Thursday, 27 October 2011


Samhuinn  last from sunset on the 31st of October until sunrise on the second of of November. It is the start of the winter season.  In the Christian Calender the night of the 31st is called Allhallows the eve of All Saints Day a celebration for all those saints who do not have their own name day.  Followed by All Souls a day to celebrate the lives of all Christian dead.   These days were collectively know as Hallowmas.   Pope Bonifave 1v's  aim was to make these day holy and move away from the superstitions and  pagan belief that the margins of the otherworld parted to enable the dead, spirits and evil monsters to walked on earth on Halloween.  The Catholic Church in the 8th century was attempting to accommodating and sanctify the beliefs of the pagan converts to Christianity  .

The Celts believed that on the eve of Samhuinn  the boundaries between the living and the dead  dissolved and that the world of the past present and future merged together.  It was time when Celtic Druids would be helped by the spirits to make predictions about the future.  For those who died in past year it was a time for their families and community to celebrate their memory and also  to honour  all their ancestors.  

At Samhuinn wood was collected from every house in the community and a huge bonfire was lit to celebrate the lives of the dead and at the same time  to welcome those  who were born that year into the community.   The light of the fire  also would drive away any malicious spirits or sprites.  The fires in the houses would be extinguished at sunset on Halloween's Eve until the just before sunrise when every household would carry embers from the communal bonfire home to light a new cooking fire which would burn all winter.  This would make the home happy and free from any lost spirits.  The embers where brought home in lanterns made out of turnips sometimes called Jack 'O' Lanterns, perhaps after the lights that flickered over the peat bogs which were known by this name.

Early 20th century Jack 'O' Lantern
Some communities in Ireland would put a carved turnip lantern outside there house to scare of evil spirits.  A candle was placed inside and would be kept burning from sunset  until sunrise on Halloween   One of the visitors that they may have been wanting to ward off was stingy Jack a figure from an Irish folktale.  Jack trapped the devil twice on the second time  Jack only released the devil after he extract promises from him that the devil would never bother him again.  When he died he was refused entry into heaven because of his mean and evil ways, while the devil  still  smarting from Jack's s trickery would not let him into hell.  Stingy Jack had to roam the darkness of limbo. The devil threw at Jack a coal from hell and Jack put it into a turnip lantern to light his way.  At Halloween he wanders the world again looking for a home.

There are so many old customs around Samhuinn it would take pages to recount them all.  Samhuin, however is a time reflecting on mortality, the passing of relationships, and other life changes.  It is a time to remember to celebrate the lives of of recent dead and the older ancestors.  With the boundaries  of time suspend it is a time for divination,  I consult the I Ching, at  sunrise on the First of November.  If I look back at my journals to this date, I see that  over the years on Samhuinn I have reflected on life changes, meditated  and made plans for the future.   This year I will do the same.and I will a enjoy the candlelight, firelight, folk tales and customs of Sumhuinn.  It is also  a good time to order seeds for the spring to come, and look forward to the the return of the light.

With Reiki blessings and light
Happy Samhuinn
Merry B