Witches, Googlies and Ghosties Or Ancient Sacred Customs

When one thinks of Halloween, we tend to think of tricks, treats and scary monsters; when maybe should take a look at the history behind this festival.

It is suggested that we consider Christian worship and practises dating back to pagan times and pagan festivals, when it is thought the origin dated back to the Celts who lived 2,000 years ago in Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, and who celebrated the pagan festival of Samhain, meaning 'Summer's End' which was celebrated at the end of the harvest season. France, celebrated their new year on November 1st.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest, and was the beginning of the dark, cold winter; a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31st they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

It is interesting how this festival is viewed in other time periods and different countries - again going back to ancient times the ‘Gaels believed that it was a time when the walls between our world and the next became thin and porous, allowing spirits to pass through, come back to life on the day and damage their crops. Places were set at the dinner table to appease and welcome the spirits. Gaels would also offer food and drink, and light bonfires to ward off the evil spirits.

However, the Christian origin of the holiday is because it falls on the days before the feast of All Hallows, which was set in the eighth century to attempt to stamp out pagan celebrations. Christians would honour saints and pray for souls who have not yet reached heaven.

Warding off evil spirits has always been part of a universal tradition and the Celts dressed up in white with blackened faces during the festival of Samhain in order to trick the evil spirits which they believed would be roaming the earth before All Saints' Day on November 1st.

Moving into the 11th century - clad as angels, demons or saints - children would go from door to door asking for cakes in exchange for praying for the souls of departed people in order that they should be released from purgatory. The cakes were marked with a cross on the top. This would appear to be the origin of the Trick and Treat custom that we see today.

We tend to think of pumpkins as being a modern introduction but in fact the carving of pumpkins originates again from the Samhain festival, when Gaels would decorate the pumpkins in order to protect their houses from invading and unwelcome faeries or spirits.

The origin of bonfires dates back to the time of the Druids who dressed in costumes such as animal heads and skins and who built enormous fires to honour the event. Crops were burnt and animals were sacrificed to appease the deities.

When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

Apart from America and Europe, more distant countries such as Czechoslovakia, Austria, Japan, and Manilla (Philippines) all have their traditional customs of celebrating this ancient event.

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Also, please do take a look at the other exciting goods on my web site which could help you solve your Christmas present worries for all members of the family, such as the famous wooden Wentworth wooden jigsaw puzzles, the magic cubes (always a favourite) and other super goods. I have also just introduced a new item, a wonderful ET Mouse Mat.

With my love and blessings