Embracing the Darkness: Halloween Traditions

by Aisling Badger October 28, 2016

1 Comment

Witchy bicycleWhether you are celebrating a traditional Samhain, or honoring past lives for the Day of the Dead, this time of year is traditionally a moment of ritual and celebration. Samhain is a Gaelic festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.  The festival honors transitions and the year’s bounty with merriment, food and drink.

Harvest season has come to a close. It is time to embrace the dark and find new ways to bring light into our lives.

The Day of the Dead is a traditional Mexican festival that honors those who are no longer walking with us. This holiday is celebrated with parties, rituals, food, dance and beautifully vibrant decor.

It is often said that the veil between the spirit world and our physical world is thinnest on All Hallows Eve, and thus it is the prime time to communicate with elders, past family members or the spirits. People have traditionally dressed in costume with the idea that if we are disguised on this night, we will be hidden from the roaming spirits and they won’t take us back with them to the Other Side.

This is a special time to honor and reflect upon the year, however you may choose to celebrate. A sense of magic often gets lost in a busy, fast-moving world. Magic can mean all sorts of things, but there is something primal about finding the time to connect with nature and to a deeper spiritual side, by allowing ourselves to feast, to be warm and to light up the dark together.

This year’s Halloween coincides with the New Moon, which is symbolically a threshold for new beginnings. This is a great time to set intentions for yourself and embrace the darkest night of the month.

Five ways to celebrate and honor this time of year:

Halloween Herbal Ideas

Create an altar

The creation process alone can be celebratory, even if you keep it for just one night!

  • Gather stones, leaves, and flowers– fresh or dried
  • Gather some objects that have importance for you, such as photographs or little gifts
  • Light some candles, turn off the lights and burn sage or other special smudge sticks made from aromatic plants
  • Get a blank piece of paper and write down the things that bring you joy in dark times, people you want to thank or honor, and wishes you may have
  • Learning how to find joy is a continual practice, but it gets us through some of the darkest nights

Take a walk in nature

At dusk

  • The moment before sunset is a magical times, because colors are amplified, and there is a certain glow that can only be experienced physically (it can’t be felt through photographs!)  Notice the colors, sounds, and other intense sensations of the season. Gather objects for your altar like stones, beautiful leaves or dried flowers. Nature has always had a prominent role in these seasonal celebrations!

Build a fire

Celebrate light and warmth

  • Fires and candles have always bestowed a sense of the sacred. Have a fire outside and cozy up, or get a large spread of candles together and turn out the lights.

Halloween Feast for the spirits

Put on a harvest feast

In lavish fashion!

  • An extravagant banquet for the spirits has always been an integral part of All Hallows Eve. Re-create something like this, for yourself and family or a small group of friends. Take the time to set the table: light candles, cook traditional harvest foods like squash and pumpkins, and other vegetables. Drink dark wine or warm cider, mulled with a selection of herbs. Pan de Muerto, or “dead bread” is a traditional food in Mexico. Pan de Muerto is a sweet bread, made with anise seeds. Make your own version and spice it up with some herbs. Consider the dinner table a sacred space and lay it out for a celebration.

Turn to plants

Plants hold symbolism for every part of the year. They have been used in food, to adorn altars, or burned for spiritual purposes. Here are a few we like to use:

  • Calendula: traditionally associated with joy, remembrance and light. Marigold (part of the calendula family) was considered a sacred offering to the Gods
  • Mugwort: for dreaming, and visioning
  • Garlic: protection from evil, strength, healing
  • Angelica: provides inspiration, a symbol of magic, used to ward off evil
  • Rose: the eternal symbol of love, and a grief ally
  • Rosemary: known as the herb of remembrance. Used for cleansing and new beginnings.
  • Cedar: used to purify space of dark powers
  • Elder: this tree is often considered to act as a bridge between the living and the dead, and is a powerful protector
  • Palo santo: A South American tree associated with removing negative energy and increasing love and prosperity
  • Tulsi:  a protective, holy plant, used for worship
  • Yarrow: said to hold magic. Has a reputation for being part of the herbal mixture that allowed European witches to “fly”

 We hope you create magic this weekend as you embrace the darkness!

Halloween Herbal Altar

Aisling Badger
Aisling Badger


1 Response

Gabriela Heermans
Gabriela Heermans

October 30, 2016

Thanks for sharing these great ideas, Aisling!

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