Seasonal Celebrations Home
Next Holiday: Samhain October 31, 2018
Samhain. All Hallows. All Hallow’s Eve. Hallow E’en.
Halloween. The most magical night of the year. Exactly opposite Beltane on the
wheel of the year, Halloween is Beltane’s dark twin. A night of glowing
jack-o’-lanterns, bobbing for apples, tricks or treats, and dressing in
costume. A night of ghost stories and séances, tarot card readings and scrying
with mirrors. A night of power, when the veil that separates our world from the
Otherworld is at its thinnest. A “spirit night”, as they say in Wales.
All Hallow’s Eve is the eve of All Hallow’s Day (November
1). And for once, even popular tradition remembers that the eve is more
important than the day itself, the traditional celebration focusing on October
31, beginning at sundown. And this seems only fitting for the great Celtic New
Year’s festival. Not that the holiday was Celtic only. In fact, it is startling
how many ancient and unconnected cultures (the Egyptians and pre-Spanish
Mexicans, for example) celebrated this as a festival of the dead. But the
majority of our modern traditions can be traced to the British
The Celts called it Samhain, which means “summer’s end”,
according to their ancient twofold division of the year, when summer ran from
Beltane to Samhain and winter ran from Samhain to Beltane. (Some modern covens
echo this structure by letting the high priest “rule” the coven beginning on
Samhain, with rulership returned to the high priestess at Beltane.) According
to the later fourfold division of the year, Samhain is seen as “autumn’s end”
and the beginning of winter. Samhain is pronounced (depending on where you’re
from) as “sow-in” (in Ireland),
or “sow-een” (in Wales), or
“sav-en” (in Scotland), or
(inevitably) “sam-hane” (in the U.S.,
where we don’t speak Gaelic).
For the rest of Mike Nichols' article on Samhain click here.
Next Holiday Southern Hemisphere: Beltane
October 31, 2018
For an article on Beltane by Mike Nichols click here.
2018 Wiccan/Pagan Calendar