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The Origins of Halloween


Halloween's 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, dark winter.

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

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.


Celtic Festival of Samhain


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