What is Samhain? Origins of Halloween

The Origins of Halloween

There is so much history and so many fun things to do that we have picked out the most important and best bits to get your head around…

origins of halloween

The basic history behind Samhain and Halloween

samhain halloween history

Samhain (pronounced sow-in) is a pagan sabbat celebrated on the night of October 31st – November 1st. Or 1st of May if you are in the Southern hemisphere. There are eight pagan sabbats a year starting with Samhain. Acording to History.com Samhain Was originally celebrated by the Celts on October 31st which marked the end of the summer and the final harvest. New years day was celebrated on the 1st of November. To commemorate, the druids would build huge sacred bonfires which were used to re-lite hearth fires in each home to protect them and provide warmth through the coming winter. 

On Samhain/Halloween the veil between the living world and that of the dead thins, thus allowing the dead to return to earth. The Celts would wear animal skins and heads to confuse the spirits into thinking the living were animals and prevent them from being haunted by unfriendly spirits.

In the 9th Century, Christianity spread its way into the Celtic lands. On the13th of May Christians celebrated ‘All Saints Day’, but the pope at that time moved All Saints Day to November 1st/2nd in an attempt to turn Samhain into a church-sanctioned holiday. All Saints Day was also celebrated by lighting bonfires and dressing up but people would dress as angels and demons instead to ward off evil spirits. All Saints Day was also called ‘All-Hallows’ and the 31st October was known as ‘All-hallows Eve’ which later became Halloween.

According to Historic-uk.com, Halloween was traditionally celebrated with children’s games such as telling ghost stories and apple bobbing. (Apple bobbing is said to come from a time when the Roman Empire honoured the Goddess Pamona who was the goddess of fruit and trees.) Root Vegetables such as swedes and turnips would be hollowed out and faces would be carved into them. A candle would then be placed inside and lit. These were then placed in a window to ward off evil spirits. The use of pumpkins is a fairly modern twist on this tradition and was adopted from America along with Trick or Treating.

9 Fun things you can do this Samhain /Halloween…

So now you know the origins of halloween, how about some fun things to do…

  1. Apple Divination– An old tradition, peel an apple in one continuous strip and then throw it over your left shoulder. It will then reveal the initials of your next love.
  2. Dumb Supper– An old tradition, Cook a meal for your family and ancestors. Layout extra place settings for your past loved ones/ancestors and invite them to join you. Give them a portion and eat your meal together in silence so you don’t scare them.
  3. Tarot readings– do a tarot reading for yourself or friends at sundown. There are many tarot spreads on Pinterest.
  4. Light a bonfire– You can use the bonfire to do a simple spell. Write down all the things you want to get rid of, for example, negative energies, bad emotions, debt etc. Then burn the paper to dispel all that no longer serves you. Next, invite some good luck or useful emotions and energies by either saying them out loud or write them down and keep somewhere safe. Another way you can do this is to write what no longer serves you on individual bay leaves and burn them into the fire to dispel them.
  5. Spiders– If you catch a spider, take her outside and ask her a question as payment for not killing her. Let her go and look for the answer in the next three days. Its also said that if a spider falls into a candle dies there is a bad witch near.
  6. Goal setting– As it is Pagan new year, its a good time to create new goals and resolutions.
  7. Charity– To honour your ancestors you could donate to a charity or shelter in their name.
    Baking or cooking- This celebration is about spending time with family so why not recreate some old family favourites.
  8. Altar– Why not create an altar or space to honour passed relatives and ancestors. If you’re a full-time witch you will want to decorate your altar or sacred spaces with festive things. Some of the items you can add are… candles, gourds, skulls, autumn leaves/garlands, grave rubbings, apples, corn, pumpkins, squashes and root vegetables, mulled wine, tarot cards, runes, scrying mirror, photos of ancestors, pentagrams, crystals, incense cauldron just to name a few.
  9. Pumpkin carving– Of course, no Halloween would be the same without carving a pumpkin!!

Samhain Decorations

If you like to decorate your home for the season here are some traditional and festive items you can use…


Black, Gold, Orange, Purple, Silver, White


Acorns, Apples, Black Candles, Broomsticks/Besoms, Carved Pumpkins, Cauldrons, Autumn Flowers & Leaves, Nuts & Berries, Photos of Ancestors/passed loved ones, Pomegranates, skulls, root vegetables & squashes.


Bat, Black Cats, Owls, Ravens

Crystals & Gemstones

Bloodstone, Jet, Aquamarine, Carnelian, Obsidian, Onyx, Smokey Quartz.

Incense & Oils

Benzoin, Copal, Heliotrope, Mastio Resin, Sage, Sandlewood, Sweetgrass, Wormwood.

Herbs and Flowers

Allspice, Calendula, Crysanthemum, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Mint, Nutmeg, Rosemary, Sage, Thistle, Wormwood.


Apple, Hazel, Oak, Pomegranate


Lastly but certainly not least we have food. Traditional Samhain food consists of a lot of root vegetables, squashes and apples. Homemade stews and roasted veggies were a popular choice. Colcannon made traditionally with mashed potatoes, cabbage/kale, butter and milk were also popular. Like most Sabbats, homemade bread including barmbrack (a quick bread with sultanas and raisins) played a bit part in festivities.

Sweet treats include toffee apples (of cause :P), soul cakes (a traditional cake made with a mixed/allspice and raisins and a cross scored ontop) and roasted pumpkin seeds, which can be made sweet or savoury by adding different flavours such as sugar, cinnamon, butter, coconut oil, curry powder, salt etc. You can find many recipes for these on Google or Pinterest.

xx Happy Samhain Everyone! xx

from Stormy and Raven xx

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