We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Samhain: The History of Halloween

Samhain, pronounced “sow-ween” or “sow-in,” is the third and last harvest of the year. It literally means, “summer’s end” and it is a time when the dark winter half of the year commences.  It is known as “the witches New Year” and it is also one of two “spirit nights” – the other being Beltane. This means that the veil between the world of the living and the world of spirit is thin. Communication with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they may journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands.  
This is the sabbat when we honor our Mother Goddess in her crone aspect and, her consort, our Father God who will soon die only to be reborn again at Yule. This is evident by the fact that the days begin to get shorter and the nights begin to get longer.
In ancient times, the Celts celebrated Samhain by leaving food offerings on their doorsteps for the “deceased” and single candles were lit in windows to help guide them home again. “The Fae” or “Faeries of the Woodlands,” who were believed to have lived in Faerie Mounds, were extremely active on this night – pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. Huge hearth fires were built and lit to help protect them during the coming winter. Druids and Celtic Priests used divination – making predictions about the future at this time.
Halloween’s origins date back to this ancient Celtic festival which was celebrated 2,000 years ago in the area that is now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France.  Many, if not all, of the modern traditions of Halloween come from the sabbat of Samhain.  “Trick-or-Treating", lit hollowed pumpkins which became known as jack-o-lanterns,  dressing in costumes, all have Celtic roots.
As European immigrants came to America, they brought with them their varied customs. By the 1920’s and 1930’s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment.  But regardless of the evolution of this sabbat, it will always remain a sacred, mysterious Pagan holiday!

(For sabbat dates, please see the post, "The Wheel of the Year..." - November 2010)

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