Blessed Samhain - Halloween - All Souls

Bonfire at night

Samhain is a complex and ancient festival in Ireland. The word itself translates as 'summer's end' and it is the time when we turn to face the darkness.

In Irish tradition, it is a time when the dead are free to visit the land of the living.  It was also the time of the final harvest when food stores were full in preparation for the Winter ahead.  It represents the threshold from the Summer-half of the year to the Winter-half.  It is also associated with the Christian festival All Souls when those who have died are remembered. 

Samhain is the name of the entire month of November in Irish. It is also the month of Remembrance across the world of those lost to war. The month of November in our modern culture is also often a time of devotion. People dedicate the month to raising money for charity (Movember), to creativity (National Novel Writing Month), and personal well being (dry November).   

I have a lot of very beautiful personal associations with this time of year. I remember bobbing for apples as a child, eating barmbrack, and visiting our neighbours for bonfires. As an adult, I have made more memories attending ceremonies for Samhain.  While Halloween and 'ghost stories' are a valid and important part of this festival, this time of year is not 'just for kids' and it can be deeply nourishing time to slow down, connect with our ancestors, and remember - remember the summer that has been and those who have gone before us. 

Wishing you a blessed Samhain!

Oíche Shamhna faoi mhaise daoibh go léir!


Ideas to Celebrant the Season

  • Have a Halloween Party!
  • Leave an offering of food and drink outside as an offering to invisible presences of nature. 
  • Carve a jack-o-lantern out of a pumpkin or turnip
  • Hold a dinner, remembering all that happened over the summer. Reserve a place at the table for those who have died.
  • Visit the graves of friends and family who are no longer living.


Some Further Reading:

'Halloween' in the National Folklore Archive:  

The National Museum of Ireland: Ghost turnips, púcas, fortune-telling and abductions 

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