Halloween and Samhain share a fascinating, centuries-old bond—Samhain, a Celtic festival that marked the end of harvest and the transition to winter. Halloween and Samhain do indeed share a magnetic and centuries-old bond. It was celebrated by the ancient Celts in Ireland, Scotland, and other parts of the British Isles. Today, we explore “Samhain”, believed to have meant “summer’s end”, and the festivals on the eve of November 1st, the midway point between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. We will also view Molly’s pick for this blog post, Rider Waite Tarot Deck. So, let’s dive in.

As the leaves turn, the air grows crisp, and the days grow shorter, the modern celebration of Halloween allows us to connect with ancient spiritual traditions, particularly the Celtic festival of Samhain. With its deep spiritual significance, Samhain continues to influence how we approach Halloween and is a cornerstone of many contemporary pagan practices.

What Are Pagan Practices?


Pagan practices encompass various rituals, beliefs, and spiritual activities associated with multiple pagan traditions. These practices are often polytheistic and nature-based, focusing on worshipping multiple deities and recognising the sacredness of the natural world. While pagan practices can vary significantly between different pagan traditions, here are some common elements and practices often associated with paganism:

Rituals and Ceremonies: Rituals are a central aspect of pagan practices. They are often performed during specific times of the year, such as the solstices and equinoxes and on pagan holidays, to mark the changing seasons and celebrate various aspects of the natural world. These rituals involve meditation, prayer, offerings, symbols, and tools.

Polytheism: Many pagan traditions involve the veneration of multiple deities, gods, and goddesses. These deities are often associated with different aspects of nature, human experiences, and various domains of life. Pagan practitioners may choose to work with particular deities who resonate with their personal spiritual goals or needs.

Nature Worship: Pagans commonly hold a deep reverence for the natural world. They view the Earth, its cycles, and its elements as sacred. Many pagan rituals are conducted outdoors to connect more closely with the environment.

Festivals and Holidays: Pagan traditions have unique festivals and holidays, often tied to the seasons, lunar phases, and other natural events. For example, the Samhain Celtic festival marks the end of the harvest season, while Beltane celebrates the beginning of summer.

Altars and Symbols: Pagan practitioners often create altars as sacred spaces for rituals and meditation. These altars may include representations of deities, candles, incense, crystals, herbs, and other symbols with spiritual significance.

Divination: Divination practices, such as tarot card readings, scrying, or rune casting, are often used to seek guidance, gain insights, and connect with the spiritual realm.

Ancestral Veneration: Many pagan traditions involve honouring and connecting with one’s ancestors. Ancestral altars or rituals are common in these practices.

Magic and Spellwork: Some pagans engage in magical or witchcraft practices as part of their spirituality. This can include casting spells and using herbs, crystals, and other tools for healing, divination, or personal transformation.

Personal Connection: Pagans often emphasize the individual’s direct connection with the divine and spiritual forces. They highly value personal experiences, intuitive insights, and direct communion with the sacred.

Eclecticism: Some pagan practitioners embrace an eclectic approach, drawing from multiple pagan traditions and adapting practices to suit their spiritual beliefs and needs.

Community and Covens: While some pagans practice as solitaries, many engage in group rituals and activities. These groups can range from small circles of friends to larger organizations known as covens, which often have structured rituals and training.

Ethical Principles: Many pagan traditions uphold ethical principles, often summarized as “Harm None.” The Wiccan Rede, for example, emphasizes doing no harm and taking responsibility for one’s actions.

It’s important to note that there is a significant diversity of pagan traditions, and practices can vary widely from one tradition to another. While some may emphasize particular aspects of the practices mentioned above, others may have unique customs and beliefs. Paganism is a diverse and evolving spiritual path that offers a wide array of practices and beliefs to those drawn to it.

Critical Aspects of Samhain and Its Connection to Halloween:

Celebration of the Seasons: Samhain was a pivotal festival in the Celtic calendar, signifying the shift from the lighter, warmer half of the year to the darker, colder half. It was a time to acknowledge the changing seasons and the approaching winter, a period often associated with death and decay.

Thin Veil Between Worlds: The Celts believed that the boundary between the living and the spirit world was at its thinnest during Samhain. This allowed for more accessible communication with the deceased and other supernatural entities. Many modern Halloween traditions, such as costumes and jack-o’-lanterns, have their roots in the idea of disguising oneself to ward off or interact with spirits.

