Celebrating Halloween By Way of Samhain, an Ancient Celtic Tradition


Samhain (pronounced differently Samain, Samuin or Samfuin) is an ancient old tradition dating back thousands of years.

Samhain was celebrated by the Celts (in Ireland, Wales and Scotland) as the Feast Of The Dead and for the final harvest of the year. It has been adopted into Catholic religion as All Saints Day. The Celts divided the year into two parts on their calendar. The dark half known as Samhain fell on the eve of October 31st and the other half began with Beltane May 1st. The Gaulish calendar used by the Celts marked the dates of these festivities.

Samhain was a three-day festival gathering Celtic clans at the Royal Court of Tara. A bonfire was lit on the hill of Tara marking the three day event and to signal the rest of the Celts to light fires if they did not attend. The sacred colors of the rituals were orange and black, associated with human death and the Crone Deity.

According to belief, the veil between the living and the dead was raised resulting in the dead walking amongst the living. Believing the dead could return home the Celts would leave food and wine in the window and keep the all door open.

Oracles and prophesies were made on the night. High priestesses believed the dead provided a link to the future. Traditionally, costumes of animal skins and bore heads were used and dances around bonfires burning foliage and paying homage to Deities for the long winter ahead. 

Today many of these traditional rituals play a role in modern day Halloween. Costumes and colors associated with paganism have infiltrated into our western culture. Bonfires are burned; parties and get-togethers are common to celebrate the night. In Ireland modern-day Irish pagans honor these traditions into their daily lives.

Fortune telling and food such as Barmbrack are a great example of this. A sweet bread with raisins and sultanas, it’s backed with pieces of trinkets. If found these items represent possible future events. Such as a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a piece

of silver and a ring. A pea could mean not getting married. A stick, maybe you’ll be beaten in your marriage or endure constant arguing. A piece of cloth is a bad omen for poverty. A piece of silver represents good fortune or money. A ring, you’ll be married by years end.

Another tradition is placing a lighted candle in the window so the dead can find their way home. So no matter how you celebrate Halloween, remember there is a spiritual connotation with this holiday. Put your mask on, light a bonfire, put a candle in your window and let the harvest begin.

Deirdre Powell
Deirdre Powell, from a very early age thirst for the written word. Her first publication was a prose featured in Lanigan School book at the mere age of seven. Her parents moved to Co. Claire Ireland when she was ten, giving her opportunity to embrace her Irish culture.

While there, she engulfed herself learning Yeats, Wilde, Beckett, Joyce, McCourt and Mythology from ancient Ireland. Whilst in Ireland she attended college for film and television production and then studied in London in 1999 before moving back to the United States to further her studies in Creative Writing, Journalism and Photography earning certificates and credits towards her Masters Degree.

Deirdre is Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Undergroundwriter, a diverse cultural webzine promoting writers, photographers and artists worldwide. Deirdre has articles, poetry and short stories featured in various publications. When Deirdre is not writing, she is an enthusiastic amateur photographer. Some of her photographs appeared in local Florida newspapers. Coming from an Artisan lineage Deirdre heartily believes that the arts change the polarity of thought and thus she is always supporting the local arts.
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