Well its that time of the year again, the leaves have begun to fall of the tree’s, the coldness of winter has set in. Its the time of year when the darkness takes over from the light, as in the amount of hours of daylight we no longer get, nothing to sinister here, 🙂 In Ireland Samhain was a time of celebration, the end of the years harvest, a time to stock up for the winter and on a spiritual level Samhain was the celebration of the end/death of the old and the start/birth of the new, you could say it was similar to that of the modern day New Year celebrations. It is said that it is a time when the veil or distance between our world and that of our ancestors whom have passed on becomes so thin, that it is possible to communicate with the other side. There are many wonderful and fantastic stories relating to this time of year from the shidhe rising up from their dwellings to tales of other-worldly encounters, Ghosts and Haunting’s etc, etc. So many in fact I could write volumes of books on the subject, but for now I shall just concentrate on a few nice little traditions which I had when growing up.
The first and possibly most common was the bonfire, a continuation of an ancient practice where a sacred flame would be taken down stream from Tlachtga to the hill of Tara, were the fire would be light from the sacred flame. And from Tara all other fires across the country would be light on this night. There are also claims that the flame was part of a purification ritual, later on it seemed that the Celtic version of Christianity had some influence on tradition, in that the flames of the fire would ward off the evil spirits of the dead whom could come into our realm at this time of year. And it is here that the dressing up comes into play. Kids dress up originally as ghosts, witches and monster to go out ‘Trick or Treating’, this was done to disguise the living from the dead. And the tradition of going from door to door receiving food existed in Ireland in the form of “souling”, where children and poor people would sing and say prayers for the dead in return for something nice. One of my personal favorites is the ‘Dumb Supper’, were a spare place is set at the dinner table for ancestral spirits to join in. Then we have the popular carving pumpkins which originated from an old Irish tale about a man named ‘Stingy Jack’, the tradition was brought to America by Irish migrants whom would have used large turnips, it then progressed to pumpkins in the form of the modern day ‘Jack O Lantern. I shall try to post this fascinating tale here soon. So I have included a couple of Samhain themed images i recently made. Please feel free to share any of your traditions or stories here, I would love to hear them.