AuthorsDen.com   Join (Free!) | Login  

     Popular! Books, Stories, Articles, Poetry
   Services MarketPlace (Free to post!)
Where Authors and Readers come together!

SIGNED BOOKS    AUTHORS    eBOOKS new!     BOOKS    STORIES    ARTICLES    POETRY    BLOGS    NEWS    EVENTS    VIDEOS    GOLD    SUCCESS    TESTIMONIALS

Featured Authors:  Lloydene Hill, iLiana Margiva, iKen Brosky, iDan Ronco, iDavid Schwinghammer, iLisa Loucks Christenson, iBilly Allmon, i

  Home > Holidays > Articles Popular: Books, Stories, Articles, Poetry     

Gary R Varner

· Become a Fan
· Contact me
· Sponsor Me!
· Books
· Articles
· News
· Messages
· 138 Titles
· 177 Reviews
· Save to My Library
· Share with Friends!
·
Member Since: Mar, 2001

   newsletter

Subscribe to the Gary R Varner Newsletter. Enter your name and email below and click "sign me up!"
Name:
Email:
Gary R Varner, click here to update your pages on AuthorsDen.

   Recent articles by
Gary R Varner

Cup-Marks and Pre-Historic Rock Carvings: Portals to Other Realms
Ancient Footprints
My Old Kentucky Garden
Deluge Myths based on Fact?
Coal: Energy and Pain in Eastern Kentucky
Merry Solstice...er...Happy Yule...
Moving On...
Faeries: A World of Reality or World of Myth?
The Spirit Land
A Comparison Between Chinese Taoism and Native American Religious Tradition
Valentine's Day--Just What Is It Anyway?
Folklorist needs your assistance. Have you seen Little People?
           >> View all

Halloween: An Ancient Day of Remembrance and Renewal
By Gary R Varner   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Posted: Friday, October 26, 2001

Share    Print   Save    Become a Fan


Samhain, today known as "Halloween", is an ancient holy day to remember the dead, to welcome in the new year, and to shrug off unwanted "baggage" from the last year. This article discusses the history and meaning of this misunderstood time.

A time both welcomed and feared...a time to cast off worries and ill-thoughts and to focus on desires for the future...

Samhain, meaning “summer’s end”, (1) is the time of the celebration of the last harvest, a time when the leaves are turning color, when the winds start to turn cool, a time of the closing of the year. Samhain is also a time to celebrate the dead and to look forward to the New Year. Samhain is one of the most holy of times for Pagans; for Wiccans and Druids in particular.

Samhain was a time when the Sun god Lugh died, foretelling the coming of winter, and a time when The Dagda (or “the Good God”) and the Morrigan (a goddess of fertility and destruction) came together to ensure “the continuing prosperity of the tribe and the fertility of the crops and animals in the coming year”. (2) It was customary to extinguish and re-kindle the hearth fires during this time as well.

Because Samhain occurs at the point of transition between the Old and New years, it was also a time when people believed, and still do, the barriers between spirit world and our physical world become so thin that the two merged, allowing the spirits of the dead, as well as the other residents of the Otherworld, to freely roam between both worlds. It was a time both welcomed and feared by the people of old. It was a time of possible communication with the gods and the dead, and as Lewis Spence wrote in his book, The Magic Arts in Celtic Britain:

“The season was associated as a whole with the idea of terror and fear. November was indeed the month of death and sacrifice. The dead and their associates, the fairies, were free to wander the world on that occasion, which was thus one of peril to wayfarers, who might be spirited off by them. It was a night of mischief and confusion.” (3)

Steve Blamires wrote that this “in-between time is clearly a very special state, and it is recognized as being a time when the normal order of things is upset or reversed, and chaos reigns, albeit temporarily.” (4) So strong were the currents of spiritual energy at Samhain, coming across the spiritual boundary, that it was up to the Druids to control and mediate the flow.

Our “trick or treat” tradition originally was an offering of cakes and other sweets left outside to appease wandering spirits. It was felt that if such an offering was not left, the spirits would, indeed, cause some misfortune to befall the household. A Feast of the Dead was also one of the ancient practices. Families would gather at the resting place of the dead and have a feast in their honor, assuming that the spirit of their loved ones would also partake of the food and ale. One custom was to pour libations over the tombs and another to “sacrifice” ale to the sea-god.

Samhain was also a time to cast off worries and ill-thoughts from the prior year and to focus on desires for the future after the re-birth of the New Year. In many ways our contemporary New Year’s celebrations are an extension of this practice.

