Lore / Carving the Pumpkin / Anointing and Blessing the Candle

It has become tradition among many pagans and witches to mark the four quarters of the Samhain circle with Jack-O-Lanterns and/or set one in a window or on a porch as a beacon to spirits.

The candle flame represents the element of Fire and the white light of pure spirit, both very appropriate to the season. Fire is invoked on Samhain, as its influence is fading from the Earth. White light is representative of the spirit world, which is much closer to us this time of year as the veil thins.

It is the candle inside the pumpkin that has magickal significance. Carve the rune EIHWAZ into the wax for communication with other realms. An ancestral name could be carved into the candle as well. It also might be anointed with patchouli oil (patchouli is sometimes called "graveyard dust") and enchanted with a rhyme.


In Europe, candles were traditionally placed inside turnips and other vegetables to keep them from blowing out. These candles had to have openings for the light to shine through, and from this the human face of the Jack-O-Lantern evolved.

In Japan, on a day that commemorates the spirits of loved ones passed, paper lanterns are hung on garden gates to welcome home the spirits of the deceased. In Egypt, candles are lit in cemeteries to guide the spirits of the dead back from the City of Osiris. In Ireland, candles are lit in cottage windows to welcome home the ghosts of the dead.

Carving the Pumpkin

Choose an unbruised pumpkin about the size and shape of your pattern. Select a smooth and evenly colored one so your design transfers clearly. Make sure the pumpkin has a flat bottom so it sits upright.

1. Cut the lid. Draw a lid in the shape of a pentagram on top of your pumpkin. Make the lid large, so you can clean out the pumpkin easily. Adults only: Very carefully, cut along the lines with a knife. Angle the blade towards the center of the pumpkin to create a ledge that supports the lid.

2. Clean out the inside. Clean out the seeds and strings with a flat-tipped ice-cream scoop or large spoon. Next, scrape the inner pulp away. Scrape the area you plan to carve down to 1" thick. You can check the thickness by pushing a straight pin through the wall.

3. Transfer the design. Attach a pattern on your pumpkin with tape or straight pins. If you use straight pins, place them along the design lines to avoid extra holes in your pumpkin. Use the tip of a ball point pen, or a straight pin to poke holes about 1/16" to 1/8" apart along the design lines. Make sure all the lines have been transferred, then remove pattern. If the design is hard to see, connect the dots with a pen or dull pencil. If the dots do not show up well, rub flour over them to make them more visible.

4. Cut or saw out the design. Carving the imprinted pattern is simply a matter of slowly cutting or sawing from dot to dot. Work from the center of the design outward to avoid pressure on areas already carved. Always keep the saw or knife blade straight at a 90-degree angle to the pumpkin. Don't twist the blade. Push the cut pieces in or out with your fingers, not the blade.

5. Anoint and bless the candle. Choose a spot towards the back and side of the pumpkin bottom. Carve the candle with an ancestral name and/or the rune EIHWAZ for communication with other realms. After dressing your candle in patchouli oil, anchor it inside the pumpkin with melted wax or in another way. Say:

With this candle
And by its light
I welcome ye spirits
This Samhain night.

Light the candle and replace the pumpkin lid. When the candle has blackened a spot on the lid, blow out the candle. Cut out the blackened spot for a chimney hole.

6. Place your jack-o-lantern in a window, on a porch, or in your Samhain Circle to welcome your ancestors home.