A Brief History of Samhain: When (and Where) Did Halloween’s Celtic Predecessor Get Its Start?

Irish Myths

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As I explored in my previous article, “What Is Samhain?”, the October 31st/November 1st festival was ancient Ireland’s pagan New Year celebration.

Samhain (“summer’s end”) marked the conclusion of one pastoral year and the commencement of the next. As an ancient Celt, you would have been keenly aware that the days were noticeably shorter during the Samhain season, as if the sun itself were in retreat.

The world was darker.

The harvest, over.

Samhain was a liminal time. A time when worries spread and imaginations ran wild.

So the ancient Celts did what any sensible people would do in the face of encroaching darkness:

They shined a light.

To quote Scottish scholar and folklore researcher J.A. MacCulloch:

As the powers of growth were in danger and in eclipse in…

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