Hannes Steinert 2003
Origins: Roots of Hallowe’en are Found in Ancient Observations ~
As millions participate in the fun of Halloween on the night of October 31st, few will be aware of its ancient Celtic roots in the Samhain/Samain/Samhuinn festival. In Celtic lands about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter) marking the new year. At Samhain the division between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.
The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as ominous spirits and thus avoid harm. Bonfires and food played a large part in the festivities. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into a communal fire, household fires were extinguished and started again from the bonfire. Food was prepared for the living and the dead, food for the ancestors who were in no position it eat it, was ritually shared with the less well off.
Christianity incorporated the honouring of the dead into the Christian calendar with All Saints (All Hallows) on November 1st, followed by All Souls on November 2nd. The wearing of costumes and masks to ward off harmful spirits survived as Halloween customs. The Irish and Scottish emigrated to America in great numbers during the 19th century especially around the time of famine in Ireland during the 1840’s. They carried their Hallowe’en traditions to America, where today it is one of the major holidays of the year. Through time other traditions have blended into Halloween.
Two hills in the Boyne Valley were associated with Samhain in Celtic Ireland, Tlachtga and Tara. Tlachtga was the location of the Great Fire Festival which begun on the eve of Samhain. Tara was also associated with Samhain, however it was secondary to Tlachtga in this respect.
The entrance passage to the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara is aligned with the rising sun around Samhain. The Mound of the Hostages is 4,500 to 5000 years old, suggesting that the observation which came to be known as Samhain which evoled into Hallowe’en was celebrated long before the first Celts arrived about 2,500 years ago…
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