October 31

A traditional Irish halloween mask from the early 20th century. Photographed at the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.

Because of Christian engrained beliefs, when we hear of October 31, we think Halloween, but what is it really? Well, before we discuss that, lets swing to October 31 in the Southern Hemisphere and May 1st in the Northern half:

May 1st, or Beltane, is a Gaelic celebration occurring roughly at the halfway point between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. The Irish name being La Bealtaine and other variations from the more common places it was held. It is one of four Gaelic festivals held with the seasons along with Samhain, Imbolc, Lughnasadh.

The reason behind this particular celebration, was that the people would move their cattle to pasture during this time for the summer. They would light bonfires and jump over the flames even, because they were considered protective. They also ate lots of delicious foods that were than used as offerings to keep them safe.

Then six months go by. We are now headed from the Fall Equinox to the Winter Solstice, and we are now at Samhain. Celebrated between October 31 to November 1. Thought to be celebrated as far back as the Neolithic era where tombs and passages align at that time with the rising sun. It is mentioned in old Irish folklore and original mythological tales.

This was the time for cattle to be brought in from Summer pastures for slaughter. Again as at Beltaine, bomfires and offerings for protection for the coming season were offered to the Gods and the land spirits or Aos si, thus making the veil between the living and the Otherworld more thin.

People would dress in masks and other face coverings to not be recognized by the Gods and spirits during this time. The families would go door to door for food and when serving their meals at home, a place would be set at the table for any local or ancestral spirits passing through.

Halloween came to be, from 9th century Christians changing November 1st to their All Saint’s Day and then All Soul’s Day November 2. Eventually the two merged to October 31 to when we now celebrate Halloween – All Hallows Eve aka All Saint’s Eve.

Most widely known to be considered a new age variation of the Gaelic holiday, some Historians have found links to its origin being Roman instead. That it derived from Parentalia, a festival for the dead.

The darker months ahead for the nearing of a new year as in with the concept of the Mother Maiden Crone and lets not forget Haig archetypes which I will blog for my next entry.

Ash,

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