In this blog I am going to be talking about Samhain which is also known as Halloween! Samhain is my favourite time of the year and in this blog, I am going to discuss the origins and traditions of Samhain.
The first thing to address is how to pronounce Samhain. It is pronounced “sow” as in cow and “inn”. During Samhain the veil that separates the worlds is at its thinnest. Celebrants of Samhain believe that the barriers between the physical world and the spiritual world break down during this time and this allows more interaction between humans and residence of the Otherworld.
Samhain has Celtic origins. The dead supposedly visited their homes on this night. Samhain has always been the most favourable for divinations, marriage, health, death and luck. It was also the only day when the help of the devil was invoked in these matters.
Early texts show Samhain as a mandatory celebration which lasted 3 days and 3 nights where the community was required to show respect to the local kings. If you didn’t participate, you would receive a punishment from the gods, usually illness or death.
Ancestors could possibly cross over during this time and Celts would dress up as animals and monsters so that fairies were not tempted to kidnap them.
As the Middle Ages progressed, so did the celebrations of fire festivals. Bonfires known as Samghnagan became a tradition to protect families from fairies and witches. Carved turnips called Jack-o-lanterns began to appear, were attached to sticks by string and embedded with coal. Irish tradition the switched this to pumpkins. In Wales, men threw burning wood at each other and set off fireworks, In Northern England, men paraded with noisemakers.
Many Scottish and Irish Celts appease the dead with a Dumb Supper. On Samhain Eve the supper was served in complete silence and a place was set at the head of the table for the ancestors. This place was served with food and drinks without looking at the seat as seeing the dead would bring misfortune. After the meal the untouched plate and cup were taken outside for the “pookas” and left in the woods.
The Witches Sabbath
Samhain is the night of the Great Sabbat for the witches. Tradition states that they can be seen flying through the air on brooms. The rural people did not step outside for fear of this night. Some say the Queen of Witches is the Irish Morrigan.
Modern Samhain Rituals
Set up a Samhain Altar
You can decorate your altar for the Samhain season. This can be left in place for three days prior to Samhain. Your altar can include symbols of late fall such as:
- Skulls, skeletons and ghosts
- Pumpkin, squash and root vegetables
- Nuts and berries
- Dried leaves and acorns
- Mulled cider and wine
Guide the Spirits
You can place a white seven-day candle in your window to guide the dead to the Spirit World.
Visit a Cemetery
Visiting the graves of family and friends can honour their passing. Think of the memories that you had made with them and consider the way that your loved ones continue to live on within you. You should place an offering such as fresh flowers, dried herbs or fresh water.
I absolutely love Halloween. I always have. Every year I learn more and more about it. I also make my own traditions every year that I will be able to pass on to my own family.
I hope everyone has a happy and safe Samhain season! Let us know how you celebrate it!