Reading My Way Around the World

Friday 31 October 2014


Samhain, or  the Celtic New Year - the time when the veil between the worlds is thinnest and when the ancestors can be honoured - is the precursor of both Hallowe'en and the Christian All Saints and All Souls Day.  

It is one of the main Celtic Festivals.

(This image is from A Stitch and Thyme Website)

Here are some facts collated from various sources about Samhain.

My friend Dolores Whelan is an expert on Celtic Spirituality.   At 2 minutes 30 in this clip, she talks about the Celtic Year - Her Celtic Calendar is absolutely beautiful.

This article in the Huffington Post has lots of bits of information about the festival. 

At Newgrange, all the cycles of the Celtic Year are researched in depth. 

The entrance stone to Newgrange
Image taken from Newgrange Website
An excerpt from

As millions of children and adults 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) festival. In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). 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 harmful 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 emigrated to America in great numbers during the 19th century especially around the time of famine in Ireland during the 1840's. The Irish carried their Halloween traditions to America, where today it is one of the major holidays of the year. Through time other traditions have blended into Halloween, for example the American harvest time tradition of carving pumpkins.

The Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) atop the Hill of Tara, County Meath
And on the Hill of Tara , this year's celebrations ask that people bring some things to let go of as well as a photo of an ancestor who has passed over.

And some more information from their archive

The Hill of Tara was the seat of the High Kings of Ireland - it lies almost in the middle of the country.  In what was a scandal of our modern times, the Irish government allowed a 
motorway be built through the main part of the hill.

Whatever your traditions for Hallowe'en, be safe and warm:)

Happy Hallowe'en everyone :)  Blessings of the season to you.

This blog is Day 20 in Sarah Allen's 30 day blog challenge


  1. I thought it was pronounced sow-wen. Always have trouble with these Celtic words which many authors scatter liberally in their books. Love all the ancient stories of Ireland though even if I can't pronounce the words LOL

    1. Yes that is how we pronounce it Jo - sow( as in female pig) wen


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