Samhain – the Old and New

Over the past few years, as we have come to this time of year, the time of the death of the old year, the rebirth of the new, I have tried to imbue the children with a deeper meaning of Samhain or Halloween, and express to them why we celebrate it, and it’s origins.
This year we continued with traditions we have created for our family over the past few years, some only last year, and dipped our fingers and imaginations into some new activities, craft, cooking, and experiences. I continued to gain inspiration from Circle Round by Starhawk, Diane Baker, and Anne Hill, and gathered some new wonderful ideas from a book I recently bought, Celebrating the Great Mother by Cait Johnson and Maura D. Shaw.
In the lead up we started preparing our Samhain Autumn nature shelf. We decorated it with a black cloth, Autumn leaves, pine cones, dried Fungi we found in our area, and symbols of Autumn’s harvest; pumpkins, apples etc. As Samhain is the time to remember our ancestors and dead family members we also added some treasured items that belonged to Scott and my grandfathers.
Like last year we made salt dough figures,

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there was grandfather and baby deer to represent the horned god, mother earth as the old crone, runes, and Elki’s inspired battling knight and American Indian. We also made paper chains of apples, berries, and cauldrons, wrote the names of our ancestors on the chains,

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and added these and the painted salt dough figures to the shelf.

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Something I didn’t quite get to last year but wanted to, was printing photos of some of our ancestors and family past, we ended up just looking at them on the computer. I did manage it this year though, and used them to create a border around an Ancestor tree that the children and I made together.

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It is certainly not exhaustive and there’s still more ancestors and information I want to find out to share with the children but all I really wanted was to spend some time with the children remembering and learning about our roots. I plan on framing some of the photos so they have a permanent place in our home.
I brought some new experiences to our Samhain this year, mostly garnered from Celebrating the Great Mother. We practised some visualisation and meditation for the children to find their Power animal and the Magical character they would dress up as on Samhain night. I felt that both the children got a lot from the meditation, and really want to incorporate more into our daily lives. Anusha discovered her power animal is a Wombat, and Elki a Wolf, and despite all ready having ideas for their dress up characters before meditating they both still wanted to do it anyway. And their characters? Elki a Water Elemental, and Anusha, wait for it, a Botanist! Still makes me giggle 🙂

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Here they are dressed up on Samhain night just before going on our traditional little lantern walk before they trick or treat us 🙂 We also each made our own set of runes in special bags.

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Scott cut small disks of wood for the runes for us, and we wrote on the symbols using gold and silver markers.

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Then we made the bags from my quite meagre material stash, the children choosing what they wanted and helping me to put them together, and sew them on my machine.

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On Samhain day the children made our traditional Jack-o-lantern with their dad, and then we also each made a spirit guide from turnips. This was really enjoyable and lovely to be able to each make our own little creation. I thought turnips would be really hard to hollow out but the flesh came out really easily with a blunt knife and spoon, and then we etched our designs into the skin using toothpicks and small, sharp knives.

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We ate our dinner of Autumn vegetable soup, garlic bread, and toasted hazelnuts by candlelight, setting a place for our ancestors, thanking them for giving us life, and inviting them to join our celebration. The children received vegan pumpkin cookies for their trick-or-treat sweets, with spiced hot chocolates that Scott made (now a new tradition for Samhain),

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and they also had a small slice (we were all getting very full by this point) of Bread of the Dead that we’d made together earlier in the day.

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We baked the Bread of the Dead in a camp oven on our fire place and it turned out even better than last year, spicy, sweet and delicious despite it’s grim appearance!
After our sweets the children and I sat around the fire and experimented with divination using our handmade runes and a set of tarot cards that I’ve had for many years. The children were very naturally drawn to the magical art of divination. In the future I’d like to see if I can find another tarot card set more aimed at little people. We were also going to spend some time scrying but I decided to leave that for another time.  Afterwards we shared a story, placed the food for our ancestors and an apple for grandfather deer outside, and settled the children in bed ready to awaken to the new year.

2 thoughts on “Samhain – the Old and New

  1. Danielle, This sounds wonderful. I love how you used the roots for your family tree, I have not seen it done this way before. We are going to do a family tree when we do our first (local) history block and I think I will steal this idea. Thank you! Cathy

    • Thanks so much Cathy! I can’t claim the idea for using the roots of the Ancestor tree though, it was from one of my books, I loved the idea too and it seemed to make a lot more sense for the children to grow from their ancestral roots, Elki and Anusha really got that 🙂

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