Bonfires: Bonfires were a common feature of Samhain celebrations. They served both practical and symbolic purposes. Practically, they provided warmth as the weather turned colder. Symbolically, they were used to purify and protect against evil spirits.

Feasting and Offerings: Samhain was a time for feasting, with the year’s final harvest celebrated. The Celts also left offerings for the spirits, believing this would appease them and ensure a bountiful harvest in the coming year.

Christian Tradition: As with many pagan festivals, Samhain was eventually absorbed into Christian tradition. The Christian holiday of All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day, was established on November 1st to honour saints and martyrs. The evening before, October 31st, became known as All Hallows’ Eve, which later evolved into Halloween.

Over time, as Christianity spread and merged with pagan traditions, the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Christian observance of All Hallows’ Eve intertwined to form the modern celebration of Halloween. Many of the elements and beliefs associated with Samhain found their way into Halloween customs, including the focus on the supernatural, costumes, and the idea of connecting with the spirit world.

Today, Halloween is a diverse and widely celebrated holiday, with a mix of ancient Celtic traditions, Christian influences, and more contemporary customs. It has become a time for fun, creativity, and the enjoyment of spooky and mysterious elements of culture while still acknowledging its deep historical roots in Samhain.

Halloween’s Modern Resonance With Samhain Traditions:


As we prepare to don our costumes, carve pumpkins, and decorate our homes with spooky delights, we should explore the deep and fascinating connections between Halloween and Samhain, the ancient Celtic festival. Halloween, which is celebrated on October 31st, has evolved into a widely embraced and commercialized holiday, but its roots are firmly grounded in the traditions of Samhain.

Samhain, the Celtic New Year and Festival of the Dead, marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. At this time, the Celts believed that the veil between the world of the living and the world of spirits was at its thinnest, allowing communication between these realms. This belief in the porous boundary between the living and the dead is a cornerstone of Samhain and Halloween.

One of the most striking similarities is the focus on honouring and remembering the departed. In ancient Celtic traditions, offerings were made to spirits, and people would light bonfires to guide the souls of the deceased and protect themselves from evil entities. Today, we may not light bonfires in our backyards, but we do light candles and place them in carved pumpkins or jack-o’-lanterns, which have their origins in the practice of warding off evil spirits. The candle’s warm glow symbolizes hope and remembrance.

Costumes, an iconic part of Halloween, also have roots in Samhain. The Celts believed that dressing in elaborate disguises would help them blend in with the spirits and provide protection from any evil entities wandering the earth. Modern Halloween costumes, from witches and vampires to superheroes and ghouls, allow us to embrace our playful and creative sides while connecting with this ancient tradition.


A beloved activity for children may trace its origins to the medieval practice of “souling.” On All Souls’ Day, poor individuals would visit homes, offering prayers for the deceased in exchange for food. Today, children see houses searching for sweet treats, maintaining the tradition of communal exchange and remembrance.


The custom of “souling” can be seen as a precursor to the modern tradition of trick-or-treating. In medieval Europe, particularly in the British Isles, All Souls’ Day was a solemn occasion for remembering the departed. It was believed that the prayers of the living could help the souls of the deceased find peace in the afterlife.

During the medieval “souling” tradition, poor individuals, often children, would go from house to house on All Souls’ Day. They would carry small lanterns made from hollowed-out turnips, known as “soul lights” or “punkies.” At each household, they would offer to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ deceased loved ones in exchange for a small gift, typically in the form of food, such as “soul cakes.” These soul cakes were sweet, spiced pastries, and the food exchange for prayers created a sense of community and mutual support.

As time passed, and with the influence of various cultural and historical shifts, the practice of souling gradually transformed into the modern custom of trick-or-treating, which is now an integral part of Halloween. The lanterns from turnips evolved into the now-iconic jack-o’-lanterns, often carved from pumpkins. The “soul cakes” were replaced by various candies and treats.

Today, children and families eagerly anticipate the night of October 31st, when they dress up in costumes, carry bags or buckets, and go door to door, calling out “trick or treat.” Homeowners provide candy and other goodies to the young trick-or-treaters in this lighthearted and festive tradition. It’s a fun and joyous way for children to connect with their neighbours, celebrate the spirit of Halloween, and carry on the ancient concept of communal exchange and remembrance that originated with “selling.”

