Projects to Celebrate Samhain, the Witches' New Year

Still life of Halloween pumpkins
Catherine Delahaye / Getty Images

As Samhain approaches, you can decorate your home with a number of easy craft projects. Start celebrating a bit early with these fun and simple ideas that honor the final harvest, and the cycle of life and death

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Pagan Treat Bags for Samhain

Children enjoying treats on steps
Kinzie+Riehm / Getty Images

Do you have Pagan kids coming over for a Samhain event? You can have a kid-friendly celebration by putting together a goodie bag that's representative of your Pagan spirituality. The key here is to do some creative, outside the box thinking. Sure, there are a ton of Halloween decorations in the store at this time of year, but not all of those are really connected with Pagan religious belief systems. They’re really more about the secular celebration of Halloween, which is fine, unless you’re looking for kid-friendly stuff that honors Pagan spirituality.

Here are a few things to try:

  • Decorate the bags themselves with symbols that are meaningful to you – depending on the pantheon your group honors, you might include designs that are associated with Greek, Roman, Celtic, or Norse mythology.
  • Small herbal sachets: sew herbs into a fabric pouch. Use lavender to help with dreams, or other appropriate plants.
  • Crystals and gemstones: As long as the kids attending your event are beyond the put-everything-in-your-mouth stage, you could include rose quartz for love, hematite for protection, and more.
  • A Portable Altar Kit: Depending on how old the kids are, think about making an altar box that fits in a backpack or pocket. This might not be useful or safe for really young children, but older tweens and teens could use it responsibly.
  • Divination tools: make a simple pendulum with a stone wrapped in wire and attached to the end of a chain. Add a simple divination set by painting symbols on stones or wooden discs.
  • Wands: Make a simple wand with a stick and a crystal wrapped in wire.
  • Deity symbols: Does your tradition honor a particular god or goddess? Consider adding representative symbols – owls for Athenacats for Bastet, or an antler for Cernunnos. Try printing out a wallet-size image of the deity on heavy cardstock, add a prayer to your god/dess on the reverse side, and laminate it.

Finally, remember, Samhain is the same day as Halloween, so never underestimate the power of a few strategically placed pieces of delicious candy!

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Samhain Spirit Incense

Close-Up Of Incense Burning In Temple
Greta Mastauskaite / EyeEm / Getty Images

By the time Samhain rolls around, your herb garden is probably looking pretty sad. Now's the time to take all those goodies you harvested and dried in September, and put them to good use. This incense blend is perfect for a Samhain seancedivination session, or for any other autumn working.

This recipe is for loose incense, but you can adapt it for stick or cone recipes if you like. As you mix and blend your incense, focus on the goal of your work. Do you wish to contact the spirit of a long-dead ancestor? Are you hoping to bring some visions your way in a dream? Or are you maybe looking to enhance your own meditative abilities? Focus your intent as you blend your ingredients.

You’ll need:

Add your ingredients to your mixing bowl one at a time. Measure carefully, and if the leaves or other items need to be crushed, use your mortar and pestle to do so. As you blend the herbs together, state your intent. You may find it helpful to charge your incense with an incantation. For example, if you were going to use your incense during a seance, you could use this:

The veil has thinned, the moon is bright
and I blend this magic on Samhain night.
Celebrating life and death and rebirth
with these herbs I've harvested from the earth.
I send my intent by smoke in the air
and call on those whose blood I share.
I ask my ancestors to guide and watch over me,
As I will, so it shall be.

Store your incense in a tightly sealed jar. Make sure you label it with its intent and name, as well as the date you created it. Use within three months, so that it remains charged and fresh.

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Set Up an Ancestor Shrine

vintage family photo album and documents
Andrew Bret Wallis / Getty Images

In many Pagan traditions, the ancestors are honored, especially at Samhain. This Sabbat, after all, is the night when the veil between our world and the spirit world is at its most fragile. By setting up an ancestor shrine or altar, you can honor the people of your bloodline. This altar or shrine can be set up just for the Samhain season, or you can leave it up all year long for meditation and rituals.

