A Celtic Halloween.

My chest began to tighten, as my short legs pounded the rough unlit country road as fast as they could. My long ponytail swung in the breeze and my black clothes blended into the darkness of this Halloween night. The castle silhouette could be seen just up ahead, its jagged stone glistening in the moonlight. I needed to keep running make it to the castle to hide in one of its dark corners. I looked behind my right shoulder all I could see were big black boots they were gaining speed. 

I needed to dig deep and run for my life. Fueled only by fear I pushed my mind and body through the pain. I had to escape. I looked behind again, his arm was out- stretched he was about to grab my black hood. What was he going to do if he caught me?

He was about to sit down with his wife to watch the Halloween movie special. The kids were finally in bed asleep. The popcorn was popping and the wine was being poured. Then for the third time that night there was a knock on the door. He thought about ignoring it this time but it might be the neighbour Sean returning his drill in time for work tomorrow. He opened the door, there was no one there but he could see a small figure running up the short gravel driveway. He did’nt think twice, he decided to teach these kids a lesson and give them a taste of their own Halloween medicine. He almost had this short skinny kid. He could hear her struggling for breath as they ran in the dark night. He reached out to grab her hood. Then he thought better of it and decided their lesson had now been learnt. He had no doubt that they would not be knocking on his door again.

Halloween to me means fun. Apple bobbing, barnbrack fruit bread with a ring or coin hidden inside foretelling a future of happiness or an imminent marriage to the lucky finder. Trick or treating came later when we were old enough but as small kids it was more about games and dress ups, monkey nuts, apples and oranges. 

Since then it certainly has become a commercial festival and this annoys me. The true origins of Halloween have become lost amongst the candy and the plastic pumpkins. 

So I thought perhaps a little history lesson might help us reconnect to the significance of October the 31st. 

Samhain (sowaan) is an ancient Irish/Celtic Festival marking the boundary between the light of the summer and the dark of the winter at Samhain the veil between this world and the otherworld is thin allowing spirits to pass through. 

People dressed up to disguise themselves as spirits to ward off bad spirits while allowing the spirits of ancestors into their homes. Fires in the homes were extinguished and lit again using embers from a communal fire or bonfire for good fortune. The embers were thought to have been carried back to the home in a carved out turnip. Food was shared around amongst the whole community in this celebration of a new Celtic year.

All Saints day or All Hollows Day on the 1t of November to honour the day of the dead was then incorporated into the Christian calendar. This christian celebration is thought to have kept many of the pagan traditions such as wearing costumes  to ward off harmful spirits. 

Then came the move to America when thousands of Irish emigrated to escape the devastating famine in the 1840’s. Here Halloween evolved into a major holiday. The American harvest traditions such as carving pumpkins were blended with the Irish traditions
In Ireland when I was a kid it was not just “trick or treat” . Some kids would sing a song or tell a joke or a poem in exchange for some goodies for their Halloween stash. However Traditionally the poor would knock upon the doors of the more well off to beg for food, kindling or money. 

So love it or hate it. Halloween can be fun if you take the bits you want from it. I have many a fond memory of having wet hair from bobbing for apples or wondering if I am going to be the lucky one and find the ring or coin in the barnbrack. It is true that it has become a celebration associated with America. However Halloween also has ancient and spiritual roots. 

Wishing you a Blessed Samhain!

Blogging with EssentiallyJess

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