Brother of Awen
Retired Global Moderator
Halloween, Samhain (Gaelic), Samhuinn (Scottish Gaelic, pronounced "sow" [as in cow] "in" [as in Inn]) is argued to be the oldest Druidic ceremony in the yearly cycle, originally translated into our order from the Gauls in Brittany, France. Equally, it remains a pivotal period in the yearly cycle of most nature religions and has even spilled over into Christianity and secular traditions.
It spans the period between 31st October and 2nd November where we believe that the Veil of Time is temporarily lifted for all. Unlike Wiccan's we don't commune with the dead so to speak but we have access to the Otherworld and are able to commune with those who exist in the "wider life": ie any Soul spirit that isn't presently confined within physical form. It is therefore our most coveted, inspirational and pro-active ceremony of the year as the veil (that we seek to see though during other periods in the year) has already been lifted for us, permitting a greater penetration into the wider frequencies.
During Samhuinn we light many fires in order to illuminate the darkness and invite those from other realms into our practices. This has given birth to many such practices across the world such as the Feast of Tara in Ireland and Guy Fawkes Night in England/Wales/Scotland where folklore has become distorted in order to commemorate the old traditions, more often than not unbeknown to those who celebrate them. It is also a time where our individual identities can be temporarily changed. For example, in Scotland masks were worn to soften the boundary between the living and those from the Otherworld. Girls dressed as boys and vice versa and it was believed during this phase that Chaos reigned in the darkness until Samhuinn had passed and the yearly cycle began again. The current Edinburgh Samhuinn Fire Festival honours this tradition beautifully to this day. Our current "Halloween" practices are the subjugated remnants of that which went before.
Samhuinn is considered to be our New Year as although we measure the year similarly to those who have adopted a Pagan calendar, we consider Night to be the precursor to Day not the void we are left with "at the end of the day". In this sense when Spring springs into life (birth) at Imbolc in February we have already experienced our "Night" which commences at Samhuinn. Julius Caesar said of the Celts and their Druid Holy Men and Woman; "they called themselves sons of the god of night and defined the division of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights; their birthdays and the beginnings of months and years they observe in such order that day follows night".
At this juncture in the year it was believed in England that Herne The Hunter (aka: Robin Hood's guide, The Green Man, King Arthur) would ride across the skies on a White Mare. In Wales he was represented as Gwynn ap Nudd (the King of the Faeries). In Scotland, ghostly riders who rode on the back of hawks. Either way, the purpose of this throng from the Otherworld was to sweep over the land and seek out the newly departed and take them to the Otherworld. Henceforth, the disguises and masks worn traditionally were meant to disguise the individual and protect them from a mistaken identity! (Trick?)
Sadly, it is not a huge stretch of the imagination to see that Herne the Hunter was gradually bastardised into the Horned God, which of course became Baphomet and eventually Satan/the Devil. And so the demonisation of our native Nature based Pantheon began...
However you are choosing to celebrate this special period of the yearly cycle, may blessings be bestowed upon you and all your kin.
"We die with the dying
See they depart and we go with them
We are born with the dead
See they return and bring us with them
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew tree
Are of Equal Duration."