Samhain is one of the eight sabbats that is celebrated by Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches! This is the last of the sabbats within the year. It is primarily known as a celebration for our ancestors who have walked before us. We give thanks by lighting a white candle to guide them home and lay a place at the table so they are well fed for the journey in the summerland. Many people place food outside for their ancestors who pass by so they are fed as well. Also, as it is the new year we burn anything that no longer serves us and welcome in wishes for the year ahead. The use of a black candle and paper are often the tools used for this release.
This is the celebration of mother earth and the green man who joined together for the spring and summer months to bare fruits for our survival. Now, once again here in the northern hemisphere, they go into hibernation. The mother earth turns into the crone and the green man is encased in her womb for the winter months where the earth rests. This is also a time we should go internally to rest and rebuild ourselves for the next year.
So, I hear you ask if this is the meaning of Samhain how in the heck did it transform into Halloween as we know it today? Well there are many reasons from the spread of Christianity to consumerism in our modern world. Here I have selected 8 interesting facts about Samhain and the transformation into Halloween today!
The History of the carved pumpkins
As you know already Wiccan, Pagans, and Witches light a candle and put food out to guide and feed ancestors. Well the story of Jack O’Lanturn is that of an Irish tale. Although, they did not use pumpkins originally it was turnips. There was a grumpy old man who played tricks on everyone including the Devil. He once tricked the Devil up a tree and placed crosses all around the bottom. Of course, the Devil is unable to touch a cross. The Devil made a deal with Jack that he would not bring him into to hell if he set him free. Jack removed the crosses and the Devil left. However, at his passing Jack went to the gates of hell, the Devil kept his word and would not allow Jack in. Where was he supposed to go? The Devil threw Jack an ember which he carved out a turnip and was placed it in. Jack roamed between worlds for eternity looking for the way to heaven. So, the Irish used to carve out turnips and put a light in them on hallows eve to ward off any evil spirits. It was after the 1800’s when immigration of the Irish to the Americas they discovered that pumpkins were bigger, and I’m guessing far easier to carve, which is when pumpkins became part of Halloween.
The history of scary costumes
Samhain is when the veil is thinnest between our world and that of the dead. The Druids and the Celtics would have massive celebrations on this eve. This would be the time they slaughtered their animals for food for the winter months. They would build huge bonfires and dress up using often animal heads and skins. This celebration was always associated with death of the ancestors and also of animals. As Christianity spread they created ‘All Souls Day’ to aim to stop the celebration of Samhain except they dressed up as angels, saints, and the devil. As time progressed and consumerism came into play the scary ghouls and ghosts today had transformed into the biggest part of Halloween as we know it.
Why do we give out candy?
The traditional foods for Samhain were harvest foods such as apples, pomegranate, wine, breads, and meats. How do we go from harvest foods to candy I hear you ask? This was an adaptation from the American candy industry. Obviously, holidays such as Christmas and Easter were times candy was sought after however, the industry wanted more. They came up with the idea of Candy Day where you would give candy to celebrate your friendships it was later renamed Sweetest Day. Of course, the famous trick or treat had been around for a while and people started to hand out treats instead of getting eggs thrown at their house! These were often home made or simple things such as nuts and fruits. The candy industry found their way in and sold the idea to busy mothers to hand out candy instead of home baked treats. From about the 1970’s candy became synonymous with Halloween.
Where did trick or treat originate from?
This was mainly from the middle ages where on hallows eve the poor people of villages went around knocking on people’s doors for food or money. They would sing a song or say a prayer for the dead and it was known as souling. There was no trick at this point! There is not really evidence of trick or treat until the 1920’s which was primarily in America when the children started to enjoy Halloween just a little too much. You may see a theme that is running through the change of Samhain into Halloween here!
Halloween is now secular
The history and celebration of Samhain is a religious celebration as described throughout this article. It was the Americanization of Halloween as it is primarily known now that has taken the actual meaning out of the event. I’m not sure if you are aware the majority of Christian celebrations are at the times of the Pagan celebrations. These celebrations are known as Sabbats or the turning of the wheel where there are four major and four minor celebrations. As Christianity spread throughout Europe the Catholic Church had a hard time stopping the traditional celebrations so they created their own usually just before the Sabbats. Halloween became a time that was about children, fun, and candy so the true meaning was stripped away. Many people are still unaware to how this is linked to Samhain.
Marriage prospects ~ What????
Remember, Samhain is about releasing things from the past year and welcoming the wishes of the new year. Well as early as the 17th and 18th century Halloween became the night that young women seeking their marriage partner would aim to find out who their prospected partners were. There were a few ways in which ladies would aim to find their new suitor. In Ireland they put a ring in mash potato and the man who found it would be the one. In Scotland each man would give the ladies a hazelnut who would put them into a fire. It was believed the one that didn’t pop and burnt to ashes was the one. Potions were made in the belief that women would dream about their future husbands.
What about the Devil worshiping???
Its interesting to note that Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches do not believe the Devil. This is actually a Christian construct of heaven and hell. As a Wiccan I can describe that I believe in the God and the Goddess, the sun and the moon, the dark and the light, day and night and so forth. There is balance within our world and I live a life of as much balance as possible as in our system it is believed that what I put out I receive back threefold. When the Catholic church was spreading Christianity, they began creating fear among the people about the worship of the Devil. Obviously, we still see the remnants of this belief especially around the wise woman, tarot cards, magic, and witches. This belief has really stuck when studying films around Halloween and occult themes.
Highest commercialized holiday next to Christmas
Maybe one of the biggest points of this article is that the true meaning of Samhain has been taken over by commercialism. Samhain certainly wasn’t the first religious celebration nor will it be the last that has been crushed with consumerism. There seems to be a huge separation within our world. Those who like to buy things, spend money and put on a show and those who are connected spiritually to each other as well as our earth. For those of you reading this, enjoy Halloween with the new knowledge you hold however, this year give thanks to your ancestors who have passed before you, give thanks to mother earth and the green man for the fruits they bore, and of course don’t forget to release the things that no longer serve you!
What does the new year have in store for you?