The Origins of Halloween by Silver RavenWolf

Harvest Moon, velvet sky, pumpkins glowing, children laughing, costumes, candy, scary stories—just where did this autumn gaiety begin? Let’s look through those cobwebby corridors of time to unearth the exciting genealogy of the American Celebration we call Halloween!

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems—especially when dealing with history. Too often events and circumstances of our past were written or re-written by people who, for whatever reason, operated under an agenda, or simply wanted history to reflect how it should have been, rather than how it was. How, then, do we determine what is fact and what is fiction? In some cases, we can’t. In other situations, we dig.

The Celts

Many historians feel that the greatest strength in the Celtic people lies in their collective mythos. Wading through the romanticism to find unmodified information can prove a tricky endeavor. The earliest archaeological evidence we have of the Celts rest in France and Western Germany.  The Celtic people moved into Spain, Britain, and Switzerland between the fifth and first century BCE. They even ransacked Rome in 390 BCE.

The Celtic peoples celebrated four festivals called fire festivals–commonly know today as Samhain, Oimelc (Imbolc), Beltane, and Lughnasadh. Samhain (pronounced sow-in, sow rhymes with now) was the first and foremost a harvest festival relating to animal husbandry and preparations for the winter months. Fire is an element of cleaning, a vehicle of eradication, so it is not unlikely that fire would work itself into any type of religious celebration. Fire among the ancient peoples often represented an aspect of the divine.

What does the word Samhain mean? Well, we know what it doesn’t mean. There is no archeological or literary evidence of a Celtic god by the name of Samhain. This little slip of fact appears to have begum in the 1700s and continues in some misinformed publications today. The word Samhain actually means “summers end”.

So, where did this Lord of the Dead thing come in? Over time, Samhain took on a religious significance through ministrations of the Druids (the clergy of the Celt’s). Legends indicate that on Samhain all the hearth fires in Ireland were doused and then lit again from a central fire maintained by the Druids at Tlachtga. To the Celts, Samhain was a turning point from light into darkness, and it was thought that this break or fissure created easier access to their land of the dead, Tir nan Og.

The Druids

We need to know a little bit about the Druids to continue with our history of Halloween. The Druids were versed in all learning and were considered to have the gift of prophecy. They functioned as judge, ambassadors, healers, and religious leaders. The Druids first named the holiday Samhain.

 Feast of the Dead

As the Celtic religious system solidified so did the beliefs of the Celts concerning the dead—as has occurred in all religions, before and after the Celts. Since the turning points of the year were considered fissures in time and space, the Celts believe that the dead they loved so dearly could travel through time and space and return from Tir nan Og to visit them. The custom of leaving food at the table (the birth part of the treat part of trick-or-treat) was a gesture of welcome to the departed. From these visits came the belief that those who had gone beyond the land of the living could provide information on past or future events. This is how divination became associated with Samhain.

The Celts did not believe in devils or demons, but they did believe in the Fairy Folk, whom they thought inhabited the land of the dead (the land in-between). Fairies were thought to be resentful of humankind for taking over their land. Because time and space could be conquered on Samhain, fairies were said to roam countryside creating mischief and kidnapping a human or two now and then—just for fun, you understand.—except the humans never came back. Here then is the root of the scary stuff associated with Halloween. The mischief, of course, was caused by living humans, and accepted by the Celts as a psychological release before the onset of winter gloom—though I doubt they would explain it in those terms.

Is it odd, gross, or unusual that a group of people should set aside a day for the dead? Nope. Different cultures and religions have followed such a practice for centuries. Let’s get on our broom again and check out Rome and its contributions to Halloween.

 As the Celtic religious system solidified so did the beliefs of the Celts concerning the dead—as has occurred in all religions, before and after the Celts. Since the turning points of the year were considered fissures in time and space, the Celts believe that the dead they loved so dearly could travel through time and space and return from Tir nan Og to visit them. The custom of leaving food at the table (the birth part of the treat part of trick-or-treat) was a gesture of welcome to the departed. From these visits came the belief that those who had gone beyond the land of the living could provide information on past or future events. This is how divination became associated with Samhain.

