I understand that this post has been published a day after Samhain took place, however it is a holiday I really enjoy the history of, so I will be posting all about it regardless.
Samhain (pronounced s-ow-en) is a pagan holiday/sabbat that dates back to the original gaelic calendar and is considered to be the biggest sabbat by the majority of witches. It is the time where the light half of the year transitions to the dark half of the year, and is believed to be the time where spirits are able to travel from their realm into ours.
This is a time that can be linked with getting rid of weakness as historically weak cattle who were unlikely to survive winter were killed. This is why wiccans today often treat this holiday as a time for reflection and see it as their version of new years (aided by the fact that it is a transition from one half of the year into the next).
Though Samhain does take place at the same time as Halloween, it most definitely is not the same thing. Halloween actually was invented by Christians as they wanted to convert pagans by creating a new holiday that overlapped theirs as they thought that would make it easier for them to transition.
Originally, Halloween was known as “All Saint’s day” and was dedicated to giving honour to all the saints that do not have their own specific day of worship. On this day, there was a mass to be attended called the “All Hallows mass”, which occurred after all hallows eve.
The concept of halloween pumpkins/ jack-o-lanterns and bowls of sweets comes from Celtic tradition. The celts would call Samhain the feast of the dead and dedicated the day to honouring and respecting past ancestors. They would set extra seats around the fireplace incase their ancestors came back so they’d have their own space at the heart of the home, and they’d set extra places at the dinner table.
To protect their homes from unwelcome spirits, turnips would have faces carved into them to act as spiritual protectors.
For any spirits that returned that no longer had any living descendents, apples would be buried along the side of roads and bowls of treats would be left on door steps so they could get the nourishment they needed to return to wherever they came from.
So spirits could navigate, people would light candles on their windowsills to light the way for them, which I find particularly sweet.