What is Samhain? Samhain is a Celtic celebration celebrated between October 31st and November 1st. The belief is the veil between our world, and the spirit world is at its thinnest, and spirits can crossover into our realm.
Samhain is considered the midpoint of the fall equinox.
Ancient Celts would let their hearth fires burn out as they gathered the last harvest before the darkest part of the year began, the winter solstice. After the harvest, everyone would come to celebrate. A wheel representing the four major parts of the year would be lit with fire, creating a huge bonfire. After the celebration, participants would take part fire back to their homes to light their hearths.
Because the veil was at its thinnest, people would leave food to appease any creature who might come through the cover. People would also dress in animal skins, so monsters and fae people would not take them back to the other realm. One of the most common monsters was Lady Gwyn, a headless woman dressed in white. Lady Gwyn and her black pig would chase people wandering in the night.
Other creatures such as the Dullahan would appear as impish creatures and terrorize the villagers. There were also headless men on horses who had fiery red eyes who would chase people. If you saw one of these men, it meant death would soon strike your family.
During the Middle Ages, carving turnips began to scare away mischievous spirits; later, the turnips were replaced by pumpkins. The ancient Scottish tradition of trick-or-treating or the Celtic tradition of mumming where people dressed in costumes and went door-to-door asking for treats.
In more recent times, Wiccans see Samhain as the passing of the year. Many Wiccans hold bonfires, witch’s balls, and other celebrations to honor their ancestors.
Halloween is not Samhain, but many people have incorporated both aspects to honor ancestors and have a good time.