Samhain / Halloween
Samhain marks the Celtic New Year and can be seen to the equivalent of New Year’s Eve. As children and adults participate in the fun of Halloween on the night of October 31st, few will be aware of its ancient Celtic roots in the ‘Samhain’. In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (Summer) and the darker half (Winter). It was the division between this world and the otherworld which was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.
Samhain is a time to remember those who have passed on, celebrate the end of Summer and prepare for the Winter months ahead. The Sun God and earth fall into slumber, as the nights lengthen and winter begins. It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the thin veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time. The lord of the underworld, unfettered from the control of the sun, now walked the earth and with him travelled all those other creatures from the abode of the dead. Ghosts, fairies and a host of other non-descript creatures went with him.
People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits and thus avoid harm. Bonfires and food played a large part in the festivities. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. Food was prepared for the living and the dead, food for the ancestors who were in no position it eat it, was ritually shared with the less well off.
Christianity incorporated the honouring of the dead into the Christian calendar with All Saints feastday on November 1st followed by All Souls on November 2nd. On this day let us remember our roots and pray for all those who have gone before us, that they are enjoying the fullness of life, in the presence of God.
May they rest in peace.