origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).
The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the areas that are now Ireland, the
United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, France, Northern Spain & Portugal, Western
Germany, Switzerland, The Po Valley (Italy), Hungary and the Czech Republic
celebrated their New Year on November 1st. This day marked the end of summer and
the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was
often associated with human death.
Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the
boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the
night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the
ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and
damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made
it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the
future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these
prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long,
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people
gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During
the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads
and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was
over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that
evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
History of Halloween Video
A Bit about Samhain
is a major pagan holiday. It has been celebrated since the times of Ancient
Egypt (perhaps, even before). It is a Celtic holiday. Samhain is, in fact, a
Celtic word, pronounced sow-in; although, these days, you’ll hear it more
commonly pronounced like it’s spelled.
Samhain is the Witches’ New Year. The Celts divided the Wheel of the Year into
two halves, a light and a dark half. The light half corresponds to May 1st
through November 1st and the dark half is the remainder of the year. Samhain is
the third and final harvest. It is symbolic of the death of the god. It is the
beginning of the winter, the ushering in of darkness. It is a time for
reflection and contemplation.
Samhain is the time when the veil has been lifted between this world and the
Next. Traditionally, it is a night when séances occur and contact is initiated
with our ancestors. Many pagans celebrate the holiday on October 31st, All
Hallow’s Eve (Halloween); but, there are traditions that celebrate the festival
on November 1st as well. It is not a time for satanic debauchery as some
Christian groups would like to think.
Many pagans leave offerings of food for the wandering dead on this night. We
celebrate the Crone, the aged aspect of the Goddess and her consort, the Horned
God, who is ready to return to the Netherworld, only to be born again in the
springtime. Samhain is a time of sanctity and piety. It is a time when pagans
think over what they have done throughout the year and make plans and use
divination methods such as Runes or Tarot to gain insight into the future.
In the United States, Samhain has largely been forgotten in its origins. The
holiday is Halloween, a day for eating candy, trick-or-treating and enjoying the
darker side of human horror. All things have their place, of course. Perhaps, by
remembering where Samhain originated, it can give you greater insight into the
holiday and make it more meaningful for you.