Samhain Ancestor Work: Connecting with Ancestors, Deities and Spirits
Last Updated: October 17, 2023
Samhain, also known as Halloween and All Hallows’ Eve, is a sacred time in the pagan and witchcraft community. It marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter; it’s our new year starting. But more importantly, it is believed that during this time, we can connect with those who came before us in a genuine and natural sense.
The thinning between the physical and spiritual realms makes it easier for us to communicate with our ancestors, deities, and spirits. This then becomes an excellent opportunity to honor and connect with them on a deeper level. It’s a time for reflection, remembrance, and gratitude towards those who have influenced our lives.
Cultural Heritage and Familial Connections At Samhain
For many individuals, Samhain is a time to honor their cultural heritage and familial connections. This celebration is deeply rooted in many cultures around the world, including Celtic, Gaelic, Norse, and Native American traditions.
It is a time to remember and honor our ancestors, who have passed on their knowledge, traditions, and values to us. It’s an opportunity to connect with our roots and understand where we come from.
It’s also important to recognise that there are some of us out there who don’t actually know our roots, and do not have access to our records or funds to provide a DNA test. In this instance, what I would suggest is to connect with the land you are currently living on. Even if you do not know your exact ancestral heritage, you can still honor the land and its spirits during Samhain.
Ways to Connect with Ancestors
There are various ways to connect with your ancestors during Samhain. Here are some ideas that you can incorporate into your rituals or practices:
- Visit a Local Graveyard: As an act of service, you can clear any debris or leaves from the graves of your ancestors or those who do not have anyone to visit them. You can also leave offerings such as flowers, candles, or food as a way to honor and connect with them.
- Recreate Family Recipes: Food is an essential part of our cultural heritage, and during Samhain, you can recreate family recipes or traditional dishes from your culture as a way to remember and celebrate your ancestors.
- Light a Candle: Light a candle in honor of your ancestors and let it burn throughout the night. You can also meditate or pray while the candle is lit, focusing on memories or specific individuals you want to connect with.
- Connect With The Land: If you are unable to physically visit a graveyard or don’t have any specific ancestors to honor, you can still connect with the spirits of the land. Take a walk in nature, meditate outside, or leave offerings for the land and its inhabitants.
- Create an Ancestor Altar: You can create a special altar dedicated to your ancestors during Samhain. You can add photos, mementos, or other items that remind you of them and their legacy.
- Use Herbs for Remembrance: Certain herbs have been traditionally used for remembrance purposes, such as rosemary and sage. You can burn them, cook with them, craft with them, or simply have them on your altar to honor and connect with your ancestors.
- Offer Gratitude: Another way to connect with your ancestors is by offering gratitude for their guidance, protection, and influence in your life. You can do this through prayer, meditation, or writing letters to them.
Spirit Work during Samhain
Spirit work can take many forms at Samhain. Some may choose to hold a seance with friends and trusted spirits, while others may prefer to do solitary work. Whatever your preference, it’s important to approach spirit work with intention and caution.
Others may choose to spend time scrying, especially with mirrors or with black crystals, to connect with spirits and receive guidance or messages. Some may also choose to work with divination tools such as tarot cards, rune stones, or pendulums for guidance and communication with spirits.
It’s not just communication and connection though; at Samhain it’s normal to want to have an energetic cleanse, to banish away any negativity so that it doesn’t come into the new witch’s year. Using herbs or incense to smudge your space and yourself can be a great way to cleanse and prepare for any spirit work you may do.
What Deities Are Best To Work With At Samhain?
There are many deities associated with Samhain, and the best one for you to work with will depend on your personal beliefs and traditions. I’m going to say that if you work with deities anyway, then your current deities are still great to work with as they’ll cover a lot of the themes for Samhain and you have a special connection already. Some popular deities associated with this time of year include:
- The Morrigan: The Celtic goddess of war, death, and transformation.
