Samhain: the original Halloween?

Let me remind you…

Of Samhain: the original Halloween?

photo from:

October 31st -1st, marks a chilling turning point for much of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the perfect time to mark the end of the harvest, the shift of seasons, and the long nights cooling the shorter days.
In Ireland, Scotland, & what would soon be a lot of the U.K., a tradition ensued for centuries that many still practice today. It’s one of 4 to 8 (depending what you practice) seasonal holidays representing the switch from the light to the dark; the lighter part of the year giving way to the darker half of the year. It’s called Samhain (pronounced: Sah-win, or Sah-wan). It’s a time to pay respect to your ancestors and acknowledge their past presence once on this earth.
It’s considered to be a very special Gaelic holiday, as the veil from the spirit world is said to be at its thinnest, allowing ancestors and other-worldly entities to cross over from their world in to ours. The light from the sun aligns perfectly with the passage tombs dotted around the Irish countryside and shines through the entrance of the tomb, as if someone turned on a light for the first time in six months. The only other time this happens is at the opposite side of the year, known as Imbolc.

In the week leading up to it, farmers would be getting ready by harvesting their crops, and also butchering and curing any livestock. Now that the months were going to be cooler, it would be easier to store the meat. On Sumhain; the eve of All Saints Day, There would be a big festival and families prepare a large feast called the Dum Supper. The family would sit at the table along with a few extra places set for any passed ancestors that may care to take advantage of the thinned veil and join them for dinner. A plate of food would also be placed outside the threshold to appease the deities, or “Aos Si”, passing by.

 After their big feast, some would leave the house in a disguise, called “Mumming” or “Guising” to confuse any otherworldly visitors and prevent an unwanted attachment from the darker guests of the night, or the more rabble-rousing supernatural, like fairies, which were known by different names, including “The Shining Ones”.
Before leaving, a freshly plucked turnip or gourd would be carved out, often to look like a spirit, and a candle would be shoved inside to act as a lantern as they went door to door saying a verse in exchange for something to eat. Traditionally a “soul cake” was given for a prayer to be said for the homeowner’s dead ancestors. But if the tenant of the home refused to “treat” the guest, the guised person would threaten to create mischief.

Often a large bonfire would be lit in a common place and everyone could come and celebrate. In the earlier days, it would be lit by a druid priest using a friction wheel. The people would gather and light their torches to carry back to their homes where they would relight the extinguished hearth anew, representing the start of a new year.

In 1762, a British surveyor and amateur historian, Charles Vallancy, visited Ireland and observed Samhain. Like a lot of history, Vallancy misinterpreted what he saw and reported the holiday to be satanic in nature. In the 9th century, the Western Christian moved All Saints Day to November 1 and with All Souls day being November 2, it eventually warped in to one day: All Hallows Eve. You can guess where it turned from there.

When the Irish started coming to America, they didn’t stop practicing this tradition and celebrating their Summer’s end. With time and the guiding (more like forceful) hand of westernization, it’s what we know now as Halloween. But, some people, including the Scottish, Wiccans and Pagans still celebrate Samhain as the new year.

How nice would it be to redact some of the immediate gratification associated with Halloween we know today and have the ancestral celebrations we used to; the large family meals and acknowledgement or respect for those who have moved on?

Note: I would recommend diving deep into learning about Samhain and all the cultural aspects of it. I found many podcasts, youtubes and websites that helped me compile this information, but there’s so much more to know, especially since it’s still practiced today. Many of the mentioned traditions have been merged into one communal knowledge pot but may have originally started with, or be practiced by one specific group.

Another short let me remind you…
Don’t play with Ouija boards or other portal items on this day (unless maybe you’re a pro) as you may conjure someone not meant to come through the veil.

A Samhain prayer:

A Prayer to the Ancestors

This is the night when the gateway between
our world and the spirit world is thinnest.
Tonight is a night to call out those who came before.
Tonight I honor my ancestors.
Spirits of my fathers and mothers, I call to you,
and welcome you to join me for this night.
You watch over me always,
protecting and guiding me,
and tonight I thank you.
Your blood runs in my veins,
your spirit is in my heart,
your memories are in my soul.

(Insert family names here)

With the gift of remembrance.
I remember all of you.
You are dead but never forgotten,
and you live on within me,
and within those who are yet to come.

Don’t forget,
I’m on Instagram: @kristina_moore_author
And my website is:

Thank you for reading 🙂

The Green Witch Youtube
Happy Harvest Horror Podcast
(and many more that I listened to but had the same info I had already found, or no new, contributable info)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s