Samhain, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, or Souls Night
Call it what you will, but the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest on October 31st.
Samhain means Summer’s End. Wise Women used to celebrate on the nearest full moon before November, after the harvest was gathered, halfway between Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. This date represented the end of summer and the start of the spiritual New Year. Samhain came from the Celtic Fire Festival when the Druids remembered their dead. Bonfires were built to cleanse and protect, and sacrifices were offered to the gods. It was a night of divination, mummers, feasting, guising, and young lads following the Hobby Horse about the village.
The Church of Rome turned this feast into All Hallows’ Eve, the start of All Saints’ Day to honor the Christian saints and martyrs. Soul Cakes got eaten instead of meat. Candles were lit for the dear departed and there were vigils, feasts, and the ringing of church bells everywhere.
Youngsters, in particular, enjoyed celebrating Halloween, short for Hallowed or Holy Evening. They remembered the frailty of life with skeletons, ghouls, cobwebs, tombstones, and demons, hoping to chase evil and death away by honoring the darkness. Some carved turnips into Jack o’ Lanterns for those lost souls who’ve been denied both Heaven and Hell, while others partook in pranks to imitate mischievous spirits, costume feasts, processions, and mummers’ plays.
When the Puritans colonized America they introduced the concept of Halloween in the United States. Private costume parties were held to celebrate and protect the harvest. Over time, pumpkins replaced turnips; Irish immigrants introduced “trick-or-treating”; and candy, costume, and greeting card companies began actively promoting this festival as a national holiday to increase their sales. Halloween has now become one of the most popular celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic.
It’s a powerful time – so be careful and guard your own soul!