Put your shrine in a place where it can be left undisturbed, so that the spirits of your ancestors may gather there, and you can take time to meditate and honor them without having to move stuff around every time someone needs to use the table. Also, bear in mind that you can honor anyone you like in this shrine. Someone doesn't have to be a blood relative to be part of our spiritual ancestry. 


First, do a physical cleaning of the space. After all, you wouldn't invite Aunt Gertrude to sit in a dirty chair, would you? Dust the table top or shelf and clear it of any items that are not related to your shrine. If you like, you can consecrate the space as sacred, by invoking the four elements, or saying something like:

I dedicate this space to those
whose blood runs through me.
My fathers and mothers,
my guides and guardians,
and those whose spirits
helped to shape me.

As you do this, smudge the area with sage or sweetgrass, or asperge with consecrated water.

Finally, add an altar cloth of some sort to help welcome the ancestors.


There are different types of ancestors, and which ones you choose to include are up to you. There are our blood ancestors, who are the people from whom we directly descend—parents, grandparents, etc. There are also archetypical ancestors, who represent the place that our clan and family came from. Some people also choose to honor the ancestors of the land—the spirits of the place you are now—as a way of thanking them. Finally, there are our spiritual ancestors—those who we may not be tied to by blood or marriage, but who we claim as family nonetheless.

Start by selecting photos of your ancestors. Choose pictures that have meaning for you— and if the photos happen to have the living in them as well as the dead, that's okay. Arrange the photos on your altar so that you can see all of them at once.

If you don't have a photo to represent an ancestor, you can use an item that belonged to him or her. If you're placing someone on your altar who lived prior to the mid-1800s, chances are good there's no photograph existing. Instead, use an item that may have been the person's — a piece of jewelry, a dish that's part of your family heirloom set, a family Bible, etc.

You can also use symbols of your ancestors. If your family is from Scotland, you can use a kilt pin or a length of plaid to represent your clan. If you come from a family of craftsmen, use an item designed or created to symbolize your family's artisanship. Finally, you can add a genealogy sheet or family tree to the shrine. If you have in your possession the ashes of a departed loved one, add those as well.

Once you have everything in your shrine that represents your ancestors, consider adding a few other items. Add candles, incense, and other items that have spiritual meaning to you. Some people leave food or drink offerings on their altars as well. Use the altar when you perform a Samhain ancestor meditation or a ritual to honor the ancestors.

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Make an Ancestor Altar Cloth

Ancestor Cloth
Patti Wigington

An ancestor altar cloth is something you can make any time of the year, although it can come in particularly handy for Samhain, when many people choose to perform ancestor-focused rituals. This project can be as simple or as complex as you like, depending on your time constraints, creativity, and crafting skills.

You’ll need:

  • A plain white or cream-colored tablecloth, or other piece of fabric
  • Fabric pencil
  • Embroidery floss and hoop, or fabric markers
  • A genealogy of your ancestors

A few notes here, before you get started. There’s no hard and fast rule about how to do this — it’s a craft idea that is very personalized. Do what works best for you. If you’re handy with a needle and thread, you can embroider the cloth - it will definitely last longer that way. If you’re not confident about your stitching abilities, you can use fine-tipped fabric markers (keep in mind that this option may limit your ability to wash the altar cloth if it gets dirty or stained during ritual).

As to your genealogy, you can keep it simple if you like, or if you’ve never done any genealogy research. You’ll need the names of your parents, of their parents, their grandparents, and so on. If you want to include your children, you can do that too.

Start by putting yourself in the center, and writing your name carefully with a lightweight fabric pencil — these wash or brush off easily when you’re done. Branch out, including your parents’ names above you, one on each side. Using lines to connect everyone, gradually add the names of your ancestors. You can even include dates of birth and death, or place names if you have the room.

It’s best to do all of this in pencil first — or better yet, use Post-It Notes, one for each ancestor’s name - to position people around the cloth. If you know the names of lots of ancestors on one side, but only a few on the other, it can start looking lopsided pretty quickly, unless you’re able to rearrange people (this is why sticky notes are great).

Once you’ve figured out everyone’s placement, add the names in fabric pencil until you’ve included as many people as you like. If you’re going to embroider the names, work from one side to the other, just to keep things simple — you may even want to do different branches of the family, or different generations, in alternating colors. If you opt to use fabric markers for the final work, be careful! Stitches can always be picked out, but markers are permanent.

