#OCCULTOBER: The Sacred Herbs of Samhain by Ellen Evert Hopman

I had the pleasure of reading Ellen Evert Hopman’s The Sacred Herbs of Samhain: Plants to Contact the Spirits of the Dead. Here’s what the publisher had to say about it —

A practical guide to using the sacred herbs of Samhain for healing, divination, purification, protection, magic, and as tools for contacting the Spirits

• Explores the identification, harvest, and safe practical and ritual use of more than 70 plants and trees sacred to the Celtic festival of Samhain, the origin of Halloween

• Details the most effective plants for protection from the mischief of Fairies, herbs for releasing the Dead, and visionary plants for divination and shamanic work

• Provides instructions and suggestions for a traditional Dumb Supper, offerings to the Land Spirits, Samhain rites, and recipes for the sacred foods of Samhain

The ancient Celts separated the year into two halves, the light half and the dark half, summer and winter. The festival of Samhain, from which the modern holiday of Halloween originates, marks the transition from summer to winter, the end of the Celtic year, a time when the barriers between the physical and spiritual world are at their most transparent. The herbs most characteristic of this time have specific magical and healing properties that echo the darker aspect of the year and offer potent opportunities for divination, contact with ancestors and Land Spirits, and journeys in the Otherworld.

Presenting a practical guide to the sacred herbs and trees of Samhain, Ellen Evert Hopman details the identification, harvest, and use of more than 70 plants and trees in healing, divination, purification, magic, and as tools for contacting the Spirits wandering the landscape at this liminal time of year. She explores the most effective plants for protection from the mischief of the “Good Neighbors,” the Sidhe or Fairies, as well as herbs for releasing the Dead when they are trapped on this plane. Identifying visionary plants used to induce ecstatic trance, Hopman explores how herbs have been used for millennia to aid in psychic travel and shamanic work and shows how one might safely use plants to take a voyage to the Otherworld. Drawing on her knowledge as a master herbalist, she also includes cautions to prevent harm and misidentification, along with advice on basic etiquette and common sense approaches to herb magic.

Detailing the history, rites, and traditions of Samhain, Hopman explains how to make an offering to the Land Spirits and provides instructions for the traditional Samhain ritual of the Dumb Supper, complete with recipes for the sacred foods of Samhain, such as Soul Cakes, Colcannon, Boxty bread, and dandelion wine. Woven throughout with mystical tales of folk, Fairy, and sacred herbs, this guide offers each of us practical and magical ways to connect with Nature, the plant kingdom, the Spirits that surround us, and the turning of the year.


This is exactly the book I was hoping to read as Samhain drew near. While I had certainly heard of the author, I had never read any of her work. That will now change. Ellen Evert Hopman writes with confidence and warmth, leaving no doubt of her sincerity and breadth of knowledge. She is in her element here as she takes the reader on a magical journey through the season, introducing the various plants and herbs to be used for salves, poultices, tinctures, homeopathic dilutions, and teas. Littered throughout are spells, charms, lore, and offerings that takes the reader from the printed word to actual work. All the information is gently delivered and it all feels very intuitive.

The book deserves a hardcover edition, which is the only fault I find. Lavishly illustrated, the book’s design is a treat in and of itself. The cover alone made me want to purchase the book, but as one should not judge it by such standards, let me assure you, the content is the real treasure here.

This a teacher’s guide, with Part One concentrating on those sacred plants to protect oneself and those which aide in communicating with spirits. Part Two is more whimsical, addressing edibles, rituals, and offerings.

This should be a part of every paranormal investigator’s tool kit and I learned a lot. I look forward to putting this new knowledge to the test in the coming weeks.

The Sacred Herbs of Samhain: Plants to Contact the Spirits of the Dead is a book that should have a home on the bookshelves of every serious student of Witchcraft, Magick, and Religion. Available wherever books are sold, I recommend ordering directly from the publisher, Destiny Books, to ensure we continue to get more titles such as this.

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