An tSamhain or Samhain is an Irish word (pronounced sow – wen) meaning the summers end.
It marks on the Celtic Calendar the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It was and is celebrated to welcome in the dark part of the year when the days shorten in light.
Celebrated across Ireland, Scotland and Isle of Man with similar festivals in Wales & Brittany.
It is the origin of current Halloween festivals with Irish people bringing their traditions to America when the left. It is a Celtic pagan tradition which dates back to ancient Celts over 2000 years ago.
There are many Neolithic sites in Ireland that align with the sun at key points in the Celtic Calendar. Samhain being one of them.
These Neolitihic passage tombs are aligned with the rising sun, on a specific day in the Celtic Calendar. The light from the sunrise, enters a passage way that lights up the interior of the mound. These tombs were seen as portals to the other world.
Celebrations would have taken place beginning on the evening of October 31 and November 1st -from sunrise to sunset.
This is also about half way between the Autumn equinox September 21st and the Winter Solstice – December 21st.
The last of the harvest was brought in around this time. Samhain would have been celebrated with bonfires, music, games and celebrations.
It was believed that the barrier between the upper and lower worlds diminished, that the veil between them would thin around this time of year, allowing the dead and the living to mingle.
The spirit work was visible at this time.
The underworld dwellers could cross over and loved to play tricks on the living.
This gave rise to many traditions involving faeries (fairies) or Sidhs. Offerings were made to appease them and fires were lit for cleansing, protection and involved rituals.
The dead were honoured, a place was set in the house for dinner for the dead to return amongst the family.
People dressed up as monsters and animals so that the fairies would not kidnap them. There are many characters, stories and myths sound Samhain. Pumpkins were carved and had candles put inside them to ensure wandering spirits were kept at bay.
In Ireland it is traditional to have Bonfires – they are connected with the Celtic and pagan festivals.
The wheel of the Celtic Year connects with Fire. Imbolc in February to mark the start of Spring – St. Brigid’s day.
Brigid was a Fire Goddess in Irish Mythology.
Brigid’s crosses were put above house doors to protect from them Fire.
Bonfires celebrate Bealtaine in May to mark the start of summer.
Lughnasa (August, Harvest) and Samhain (Halloween).
Today many of these traditions and stories are still alive. The are so ingrained in our culture that we almost don’t see them, Another sign of the thinning veil perhaps?
What does this time of the year mean for you?
As the leaves fall allowing the available light to nourish us in the darkest part of the year – what are you letting go of? What light are you letting in?
What seeds are you planting to be available to harvest in your future?
What fire do you want to light and nourish in your own life?
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