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A New Witch’s Guide to Samhain

Pronounced SOW-in. Also known as All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween. Takes place on October 31, the start of the pagan new year.

So many cultures around the world have a day honoring and celebrating the dead. There is the Bon Festival in Japan, Chuseok in Korea, the Festival of the Cows in Nepal, the Ghost Festival in China, the Day of the Dead in Mexico, and the Turning of the Bones in Madagascar – the list goes on and on. Death is an inescapable part of life, and all of these cultures have to come understand how helpful it is to find a sense of celebration and play in something we may fear and dread, both for ourselves and others.

On Samhain, the laws of space and time are a little weaker, and the veil that stands between this world and the next is thinner. Not only is it easier to communicate with the dead on Samhain; it is easier to do anything that is normally considered impossible.

Of course, that can be a little dangerous. In our celebrations of the dead, there is always an element of spookiness, of potential threat. It’s a good idea to take extra precautions on Samhain. If you go out at night (as most of us will), carry a gris-gris for protection (see below), and leave some mandrake or hawthorn around your doors and windows.

COLORS: black, orange, white, and silver

STONES: obsidian, jet, and hematite

HERBS: mugwort, catnip, belladonna, mandrake, and sage

WAYS TO CELEBRATE:

  • Leave food offerings on altars and doorsteps, for the dead who may be walking.
  • Light a candle in a window to invite the spirits of your loved ones into your home. You can set an extra place at the dinner table for them too, if you like.
  • Bury apples alongside the road for wandering spirits that no longer have a home to go to.
  • Dress in white or as another gender to confuse spirits that may wish you harm.
  • Light a bonfire! Write your name on a stone and throw it in. Check the condition of the stone come morning – depending on how it fared, you will know something of what the coming year will be like for you.

 How to Make a Gris-gris

Gris-gris go by any number of names, including sachets, charm bags, spell bags, and hex bags. They are small enough to carry with you, or they can be placed under your pillow, left in your car, or given as gifts.

Begin by choosing the fabric for your bag. Leather, velvet, and felt are common options, and they all have different connotations. Velvet might bring to mind wealth or romance, while leather may invoke strength or protection. Felt is the most commonly used, just because of simplicity.

The color of your fabric is also important. Look to the colors of the chakras for guidance here.

To create your bag, cut two- or three-inch squares of material and sew them together, leaving one side open. As you sew, focus your energy on what your gris-gris will hold and bring you. Turn it inside out and fill the bag with herbs of your choice, as well as any stones, crystals, runes, affirmations, or images that fit your purpose.

Sew the opening of your bag closed, and if desired, stitch on a ribbon so that you can wear it around your neck.

Here are a few ideas you can consider:

       FOR COURAGE: St. John’s wort, garlic, tiger’s-eye, and aquamarine in a yellow bag.

       FOR ABUNDANCE: Marigold, cinquefoil, honeysuckle, jade, and citrine in a red bag.

       FOR LOVE: Myrtle, mistletoe, honeysuckle, lemon balm, dragon’s blood, caraway, rose quartz, and carnelian in a pink or green bag.

       FOR MAGIC: Yarrow, wormwood, mugwort, lavender, henbane, hellebore, opal, lapis lazuli, and calcite in a purple bag.

Meet The Author: Nikki Van De Car

Nikki Van De Car is a blogger, mother, writer, crafter, and lover of all things mystical. She is the author of ten books on magic and crafting, including Practical Magic and The Junior Witch’s Handbook, and the founder of two popular knitting blogs. Nikki lives with her family in Hawaii.

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