cleansed with smoke, you can work toward getting dinner ready. A good idea is to build an altar before dinner and keep the urns of deceased relatives there, but your mantle will work too. 

To build an altar, you just need a flat surface, candles, incense, a cloth, photos and the urns of the deceased. Try to keep relatives who disliked each other apart though to avoid negative vibes. 

For dinner there are many recipes you can choose from. A popular main dish is a Samhain meat pie. The recipe includes one bay leaf,10 bacon slices, two leeks or onions chopped into 1-inch pieces, three carrots chopped into 1-inch pieces, one chicken cut into serving portions, three tablespoons of chopped parsley, three sliced potatoes (peeled or not), one tablespoon red wine vinegar and two cloves garlic are optional. 

Place the bay leaf into the bottom of a Dutch oven or cauldron. You will need a lid. Place half the bacon over the leaf and cover with half of the mushrooms, leeks and carrots. Place the meat pieces atop the vegetables and then cover with the rest of the mushrooms, leeks and carrots. Season to taste, adding half of the chopped parsley, and one of the crushed garlic cloves. 

Extra water or broth can be added if thought necessary, just not too much. Place the potatoes on top of everything else. Add a bit more salt and pepper, the rest of the garlic and parsley. Place the rest of the bacon over this and pour the red wine vinegar over them. 

Place a tight lid on the pot and cook in the oven at 325 degrees for two hours. Do not check inside too often, as it will dry out the meat. Be sure to discard the bay leaf. 

While the pie is cooking, you can start on side dishes. This can be deviled eggs, cheesy potatoes, anything really as long as it will be enjoyed by all. 

And then, of course, what is dinner without dessert? There are literally hundreds of Samhain deserts, but one of the best are soul cakes, a small danish baked for each diner personally. The recipe for this includes two sticks softened butter, 3 1/2 cups sifted flour, one cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and saffron, one teaspoon each of cinnamon and allspice, two eggs, two teaspoons malt vinegar, powdered sugar, assorted fruits and toppings. 

Cut the butter into the flour with a large fork. Mix in the sugar, nutmeg, saffron, cinnamon and allspice. Lightly beat the eggs, and add to the flour mixture. 

Add malt vinegar and mix until you have a stiff dough. Knead for a while, then roll out until ¼ inch thick. Use a floured glass to cut out 3 inch circles. 

Place them on a greased baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Once cooled have the guests adorn their cakes with desired toppings and enjoy. 

After the food is ready, it’s time to decorate. Traditionally witches would use gourds, candles and small stick figures of gods to decorate, but your normal spooky decor will be just as festive. 

Now use your nicer tablecloths and finer dishware because the guests that are coming are your deceased relatives. Place photos, candles and urns (If you have them) at the table and a plate in front of them. Remember to make their favorite foods though because it is their night not ours. 

When dinner is served, serve the dead first as a way to honor them, especially if they are a parent or grandparent. Then sit and eat with them as if they were alive. At first you may feel silly, but after a bit you will feel their presence talking back and reacting to your actions. 

When the dinner is done and all are full, say “goodbye” and “thank you” to the dead. Place them back where they usually are kept and leave them a gift such as flowers or dried herbs. 

Then head outside and light a bonfire. Feel the fire’s warmth keeping the cold at bay and internalize that feeling. 

When the fire dies the celebration is almost over. Dress in costumes to disguise yourself from harmful spirits and celebrate the night with trick or treating, a costume party, a haunted house or just watching movies with friends. 

Samhain is and always will be a night of fun and joy as death is not something to fear but to embrace. It may seem rather dark, but like many celebrations, it is simply a way to honor the dead. 

Blessed be and happy haunting.

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