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A Brief History

Perhaps the most important holiday amongWitches and Pagans

The Celts had a strong belief in superstition and the spiritworld. At the time of the Celtic New Year, the Celts believed that the in-between time was a twilight; a non-time or space area where this world and the Otherworlds were closest and ancestors and the physical world could travel easily to each plane.

During this time, the weather began turning colder, signifying the coming of winter. Cattle and other animals that would not be able to withstand the coming of the winter months were slaughtered and preserved for food. A time for celebration, the last before the cold trapped them in their homes, became a normal part of honoring the final harvest and the quick return of the warmer days.

Samhain also marks the days growing shorter as the Sun, or the God, wanes in His power and settles into the Underworld, awaiting His rebirth at Yule. The Goddess is in her Crone phase, where one can consult with her wisdom and experience to aid with problems or divination.

In some traditions, Yule is marked as the New Year, and the Wheel of the Year starts at Yule. Samhain was one of the 'Fire Festivals' practiced by the Celts and the Druids.

Samhain is a perfect time for various forms of divination or scrying, as the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and one can ask for assistance from spirit guides and ancestors. This is time for honoring loved ones who have recently passed over by contacting them or thinking of them. Another way is to have a 'dumb' supper where everyone makes a past loved one's favorite meal. Then all sit down to dinner and remain quiet in reflection until it is over. Some may even place an extra setting for the ancestor to be honored.

Samhain means 'summers end' in the ancient Celtic languages. There is no God known as Samhain in any Celtic lore or beliefs. Some anti-Hallowe'en practitioners are fond of stating the existence of an evil god named Sam-hain who called upon his demons to attack the humans and take small children. This is not so.

The practice of trick-or-treating did not actually occur until the early 1900's, when poor families, many of them Irish immigrants, brought the practices of Samhain with them. The children at this time of year, and other times, would go door-to-door asking for hand-outs. And when they did not receive any, some of them would play 'tricks' and knock over a plant, or leave garbage on the doorsteps.

The myth that Samhain, or Hallowe'en is a practice of calling demons or the devil to perform sacrifices or other heinous activities was popularized by the Christian churches. In order to prevent the Pagan practices, contact with the Otherworlds was forbidden as an act of devil worship, as was divination or fortunetelling.

The Jack-O-Lantern has many myths about its origins. He is one of four Jacks of the seasons. One tale is that a spirit named Jack was so terrible, that when he died, neither heaven nor hell wanted him, so he was forced to walk the Earth, as a discorporate being, with only a carved out turnip lit from within with a candle to tight his way.

Another myth of the Jack-O-Lantern comes from the belief that at one time, people were so afraid of evil spirits at this time of year, they carved out a hideous face onto a gourd and placed a candle in it to ward off demons.

Still another is that the Druids would travel door-to-door, carrying these lanterns, and searching for victims in which to sacrifice.

Many of these are myths and propagated by mainstream religions in order to scare off the practice of Hallowe'en altogether.

Common colors of Samhain are Orange, Black and Brown.

Common symbols are the pumpkin or Jack-O-Lantern, dried corn husks and corn, cornucopias.