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Samhain and Halloween

I grew up in California enjoying Halloween with all my friends. That was back in the day when most neighbors handed out candy and we could safely go ‘trick or treating’ on our own. I loved carving pumpkins and bobbing for apples. My favorite part of Halloween was dressing up and sorting through our candy at the end of the night. While Halloween is very much an American tradition, I didn’t know what Samhain was until I was an adult.

photo source: Font Candy App

I first learned about pagan holy days when I was steeped in fundamentalist Christianity. My only source for ‘truth’ was what Christians told me….until I found Google. (Thanks, Google!)

Once we departed from that commune of belief, I started to see more about pagan tradition, cultures, and history in a way that stimulated my intellect. Now I love observing Samhain with my family! In fact, a lot of our Samhain traditions were traditions I had already practiced in church. In church we honored the departed one Sunday out of the year and called it ‘Heaven Night’. The church walls were adorned with large photos of our departed loved ones and we spent the evening talking about our memories of them. Samhain is a lot like that!

We set up a sacred space for our departed loved ones and set out their photos. We also include other items they enjoyed while they were on Earth. We light candles and make their favorite foods (or their recipes that we loved too).

In our family we celebrate both Samhain and Halloween. My third daughter once asked me what our culture was. She had been learning about other people’s cultures and she wondered about ours. Very simply, we’re Americans and our culture is Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Superbowl Sunday. Funny as that seems, that’s American culture.

Our ancestors lived throughout the region where Samhain was observed. We have ancestors from the wider old Germanic region encompassing Norway, Ireland, and Scandinavia. My husband’s family had ancestors in Italy and The Netherlands. We honor all our ancestors so our children can appreciate their ancient heritage.

The main part of Samhain that we observe is the honoring of our ancestors. We set up a family altar with their photos and trinkets that they loved from a thimble to specific fruits and other baked goods. We also create crafts associated with that. We have a memory catcher (like a dream catcher) that has various colors of ribbons with their photos attached. If you join our Circle of Intuition you can watch the mini class on how to make this.

Along with Samhain, we’ll be carving pumpkins, decorating the home to scare off the ghouls and goblins, and going trick or treating. I think we can have the best of both worlds.

May your ancestors bless you this season,

Sisterlisa

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Charmed Jack O’ Lantern

Carving pumpkins in October is a long held tradition among American children. You can get child safe pumpkin carving kits at most grocery stores, but sometimes the best tools are right in your own kitchen already. While most would consider pumpkin carving a muggle project, it’s actually quite enchanted, if you want it to be.

Be sure to choose a pumpkin with a strong stem

The history of carving pumpkins into jack o’ lanterns originated in Ireland, but instead of pumpkins they used turnips. Pumpkins certainly are a lot easier to carve and since they grow so large we can give them huge cheesy grins or ferociously frightening faces.

The intention of carving scary faces is to ward off evil spirits. Placing the candle inside illuminates the faces at night, but even the candle can be a charmed part of your magical squash.

I’ve been carving pumpkins since I was a kid, as most of you probably have. I’ve tried the safety carving kits from the stores but they don’t really work as efficiently as what I have in my own kitchen.

BOO!

Nothing can take the place of a good sharp knife to remove the top. I found that removing the pulp from inside works best with a metal measuring cup. I have a set that has a thin edge so they scrape very well and since they’re metal they are far more sturdy than the plastic scoops that come in the kits.

Once you remove all the pulp and seeds you can draw lightly, on the best side of the pumpkin, with a pencil. I use a small pairing knife to make the initial cuts. If you cut slowly you should be able to remove the pieces without messing up the design. Smaller knives work better than large ones, unless your pumpkin is quite thick. That’s when we use a reciprocating saw like this one.

Once your entire design is done you can immerse your pumpkin in a dilution of bleach and water to prevent rot that attracts insects. It will help to repel gnats from attacking it in your yard. Let the pumpkin dry thoroughly!

Eeeek!

Now you can begin your enchantment! You can work with a humor charm or a protection spell. Here are the supplies you’ll need for a protection spell.

Protection Spell

  • 1/4 cup ground cinnamon
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf (write a word on the leaf with a marker that corresponds with the spell you’re casting)

I’m not going to give you any words for the spell as the best words are the ones that come from your own mind and spirit.

Directions: Sprinkle the cinnamon into the empty pumpkin and speak your words while sprinkling. With each clove you add, speak your words as they drop in. While adding the bay leaf, speak your words. Finalize your spell while speaking your final words over the pumpkin as you place the top on.

Now set your pumpkin on your porch or in your garden. At night, place a tea light candle (or 2 or 3) inside. I use tea light candles so the flame is low enough in the pumpkin to avoid burning the inside of the top. You can add even more magic by speaking more words over the candles as you light them. Even better would be to use tea light candles that are already infused with magical elements.

pumpkin tea light candles
infused with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and garnet

I hope your October festivities are well protected and filled with lots of fun and magic! Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain!

Magical blessings,

Sisterlisa

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