As a follow-up on the subject of Samhain, and to my Origins of Halloween Post, and continuing with one of my favorite subjects, Halloween!!!! I wanted to do a brief introduction to Samhain. This month I will be posting more on the subject, such as a list of easy Samhain Rituals, some fun Samhain/ Halloween activities for kids, and much more.

What Is Samhain?

I went over a brief introduction into the origins of Halloween and some of the beliefs and origins of Samhain in my last post, so I will try not to repeat myself too much. 

Samhain in modern Irish means “Summer’s End” and was a celebration that kicked off the Celtic new year. For the Celts, the new year symbolized a time of both death and rebirth. Samhain coincided with the end of a bountiful harvest season and the beginning of winter. The new year also presented many challenges for the Celts, including preparing for the harsh winter ahead of them. 

What We Know About The Origins of Samhain

Due to the fact, there are limited sources available, all we have to go on is the folkloric literature and the traditions that carried on. Unfortunately, due to the Roman Empire’s spread into the Celtic Territory, the church suppressed and changed as much as they could about the original pagan traditions. 

Samhain was a fire festival marking the beginning of the dark half of the year. Celebrated in between the autumn equinox and winter solstice, Samhain is said to be the time when the veil between our world and the “Otherworld” was the thinnest. The “otherworld” symbolizing the world of the dead or “the world of the Gods.”

How They Celebrated

During the new year’s celebration, sacrifices were made as a protective measure from the otherworldly beings and to appease the Gods in hopes of a mild winter. These sacrifices were usually crops and animals sacrificed in bonfires. They also wore costumes during this time in an attempt to fool the spirits that may want to bring harm to them. 

How Samhain Evolved

As the Roman Empire spread, many traditions, including Samhain, were reframed and morphed into a more Christian-like practice. These changes and integration with other traditions, such as those of the Native American’s, lead us to the holiday we celebrate today, most commonly known as Halloween. 

The Modern Pagan Celebration

As we try to carry on the honored traditions of our ancestors, we commonly celebrate Samhain by preparing dinner to celebrate the harvest. As the beginning of the Samhain tradition, it is a holiday meant to be shared. Families gather for dinner, and it is common to set a place or make an offering during this dinner to share with our family members who have passed on before us. 

Modern Views Of Samhain

Samhain is not a morbid celebration in Paganism, and modern-day practices do not include sacrifices. We follow the ancient notion that Samhain symbolizes a time when the veil between the world of the living and the dead is the thinnest.

darksouls1 / Pixabay

As mother nature begins to rest and crops and vegetation die back, we appreciate the transition. The thinning of the veil allows communication and facilitates contact with the other side. We celebrate our lost loved ones, which is a good time to bring closure to the relationships with those we have lost. 

Samhain for pagans does not symbolize a time of mourning but a time for closure, love, and guidance. As our summer comes to an end and the veil thins, we use this time to honor those we miss and celebrate the time of rest ahead of us. Just as mother nature begins her time of rest, we use this time to appreciate what we have, what we have lost, and what is to come. 

Common Practice

Unlike Halloween, Samhain is generally a private practice and is celebrated by spending time with family. In no way am I telling you not to celebrate Halloween. In my path, I have learned to enjoy both as separate holidays. During the day of October 31st and November 1st, we spend time together and celebrate Samhain during the evening of the 31st, or whenever we Trick-or-Treat, we enjoy Halloween. That is the beautiful part of Paganism; there is no rule book. 

Common celebrations included bonfires, storytelling and learning about your ancestors, cemetery visits, setting a place at the table for lost loved ones and giving an offering, and much more. There is no wrong way to celebrate Samhain; some only light a candle in their window for the day to help guide those transitioning to the other world. It just depends on your beliefs and what you feel most comfortable with.

Tomorrow I will go over some time-honored traditions and common rituals for Samhain. I will also include some simple ways to celebrate Samhain and honor your ancestors!

As always,

Thank you for going on this journey with me!