The Wheel of the Year: Samhain & How to Make a Samhain Altar at Home

The Wheel of the Year: Samhain & How to Make a Samhain Altar at Home

Ann Meyer

By: Ann Meyer

Samhain occurs in the heart of autumn. The trees are various shades of yellow and orange, with some choosing to dawn the color red. Our pumpkins have been carved, with the flame of a candle dancing from within. Sweaters have become more consistent, and we are taking comfort in soups and blankets. 

Samhain marks the halfway point between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.  It is celebrated from October 31st to November 1st, specifically sunset to sunset. Sometimes it is referred to as the Feast of the Dead, Hallows Eve, or All Hallows Eve. The word Samhain translates into “end of summer” and is the last of the three harvest festivals, indicating the end of harvest season. Any crops left after this time are considered offerings for the nature spirits, and no harvesting should be done. During this time we celebrate two main things, the dead and welcoming the cold. Death is a natural part of life, and Samhain is a time for us to remember and honor our loved ones who have passed on. We can do this by setting up altars, leaving offerings, or cooking a meal in remembrance of those we miss. We also take this time to embrace the coldness ahead and welcome the winter months. The frigid, dark days are coming, and this is our last chance to prepare for them. 

Although Samhain is considered one holiday, some people celebrate it as if it were two. For example, October 31st is sometimes expressed similarly to Halloween. Where people dress up in costumes of fairies and monsters, and toast to the things unknown. Whereas November 1st is celebrated solely in remembrance of the dead. Offerings are left out, feasts of favorite dishes are made, and people congregate telling stories of departed loved ones.

This time of year is considered especially magical, due to the thinning barrier between the realms. It is believed that two times of year, on Samhain and Beltane, the veil between the living and the spirit world is thin. Making it an excellent time for communicating with past loved ones or ancestors. This is also a great time to practice magic, work on enhancing intuition, and shadow work. 

Herbs for Samhain

Plants for Samhain

  • Apple
  • Pumpkins
  • Pomegranate
  • Cranberry
  • Hazelnuts

Ways to Celebrate Samhain

  • Creating a Samhain altar
  • Preparing a meal for loved ones passed
  • Lighting candles in remembrance
  • Carving pumpkins
  • Preparing for winter

Make Your Own Samhain Altar with Amanda Furbee

As Samhain approaches, many of us are preparing our altars and inviting our beloved ancestors in for the season. An important part of this practice is connecting with the 5 elements; Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Spirit. By taking the time to honor these elements, we can build a powerful connection to our ancestors and make our altar even more magical. Continue reading for tips on how to best invite the 5 elements into your altar and make your Samhain night truly enchanting!

As you prepare to create your Samhain altar, start by gathering natural supplies like beautiful crystals, colorful leaves, juicy apples, plump pumpkins, and abundant nuts. Choose a perfect location in your home space and a gorgeous black, blue, or purple fabric. Include symbolic items like photos to connect with the spirit you're calling upon. As the veil between the living and the dead is thin during Samhain, create a sacred space that attracts your ancestors by lighting candles and burning incense to bewitch even the most skeptical spirits. Let's begin crafting your altar!

Ah, yes, my dear spooky friends, let's talk about the importance of connecting with our ancestors during this mystical time of Samhain. As we carve our pumpkins and set the stage for the evening's festivities, remember that the veil between the living and the dead is oh-so-thin. It's like a lace curtain just waiting to be pulled back. By inviting our ancestors into our sacred space, we create a powerful bond that transcends time and space. So, light those candles, burn those smoke bundles, and get ready for some ghostly conversations. Trust me, your ancestors will appreciate the effort, and who knows, they might just drop by to say hello.

Place pumpkins on the altar for their aesthetic and symbolic significance in the season's magic. Remember the thin veil between worlds and light candles while filling the air with fragrant incense. This combination creates a spirit-infused ambiance that your ancestors won't be able to resist. Prepare to connect with them in a magical way! Now, it's time to honor the elemental forces on your Samhain altar! Acknowledge the energies of Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Spirit as you prepare for this enchanting night. 

