Dedicant Study: Samhain


Samhain (November 1st)

            The word Samhain itself comes from old Gaelic meaning “summer’s end.” It is the beginning of the dark half of the year and was when the last of the harvest was brought from the fields and the animals were either slaughtered or prepared for winter.

The Celts celebrated their New Year at this time since like their days, which began at sunset, the dark of the year preceded the light. As at Beltaine, this is a time of year where the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and the spirits of the dead roam the Earth. Samhain was one of the great fire festivals and great bonfires were lit to bring light and warmth to the cold dark.  Lanterns were created from root vegetables to guide the spirits on their way and offerings were given to placate the restless dead (no pumpkins though, those are a New World fruit and hence unknown to Iron Age Europeans.) It was a time of high magic and divination was practiced as this was considered one of the best times to foretell the future and commune with the ancestors. This celebration does not seem to have been celebrated by the Norse, and the Greeks and Romans held their festival of the dead in March. The holiday was later Christianized into All Soul/All Saints Day and secularized into the modern Halloween.

~ by Caroline on April 22, 2008.

4 Responses to “Dedicant Study: Samhain”

  1. Did you know that before the Celts were Christianized, that “Halloween” was held during the Roman festival to the dead.
    Liked the write up.

    • In March? I was not aware that the continental Celts did this. Although why would the Irish Celts follow a Roman calendar? Thanks!

      • The Celts didn’t – the Christians did. The early Church followed the Roman calendar until they were converting Celts. Then they switched some of the holy days to the Celtic calendar. It was a matter of recruitment.

      • Oh! I see what you are saying, sorry I completely misunderstood, my bad! sorry bout that 🙂

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