- Hecate: A Greek goddess associated with magic, witchcraft, and the underworld.
- Anubis: The Egyptian god of death, funerals, and embalming.
- Santa Muerte: A Mexican folk saint associated with death, protection, and healing.
- Ix Chel: A Mayan moon goddess associated with cycles, rebirth, and transformation.
- Persephone: A Greek goddess associated with the changing of seasons, death, and rebirth.
- Hades: A Greek god ruler of the Underworld realm and associated with death, wealth, and the unseen.
No matter which deity you choose to work with, it’s important to show respect and honor towards them during this time. Research their mythology and symbols to understand how they can guide and assist you in your spiritual journey.
Find ways that isn’t culturally insensitive, and share gratitude and thanks for those who take the time to visit with you.
What Is A Dumb Supper?
A Dumb Supper, also known as a Silent Supper or Feast for the Dead, is a ritual usually performed during Samhain to honor and remember our ancestors. It involves setting an extra place at the dinner table for departed loved ones, and sharing a meal with them in silence.
The purpose of this tradition is to invite our ancestors to join us in spirit and to provide them with a physical space to receive offerings and interact with us. It’s believed that during this time, the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest, making it easier for spirits to communicate and visit.
The Dumb Supper can be done alone or with a group of trusted friends and family members. It’s usually tradition to prepare the meal in silence, but I love to personally sing my fave songs and dance to my fave music whilst cooking the food – this is not just to infuse the food with love, but a way to connect and share things that I adore now with those from back then.
Set a place at your table this Samhain to include a plate for those passed on, with a full glass of wine or their favourite beverage (or just a fresh glass of water), and perhaps even a photo or memento to represent them. And don’t forget to thank them for their presence and guidance in your life, even when they are no longer physically with you.
Cook Family Recipes or Ancestral Dishes for Samhain
One of the best ways to honor and connect with our ancestors during Samhain is through food. Many cultures have traditional dishes or family recipes that are passed down from generation to generation, and cooking these dishes can be a way to remember our ancestors, and keep their legacies alive.
Not only does this provide a physical representation of our connection to our roots, but it also allows us to experience the tastes and smells that our ancestors may have enjoyed. It can be a truly nostalgic and comforting experience. This Samhain, I’ll be cooking my Grandad’s special gravy recipe, pouring it over fresh homemade chips like he used to make – it’s super simple, not even fancy or that difficult/complex to create, but to me it’s a gorgeous nod towards the comfort he gave me in life.
If you don’t have any specific traditional family recipes, you can also research dishes from your ancestral heritage or culture and prepare them for Samhain. And if cooking isn’t your strong suit, simply enjoy a meal that reminds you of your ancestors or your culture.
Plan Your Own Legacy
As we honor and connect with our ancestors during Samhain, it’s also important to reflect on our own legacy and the impact we want to have on future generations. Take some time this Samhain to think about what you want to be remembered for, and how you can make a positive impact in the world. You know I’m a sucker for community, leaving things better than we find them, so it’s a great time to practice this sort of reflection.
You can write down your thoughts, create a vision board, write a mini grimoire for future witchy generations or even create something you’ve always planned to bring into the world – whether that’s a book, artwork, or an invention. Use this time to manifest your dreams and leave behind a meaningful connection between the future collective and you as you are now.
Samhain is not just about honoring the past; it’s also about embracing the present and planning for the future. Embodyig all aspects of the cycle of life in your practice during this magickal time, and use it as an opportunity to motivate you for growth and transformation.
How To Start Your Spirit Work Journey
Spirit work is when you actively engage and work with spirits, whether that’s through rituals, divination, or other practices. Samhain is a powerful time to start your spirit work journey, although technically you can start any time that you feel the pull to.
If you’re new to spirit work, I recommend starting slow and doing your research on different deities and spirits before making any initial outreach – this can include working on your personal energetic protection, warding your spaces, learning how to “correct” energies vs completely cleansing them, etc. I would also suggest finding a trusted mentor or community of like-minded individuals to share experiences and advice with.