In this way, the practice of souling has not been forgotten; it has simply evolved over the centuries into a cherished and vibrant part of the Halloween celebration, where both young and old participate in the spirit of giving and remembering those who came before us.

Another shared aspect is the emphasis on seasonal changes. Samhain marks the transition from the light half of the year to the dark, a time for reflection on the passing of time and the cyclical nature of life. Similarly, Halloween marks the fall season and the approach of winter, with decorations and symbols reflecting the changing colours of nature.

Incorporated into Christianity as All Saints’ Day and All Hallows’ Eve, Samhain traditions have continued influencing how we celebrate Halloween. While Samhain’s religious and spiritual aspects may have evolved, its core themes of remembrance, the thinning of the veil between worlds, and the celebration of the changing seasons continue to resonate in our modern Halloween celebrations.

In this modern era of pumpkin spice lattes and elaborate haunted houses, it’s essential to recognize the deep-rooted connections between Halloween and the ancient Celtic traditions of Samhain. As we revel in the festivities and spooky delights of October 31st, let’s also take a moment to acknowledge the rich history and spirituality that underlies this beloved holiday. Halloween, with its modern resonance with Samhain, continues to bridge the gap between the past and the present, reminding us of the enduring power of tradition and celebration.


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Halloween: The Fun and Fearsome:

On the other hand, Halloween has essentially become a celebration of the quirky, the spooky, and the mysterious. It allows us to explore the depths of our imagination, which can be a powerful tool for mental well-being. Engaging with Halloween’s supernatural or fantastical aspects can be a therapeutic outlet, allowing you to temporarily escape from life’s stressors and connect with your inner child.

Mental Health and Tradition:

Samhain and Halloween can offer unique opportunities to address and support mental health. The contemplative nature of Samhain encourages us to reflect on our journey and appreciate the cycles of life. It provides a moment of stillness to express gratitude for the past and set intentions for the future.

Halloween’s celebration of creativity and imagination allows us to escape from our everyday concerns, fostering a sense of playfulness that can reduce stress and anxiety. Embracing the duality of Halloween, the balance between fun and fear can teach us the importance of acknowledging our emotions and accepting them without judgment.

Halloween: Celebrating Mindful Traditions:

As you embrace Samhain and Halloween, consider how these traditions can positively impact your mental health. Embrace the quiet reflection of Samhain to Cultivate Gratitude and Set Positive Intentions.

Gratitude journaling is a great way to reflect. Allow Halloween to be a time of joy, creativity, and escapism. Engage in these traditions with mindfulness, appreciating their unique role in your emotional well-being.

One of the most captivating aspects of Samhain was the practice of wearing costumes and masks. This tradition served a dual purpose. Firstly, it was a means of protection. People believed that disguising themselves could avoid being recognised by evil spirits and wandering souls, thus keeping themselves safe from harm. Secondly, these costumes allowed individuals to channel the energies of the spirits and supernatural entities, often invoking deities and embodying the otherworldly.

The bonfire was another integral element of Samhain. These roaring fires served as beacons during the nights, providing warmth against the encroaching winter’s chill. However, the flames also held symbolic importance. Their bright glow was believed to ward off evil spirits and protect those gathered around the fire. Offerings were made to these spirits in food and crops, ensuring a bountiful harvest the following year.

Costumes and masks, for instance, are fundamental to Halloween as we know it today. The tradition of disguising oneself remains a central part of the holiday, with people of all ages transforming into various characters, creatures, and figures, much like the ancient Celts did. It’s a tribute to the timeless belief that we can temporarily become one with the spirit world during this season, embodying the entities that pass between realms.

Bonfires have also made their way into modern Halloween as jack-o’-lanterns. These carved pumpkins, often with eerie or welcoming faces, are placed on doorsteps and windowsills to serve as beacons for lost spirits and trick-or-treaters. They represent the guiding light that leads both the souls of the deceased and the living during the Halloween season.

Intriguingly, beyond Halloween’s playful façade lies a deeper spiritual connection. The veil between the physical and spiritual realms is still believed to be at its thinnest during this time, making it an opportune moment for those seeking spiritual experiences. This aspect of Halloween, with roots in Samhain, invites us to connect with the metaphysical and the spirit world. Take time to align your mental health and have some fun on Halloween.

Kindness is the sacred thread that weaves together pagan practices, connecting us to the earth, the spirits, and each other in a harmonious dance of admiration and respect.”

Happy Halloween


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