October 31, 2012 - Samhain

The door to the Otherworld is open tonight...and so the fairies and the dead can communicate with us...

Such is the mythological belief about this Celtic or Gaelic festival—and the aspect of the festival that influenced All Hallows' Day (also known as Day of the Dead) and All Hallows' Eve (Halloween).

The more practical side of Samhain is that it marks the beginning of winter in Gaelic Ireland. It celebrates the harvesting of crops, but it is even more a special day for herdsmen: It marks the leading of cattle back from their summer pastures and, often, the slaughtering of animals for winter.

 Some Celtic customs of Samhain included lighting bonfires on hilltops, eating a special Samhain feast—and setting a place at the table for the souls of dead relatives—and leaving offerings of food at the door for the fairies. Turnip lanterns were believed to offer protection from otherworldly beings, and they were left in windows or carried by travelers. Another kind of protection from the fairies was wearing masks or costumes, which were thought to confuse the fairies. This custom was called “guising.” Going from house to house begging for food or other gifts for the Samhain feast was another tradition in some parts of Ireland.
Can you see how these traditions led to modern Halloween customs?

Mr. Donn has gathered some websites about Samhain. 

By the way...

While I was reading about Samhain, I got mixed up reading about the Celts and the Gaels and the Druids. Were these different names for the same people? I looked up the three terms:

The Celts were an ancient people from Central Europe. They spread to Western Europe and especially settled in the British Isles.

Gaels were a particular group of ancient Celts who settled in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. The modern Gaelic language is one of the two official languages of Ireland (the other, of course, is English).

Druids were priests of the ancient Celtic religion.

Also on this date:


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