Samhain: History of Halloween
What is the history behind the holiday of Halloween? "The observances connected with Halloween are believed to
have originated among the ancient Druids, who believed that on
the evening, Saman, the lord of the dead, called forth hosts of
evil spirits" (Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, 1979, Vol.
12, p. 152).
In the periodical Natural History, a brief overview of
Samhain is provided. "The holiday had its beginning in a pre-Christian festival
of the dead celebrated by the Celtic people of England, Ireland
and Scotland. . .The festival observed at this time, called Samhain (pronounced SAH-WEEN), was the biggest and most significant holiday of
the Celtic year. At this crease in time might not the
spirits of generations departed find it appropriate to mingle
with the living?. . .the Celts practiced an elaborate religion through their
priestly caste, the Druids" (October, 1983, pp. 43-44).
Samhain was the time when the physical and spiritual realms
were, according to the Druid priests, very closely linked. Anne Ross speaks of Samhain as a time when "malevolent
beings used to come forth from the cave (of Cruachan) and
devastate the land" (Pagan Celtic Britain, p. 122).
The feast of Samhain, which took place on November 1, is described
by MacCane as order suspended. "During this interval the normal order of the universe is
suspended, the barriers between the natural and the supernatural
are temporarily removed, the sidh lies open and all
divine beings and the spirits of the dead move freely among men
and interfere sometimes violently, in their affairs" (Celtic
Mythology, p. 127).
Ward Rutherford explains that "the Celtic festival of
the dead, Samain (was) an occasion marked by burning human
offerings" (The Druids and their Heritage, p. 24). In Richard Cavendish's book The Black Arts, he states, "In
the eighth century All Saints' Day was moved to November 1 or
Samhain from its original date, May 13, which in Roman times had
been a day dedicated to the Lemures, malevolent gods which
drank human blood" (p. 334). It would seem, not simply from the sources cited above, but also
from a variety of other sources that Samhain has been immersed in
the blood of human sacrifice.
In a section entitled Human Sacrifice, Lewis Spencer
writes, "We are informed by Keating that the Irish Druids on
the eve of Samhain burned their victims in the holy
fire" (The History and Origins of Druidism, p. 105). Spencer further suggests, "human sacrifice was a
frequent and common element in their religious procedure. No
sacrifice might be carried out except in the presence of a
Druid" (Ibid, p. 104).
The festival of Samhain, while being an ancient practice, is not confined to the centuries of the past. In a book published in 1986 is stated, "Another organization
with a history of indoor gathering is the church and School of
Wicca. Since the late 1970's, they have held an annual Samhain
Seminar, with worship, rituals and guest speakers. "Approximately 40,000 students have taken some part in their
course of study" (Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler, p.
It is important to know the historic background of holidays.
While almost every major holiday has been tainted with some form
of paganism, none are so deeply immersed in the occult as is