Before I get into this post I must inform you that I am well aware that we are currently only 7 months into the year! So why a post about Halloween? Well….WHY NOT!
I have always been fascinated with the ‘origins’ of ghostly tales and ‘spooky ‘myths and, living on the island of Ireland, I am no stranger to stories of things that go bump-in-the-night. Another thing that has always grabbed my interest is the similarities of these tales throughout the world.
So let’s take a look at Halloween. October 31st marks the day of the celebration and it originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). Its origins are rooted here in Ireland and many of the original traditions are still practiced today. One of the most popular features of the festival is the lighting of the ‘Bonfire’ but 2,000 years ago a very different scene would be witnessed. Take a look at the word ‘Bonfire’. In Gaelic it is called Tine Cnamh (pronounced Tinna Knawv) which translates to ‘Bone Fire’ and that is exactly what the fires consisted of. Although the bones were believed to be from dead animals it cannot be ruled out that human sacrifices took place.
Trick or Treating:
In the 9th century, the catholic church made the 1st of November All Saints Day. It is widely believed in Celtic tradition that, at this time, the souls of the dead roamed the earth and were appeased with gifts of food and drink. It is believed that people impersonated spirits by wearing costumes and received gifts on their behalf. The tradition of wearing costumes and impersonating the spirits is thought to protect the people as they ‘blended in’ with the souls of the dead.
Some Folk Legends:
The Black Cat: Everyone knows the superstition associated with the Black Cat but where did it come from?
The roots of this tradition comes from the middle ages where it was believed that, to avoid detection, witches turned themselves in black cats. It is also believed to be extremely bad luck to cross paths with one.
Matchmaking: There are some Halloween traditions that focused on the future instead of the past and on the living instead of the dead. One tradition was aimed at young women and would help them find love. If they found love on Halloween they would be married exactly one year later. In the 18th century this tradition took a bit of a twist and ‘matchmaking’ cooks would hide a ring in a cake. The finder of this ring would be promised good fortune and love. Today, Halloween cakes can be bought with these rings inside.