Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Halloween & Samhain - The Celtic roots of modern Halloween custom

Halloween and Samhain are often thought of as the same festival, which is an easy assumption to make considering they are held at the same time of year, and both are celebrations of the dead. 

Halloween is a festival concerned with warding off evil spirits and remembering the dead, and Halloween traditions are believed to have originated from the earlier, Celtic fire festival of Samhain. 
Samhain marks the end of the harvest and the end of summer; a time when everything is dying and we're about to enter the colder, darker part of the year, when the veil between this world and the next is thinnest. 

Many of the old rituals, like leaving sweets on the doorstep to appease mischievous ghosts and spirits, have become modern customs. 

Bobbing for apples has its roots in scrying and divination. The Celts saw the apple as a representation of the Goddess, and over time it became an object that could determine marriages. A bobbed apple placed under the pillow of a girl would elicit dreams of her future husband. 

Dressing up, or 'guising', at Halloween comes from the notion that disguising yourself will prevent harm from wandering spirits. Mischievous spirits could play tricks on the living, so it was advantageous to 'hide' from them by wearing a costume. Guising at Halloween in Scotland is recorded in the 16th Century, and later recorded in other parts of Britain and Ireland. It was first recorded in North America in 1911. 

Since the Middle Ages 'mumming' on certain holidays has existed throughout the British Isles. Mumming involves going door-to-door in costume, performing short plays in exchange for food or drink. At Samhain people may have impersonated spirits and received offerings on their behalf, with the belief that impersonating these spirits would protect them from them.

The Church also contributed to Halloween celebrations with an activity called 'souling'. A person would go from house to house asking for cakes ('soul cakes') in return for praying for the souls of those resident in the house, which was popular during the later Middle Ages. 
In my house we celebrate Samhain, but we do provide sweets for the children that are Trick-or-Treating.

There are many references to guising, mumming and souling at Halloween throughout Britain and Ireland in the 18th and 19th century, although the belief is that it is extremely unlikely that the modern custom is directly related to these old customs. 

Do you observe Halloween, Samhain, or both? 

Halloween is catching on here in the UK. as a commercial festival, despite its roots originating here.


  1. My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different page and
    thought I should check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you.
    Look forward to going over your web page yet again.

  2. What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable
    know-how about unpredicted emotions.

  3. Thanks for some other informative blog. Where else may just I get that type
    of information written in such an ideal way? I've a mission that
    I'm simply now operating on, and I have been at the glance out for such info.

  4. Hey there I am so happy I found your blog, I really found you by mistake,
    while I was researching on Digg for something else, Anyways I am
    here now and would just like to say cheers for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don't have time to read it all at the moment but
    I have book-marked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so
    when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the
    great work.

  5. My brother suggested I would possibly like this
    web site. He was entirely right. This submit actually made my day.
    You cann't believe just how a lot time I had
    spent for this info! Thank you!

  6. Hi, I do think this is an excellent site. I stumbledupon it ;) I'm going to revisit yet again since I book marked
    it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide others.

  7. Exceptional post but I was wondering if you could
    write a litte more on this subject? I'd be very grateful if you
    could elaborate a little bit further. Thanks!

  8. Outstanding post however , I was wanting to know if
    you could write a litte more on this topic? I'd be very grateful
    if you could elaborate a little bit further. Thank you!

  9. Hi, of course this piece of writing is genuinely fastidious and I have learned lot of things
    from it on the topic of blogging. thanks.

  10. I truly love your site.. Excellent colors & theme.
    Did you create this amazing site yourself? Please reply back
    as I'm attempting to create my own personal website and want to know where you got this from or just
    what the theme is called. Thank you!

  11. Hi there are using Wordpress for your blog platform? I'm new to the blog world but I'm trying to
    get started and create my own. Do you need any coding expertise to make your own blog?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  12. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on see here now.

  13. I am really loving the theme/design of your blog. Do
    you ever run into any web browser compatibility problems?
    A couple of my blog visitors have complained about my website not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome.
    Do you have any recommendations to help fix this problem?

  14. Heya! I'm at work surfing around your blog from
    my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Carry on the excellent work!

  15. I'd like to thank you for the efforts you've put in penning this blog.
    I'm hoping to see the same high-grade content by you later on as well.
    In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to
    get my own website now ;)

  16. Hi! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be okay.
    I'm definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

  17. You're so cool! I don't think I have read through a single thing like this before.
    So nice to find somebody with a few original thoughts on this subject.
    Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is required on the web, someone with a bit of originality!

  18. I'd like to thank you for the efforts you have put in penning
    this site. I am hoping to view the same high-grade content from you in the future as well.
    In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own site now

  19. It's not my first time to go to see this website,
    i am browsing this website dailly and obtain nice data from here all the time.

  20. Greetings! Very useful advice within this post!
    It is the little changes that make the greatest changes.

    Thanks for sharing!

  21. I always spent my half an hour to read this website's articles
    all the time along with a mug of coffee.


Thanks so much for leaving comments!