Traditions of Samhain

Merry Meet All,

Samhain was known as “summer’s end” It was the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of winter and a time of reflection. The season began in darkness and worked towards the lighter season. The year began in winter and the days began at sundown. The night from October 31st to November 1st was known as samhain, or oiche shamhna or “evening of samhain”.

The Celts held four quarters days in their calender: Imbolg (February 1, start of spring), Beltaine on May 1st (start of summer), Lughnasadh ( August 1st, beginning of the harvest), and Samhain (October 31st).

They prepared in earnest for the cold winter ahead. They herded their livestock in to the stables or sheds. They selected which livestock they would slaughter to have food for the winter. They harvested all of the berries, grains, and corn. They believed the pooka roamed free at Samhain and on November 1 the pooka would bewitch all the food and render it unedible. They had to be quick to harvest before the pooka came to ruin it. The pooka was a bewitching horse with glowing amber eyes and an ability to talk. He also kidnapped children. If treated with respect, the pooka could show you the future.

The word pooka comes from the word poc, an old Irish word meaning male goat. The pooka comes out at nightfall. The Irish feared the pooka. In remote areas of Ireland, the pooka became a vindictive ugly goblin who demanded his share of the harvest. The reapers would always leave a share for the pooka, or risk having their crops ruined, fences torn down, or livestock scatttered about.

One ritual involving fire was the “wicker men”. A cage was made from wickerwork in a resemblance to a human form. It was filled with living sacrificial offerings such as animals, prisoners of war. They were burned to death inside the ‘wicker man’. Most of the time, they spilled milk, honey and corn into the earth.

The world to the Fae or gentry, was open on Samhain eve. The banshee, fairies, opened the doors to the fairy palaces. The Irish people mingled and partied with the fairies but they had to oeby the rules. There were more chances of violating the rules than having a good time. This was a time when the dead could walk the earth.

Today many Wiccans and Pagans still celebrate Samhain. The traditions have lasted to this day. Bobbing for apples, carving pumpkins, and lighting bonfires. Samhain was the time of the Crone, the Queen of Winter. She was reborn every Samhain eve and protected the livestock. But the most popular tradition that people still follow is the tradition of the dumb supper- setting an empty plate at the table to honor the ancestors to avoid offending them and was a way to honor them.

Honor the traditions of the past this Samhain with your friends and family. Beware of the pooka! Next up, ghost lights and Samhain prayers, and rituals to honor your ancestors.

Blessings,
Lady Spiderwitch

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Traditions of Samhain

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