The Celts did not believe in devils or demons, but they did believe in the Fairy Folk, whom they thought inhabited the land of the dead (the land in-between). Fairies were thought to be resentful of humankind for taking over their land. Because time and space could be conquered on Samhain, fairies were said to roam countryside creating mischief and kidnapping a human or two now and then—just for fun, you understand.—except the humans never came back. Here then is the root of the scary stuff associated with Halloween. The mischief, of course, was caused by living humans, and accepted by the Celts as a psychological release before the onset of winter gloom—though I doubt they would explain it in those terms.

Is it odd, gross, or unusual that a group of people should set aside a day for the dead? Nope. Different cultures and religions have followed such a practice for centuries. Let’s get on our broom again and check out Rome and its contributions to Halloween.

A Fly-BY of Ancient Rome

Rome had the habit of changing rulers as many times as you empty the lint trap in your dryer. Between 14 and 37 CE, Christianity had begun its rise in Rome. By 41 CE, Claudius had distinguished himself with the conquest of Britain. The Romans also had a harvest festival, so the Celts didn’t have much trouble blending the two holidays together after they came into contact with the Romans. It was around 314 CE when Constantine the Great declared the Roman Empire to be Christian, and the fate of Samhain and Druids was sealed.

 The Advent of Christianity

By the fourth and fifth centuries , Celtic Christianity had oozed into Ireland. St. Patrick has his hands full, and here is where the kettle starts to boil. At, first, the Pagans openly welcomed Christianity, but as Christianity filtered into the Celtic system, church officials had a few problems—mainly the Celtics didn’t want up their holidays or folk practices. The people were not willing to throw out traditions that were ingrained into their social structure. If you can’t get someone to completely change, what do you do? Compromise. And that’s exactly what happened. Samhain was changed to All Hollow’s Eve. To make the Pagan peoples adhere more closely to this new religion of Christianity, the clergy of the day taught the peasants that fairies were really demons and devils (remember, a concept totally unknown to Celtic belief or history) and their beloved dead were horrid ghosts and ghouls. The early Christian erroneously associated the Celtic land of the dead with the Christian concept of Hell.

To help the belief in Christianity along, Druids priestess were systematically murdered. Early Christians also taught the area peasants that their Lord of the Underworld was in fact Satan, which is ridiculous, as the two mythos don’t have anything in common. It appears that Christians misunderstood what the word Samhain meant: because the peasants use this celebration to honor the dead, Christians assumed that Samhain was the incorrect pronunciation of a Pagan deity in the Bible, recorded as Samuel, from the Semitic Sammael, meaning God of the under world.

The Witches

So far, we’ve talked about the land of the dead, how the early Christians managed to superimpose Satan onto Samhain, and how fairies got zapped into demons, but there has been no mention of Witches, commonly associated in our time with Halloween. Where did Witches come from?

During the Dark Ages, the Church sought to eradicate the Pagans and wise women from the countryside so that the church could amass both power and property. First, they had to devalue women because women kept the holy days, trained the children, and provided the cohesive socialization of the culture, thus women held the power to shape society. The church taught, among other things, that women had no souls. Once this teaching had occurred, it was only a small step to make them inhuman, and the Church was able to incite the superstitious populace.

The Celtic women were the strong hold of the family environment, and although the Celts accepted Christianity at first, they did not want to give up their family traditions or their lifestyle. The Church was not into free thinking—therefore anything that did not follow the church dictates was evil. Hence, the Witches (really the women) became evil. Since Samhain was a primary festival of the Celts and the Church had already determined that Samhain was evil, the association between Witches and Halloween was born.

All Saints’ Day / All Hallow’s EVE / Halloween

All Saints’ Day and All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) were first introduced in the seventh century CE. All Saints’ Day was originally celebrated in the spring. The date was changed to November 1 to supplant Pagan beliefs because those pesky Pagans just refused to cough up their original Samhain. The day was to honor God and all his saints, known and unknown. All Saints’ Day later became Hallowmass, a mass to honor the dead. The Eve of All Hallow’s Day, October 31, became All Hallow’s Eve, which evolved into the word Hallowe’en. Although the church wished this time to be one of somber prayer and quite custom, the Celtics continued their customary bonfires and fortune telling.

