ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Samhain and the Real History of the Origins of Halloween

Updated on October 11, 2014
Source

There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery. ~Joseph Conrad

Source

'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.
~William Shakespeare

Halloween

Halloween is a unique holiday where we traditionally, 'embrace our dark side'. We feed our fascination with the primeval part of our evolution. Most will scoff at beliefs in ghosts, ghoblins, vampires and other horrific creatures. However, alone in a dark house, the scratching on a windowpane or the creaking of floorboards sends a tingling down the spine and the raising of the hairs on the back of our necks.

Where did this tradition in which people revel in the many symbols of death originate? The word Halloween is derived from the Catholic Feast Day, All Saints Day (All Hallows Day) which is on November 1. This feast day was incorporated by Christians at this time to 'ease' the conversion of pagans to Christianity by blending traditions. As Halloween is the day before, it began as All Hallows Eve; finally shortened to All Hallows Eve and finally to Halloween.

The holy day Samhain (sow-en) of the early Irish Celts, celebrated the beginning of winter or the dark half of the year. It was celebrated with huge, sacrificial bonfires. Many of the traditions of Samhain were based on superstition. The day before Samhain was the last day of summer, while the day after was the first day of winter. As a day 'between' seasons, Samhain was considered by early Celts to be a magical time - the dead would walk among the living; spirits, ancestors and man could pass between worlds.

It is thought the early Celts spent three days celebrating the holy feast of Samhain - from October 31 to November 2. Deities (gods and goddesses), ancestors (the dead) and nature spirits were honored over these three days. Today, Halloween celebrates the supernatural (nature spirits), All Saints Day on November 1 replaces the celebration of Celtic deities and on November 2, All Souls Day honors the dead (ancestors).


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Even a US President loves to join in the fun of Halloween!Halloween can be fun, not just scary.Who doesn't love a scary pumpkin?
Even a US President loves to join in the fun of Halloween!
Even a US President loves to join in the fun of Halloween! | Source
Halloween can be fun, not just scary.
Halloween can be fun, not just scary. | Source
Who doesn't love a scary pumpkin?
Who doesn't love a scary pumpkin? | Source

Origins of Halloween Customs and Symbols

Halloween is a blending of both pagan and Christian traditions. The pagan custom of dressing in costume and dancing around the sacred bonfire became intertwined with All Hallows Eve and Halloween was born. Many of the customs and symbols date back to ancient Celtic practices as well as to some which developed in more Medieval times.

Trick or Treating

Trick or Treating has its origin in a number of early superstitions and practices.The early Celts believed that the dead would play tricks on man and cause panic and destruction such as damaging crops. In order to appease these spirits, country people would give the Druids food as they visited their homes.

As well, an old Irish peasant custom involved collecting cheese, eggs and butter from neighbours to prepare for the festival of St. Columb Kill a festival celebrating the life of a famous Irish/Scottish saint.

A third origin of trick or treating is thought to come from the custom of 'souling'. On November 1, early Christians would visit numerous villages begging for soul bread (square pieces of bread with currents). The villagers expected that each piece of soul bread given would result in a prayer said by the beggars on behalf of their dead relatives. At this time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo and that even prayers by strangers would speed a soul's entrance into heaven.

Bobbing for Apples

When the Roman Empire conquered the Celts, many Roman practices became intertwined with Celtic traditions. One of these was the worship of Pomona, the Roman goddess of the harvest whose symbol was the apple. It is thought that bobbing for apples is a custom derived from games of divination involving apples that began at this time

Jack O' Lanterns

Turnips or potatoes were carved by Irish children and lit during Halloween to commenmorate Jack, a wicked villain so evil he was wanted by neither heaven nor hell. Rejected by all, Jack wandered endlessly looking for a place to rest, finding eventually a glittering turnip or potato. During the Irish potatoe famine, over 700,000 Irish immigrated to America where a large, orange squash was extremely plentiful. Bigger and easier to carve, the pumpkin became the preferred home of Jack in America during the celebration of Halloween.

Classic Halloween Movie

Resources Used

Bonewits, Isaac. The Real Origins of Halloween. 1997, 2006.

Halloween Web.

Halloween History.

True Ghost Tales.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      9 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Interesting hub. I learned a few things, knew a few.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://corp.maven.io/privacy-policy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)