Happy Samhainn

My friend Karla drove down to Omaha yesterday afternoon so she could be on time for the holiday celebration.  I had assumed that she planned to take in a Hallowe’en party.  She quickly corrected me by stressing it was a Samhainn Eve ceremony in preparation for Samhainn the next day.

Karla explained that the event is tied in with her belief system.  I’ve known that she is Wiccan.  I also have a general knowledge of the religion.  I rely upon Karla to tell me the particular aspects that she practices.

Karla says the traditional Celtic holiday celebrates the halfway mark between Autumnal Equinox and Winter Solstice. She says Wiccans celebrate Samhainn as the most important of the four greater Sabbats.  The main ceremony begins each October 31st at dusk.

The Gaelic peoples of the British Isles performed most of their necessary pre-winter preparations. The harvesting of grains was completed, cattle, sheep, and hogs were slaughtered for winter meals and lodgings were strengthened against winter weather. The name, Samhainn, means summer’s end.

In olden times, the communities lit large fires and held religious rituals involving the flames.  Villagers and farmers walked between two of the fires in the cleansing ritual.  The bones from the killed livestock were tossed into the blazes.  The modern term “bonfire” comes from the older word, “bonefire”.

Karla tells me that Wiccans and neopagans still celebrate Samhainn in the traditional manner.  She told me that Samhainn, in conjunction with the coming of All Saints’ Day evolved into the modern holiday time of Hallowe’en.  The name of the familiar holiday derives from “All Hallows’ Eve”.

Samhainn is thought to be the time when the gates to the netherworld are opened, allowing spirits to enter our world of the living.  My friend and her fellow Wiccans will hold a traditional feast with places set at the banquet table for the spirits of the ancestors to sit.  To protect themselves from any evil influences of the ancestors’ souls, the celebrants will dress in costumes. This custom is a holdover from the tradition called guising or children going door to door for food.  Karla says this is also where the practice of Hallowe’en dressing-up came from.

Because Samhain is a pre-winter holiday, Wiccans and neopagans south of the equator celebrate their Samhainn on April 31st through May 1st.  Besides the Celtic peoples’ practice of Samhainn, other areas of Britain and parts of mainland Europe had their own versions of the holiday.

By the sixth century, the Roman Catholic church transformed the day into All Hallows Day or All Saints Day. The King of Aquitaine, Louis The Pious and Pope Gregory IV officially decreed the holiday to fall on November 1st each year.

If you celebrate All Hallows Day, or Samhainn, or other fall celebration, it’s interesting to know that the traditional roots can be found many centuries ago.


The Blue Jay of Happiness sends happy Samhainn wishes to all of our Wiccan and neopagan readers.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Friendship, History, Meanderings and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Happy Samhainn

  1. There is actually another similar celebration. In the Netherlands, “Sint Maarten” is celebrated mostly by kids, who participate in paper lantern processions and collect sweets but on the 11th of November. This is the catholic St Martin’s Day, but is has been suggested that its roots can be found in pre-Christian rituals like the ones you describe. Interesting stuff 🙂

    • swabby429 says:

      That’s why I love to investigate holidays. I can learn so much about various cultures. Thank you for reminding me of Sint Maarten, very interesting!

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