Happy Halloween and a Little History Lesson on Samhain/Celtic/Christian Influences
Happy Halloween my darlings. Tonight I expect to be somewhere on Santa Monica Blvd at the good end of a stiff drink, partying with 1/2 a million of my closest personal friends!
Let’s get serious though. Do you know the origin of Halloween? Turns out everyone is right. Christians and Pagans alike have influenced Samhain/Halloween.
Here’s a little history on the roots of All Hallows Eve thanks to Wikipedia.org.
Though the origin of the word Halloween is Christian, the holiday is commonly thought to have pagan roots. Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival ofSamhain“, which comes from the Old Irish for “summer’s end”. Samhain (pronounced sah-win or sow-in) was the first and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic (Irish,Scottish and Manx) calendar. It was held on or about October 31 – November 1 and kindred festivals were held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands
Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a time when the ‘door’ to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings such as fairies, to come into our world. The souls of the dead were said to revisit their homes on Samhain. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. Lewis Spence described it as a “feast of the dead” and “festival of the fairies”. However, harmful spirits and fairies were also thought to be active at Samhain. People took steps to allay or ward-off these harmful spirits/fairies, which is thought to have influenced today’s Halloween customs. Before the 20th century, wearing costumes at Samhain was done in parts of Ireland, Mann, the Scottish Highlands and islands, and Wales. Wearing costumes may have originated as a means of disguising oneself from these harmful spirits/fairies, although some suggest that the custom comes from a Christian or Christianized belief (see below)
See Samhain is an important part of Celtic History and was largely influenced by those crazy Pagans. But wait the Christians had a part in this as well
Halloween is also thought to have been influenced by the Christian holy days of All Saints’ Day (also known as All Hallows, Hallowmas or Hallowtide) on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2. They are a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed who had yet to reach Heaven. All Saints was introduced in the year 609, but was originally celebrated on May 13. In 835, it was switched to November 1 (the same date as Samhain) at the behest of Pope Gregory IV. Some have suggested this was due to Celtic influence, while others suggest it was a Germanic idea.
By the end of the 12th century they had become holy days of obligation across Europe and involved such traditions as ringing bells for the souls in purgatory. “Souling”, the custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for “all crysten christened souls”, has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating. Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door on All Saints/All Souls collecting soul cakes, originally as a means of praying for souls in purgatory. Similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering or whining] like a beggar at Hallowmas.” The custom of wearing costumes has been linked to All Saints/All Souls by Prince Sorie Conteh, who wrote: “It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, and All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognised by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities”. In Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, Nicholas Rogers explained Halloween jack-o’-lanterns as originally being representations of souls in purgatory.
There ya go my little Devils and Angels. Turns out everyone was right. Christians, Pagans and everything in between. Next time you start getting in a religious/historical debate over this Holiday, remember it’ a catch 22 and GO HAVE FUN instead.
So….Happy Halloween! I expect you guys to be safe, have fun and go over indulge in candy, costumes and F-U-N!!