Samhain has been popularized in movies, books and pop culture as synonymous with Halloween. In reality it is an ancient Celtic ritual, still celebrated with solemnity by various pagan, neo-pagan, witch or wiccan groups.
The original Gaelic holiday (Oct. 31 - Nov. 1) was held at the end of the harvest and was first documented in 10th century Ireland. It soon became entwined with All Saints Day and the two are frequently incorporated as a celebration of the harvest and the dead.
It developed some interesting traditions with early celebrants walking and driving their cattle between two bonfires as a ritual cleansing. The bones of animals who provided food for the family were thrown into the fires. At the harvest meal, an empty place at the table was set for dead friends or family.
As the belief grew that Samhain represented a time of unusual supernatural power and a thinning of the veil between this world and the Otherworld, many celebrants added costumes and masks. This concealment, often imitating ghostly or terrifying creatures, was an attempt to deceive and ward off any wandering spirits.
In my urban fantasy, fire witch cop Ari Calin celebrates Samhain with her coven. They share a celebratory harvest meal and a ritual of renewal with traditional harvest foods and several bottles of wine! Since they are Otherworlders, no costumes are needed!
Do you know of any unique ways of celebrating the harvest time? Please share them with us.
About the Author: Ally Shields was born and raised in the Midwest along the Mississippi River that is the setting for her urban fantasy series. Educated as a teacher and a lawyer, she led a varied career, including several years as a Juvenile Court Officer. She still lives near the Mississippi River with her miniature pinscher Ranger.