Air: Incorporating Smoke and Incense. Infuse your Samhain altar with the essence of Air, and as the veil between worlds thins, incorporate smoke and incense. Using feathers from your favorite birds to move the smoke can enhance the otherworldly atmosphere, and by lighting candles and allowing fragrant smoke to waft through the air, you can beckon your ancestors to join in the mystical festivities. Remember, Air is the breath of life, and by harnessing its power, you can infuse your Samhain celebration with new energy and vitality.

Fire: Lighting Candles and Bonfires. Gather around, fellow witches, as we illuminate our Samhain altar with candles and bonfires. These flames connect us with the spirit realm, especially as the veil between worlds grows thin. The colors of traditional Samhain candles - yellow, orange, black, or white - flicker and dance, beckoning spirits to our gathering. And who can forget the warmth and magic of a roaring bonfire? Share stories, cast spells, and let the smoke carry our intentions to the other side. So let us embrace fire on this sacred night, for it truly ignites our Samhain celebration.

Water: Feel the Waves of Emotions. Water is a crucial element for any Samhain altar, symbolizing fluidity and transformation like the ebb and flow of the tides. Incorporating flower water, or hydrosols, onto your altar is a great way to honor the element of Water using plants, not just for their delightful fragrance but also for the ethereal energy that they carry. To make your own flower water, gather petals from your favorite blooms and infuse them with water under the full moon. Adding holy water to your space also adds a touch of sacredness and purification. It can be made by creating your own or procuring some. Don't forget to include symbolic representations of Water, like pictures of serene lakes or oceans and seashells to bring forth the soothing and transformative power of this element. As you set up your Samhain altar, allow the element of Water to flow through your space, washing away any negative energy and inviting in new beginnings. With plenty of pumpkins, a thin veil, candles and smoke bundles flickering in the air, your altar will reflect the enchanting magic that lies within. So, watery witches and wizards, honor Water as you create your sacred Samhain space.

Earth: Ground Down and Connect. Now it's time to get down and dirty with the Earth element on your Samhain altar! The Earth element is all about grounding and connecting to the physical world. So, gather those crystals, my earthly witches and wizards, and let's get to work. Place powerful stones like obsidian, black tourmaline, smoky quartz, and hematite on your altar for protection and grounding. Often skulls or bones come into play with Earth. And don't forget about plants, mushrooms, and flowers! These earthy beings bring life and vibrancy to your sacred space. Dig deep, my friends, and let the Earth element keep you rooted as you connect with your ancestors on this magical night.

Spirit: Embrace and Welcome. As we gather around our Samhain altar, let us delve into the ethereal realm of Spirit. It is the most otherworldly element of them all. We warmly welcome and embrace the spirits of our ancestors, as we pull out our tarot cards and oracle decks. The supernatural awaits us, whether it is guidance or simply the feeling of a loved one's presence. The spirit realm is sure to add an extra sprinkle of enchantment to our Samhain night. Let us raise our vibrations and connect with the beyond, with our runes and a sense of anticipation for an experience like no other.

Here’s What You Will Need:

  • Mini pumpkins
  • Apples (use dried to last longer)
  • Candles (yellow, orange, white and/or black)
  • Hazelnuts or any nut that is abundant in your region
  • Colorful leaves from your area
  • Photos or symbols for loved ones that you want to remember or connect with
  • Crystals
  • Fabric (black, blue, or purple)
  • Offerings for Spirit and ancestors

To Make Your Own Altar for Samhain:

  • Create a space in your home that is sacred and safe for your altar to be in.
  • Add your fabric to the space.
  • Burn incense or smoke bundles to purify your space and set your intentions for your altar.
  • Place candles and light them while setting your intentions.
  • Add your other items. Some folks like to place the elemental items in the directions they are associated with.
  • There is no right or wrong way to do this. So make it your own! Visit your altar often during this time.

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