9 Magical Ways to Celebrate Samhain

it's the witches' new year, you know.

illustrated by liz riccardi

Long before jack-o'-lanterns, coordinated #girlgang costumes, and Netflix-and-chill-a-thons of our fave horror masterpieces, the sugary, goth holiday wore a different mask entirely. To ancient people of the Northern Hemisphere, Halloween, or Samhain (pronounced “Sa-wain”), as it was once called by the Celts, marked the official end of summer and the beginning of winter, as well as the start of a new year. The last harvest of the year, the Samhain season—roughly, the period when the Sun is in the constellation Scorpio—was an anxious time of preparation to ensure survival through winter and an abundant farming season come spring.

While many of these themes are still seen in the fall season today (bobbing for apples, carving pumpkins, nesting), the ancients knew that there was something sinister lurking below the surface. Indeed, the earth dies and as summer ends, the underworld comes alive. Thus, Samhain was also a time to honor death in its power, beauty, and inevitability. Samhain marked a period when the “veil” separating the world of the living from the dead was said to be at its thinnest, allowing spirits to not only reach out to the living, but also roam the earth. Appeasing and honoring spirits, which later morphed into trick-or-treating and Dia de los Muertos celebrations, were spiritual priorities.

Though modern society seems lightyears away from the agricultural lifestyle of our human ancestors, it is still possible to honor this sacred time of death and connect with Mother Earth's rhythms, whether you live in a shoebox apartment or that dope cottage from Hocus Pocus. Ahead, nine simple ways to get in touch with your inner witch goddess (or Stevie Nicks) and celebrate the natural world’s retirement into death.