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 The History and Origins of Halloween

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Spiritwind
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PostSubject: The History and Origins of Halloween   Thu Sep 27, 2007 11:41 am

The holiday that we know as Halloween today bares little resemblance to it's origins. While many of the traditions of making jack 'o' lanterns, and giving out treats do come from the old European holiday known as Samhain, (pronounced SOW-ain), the origins of Halloween are very different from what we celebrate today.


First, to give an understanding to the reader of these old "pagan" holidays, one must understand the meaning of some of the old language and culture of the times. The term 'pagan', while having come to mean rudely and wrongly something like "devil worshipper” by the Christian mythology standards merely meant "country people" in the language of the times. It was used as a sort of derogatory term by the ruling class in reference to those they ruled over meaning something like 'country bumpkin'.

Samhain was one of four "fire" festivals of the Celtic calendar year. It marked the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. In the old Manx New Year festival was called Laa Houney or Hollantides Day. In the Welsh, a language still used today; it was called Nos Galen-Gaeaf or Night of the Winter Calends. In the Old World the old day ended and the new day began at sun set. The day before Samhain was considered the last day of Summer, or in the old Irish Celtic language, Samradh, (pronounced sow-rawth), and was the day that marked the end of the old year, or the Light half of the year. Just as Samhain marked the end of the old year it also marked the beginning of the new year, or Geimredh, (pronounced geim-reth), otherwise known as the Winter or dark half of the year. The Autumn part of the year, or Foghamhar, (pronounced foth-am-ar), was considered to be part of the light half of the year. Spring, or Earrach, (pronounced air-rock), was considered to be part of the dark half of the year.

Samhain was, and still is, considered to be a very mystical and magical time that was 'between' the seasons and the years. It was considered to be the time that the spirits of those who have passed on could walk among those still on the corporeal plane and the time for doing divination. The veil between the worlds was and still is considered to be the thinnest at this time of year, and therefore the perfect time to find out what the new year would bring, as well as the time to delve into the past to help solve any unresolved issues.

Samhain lasted for three days in the old times and these three days were considered the time of "no time". It was during the days of 'no time' that people were allowed to do things that normally was frowned upon by the highly structured society of the Celts. This was where the tradition of 'trick or treat' came from. The children would go from dwelling to dwelling knocking on the doors asking for food or treats of some kind, and if the those who dwelt within did not oblige, they just might find themselves at the receiving end of a possibly rather nasty trick. Adults would indulge in shenanigans like taking someone's livestock and moving them to a different field without telling the owner of the livestock, or tearing down the gates to the corral that held a particular farmer's horses, cows, or pigs and allowing the animals to get away. There would be bon-fires and dancing and, of course, plenty of mead.


While it would seem to be a holiday that promoted a form of lunacy, it had a much deeper and serious meaning. These days were very special days and seemed to have a very mystical and magical quality about them. It was this quality that was used by the druidic priests of the Celts to their best advantage. These were the days in which to contact the spirits of the ancestors on the 'other side' of the veil between the worlds.

Unlike the view that most people share today about loved ones who have passed on, the Celts viewed their ancestors not as ghosts or spirits of the dead, but believed their loved ones on the 'other side' were very much living spirits and that death had been purely on a physical level. Ancestors were viewed as guides and helpers for their family still in the mortal world and not as something evil to be feared.

By the year 43 A.D. the Romans had conquered much of the Celtic lands an over the next 400 years two Roman festivals became combined with Samhain. Feralia, celebrated in late October was a commemeration of the passing of the dead. The second Roman festival was a celebration in honor of Pomona the goddess of trees and fruit. Pomona's symbol was the apple and this may explain the origins of "bobbing for apples" in our celebrations of Halloween today.

With the rise of Christianity, the Catholic church tried it's best to stop this "heathen" festival, but as one can see they were rather unsuccessful in their attempts. So the church took the three days of Samhain and named them All Hallows Eve, All Hallows or All Saints Day, and All Soul's Day. These are, respectively, October 31, November 1, and November 2. Later the name was changed to Halloween.


It was not until Christianity came to the Isles that the Christian devil ever became associated with Halloween. There was no concept of a devil or Satan in the Earth-based religions, nor was there anything even remotely evil about Samhain, or as it is now called, Halloween.

Today, for most people, Halloween is the time for masquerade parties, and having the kiddies dress up and roam about the neighborhood getting all the tooth decaying sweeties they can stand; And for the older kids to run amok pulling, (hopefully), harmless pranks. However, over the last several decades many are seeking a more simple way of life and are returning to old ways and the Earth-based religions of their ancestors. More and more folks are celebrating the old holidays more in the way they were originally intended to be celebrated and returning to a more natural cycle the way nature intended. People are finding solace in the fire festivals of days gone by, and a renewing of the attunement with the natural cycles of the earth, a spiritual revival of life in all it's glory and splendor.

So as one can well see there is nothing inherently evil or "satanic" about Samhain, or Halloween. It's the a time to celebrate the cycle of the seasons and to have good friends over for a feast and merry making. So, "Merry we meet, and merry we part and a magical Samhain and Happy Halloween to all!
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PostSubject: Re: The History and Origins of Halloween   Tue Sep 23, 2008 10:04 pm

I'm a Christian but I did grow up trick or treating and as long as you explain it to your children, I feel it's harmless.
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