Our popular costumes, pumpkins and the many games such as bobbing for apples are all ancient in origin. The witch costume is actually a representation of the Goddess in her dark, Crone aspect. And of course the costumes of skeletons and ghosts reflect the thin veil that separates the two realms of the living and the dead. The numerous cats, bats and owls which decorate our homes and businesses at Halloween are soul-symbols” and familiars of witches. The owl has long been associated with Hecate and Lilith, Goddesses of the Underworld.

A more ominous reason for the wearing of masks was to protect the identity of those Pagans worshipping at Samhain from Church authorities during the Inquisition and other times of persecution.

The contemporary usage of pumpkins, carved and decorated, may have origins in the Celtic cult of the head. In Europe turnips were carved in similar fashion. It wasn't until Europeans came to America that pumpkins were substituted. Apples also were sacred to the Goddess. Cut in half, the seeds form a perfect five pointed star, a natural pentagram. Bobbing for apples was a way to obtain the Goddesses favor with good luck for the following year.

Of course something so important and widespread and Pagan could not be ignored by the Christian Church. Samhain was re-named Hallowe’en, or All Souls Day, in an effort to absorb Pagan festivals into mainstream Christianity. Even today many Christian-right groups are attempting to totally eradicate the holiday and to “divert” the young into Christian activities. As one early Christian leader said, “many other superstitious ceremonies, the remains of Druidism, are observed on this holiday, which will never be eradicated while the name of Saman is permitted to remain”. (5) While the name has been changed, the age old practices continue to exist—lets keep it so.

NOTES

1. Various meanings of the word “Samhain” have been suggested over time. John King suggested in his book The Celtic Druids’ Year that it simply meant “November”. This appears to be too simplistic, however. Barbara Walker (The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets) states that Samhain is named after the Aryan Lord of Death, Samana. The most likely explanation is that offered by Miranda J. Green, who noted in The World of the Druids, that Samhain may be a derivative of the Irish “samrad” and Gaulish word “samon” which referred to the seasonal change between warm weather and the beginning of winter. The 1st century C.E. Celtic Coligny calendar referred to Samhain as “Samonios”.

2. Cunliff, Barry. The Ancient Celts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, 186

3. Spence, Lewis. The Magic Arts of Celtic Britain. Mineola: Dover Books, 1999, 70, a reprint of the Rider & Company 1945 publication

4. Blamires, Steve. Glamoury: Magic of the Celtic Green World. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications 1997, 217

5. Hazlitt, W. Carew. Faiths and Folklore of the British Isles. New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc. 1965, 340






      

Web Site: Authorsden of Gary R. Varner


Reader Reviews for "Halloween: An Ancient Day of Remembrance and Renewal"


Want to review or comment on this article?
Click here to login!


Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!


Reviewed by Judith Bailey 10/16/2006
What an interesting article... enjoyed very much. Just had a thought on this eve of the 17th '06... those 'dark ones' playing trick or treat 'outside' our door could also be our own dark thoughts manifested. This year could be the year of little to no, trick or treaters... lol...

You've set my thoughts a'ramblin down some interesting corridors...

judith
Reviewed by The Smoking Poet 10/26/2001
Trick or treat? The article is an informative treat. I was reminded of "Budeli," a version of All Soul's Day as it is celebrated, or honored, in my own Latvian culture.

Books by
Gary R Varner



Monsters in Stone - Kentucky's Gargoyles, Grotesques and Green Men

Buy Options
Kindle, more..




Creatures in the Mist: Little People, Wild Men and Spirit Beings

Buy Options
Signed copy!
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, more..




The Ancient Religion and Beliefs of Ethiopia

Buy Options
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, more..




Ghosts, Spirits & the Afterlife in Native American Folklore and Religion

Buy Options
Amazon, more..




Gargoyles, Grotesques & Green Men: Ancient Symbolism in European...

Buy Options
Amazon, more..




Portals to Other Realms: Cup-Marked Stones and Prehistoric Rock Carvings

Buy Options
Kindle, more..




Remembrances of the Dead - Graveyard Art & Symbolism

Buy Options
Amazon, more..




TOBOGGAN WAX by Hank LeGrand

TOBOGGAN WAX is a story about a young orphaned boy named, Eric. He goes to live with his uncle at his secluded mountain cabin. Snow lay on the ground almost year round up in the va..  
Featured BookAds by Silver
Gold and Platinum Members


Fourteen Pieces of Gold by Charlene Tess

A short story of mine was included in an anthology of short fiction by fourteen of Port Town Publishing Company's authors. It is out of print and no longer available except as a do..  
Featured BookAds by Silver
Gold and Platinum Members

Authors alphabetically: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Featured Authors | New to AuthorsDen? | Add AuthorsDen to your Site
Share AD with your friends | Need Help? | About us


Problem with this page?   Report it to AuthorsDen
© AuthorsDen, Inc. All rights reserved.