All Souls’ Day is a bit different. This festival falls on November 2, a day to offer prayers and alms to assist the souls of those departed that manage to get stuck in purgatory, an in-between place that is neither heaven nor hell. Over the succeeding centuries, Halloween, like Christmas, picked up various customs and discarded others, depending on the complex socialization of the times and religious dictates.

Halloween Comes to America

Our first inkling of Halloween coming to America revolves not around a specific set of people (many indicate the Irish) but with William Penn’s motley collection of refugees from Europe. In 1663, Penn wrote a promotional tract about the Americans. As a result, fifty ships dropped the anchors in the Delaware River. They discharged persecuted souls from England, Ireland, Wales, and the Rhineland (now Germany). Collectively, the Germans and Irish shared Celtic heritage. Therefore many of the folk customs resonated together—including Halloween.

From 1684 through 1930, Halloween was more a time for tricking rather than for treating. Many of the tricks the German and Irish communities became universal, such as overturning outhouses, dismantling a wagon and putting it back together on top of a house or barn, and tying cows to church bells. The tricks often served as social function, such as mildly chastising a neighbor who exhibited antisocial behavior.

By 1910, several American manufactures were making or importing party products just for the American holiday Halloween. From noisemakers to costumes, a new holiday meant new business and an opportunity to make money.

The drawback to the new holiday came in the form of the “declared” Mischief Night, Goblin Night, or Devil’s night on October 30. Minor offenses, such as trying several garbage cans together and hanging them from a light pole, soaping windows with lard, and later, bars of hand soap, abounded. As the pranks grew to vandalism shopkeepers would bribe youngsters to ward off destruction of their property.

In an effort to stop the criminal behavior, the Boy Scouts, in conjunction with local town councils, cities, boroughs, instituted the custom of Trick-or-Treat night to help keep youngsters from naughty practices. By the 1930s the custom of trick-or-treating was well entrenched in our American culture. Halloween, like Christmas, became a holiday for children, and parents strove to make the holiday as much fun as possible for the enjoyment of their youngsters.

During he 1950s. ’60s, and ’70s our American Halloween stayed primarily the same, but in the ’70s and ’80s, with a recession coupled by a candy scare, groups and organizations once again sought to find appropriate avenues to make Halloween safe for America’s children. Halloween practices extended through the entire month of October. Haunted houses, parties, hay rides, plays, story hours, and numerous other events were held throughout the month.

In the mid-to-late 1990s certain sects of the Protestant Christian church declared war on Halloween. using the same erroneous propaganda cultivated hundreds of years ago. Other groups size Halloween for their own political agendas—hosting haunted houses showing aborted babies, drug addicts, and other modern day violent situations. This did not go over well, as the holiday had become an event primarily for children, not adult political issues. Radical Christian groups said that the holiday was Satanic—which, as we’ve seen from our research, is a bizarre and fantastic claim, based on misinformation, politicking, personal agendas and fear. With America’s policy of separation of church and state the battle for destroying Halloween in the United States is an uphill battle.

The original Samhain marked the the close of the agriculture season and functional third harvest festival. In America, Halloween has become the first holiday in our end-of-year rush for partied gaiety. Our Halloween functions as the opening of the three-month-long celebratory fest that includes Thanksgiving, Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, and Chanukkah, and ends with the popular American New Year.

As our children crave pumpkins with delightful chatter, adults find solace in a night when they can be whatever they want to be. We have little doubt about the joy this holiday bring to the American people. I am sure we will forever love the haunted house, the harvest Moon, the thrills and chills of a well-wrought tale—and, of course, the deliciously scary things that go EEEEK! in the night.

 Harvest Moon, velvet sky, pumpkins glowing, children laughing, costumes, candy, scary stories—just where did this autumn gaiety begin? Let’s look through those cobwebby corridors of time to unearth the exciting genealogy of the American Celebration we call Halloween!

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems—especially when dealing with history. Too often events and circumstances of our past were written or re-written by people who, for whatever reason, operated under an agenda, or simply wanted history to reflect how it should have been, rather than how it was. How, then, do we determine what is fact and what is fiction? In some cases, we can’t. In other situations, we dig.

Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook1999 Pages 24 to 29

A Thought for Today

What is the Reason for Rain on Samhain?

[Revisions made September 25,2021 so a couple of dates might be wrong. The dates for my father’s and mother’s births and deaths are correct]

I have often wonder why it almost always rains and is cold on Samhain. Where I live, in the central United States, it usually nice the day before and the day after but rarely the day of.

This morning my Guides gave me an answer to this question that seems so right I have no idea why I never thought of it. It rains on Samhain because the veil between our world and the Summerlands is very thin allowing what the Spirits of our family and friends are feeling about residing in the Summerlands to come into our world and our feelings to go easier into their world. It also makes it easier to converse with them in many different ways (coming soon a post explaining this more)

Just as we weep for loved ones lost because we miss the person they were in this lifetime they weep because they miss us also so. The rain we experience is in reality their tears. The cold is because they do not need heat to keep a incarnated body warm like we do in this world.

When honoring your ancestors this Samhain remember to take into account their feelings and try to explain yours to them. Communication is not just important when we some someone face to face it is important when dealing with those who have crossed over too.  Do not think the dialogue has to stop when Samhain is over, it may not be as easy to hear them but if they have something you really need to hear you will. Talk to them, ask them questions, tell them things. Just because they no longer have a physical body does not mean they are not interested in things going on in your life.

When helping those who passed away this past year cross into the Summerlands remind them of the happiness, rest, joy and love they will feel there instead of the cold uncertainty of roaming this world with no physical body. If you feel they are hanging on to something in this world or have unfinished business they want to take care before moving across the veil ask how you can help them let go or finish the unfinished business. It is important for us all to cross into the Summerlands after our physical bodies will no longer support life in this world, so we can rejuvenate and be reborn into our next life time.

Talking with my mom today and helping her to finish something she left undone (this I will not share as it was very personal between the two of us) after dreaming about her the other night (October 2015) for the first time since she passed (Born December 12, 1934 Died August 24, 2015) brought a calm to me I have not felt since the day before she passed. I knew the moment my mom passed as I felt a pull on both my heart and root charkas the two most connected thigs in our human body that connect us our to our parents and our children. She is happy and excited to be fully reunited with my dad, he refused rebirth until she and he could have some time together alone and with my eight siblings, who all passed away shortly before or after birth, in the Summerlands They both told me today that they will wait for me to join them in the future when it is my time to return to the Summerlands before they consider another lifetime in this world. Which made me feel very loved and special. It also makes me cry happy/sad tears every time I think about the sacrifice they choose to make for me. You see my dad (Born March 25, 1934) crossed over the veil exactly one month before my twelfth birthday on April 1, 1970. (Please NO April Fool’s jokes. Thank you)

I am sorry if this post seems to ramble some but I was typing as it came to me and had a couple of interruptions for trick-or-treater, all the kids in the neighborhood love to come to the Witch’s house because she gives out good treat if they do not trick her.

[Some of this paragraph maybe early while some of it could be what  you needed to read today] May your Samhain be blessed,. May your time with your ancestors be joyful. My your New Year be filled with everything you need, a warm home, loving family and friends, enough food to keep hunger at bay, clothing to keep you comfortable and even bring you a way to get a couple of things you just want.

2015 Lady Beltane

Flashback 2002 Imbolc

Imbolc is an important day of purification and initiation; on the Sun’s day, February 2, the energies are very airy. This Sabbat is a good day for coven work, with an emotionally detached masculine Moon and Sun on the Sun’s day.

Dress yourself and your altar in white, while serving white beverages or any dairy food to honor the calving season. Spread the top of a one-pound round Camembert or Bire cheese with raspberry preserves. Cut a circle of puff pastry large enough to cover the cheese, wrap it, tucking the ends of the pastry under. Use scraps to decorate the top with goddess symbols. Brush with beaten egg yolk. Bake at 425 degrees until golden, and serve hot and melting on crackers. During this ritual, bless and dedicate all candles you will need for other ritual work throughout the year. A good way to start the ceremony is to light candles in the darkened room with chanting to encourage the lengthening days.

©️ By K. D. Spitzer Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2002 Page 41

IMPORTANT NOTE for the Southern Hemisphere Imbolc falls on August 1st.

