A large altar set up to celebrate the last harvest and remember ancestors during last year’s Samhain ritual at Mystic Spirit in Montclair. COURTESY CHERYL CHIRICHELLO


Kids will be looking forward to dressing up and parading in costumes to receive candy. Even some adults may enjoy that.

While many people know Oct. 31 as Halloween, in Paganism it is a sacred holiday known as Samhain, pronounced “sow-in.” 

The holiday begins at sundown on Oct. 30 and continues until dusk on Nov. 1.

Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair will host a celebration of Samhain on Monday, Oct. 30. Silke Springorum of Montclair will lead the solar holiday in the building’s Rotunda. “It’s usually a very small gathering between 3 and 10 people. Everyone is welcome to come; bring an open mind,” she said.

Springorum said she does not affiliate herself with any tradition in particular, but considers herself earth-centered. The main focus of the celebration this year, she said, will be remembering loved ones who have passed on.

Along with remembering ancestors, Samhain is also the Celtic New Year, the Gaelic festival that marks the end of the harvest season, the light half of the year and the beginning of the darker half of the year. The year ends sundown Oct. 30 and begins sundown Oct. 31, which means that 24 hours are outside of time.

Everyone who celebrates the holiday does so according to their tradition and what’s appropriate for the day. There is no set way in Paganism.

Silke Springorum’s nature table decorated for Samhain. COURTESY SILKE SPRINGORUM

“[At UUCM] a round table will be decorated with leaves, autumn colors, a chalice in middle, shells, bones, candles and markers for the four directions [north, south, east and west],” she said.

Springorum also has a nature table at her home, which she changes according to the seasons. It will have “pictures of loved ones who died on there … pieces of nature I find interesting and intriguing, flowers, and some beautiful leaves.”

Karen Aistars of Mystic Spirit Metaphysical Shoppe will be hosting a Samhain Ancestor Ritual with Cheryl Chirichello at the Montclair shop on Nov. 3.

Aistars identifies herself as a witch and does not follow a particular tradition. “To most people I call myself Wiccan because it’s more acceptable. Also what I do is based on Wiccan tradition, but I’m not Wiccan,” she said. Her husband, Davis, is also Pagan and they are raising their daughter, Lilly, 8, the same way. “For now I go trick or treating with her and tell her some about Samhain,” she added. Chirichello explains that she is an eclectic Pagan. “I adapt to all kinds of traditions, more Celtic, German and Roman traditions though,” she said.

It should be noted that all Wiccans are Pagan but not all Pagans are Wiccan.

Karen Aistars burns the sage on the alter she has prepared for Samhain at her Montclair shop. DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF

Aistars celebrates Samhain according to the Wheel of the Year, between Mabon, the fall equinox, and Yule, the winter solstice. “I follow according to the cross quarter on the calendar. You have a good chunk of the time from the 30th to the 6th [to celebrate] that whole time frame,” she said.

Because Pagans see Samhain as a time when the veil between humans and the spirit world is thinnest, Chirichello said,“ we have an open communication with the dead, we use different types of divination like scrying balls, water, pendulums and spirit boards. We share communication using a medium, a person that is capable of picking up and share messages from the dead.”

Aistars also sets a table at home. “Every year I keep adding people to the table. This year I will add my best friend, Lynn. I clear the table and set it for my father, Davis’s father, my friend’s mother and my Aunt Jean. I put plates out and make it look like a formal dinner. Sometimes I cook their favorite foods, what you remember them always having.”

According to Aistars the alter will include candles representing the four quarters and spirit, a Hecate goddess statue, a pentagram, a cauldron and chalice as well as seasonal items, such as pumpkins, apples and pomegranate. Chirichello went through the ritual details. “The ritual starts off by using a bell to call on the spirits, invoking them to join us by using chants, then we have a meditation period.”

“After meditation we join in on a feast we call a dumb supper, where you eat in silence in honor of the dead also adding a plate of food and wine in their honor, at the end we ask them to depart and thank them for joining us and we continue the night in celebration of what we experience by talking about it,” she said

The Diwali alter at last years annual Witches Moonlight Masquerade Ball hosted by the Bergen Wiccan & Pagan Group. COURTESY NIKI SOMORS

Ancestors will also be remembered at the Bergen Wiccan & Pagan Group’s eighth annual Witches Moonlight Masquerade Ball on Nov. 4. According to organizer Niki Somors, people attend from all over North Jersey.

The group organizes a different Samhain ritual every year. “Last year we held a Diwali [the Hindu festival of lights]. This year the group will host a Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, ritual.

“We’ll be honoring our dearly departed and communing with them as they do in Mexico. We’ve asked for people to bring pictures of loved ones with any personal items that may be significant to them. We’ll be calling them in during the recreation of a “parade,” as much of a parade as we can have in the venue, and seeing who may have some messages for their loved ones at the event, so a bit of mediumship will be done,” said Somors.

So while others may be trick or treating, Pagans and the like-minded are celebrating on a more solemn note.

Samhain Area Events

Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, 67 Church St.
Monday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. 
in the Rotunda
Free event, open to public. 

For info: 973-744-6276

Mystic Spirit Metaphysical Shoppe, 324 Bloomfield Ave.
Friday, Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m.
Potluck meal and small fee for supplies

For info: 973-509-7155


8th Annual Witches Moonlight Masquerade Ball
Hosted by the Bergen Wiccan & Pagan Group
At the Woman’s Club of Paramus, 65 West Ridgewood Ave., Paramus
Saturday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $50 includes buffet, dessert, soda, wine and beer.
Proceeds benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital,
and Four Legs Good, – a non-profit promoting humane treatment of homeless and feral animals.
For info:



Jaimie is an award-winning journalist and editor.

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