/10 Facts About Samhain

10 Facts About Samhain

Samhain (pronounced Sow-win) is a Celtic pagan religious festival that originated around 5,000 years ago. It was celebrated from October 31 to November 1 in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. It’s purpose was to welcome the harvest and bring in the dark half of the year. It was believed that the barrier between the physical and spiritual worlds was at its thinnest during this time.

  1. After the harvest was complete, townspeople and Druid priests would come together and light a community fire. Eventually, this changed and individual fires were lit close to homes so as to avoid being kidnapped by fairies.
  2. Cattle were sacrificed in order to please the fairies and ensure a good year.
  3. Household hearths were extinguished and townspeople took a flame from the bonfire back home to relight them.
  4. The celebration lasted 3 days and 3 nights and was mandatory. Anyone not showing up so that the king or chieftain could see them was punished by the gods.
  5. Offerings were prepared and left outside the town for the sidh (pronounced shee), or fairies, so that they would not cause harm.
  6. People would dress like animals and monsters so that the fairies would not kidnap them.
  7. Carved turnips, called Jack-o-lanterns were attached to strings by sticks and embedded with coal.
  8. The tradition of dumb supper was practiced. A feast was prepared and deceased ancestors were invited to partake. Families would interact with the spirits until supper was finished, filling their deceased relatives in on the events of the past year. The spirits then left.
  9. During the night, doors and windows were left open so that the dead could come in and partake of cakes that were made for them and left out.
  10. Samhain marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of a new one.