Long before I knew about Samhain and that most of the fun traditions of Halloween were brought over to America by Irish and Scottish immigrants I have loved this holiday. As a kid I enjoyed dressing up in costume, going trick-or-treating, visiting haunted houses, carving Jack-O-Lanterns (Seán na gealaí ) and just scaring people for fun more than even opening presents on Christmas morning. Later, as I learned about the roots of Samhain and it’s original purpose and meaning it only made me love it even more.
Samhain is a Celtic festival and last of the three major harvest festivals marking the summer’s end and the beginning of winter. Traditionally it is celebrated from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November, which is nearly halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. Along with Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh it makes up the four Gaelic seasonal festivals. It has traditionally been observed in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man and is now recognized by modern Pagans with Celtic leanings throughout the world. Kindred festivals were held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall) and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany).
Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and is believed to have pre-Christian origins. Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. As at Beltane, special bonfires are lit which have protective and cleansing powers and there are rituals involving them such as passing cattle and people between two fires for cleansing or in some cases jumping over the fires. Samhain is seen as a time when the veil between the worlds is at it’s thinnest and spirits or fairies (the Sidhe) can more easily come into our world. Feasts or dumb suppers often mark Samhain as a time in which the souls of dead kin are beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. Sometimes, however, spirits or the sidhe can also cause harm and so the custom of wearing costumes so as not to be recognized began as a way to disguise oneself from wandering spirits. Divination is a big part of the this time of the year. Oftentimes folks get a tarot card reading or do some scrying in a mirror as a way to make contact with the other side or get clues as to what the future may hold.
In the 9th century, the Roman Catholic Church shifted the date of All Saints’ Day to 1 November, while 2 November later became All Souls’ Day. Over time, Samhain and All Saints’/All Souls’ merged and helped to create the modern Halloween. – Source Wikipedia
In any event, however you celebrate this time of year, I hope you have a delightful time.
Oiche Shona Shamhna!
Pronounced ‘ee-hah shona how-nah’,