Happy Samhain (SOW-in), the ancient Celtic feast of the dead, begins on Oct. 31st, and is the mother of Halloween.
Irish immigrants who arrived en masse in the 19th century brought their traditional beliefs to America and Samhain is one: The connection between the light and the dark; the old and the new, the change of seasons. Actually, it was a festival that lasted several days, before and after Nov. 1.
The Celts believed time stood still on Samhain and the natural order of things became chaotic as the world of the living was swept into the world of the dead. The line between was blurred thin on this night and the ghosts and spirits of our ancestors could easily get through – along with fairies and gods and creatures of another world.
Spirits are everywhere – some good and some not – but if you happen to be outdoors on the last day of October, you are very likely to run into the powers of darkness.
The festival of Samhain is kind of spooky, if you ask me.
I imagine not many of our little Halloween celebrants are aware of the ancient Celtic roots of this holiday that came with the Irish in the 1800s. And Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve) was merged into the Christian calendar with All Saints Day, Nov. 1 and All Souls Day, Nov. 2.
The wearing of masks and costumes was protective. The Celts dressed in frightening garb and painted their faces to evade the spirits. Makes sense.
Fire was most important. The ancient Celts lit bonfires on Samhain and made sacrifices and throwing bones of animals into the fire. Pumpkins indicated the harvest. It was Autumn and Samhain also honored the harvest. The often grotesquely carved pumpkin with fire inside became the Jack-o-Lantern intended to ward off the arrival of the long-gone and, of course, a coterie of ghosts, fairies and goblins.
I have Irish ancestors and that part of me believes this, although I’ve yet to see a ghost on Samhain, or anytime, although it seems possible. . .
A Celtic prayer for you:
“Tonight, as the barrier between the two realms grows thin, spirits walk amongst us, once again. They be family, friends and foes, pets and wildlife, fishes and crows, But be we still mindful of the Wee Folke at play, elves, fey, brownies and sidhe.”
Happy Samhain !