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The Origin Of Halloween, One Of The World’s Most Celebrated Holidays

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Depending on the type of popular cinema you consume, you’ll have a very different idea of ​​what Halloween is meant to be. While on the one hand, there are thousands who see Halloween as the perfect excuse to don a skinny nurse outfit or bunny ears and head to the nearest alcohol festival, but to others consider it sacred – a continuation of the ancient Gaelic festival, Samhain which marked the end of the harvest season and the start of the “darker half” of the year, namely winter.

An image from Mean Girls (2004)

Samhain was widely celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man and was considered that time of year when the veil separating living and otherworldly creatures like the Irish supernatural race called Aos Sí, the spirits of the dead and fairies was at its thinnest.

According to many historians, the Church postponed the date of All Saints ‘Day to November 1 (Samhain was traditionally celebrated between October 31 and November 1), and eventually All Saints’ Day and Samhain merged to become Halloween. It was totally in the image of the Church which had a penchant for appropriating dates and deities belonging to pagan religions.

Halloween display in Kobe, Japan

Now, during Halloween, children can be seen wandering from house to house in various outfits, shouting “stuff or treat” when the door opens, and happily receiving candy and toffees from strangers. But before the 9th century, people in Ireland believed that the Aos should be appeased in order to allow people and their livestock to survive the harsh winter months. As a result, portions of food were left on the ground for them.

Neopagans and Wiccans always celebrate their own versions of Samhain. While popular culture will tell you that means dancing naked under a full moon, it doesn’t always have to be.

The hero Fionn fighting Aillen, who would have burnt Tara every Samhain

There are generally four aspects to Samhain: light, darkness, mischief, and change. The Irish hero, Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) and the river goddess Boann represent the light. According to legend, Boaan was a woman who tended a well in which lived a creature called “the salmon of knowledge”. Boann turned into the Boyne River when the well inundated and washed it away. She took good care of the “salmon of knowledge” until it was time to give it to Fionn Mac Cumhaill who ate it and acquired all the wisdom in the world.

Subsequently, this also helped him defeat the evil goblin Aillen, who appeared every Samhain to burn down the great halls of Tara which was the seat of the High King. As a reward, Fionn was named leader of the High King’s elite warriors.

Moving on to the dark aspect of Halloween, we stumble upon the beautiful yet dangerous Morrigan, Goddess of War. She is said to take the form of a crow and lead an army of grotesque creatures who hunt for human lives.

Sharp teeth, stocky and wearing a red coat and cap, the Fear Dearg or Red Men deal with evil and chaos. They’ve been known to play practical jokes on unsuspecting humans, so be careful, guys.

If you see a dark haired, golden eyed creature this Halloween, you’re in luck. You may have just stumbled upon the púca, shapeshifters who can change the fortunes of anyone they meet.

Ward’s Hill

But, if you really want to experience Samhain, you have to head to Ward’s Hill in the ancient east of Ireland. This is where the story of Halloween began. This is where one can catch a glimpse of this ancient festival filled with traditions that are now almost extinct.

(Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, Twitter)

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