It is easy to determine the date of some holidays, as they are printed on virtually every calendar. Witches don’t have it so easy. After all, how many calendars (with the exception of Wiccan ones) list Beltane? Even holidays that coincide with equinoxes can be tricky, because the calendar typically lists the first FULL day of a season. So, if the Spring Equinox occurred at 1:00 pm on Monday, the calendar might list Tuesday as the first day of spring.
At least Samhain is easy. Everyone knows when Halloween is, and they are on the same day. Or not. It all depends on your method of calculation. It can be one of three days. I will explain the differences, but if you came here to find out what day is right , you’re going to be disappointed – because only you can answer that. Like most things in the Craft, there are different methods, different opinions, and I firmly believe the “right” answer is what feels right and works well for you.
About cross-quarter Sabbats
The Witches’ year is divided by 8 holidays, which we call Sabbats. Four of those coincide with the changing of the seasons. These are the Equinoxes. The four major Sabbats are known as the cross-quarter days, because they fall between the equinoxes. Samhain is one such Sabbat, celebrated midway between Autumn (Lughnasadh) and Winter (Yule).
Three ways to pick your days
- Zodiac degree – The equinoxes, and corresponding Sabbats, occur when the Sun reached 0 degrees of cardinal sign in the tropical zodiac. If you aren’t an astrologer, you may not know what that means, so I’ll translate.
When the Sun enters Aries spring begins; when the sun enters Cancer, summer begins; when the sun enters Libra, Autumn begins; when the sun enters Capricorn, winter begins. As you probably know, there are 12 zodiac signs, not just four. That means each season spans three signs. The midpoint of the season comes halfway through the second (fixed sign). Therefore, Samhain occurs when the sun is midway through (15 degrees) the sign of Scorpio.
- Weather – As you can imagine, astronomical data was not always available throughout history, particularly at points in time when Witchcraft practice was taboo, or worse. A simple alternative was to watch for natural signs of the mid-season. Many Witches today prefer this method because it is what they were taught, or because it simply feels natural. The signs of Samhain vary by location, but may include changing of leaves, first snowfall, or migration of certain animals. Unfortunately, this method is becoming more difficult as weather becomes less predicable (yes, climate change has thrown a cog in the wheel of the year), but it Is still quite popular and effective.
- Calendar – This is the simplest method; just pick a month and day, and celebrate on the same date every year. This method, not surprisingly, is especially popular for Samhain, as many consider it interchangeable with Halloween.
No matter what method you choose, have fun and make Magick!