Posted by Chieftain Trees ● Oct 26, 2020 3:41:16 PM

Oíche shamhna / samhain the pagan Irish origin of Halloween

According to Irish mythology and the druids, Samhain is a time when the veil between our human world and that of the spirit realm becomes thin. As one of the four main festivals of the Gaelic year, Samhain played a large part in early Irish society and marked the passage of the seasons into winter. Preceded by Imbolc, Beltaine, and Lughnasa, Samhain marks the end of the year and the journey into darkness. 

Winter festival

As a mark of this turning of the year, it is said the people would gather in celebration, feast, hold contests and light bonfires in honour of the ancestors. As a time when the veils were thin, people would seek blessings from the otherworld of the Sidhe or de danann and make offerings to secure safety and good fortune. It is this custom that created halloween traditions and superstitions such as halloween ghosts.

Halloween beginnings

This is also the origin of the Halloween costume and the practice or 'trick r treat', that the custom evolved to people dressing as the spirits crossing the veils to receive their offerings. This also explains the origin of pumpkin carving, the practice of carving fetishes to ward off potentially malign spirits.

While the festival has been misrepresented as a time of fear and deception, the old stories in Irish mythology tell of the otherworld as a source of knowledge. In one tale Fionn the leader of the Fianna and one of Irelands greatest heroes is cooking a boar with his men by the river Suir when an otherworldly being appears and snatches their meal. Fionn chases this being and as part of the pursuit, his hand crosses the veil into the otherworld as the being escapes. Similar to the tale of the salmon of knowledge, Fionn sucks his thumb and receives a gift of wisdom. This may refer to gaining knowledge from ancestors or shamanic experiences with the animal, plant or mineral worlds.

This Halloween consider the wisdom that can be gained from the worlds around you instead of scaring your neighbours dressed as Luigi. What are the other worlds saying as you make your samhain observances?