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A Brief History of Hallowe'en
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Author: Christina Aubin [a WitchVox Sponsor]
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The Celtic peoples called the time between Samhain (pronounced "SOW-in" in Ireland, SOW-een in Wales, "SAV-en" in Scotland or even "SAM-haine" in non Gaelic speaking countries) and Brigid's Day "the period of little sun." Thus, Samhain is often named the "Last Harvest" or "Summer's End".
While almost all Celtic based traditions recognize this Holiday as the end of the "old" year, some groups do not celebrate the coming of the "new year" until Yule. Some consider the time between Samhain and Yule as a time which does not even exist on the Earthly plane. The "time which is no time" was considered in the "old days" to be both very magickal and very dangerous. So even today, we celebrate this Holiday with a mixture of joyous celebration and 'spine tingling" reverence.
The Samhain Holiday begins at sundown on October 31st. The nightide was always a time to be wary of walking alone in the countryside. So much more on this Night when the veils between the worlds of humans and spirits was at its thinnest. Traditional lore speaks of the dead returning to visit their kin and the doors to the Lands of the Sidhe (pronounced "shee") or Faery Realm being opened.
"The Feast of the Dead" ("Fleadh nan Mairbh") is laid out by many to welcome these otherworldly visitors and gain their favor for the coming year. Many folks leave milk and cakes ("Bannock Samhain" ) outside their door on Samhain Eve or set a place at their table for their ancestors who may want to join in the celebrations with their kin and family.
Some Witches use a chant at the beginning of the Feast to welcome their ancestors.
One of these, for example goes like this:
And so it is, we gather again,
The feast of our dead to begin.
Our Ancients, our Ancestors we invite, Come!
And follow the setting of the sun.
Whom do we call? We call them by name
(Name your ancestor that you wish want to welcome.)
The Ancients have come! Here with us stand
Where ever the country, where ever the land
They leave us not, to travel alone;
Flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone!
Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Great be their Power!
Past ones and present-at this very hour!
Welcome within are the dead who are kin,
Feast here with us and rest here within
Our hearth is your hearth and welcome to thee;
Old tales to tell and new visions to see!
It is also customary to light a new candle for the "new year". This ritual harkens back to the days when Samhain was one of only two days- the other being Beltaine-when it was considered correct to extinguish the "hearth fire" and then to re-light it. If your fire failed at any other time of the year, it was thought to be very bad luck indeed.
Upon the rekindling of the fire in the morning, this blessing was often said:
We Call Upon The Sacred Three:
To Save... To Shield... To Surround
The Hearth... The House... The Household
This Night, Each Night, Every Night.!
Many Witches of the Old Ways, actually celebrate "two" Samhains or Halloweens (Yes, some older traditions DO use the term "halloween"!) . The "Old" date for Samhain occurs when the sun has reached 15 degrees Scorpio. (As a side note, the Catholic Church has "borrowed" this same day to celebrate the holiday of "Martinmas".) So if you follow this Way, you can always celebrate the "party aspect" with your friends on one date and the "worship" part with your kin on the other.
If you are interested in learning more about Samhain traditions and customs, you can read Peg Aloi's article entitled "You Call It Hallowe'en... We Call It Samhain"
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