During Samhain, it’s important to be mindful of the spirits you are summoning or inviting into your space. Make sure to set clear intentions and boundaries, and always show respect and gratitude towards the spirits you work with, even if they’re not who you expect.
Spirit work is an energetically draining practice too – how do you plan to recuperate after your experiences? How do you intend to look after yourself? This can involve anything from taking a relaxing bath, to engaging in self care activities or simply getting lots of rest.
Witch to witch, I’ve gotta say it’s important to prioritize your mental and physical well-being during this journey.
When it comes to cemeteries and graveyards, there are usually markers for those who have passed on by the names of headstones, tombstones and gravestones. Each marker indicates where the physical body was laid to rest after passing. Each stone is usually decorated with a variety of symbols that can actually describe the person, or the life that they’ve lived, in a way that can make each visit to these spaces feel more sacred and intimate.
I wanted to give you an overview of the most common symbols you may come across that show a little more information about a person’s life, other than their name and their dates of physical residence on this plane:
- Arch or Gateway – Symbolising the passage between this world and the next
- Angels – They were a messenger of spiritual messages, and respected spirituality/faith
- Anchor – They were potentially a sailor, and had eternal faith that was steadfast
- Anvil & Hammer – They were likely a smith or craftsman in their life
- Basket – Symbolising life and it’s bounty for that person, in this world or the next
- Beehive – They were likely to have worked hard for their religion or place of worship or church
- Butterfly – They may have had a short life, and now they’re transformed
- Broken Chain – They have left a gap in their family, the family feel broken
- Broken Columns – They were the head of a household, and their life were cut short
- Full Columns – This person lived a full life
- Candle – They were a light to others, and it symbolises life
- Clock or Watch – It’s often to see the timing of the person who passed on, but it symbolises that the clock for us all are always ticking
- Draped Urns – The draping explores themes of mourning, with urns usually containing those who have passed on they are a symbol of death
- Fruit – Eternal harvests for this soul. What the fruit specifically is, I’d say it depends on it’s correspondences
- Hands, Fingers, Arms (pointing in a direction) – Symbolises the connection between the world below or their new world above
- Hourglass – This is the reminder that death is inevitable, and comes for us all
- Key – Symbolising knowledge unlocked, gateways unlocked, and the entrance to another world
- Lambs – They were known for their innocence, and it’s likely they were young or a child that passed
- Lion – They had strength, and were potentially a fallen hero
- Mortar & Pestle – They were likely a pharmacist, doctor, or helped the community through medicine
- Olive Tree, Branch or Olives – Symbolising the peace found in the passing for this person
- Scales – This suggests that they worked with justice and the law, or that in their passing they’ve found the justice they needed
- Sphinx – They loved riddles & puzzles in their life, as well as they had courage and they showed strength
- Wheat – Symbolising the harvest and the hard work this person went through in this land to reap the rewards in the next.
Abundance In The Next Life Offering For Ancestors or Deities
Samhain is a time for honoring our ancestors and it’s great for connecting with them through offerings. It’s also an opportunity to offer gratitude and abundance to deities or spirits that we work with in our spiritual practice.
An offering of abundance for in the next life can consist of things like fruits, grains, herbs, or other items that represent prosperity and growth. You can also include personal nods, like ancestral Scottish plaid tartan swatches that match the family tartans or your Deities favourite fruit offering, as a way to show your connection and reverance for those who have come before you, and your well wishes for them.
For this spell, I am utilising different aspects of your craft and magick;
- Something to represent Scrying, and the visual connection to the otherworld. A small mirror, or a black obsidian crystal would be my suggestion here.
- Something to represent a Seance, and the communication between realms. I’d recommend a tarot deck, or a Pendulum.
- Something to represent themes of Banishment, like burning clove incense, to cleanse any negativity that can impact those we care about.