Keep in mind that the very act of creation is a magical one, and you can utilize the crafting of this altar cloth as a ritual in and of itself. Particularly if you're stitching, there's a very meditative aspect to the creative process. After you’ve put everyone’s names on the fabric, use it as an altar cloth for rituals involving ancestor work.

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Make a Grave Rubbing

Tourists Rubbing Colonial Graves at Massachusetts Cemetery
Lee Snider / Getty Images

Because it's common for Pagans today to view death not as ending but as the beginning of the next phase of spiritual development, grave rubbings are popular at the Samhain season. It's great to use those of your own relatives and family members, but if you find a headstone that strikes you as interesting, there's nothing wrong with making a rubbing from it.

*NOTE: We recognize that some people feel grave rubbings are destructive no matter what precautions you may take. However, there are also graveyard experts who say that a carefully done grave rubbing should do no damage to a headstone in good condition. Use your best judgment.

If you’re tromping about a cemetery, be respectful, not only of the people who are lying there, but also of those living beings who may happen to come along while you’re there. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself, but please make an effort not to disturb someone who may be grieving. Not everyone views death in the same way, so while your family may accept it as part of nature’s cycle, another might be overcome by a sense of loss. Remember, many cemeteries are private property. Before wandering into them, check to see if you need to get permission. If you do, be sure to get it before you end up trespassing.

Headstone rubbings are a unique way of preserving the past and getting some pretty neat décor out of it as well. While doing a rubbing usually doesn’t usually cause damage to headstones, particularly newer ones, there are certain precautions that should be taken. If a stone is worn or crumbling, pass on it. Rubbing an already-damaged stone can cause it to flake and chip to the point where it’s irreparable. Instead, choose stones which are in good condition – the best results come from either polished granite stones or solid slate markers.

You'll need lightweight paper (white butcher paper works nicely, but you can experiment with other colors as well), a large crayon (preferably black, but again, feel free to try new stuff) or rubbing wax, masking tape, and a soft-bristled paintbrush to clear debris off the stone. You might also want to take a cardboard tube with you to store your rubbings for transport home. Bring along a notepad and pencil to jot down notes about the cemetery and the person whose headstone you’ve rubbed. A pair of garden scissors can be helpful for trimming off weeds at the base of the stone.

Once you’ve chosen your stone, brush it off lightly with your paintbrush. You’d be surprised how much dust and organic material can accumulate in the carvings, to say nothing of bird poop. Use the masking tape to keep the paper in place over the area you wish to rub. Try to extend the paper past the top and sides of the stone – that way you won’t get random crayon marks on the stone itself.

Start your rubbing by filling in the outer edges of the carved area. This will give you a point to work towards. Move to the center and begin working outward, back towards your edges. Use the flattest surface of the crayon or wax, and make light, even strokes. If it looks like your rubbing isn’t showing up well, don’t worry. You can go back and add more definition later. Keep your strokes uniform to prevent variations in coloring. As you do your rubbing, you may want to offer a small prayer or blessing to the person whose stone you are using.

Step back and look at the rubbing from a distance; by viewing it from a few steps away, you’ll notice some irregularities in the shading or detail. Go back and fix them, without putting too much pressure on the stone. When you’re satisfied with the result, carefully remove all the tape. Clean up stray bits of paper or other garbage. Roll your rubbing up and place it in your tube for safekeeping.

When you get it home, matte and frame your work and hang it up on your wall. A collection of grave rubbings is a good conversation starter all year long, but particularly at Samhain. If you have access to the gravestones of your ancestors, a wall of framed rubbings can become the perfect altar to your heritage.

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Make a Samhain Straw Man

Straw Harvest Figures
Alan Tobey / Getty Images

In Julius Caesar's Commentaries, he connects the burning of a wicker man to the Druid practice of human sacrifice — essentially, the wicker man was a cage in which a real person was placed. Fortunately, that practice died out with the Druids, but many people still like the idea of creating a man from the detritus of the garden at the time of harvest's end. In some Pagan and Wiccan paths, this man is known as the King of Winter, and he can be created in an altar-top size to watch over your home throughout the chilly months.

