Cold and darkness, falling leaves, and pumpkin patches bursting with October orange can only mean one thing. Fall has enveloped the earth and her people into the distinct season of all things that change. Fall ushers in school days, the scent of crushed earth and spice, and plenty of blanket fluffing. For our Pagan friends the Celts, fall had one more critical distinction. Fall was the season of death. For the Celts, fall meant the spirits were coming and along with that knowledge was a sense of urgency if homes and families were to be properly protected on the most vulnerable night of the year, All Hallow’s Eve.
Reliant on the patterns of nature to make sense of their world, the Celts kept things simple. Instead of acknowledging four distinct seasons, they recognized just two, summer and winter. Believing October 31st marked the transition from light to dark and warm to cold, they also recognized a distinct shift of the line thought to separate the living from the dead. On this night, that line was said to be nearly transparent. Enter in the star of the show, Samhain or Lord of the Death, and a creepy Celtic festival commencing in his name.
In preparation of the Samhain Festival, lands were harvested, unlucky livestock gathered for sacrificial slaughter and ceremonial fires lit. Most importantly, because the uninvited souls of the dead were sure to return seeking revenge on the living, the Celts went to great lengths to design and don costumes to keep themselves safe. Typically made from the hides and heads of animals, the Celts cleverly disguised themselves for the overnight hell on earth until the dawn of the next day ushered in peace once again.
Christianity imposed it’s own changes to the day in which Samhain brought his night of terror to earth by declaring November 2nd All Souls’ Day, or the proper day to honor the dead. Some school’s of thought claim “the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related church-sanctioned holiday.” Whatever beliefs you hold true, may Halloween be filled with more treats than tricks and may November 1st usher in the same sense of peace that it did for our Celtic friends so many thousands of years ago.