- An offering plate filled with rice, split into thirds (three separated segments) with dried mint, dried basil and dried rosemary between the rice segments, meeting in the middle around an amethyst piece (or clear quartz/fave pebble you’ve found)
- Small coins
What you’ll need to do is to lay out your ingredients on a table or altar. Take deep breaths in between steps to ground yourself and focus your intentions.
Here are some suggested steps:
- Cast a circle or protective space around you and your working area to set the scene to begin.
- Light the clove incense and as you do so speak aloud “I purify this space and myself, as a clean vessel for this work to begin, to reach you (insert name) with protection and clarity.”
- Hold your tarot deck or pendulum above the incense smoke, speaking aloud “With this smoke I cleanse this tools so they may be used with purity and truth. May you always receive what you ask for.”
- Take a deep breath and hold the amethyst in one hand while hovering over the 3rd dried herb selection (rosemary), speaking aloud “With the pure clarity and protection of this stone, I call forth (insert name OR “all my Ancestors”) to hear me now. May you always come when called.”
- For the second segment, and the dried basil driving intentions of love and positive attraction, repeat step 4 speaking aloud “With the intuition and guidance of this stone, I call upon the energies of the universe to attract positivity to (insert name or “all of my ancestors”).”
- For the third final segment, and the dried mint driving intentions of both abundance and healing, repeat step 5 speaking aloud “With the strength and nurturing propertes of this stone, I call upon all beings to protect (insert name or “all my ancestors”) from any suffering, and provide a feast table for them in their realm so their needs are met abundantly.”
- When completing these steps, place the amethyst back on your altar or table in a safe space.
- Place 3 coins (or other small items) around the edges of your offering plate, in between each ingredient (mint, basil and rosemary). Speak aloud “I dedicate these coins to you (insert name or “all my ancestors”), one for each protection, attraction and abundance. By using the work of seance, of scrying, of banishment and this created crossroads, I offer this work to you as an offering of abundance.”
- Close down your circle and give thanks to your ancestors and deities/spirits for their presence during this offering.
- Leave the offering on your altar for at least a day, allowing the energies to continue working even after you’ve completed this spell.
This type of offering can be done as often as you’d like throughout the year, but Samhain is a particularly powerful time for it.
Samhain Spell Jar For Ancestors, For Deities And For Spirits And Guides
It’s always nice to craft something for others, as a sort of “did this because of you” sweet notion. I love a spell jar, and it’s a great way to create something that can encompass all these above-mentioned ideas: gratitude, abundance and connection. I usually start with a small glass jar – you can get them from craft stores, thrift shops or even use a recycled jar from your kitchen. Begin by filling the bottom of the jar with any of the following herbs, crystals or dried flowers:
- Sage (cleansing)
- Clear quartz (clarity & energy boosting)
- Black onyx (divination, protection)
- Rosemary (for remembrance of ancestors)
- Mugwort (for spirits)
- Myrhh (for deities)
Next, add in small pieces of paper with the names or initials of those you’re crafting for. You can also write out any specific requests or intentions you have for them, or even just a personalised sigil to symbolise all of your connections.
Then, fill the rest of the jar with offerings such as dried fruit, nuts or grains for abundance; honey or syrup for sweetness and connection; and dried flowers or herbs associated with gratitude like wheat. Seal the jar with a lid and decorate it however you like – paint a sigil on the lid or tie a ribbon around the jar with charms attached.
Finally, charge your jar under the moonlight, and place it in a special spot in your home as an offering to those who have guided and supported you throughout your journey.
I love curating divination experiences for those invested in spiritual growth with secular honest vibes. I am that witch you come to for these honest, interesting and beneficial divination experiences!
Herbs are an important part of Samhain, the ancient Celtic celebration that marks the end of one year and the beginning of another.
Connect with the energies of Samhain using this tarot spread and get some insight into your spiritual journey! Divination and Tools recommendations included.