We call the event Halloween, the Irish, Samhain, or La Samon. The Druids referred to it as Feast of the Sun, one of four ‘Fire Festivals’. They celebrated this festival on the first day of November. But since the ancient Celts marked their days from sundown to sundown, All Hallow’s Eve began with the setting of the sun on October 31st.
The Fire Festival... The Druids built the only permissible fire on this particular day. Those who needed a hearth fire (and that included just about everyone) had to obtain a start from the sacred burning alters of the Druids, for a donation or a fee of course. After all, a Druid has to do what a Druid has to do to survive.
To the Romans, the time was called the Feralia and set aside for sacrifices, oblations, and prayers. This celebration, adopted by the Church in
was a day to honor the dead and bring them peace. Originally held in February,
the church moved the observance to November 1st. Rome
Calan Gaeaf is the Welsh name for the first day of winter. They call the eve of Calan Gaeaf, Nos Calan Gaeaf. At this time, spirits converge upon the land. Those honest in heart will avoid churchyards, stiles, and crossroads, as they believe these are the places spirits gather.
they celebrate Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. More festive than the northern
countries, this is a day for gathering families and friends to pray for the
deceased. The pagans of the pre-Columbian Mexico also celebrated the deaths
of ancestors. Dia de los Inocentes, Day of the Innocents, or the Day of Little
Angels, held on November 1st, is a day to remember departed children and
infants, whereas November 2nd, is the day to remember the adult dead. Americas
The Scots held to the notion that the invisible world, endowed with power, gave his “satanic majesty” as well as all his minions, more leeway on this night. Witches took flight on magic brooms, others rode tabby cats they turned into black steeds, and the green-robed Fay roamed at will.
Samhain is the biggest and most significant celebration of the Celtic year. On this day, the veil between worlds becomes very thin. Spirits of the dead can mingle far easier with the living. This is a day to gather, not only to honor the dead, but also to sacrifice vegetables, fruits, and animals, in order to keep the dead away from the living. For on this day, all manner of beings are out and about, such as fairies, demons, and ghosts.
Other traditions give us pulling the green kail, eating apples at the glass, the burning nuts, sowing the hemp seed, the ceremony of the winnowing corn, measuring the beanstalk, eating the herring, dipping the shirtsleeve, the three plates, and throwing the clue. The early church condemned these practices as sorcery. Then we have jack-o’-lanterns— In Ireland the Samhain custom of carving lanterns from turnips, is a way of remembering the souls in purgatory. The pumpkin, native of the new world, and far larger, softer and easier to carve than the turnip, replaced the turnip in the
What about those costumes? Recorded in
in the year 1895, we hear about guisers
(which developed in Western Europe sometime in
the 15th century) or masqueraders who disguised themselves. These
revelers carried lanterns made from hollowed out turnips and visited homes in
order to collect fruit, cake, and even money. In North
America, this practice didn’t begin until about 1911.
Witches, vampires, ghosts... oh my!
What are you doing for Halloween this year?