First and foremost…
Or as those of us who are pagan say, Blessed Samhain.
You might not know Halloween has ancient roots deep within 2000-year-old Celtic lore. Samhain (pronounced sow-en with a short-sounding ‘e’) is the Celtic New Year and marks the division of the year between the summer, the light, and the winter, the darkness. To ancient Celts, the year was divided into two halves: Beltaine, May 1, a celebration of the light returning, and Samhain, November 1, the time of enveloping darkness. It was believed the veil between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest on the night before Samhain, and spirits were able to pass through and visit the realm of the living.
Food was offered to welcome dearly departed visitors, like Uncle Harold and Aunt May, but, to frighten off unfriendly arrivals like the guy who, when he was alive would yell, ‘I’m going to keep any balls that land in my yard!’, people would light fires.
The Celtic people were definitely a superstitious lot, and I can’t blame them. It must have been damn dark without any street lights. No wonder they built bonfires. Seriously, I don’t know a ghost alive, or dead, who would want to stick around when there are frightening fairies roaming the streets.
Festivities always started on the eve of Samhain, All Hallows Eve, which, if you’re paying attention, is what we call Halloween. Christianity, not wanting to be outdone, wove the celebration of the dead into their own calendar and, bingo, All Saints (All Hallows) on November 1st was born.
But wait, you should be shouting, why do kids go house to house asking for candy.
I’m surprised at you. Can’t you figure it out? The kids, dressed like the little monsters they are, represent the spirits and candy is the offering the townspeople make to keep from being eaten alive.
Admit it, if this fairy was running toward you, you’d throw Reese’s cups and Twizzlers at her too!
Samhain is by far the holiest of all sabbats for Wiccans. It’s a time when magic is at its most powerful, and it’s also a great time to dance and get drunk on mead.
Sir Walter Scott wrote in his poem St. Swithin’s Chair:
On Hallowmas Eve, ere ye boune to rest,
Ever beware that your couch be blest;
Sign it with cross and sain it with bread,
Sing the Ave and the Creed.For on Hallowmas Eve, the Night Hag shall ride
I’m not too keen on the ‘Night Hag’ part. If he published it today he’d definitely have to answer to the PCP (Political Correctness Police).
If you’ve a mind to celebrate Samhain in a traditional manner, you’ll need a fire…
… and food. Might I suggest Barmbrack?
Serve warm with sweet butter and a mug of tea and you’ll have a Samhain feast worthy of a dead ancestor.
Oh, and remember to leave some for Uncle Fred. He get’s ornery when his blood sugar drops.
Until next time, blessed be :}
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