This is actually one of the easiest and most primitive projects you can do. You can incorporate it into your Samhain rituals, or make one any time. You'll need two bundles of leftover plants out of your garden (if you don't have a garden, it's perfectly fine to gather some plants at the side of the road) and some string. If you're using plants from your garden, feel free to mix and match different branches and herbs. Make sure one bundle of plants is slightly thicker than the other.

With a long piece of string, tie the fatter bundle together about one fourth of the way from the top. This end becomes the head. Separate the bundle a little bit, and slide the thinner bundle of weeds through the center. These will be the arms. Use the string and wrap in a criss-cross shape around the body to hold the arms in place. Tie it off to keep it tight, but don't cut the string.

Finally, spread the lower part of the fatter bundle apart, forming two halves as the legs. Bring the string down and wrap around the "thighs" to keep the legs in place. If your branches seem like they're too fluffy, tie a small length of string in place around the wrists and ankles; as the greenery dries it won't stick out as much.

This is a very basic design, and you can either leave your straw man as rustic as you like or pretty him up a bit, it's entirely up to you. Save him until Spring, and then burn him as part of your Beltane celebrations.

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Make an Easy Apple Garland

Old Fashioned Apple Slices Garland
Diane Labombarbe / Getty Images

An apple garland is really easy to make. You can make it any length you wish, and it makes your house smell good in the process — and magical apples are everywhere by the time Samhain rolls around. You'll need several large apples of any color, lemon juice, dried bay leaves, scraps of fabric, some pine cones, cinnamon sticks, raffia, and florist’s wire.

Start by peeling and coring the apples, and then slicing them horizontally into circles about 3/8” thick. Fill a bowl with the lemon juice, and place your apple slices in it. Allow them to soak for about ten minutes – this prevents them from turning brown and discolored. Remove the apple slices from the bowl and pat them dry with a paper towel. Bake your apples for about six hours at 200 degrees. If you like, before baking you can dust them with a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Once your apples are completely dried out, the fun really begins. Using the florist’s wire, begin stringing the apples. The wire should go straight through the apples, but if you have trouble, make a hole with a toothpick. Between every few apple slices, string some bay, and add a pine cone here and there. You can also alternate the apples and bay leaves with bows made from your fabric scraps.

Make your garland as long or as short as you like – or until your kids get bored – and then knot each end around a cinnamon stick. Tie a piece of raffia around the ends as well, and then drape your garland on your wall, across your mantel, or over your front door.

Another variation on the apple garland is to make a smaller length and then bend it into a circle, forming an apple wreath. Tie a piece of fabric – or bend a leftover bit of florist’s wire – to the top so you can hang it on a nail or hook.

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Kitchen Witch Craft Project

Kitchen Witch
Patti Wigington

There's a growing movement within modern Paganism known as kitchen witchery. The kitchen is, after all, the heart and hearth of many modern households. When you have a gathering in your home, where do most of your guests hang out? Why, the kitchen, of course! Also, thanks to a declining economy, many more people are making meals from scratch and the kitchen has once again become a place where people spend hours, rather than just a few minutes. So it's no surprise that kitchen witchery has seen a rise in popularity.

Do you have leftover fall produce hanging around that you aren't sure what to do with? Take advantage of the opportunity, and put together a cute kitchen witch to watch over your home and hearth in the fall. This kitchen guardian is easy to make, and she'll keep you company while you're mixing up kitchen magic.

You'll need:

  • A small fall vegetable, like a baby butternut squash or pumpkin
  • Black acrylic paint
  • 1 thick black chenille stem
  • Witch accessories, like a hat and broom

Use the black paint to make a face on your vegetable. Cut the chenille stem in half to make arms, and poke them into the skin of the vegetable to form arms. Add a hat, broom, or other accessories, and let your kitchen witch serve as the guardian of your hearth!

