Yes, Samhain is a beautiful and reverent holiday for witches, Wiccans, and Pagans. It's a time to remember our loved ones by setting them an extra spot at the dinner table; a time to do divination while the veil between worlds is thin; a time to meditate on the descent of Inanna or Persephone into the Underworld. Samhain is, without a doubt, the witches' holiday. It's even our new year!
Yet there's something fun about celebrating the dark, macabre side of regular old Halloween, too. To tell ghost stories, attempt to communicate with the dead, watch bad horror movies, decorate your place with spider webs and skulls, and just immerse yourself in the dark spookiness of the holiday. Sure, if you look at life as an unending cycle, you could say that this is a life-affirming holiday, but really this holiday is about honoring death. It's death-affirming, if you will.
Let's do some slightly spooky death affirmations, then!
- Read Speak With The Dead: Seven Methods for Spirit Communication by Konstantinos, and then try out one of the methods. It's simple: make a tape recording of static, white noise, or even nothing, and then play it back, listening for disembodied voices caught on tape. It works best if you are in the right frame of mind and initiate communication with the spirits first (or a loved one on the other side), so what better time than Halloween? While you might not get results at first, try, try again! If you're impatient you can find a lot of spirit voice recordings on the Internet, just Google EVP (electronic voice phenomena). Creepy.
- Read Goth Craft by Raven Digitalis and try out the Angel of Death Meditation. Digitalis properly warns that this is not a meditation for a slumber party or to freak you out, but to become more aware, accepting and reverent of death. You'll need jasmine incense, black candles, a dark violet amethyst and a couple pinches of graveyard dirt collected under a new moon. He also suggests you "dress like the dead" by wearing black and powdering your face. (If you like that idea, check out tip #3.) Then follow his meditation. The book also has a great section exploring different traditions and beliefs about death across many cultures.
- A very macabre but enjoyable way to connect with the energies of death is to make yourself up as though you were dead—white face makeup, darkened eyes, frozen lips. (Fake blood optional.) Have a friend take pictures of you "dead" in different poses and with different backgrounds, and then switch. Digital cameras are great for this because you can instantly switch between color and black and white, which often gives even cooler results. What you do with the pictures is up to you—you could use them in meditation or a Samhain ritual, for example. Whatever you do, don't use them to scare people—remember this holiday is about honoring death, not making a joke out of it.
- Visit an actual cemetery. This is a tradition followed in many places around the world on November 1 and 2, and it's certainly more effective than honoring Samhain in your living room! You can pay respects to your dead, or simply to Death itself, as you wish. Since it darkens early this time of year, you may be able to visit the cemetery when it's dark out during normal opening hours (if yours is a gated cemetery). Light candles for your loved ones or for unknown graves, and just take the time to sit there and meditate on death and its mysteries with an open heart, listening for answers. If you possess psychic abilities or have a favored method of divination, you might want to put that to use now. You may also want to leave an offering. Again, remember to honor the dead; leave the place cleaner than when you arrived, and never do anything to disturb or disrespect a grave.
- Go to the humane society and adopt a black cat—and keep it! Every year you hear about people adopting black cats at Halloween for "haunted houses" and then abandoning them (or worse), to the point that many shelters won't even adopt out black cats leading up to the holiday. While actual cases of black cat abuse at Halloween are rarely substantiated, you can be sure that they're not being abused by witches! As the human "mother" of a tremendously sweet black cat, I will say that while a black cat crossing your path may be seen as "unlucky" by some people, l consider myself to be very lucky to live with such a great cat. And in actuality, black cats and dogs are usually in shelters longer than light-colored pets, so please do one a favor if you're thinking of adopting.