Flashback 2002 Lammas

Lammas is the first of the harvest festivals and this year despite the fiery Sun, it has a strong, sensual feel of cardinal earth. Mars lends a masculine energy to the Sun this week to help with the organizing for this bread festival. Round cornbread as a solar disk is an apt and easy choice for the altar, but if you plan several days ahead, you can sprout a small amount (1/4 cup) of wheat or barely for kitchen witchery. Add this to your other grains to your own bread from scratch; or buy frozen bread dough, thaw, pat into a rectangle, and sprinkle the sprouted grains. Roll up your dough like a jelly roll and place in a greased bread pan into which you have sprinkled Irish oats. You can use a sharp knife to crave goddess symbols into the loaf before baking.

©️ By K. D. Spitzer Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2002 Page 93

Flashback 2000 Imbolc

Daylight hours are gradually lengthening, and the Earth is beginning to stir. Although she is still in the middle of her winter’s rest, our planet subtly begins to plan. It’s appropriate that this period is represented by Aquarius, an air sign, since all change begins first in the mind. Every new thought or idea is full of raw potential as the Earth is now,nailing for the touch of fire to ignite her new growth period. Uranus is the ruler of Aquarius, and the planet best known for its jurisdiction over the future. This electric energy only looks forward, never back. It is during Imbolc, in fact, as the Sun is passing through Aquarius, that many ideas are born. As we prepare for the upcoming Equinox, then, it’s important to be sure that we’re looking ahead, as Uranus does, with all the electric enthusiasm and genius of Aquarius. Honor the potential of the coming spring by uncovering your gift of prophecy. Whether you use a crystal ball, a dream journal, or another type of predictive tool, prepare for the Equinox in your heart, by understanding how much is possible now.

©️ By Kim Rogers-Gallagher Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2000 Page 95

Flashback 2000 Lammas

At Lammas, the Sun is at the very peak of Leo, the sign this planet loves above all others. Our star’s warmth is at its most powerful now in the Northern Hemisphere, as it appears directly overhead. At this time, life too, ia at its peak—as are the crops. The ancients celebrated this festival by giving thanks for their first harvest, most especially the grain harvest, even as they accepted the beginning of the God’s descent into the underworld. The myth of the asteroid-Goddess Ceres (Demeter), giver of the grain, also relates to this season. It was now when she would bid her daughter Farwell, since Persephone was obligated to return to the Underworld to rejoin Hades (Pluto). So bereaved was Ceres to see her daughter leave her, she refused to all the Earth to produce grain until her return. At this time,nothing, modern practitioners should be remind of both astrological principles: the fullness of life the Sun brings, and the necessity for rest, as signified by the coming fall.

©️ By Kim Rogers-Gallagher Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2000 Page 95

Beltane Sunset to Sunset. April 30th – May 1st

Beltane honours Life. It represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. All of life is bursting with potent fertility and at this point in the Wheel of the Year, the potential becomes conception. On May Eve the sexuality of life and the earth is at its peak. Abundant fertility, on all levels, is the central theme. The Maiden goddess has reached her fullness. She is the manifestation of growth and renewal, Flora, the Goddess of Spring, the May Queen, the May Bride. The Young Oak King, as Jack-In-The-Green, as the Green Man, falls in love with her and wins her hand. The union is consummated and the May Queen becomes pregnant. Together the May Queen and the May King are symbols of the Sacred Marriage (or Heiros Gamos), the union of Earth and Sky, and this union has merrily been re-enacted by humans throughout the centuries. For this is the night of the Greenwood Marriage. It is about sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality and joy. And about conception. A brilliant moment in the Wheel of the Year to bring ideas, hopes and dreams into action. And have some fun…..