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Pumpkin Candles

Pumpkin Candle
Patti Wigington

The pumpkin is one of the best-known members of the squash family. From September to November, they're all over the place - we see them carved into jack-o-lanterns, painted, and practically invading every roadside stand in town. With Samhain growing nearer, the pumpkin crop is at its peak, and there are all kinds of things you can do with them. Everyone loves candles, so why not use a few small pumpkins to jazz up your Sabbat decor?

The first thing you'll need is a baking-size pumpkin (you can use an acorn squash for this project too). Here's a hint: before you buy a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, check your grocery store's produce section. If you don't want to use a lot of wax, buy the mini-pumpkins instead - they're much smaller, and just as easy to work with.

Unless you already have candle-making equipment and paraffin wax, the other thing you'll need to get is some soy wax chips. These are inexpensive, melt easily and safely in your microwave, and burn cleaner than paraffin wax. If you already have paraffin, you can use that for this project, but you'll need to melt it over a double burner instead. If you want to add color or scent, you'll need some of that too.

Finally, you'll need a wick. You can either make your own by coating a string in wax, or you can buy a pre-made wick at any craft or hobby store. The pre-made ones typically have a small metal disc at the bottom for the base.

Assemble all your supplies, and cut the top off the pumpkin. Scoop out the goop inside (you can save the seeds for roasting later) and scrape the interior clean. A melon-baller actually works really well for this step.

Melt your wax—again, if you use soy chips you can melt them in the microwave. Eight cups of dry chips will give you about four cups of melted wax, which is just about enough to fill a baking pumpkin or acorn squash. Before you pour the wax, secure the wick to the bottom of the pumpkin's inside. It's okay if it flops over a little, because you'll prop it up later when the wax is in place.

Once your wax is melted, add scent or color chips if you like. Stir before pouring. Fill the pumpkin with wax up to the bottom edge of the opening. You'll probably have a little bit left over—don't throw it away; you'll need it later!

After you've poured the wax, if the wick seems to lean to one side or the other, place a butter knife across the top of the pumpkin to hold up the wick and keep it from flopping.

When the wax has cooled, you may notice a small dip or indentation around the wick where the wax has sunk. Use the leftover wax to fill this spot up. Trim the wick back so it is no longer than 1/4" long.

When you burn your candle, be careful not to leave it unattended. If the inside of the pumpkin begins to burn, put your candle out immediately. Use it on your altar or around your house as part of your Samhain decorating.

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Make a Samhain Skull Garland

Skull Garland
Patti Wigington

The skull appears regularly in symbols around Samhain — after all, this is the time when the earth is dying, plus everyone is focusing on Halloween. The Samhain sabbat celebrates the cycle of rebirth, and acknowledges that with life, there must also be death. This skull garland, inspired by the candy skulls of Mexico's Day of the Dead celebration, is a simple craft project you can make with scrap material around your house.

You'll need the following:

  • Felt in a variety of colors
  • Embroidery floss
  • Cotton balls
  • 1/2" wide ribbon

Start by cutting out skull shapes from the felt. The ones in the photo are about two inches long and about an inch wide. You'll need two pieces — a front and a back — for each skull you plan on making.

To make the faces, snip a pair of small circles for the eyes. Place a contrasting piece of felt behind the holes, and then use the embroidery floss to stitch them in place. Once you've done that, add other features like noses or teeth. Get as creative as you like — add flowers, swirls, dots, etc., to your skulls.
Once you've decorate the face, place the backing piece of felt on, and stitch about 3/4 of the way around the edge of the skull. Stuff the inside with a pair of cotton balls, and then stitch closed.
After you've made all your skulls, measure out a length of ribbon. Use a whip stitch to anchor the skulls to the ribbon, about 8 - 10" apart. Hang your garland over your door or place it on your altar.

If you have cats, you can add a pinch of catnip to the skull stuffing before you stitch it closed. Do this with a pair of skulls, and tie them, along with a bell, to a piece of ribbon and a stick to create a cat toy - your favorite feline will thank you!

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Projects to Celebrate Samhain, the Witches' New Year." Learn Religions, Dec. 31, 2020, Wigington, Patti. (2020, December 31). Projects to Celebrate Samhain, the Witches' New Year. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "Projects to Celebrate Samhain, the Witches' New Year." Learn Religions. (accessed March 29, 2023).