Wednesday, 24 October 2012

More roots of Halloween in the Celtic festival of Samhain

As I said a couple of weeks ago, the roots of Halloween can be found in the Celtic (Samain) Samhain.

Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Early Irish manuscripts are peppered with the magical significance of Samhain.

This festival of the dead stands on the boundaries of time. (This was a time when the boundaries between a man's land and his neighbour's were a dangerous place to be at night.)

Because the practice of telling the future (or divination) was part of everyday life for the Celts. It is obvious that divination was a crucial aspect of the festivities of Samhain.

Vestiges of this can be seen today in Halloween traditions: Girls can look in a mirror on the night of October 31st, to see the image of the man they will marry (but run the risk of seeing the devil). If you're brave enough to go to a graveyard at midnight, then walk 3 times round it, they supposed to be offered a glimpse the future (but again run the risk of meeting the devil).

An early 20th century Hallowe'en greeting card
An early 20th century Hallowe'en
greeting card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(The threat of meeting the devil may originate from Christian traditions of associate pagan, or Celtic, god of the dead - Donn the Lord of the Dead - with the Christian Devil.)

Naturally, burial places were avoided on nearly all nights by the Celts, but specifically on Samhain, when ghost and the dead mingled freely with the living. They also believed that bridges and crossroads were likely places to find ghosts and the like.

Graveyard (Photo credit: ~ Phil Moore)
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