Traditions of Beltane

Beltane is a Fire Festival. The word ‘Beltane’ originates from the Celtic God ‘Bel’, meaning ‘the bright one’ and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire. Together they make ‘Bright Fire’, or ‘Goodly Fire’ and traditionally bonfires were lit to honour the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun’s light to nurture the emerging future harvest and protect the community. Bel had to be won over through human effort. Traditionally all fires in the community were put out and a special fire was kindled for Beltane. “This was the Tein-eigen, the need fire. People jumped the fire to purify, cleanse and to bring fertility. Couples jumped the fire together to pledge themselves to each other. Cattle and other animals were driven through the smoke as a protection from disease and to bring fertility. At the end of the evening, the villagers would take some of the Teineigen to start their fires anew.” (From Sacred Celebrations by Glennie Kindred) Green Man – Beltane

To read more interesting things about Northern Hemisphere Beltane click here

Category Samhain/Deep Autumn

WE ARE THE ANCESTORS: MAY WE BE INTERESTING FOOD

May 9, 2020 · by Glenys D. Livingstone · in Samhain/Deep Autumn · Leave a comment Our present lives are formed by all who came before us. We are in-formed by them, whether conscious or not. In PaGaian Samhain ceremony as it has been done traditionally, participants are invited to remember the ancestors in this way: Let us remember our ancestors, those who have gone before, whose lives have been harvested, […]

THREADS OF GOLD IN THE COMPOST

April 20, 2020 · by Glenys D. Livingstone · in Samhain/Deep Autumn · 2 Comments There are threads of gold in the compost, if one has the vision for it. And we may take the golden thread, exclaim the strongest natural fibre known – our creative selves, our imaginations – for the building of a new world made sacred, of our conceiving: yet beyond our knowings, across the vast Darkness between […] For more interesting article about Southern Hemisphere Samhain click here  

5 Simple Mabon Rituals

5 Simple Ostara Rituals

A Samhain Blessing

“Blessed be the ancestors the ones whom life has fled.

Tonight we merry meet again, our own beloved dead.

The wheel of the year turns on, a new year in our sights.

The maiden has become the crone, we celebrate this night.

Author Unknown”

Halloween in Ireland

Terrifying tales and frightening facts from the home of Halloween

Halloween – a time for thrills, chills and scaring ourselves silly. But did you know that everyone’s favourite fright-filled holiday began in Ireland? Trace Halloween right back to its origins and you’ll find yourself in the mists of pagan Ireland over 3,000 years ago – a time when the ancient festival of Samhain was celebrated in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East to mark the beginning of winter.

It’s said that at Halloween the boundary between our world and the Otherworld is at its thinnest, allowing spirits and demons to easily pass between the two. So come with us on a strange and spooky journey as we experience Halloween in Ireland.

Halloween in Ireland

Happy and Blessed Beltane to Our Sisters, Brothers, and Guests in the Southern Hemisphere

Beltane – Bealtaine Traditions in Irish Folklore

Beltane is the anglicised version of our Irish word Bealtaine – still in use and meaning ‘the month of May’ in our own language. Bealtaine is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature, and it is associated with important events in Irish mythology.

Irish folklore still holds the legacy of the traditions and customs associated with this ancient festival. Bealtaine and Samhain are the original two turning points for the ‘wheel of the year’ in Ireland. That’s May Eve and Hallowe’en, in case you’re not familiar.

These major Irish Pagan Festivals were pivotal – literally – times of upheaval of change for our ancestors over 8,000 years ago when the Hunter Gatherer societies moved from their Summer to Winter camping grounds at these seasonal turning points, and they still resonate through the landscape and the Irish communities to this day.

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Beltane: (Bealtaine, Valpurgis)

Incense: Lilac, Frankincense
Decorations: Maypole, Flowers, Ribbons
Colours: Green

The Fire Festival of Beltane

This festival is also known as Beltane, the Celtic May Day. It officially begins at moonrise on May Day Eve, and marks the beginning of the third quarter or second half of the ancient Celtic year. It is celebrated as an early pastoral festival accompanying the first turning of the herds out to wild pasture. The rituals were held to promote fertility. The cattle were driven between the Belfires to protect them from ills. Contact with the fire was interpreted as symbolic contact with the sun. In early Celtic times, the druids kindled the Beltane fires with specific incantations. Later the Christian church took over the Beltane observances, a service was held in the church, followed by a procession to the fields or hills, where the priest kindled the fire. The rowan branch is hung over the house fire on May Day to preserve the fire itself from bewitchment (the house fire being symbolic of the luck of the house).

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