The History of Halloween

Halloween’s roots lie in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated in Britain on a full moon around November 1st. On the night of Samhain, the Celts believed that the souls of the dead could cross over into the world of the living. As the old ways changed, the Catholic church named November 1st as All Saints Day or All Hallow Mass and the night of October 31st became All Hallows Eve.

All Hallows Eve was renamed Halloween in the 18th Century. In Ireland and Scotland hallow fires blazed on the hilltops and cairns in an attempt to ward off evil spirits and witches. Young people dressed up to personify the spirits of the dead and went in search of treats. Some carried hollowed out turnips with a candle inside representing a wandering spirit. These were called “jack’ o’ lanterns” after an Irish legend about Jack, a man doomed to wander the earth eternally.

All of our Halloween traditions can be traced to the ancient Celts, and it has become a celebration that is synonymous with dressing up and trick or treating. Ties to the otherworld may not be as obvious but the symbols remain. Bats, jack o'lanterns, black cats, witches and ghosts are part of Halloween tradition, but for Pagans, Halloween still connects to ancient rites.


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