Just before the evening of All Saints’ Day, the Celts believed that the ghosts of the dead return to earth and wander around. And to ward off some of the evils spirits ( aos sí ) the Celts would wear scary costumes. But they would also pay tribute to the dead by lighting bonfires and do some kind of ritual dance while playing drums. This event became an annual festival where it also marked the beginning of the dark and the arrival of the cold winter. The Celts called the festival Samhain.
Samhain comes from the old Irish name associated with November in the medieval period in Ireland. One of the many meanings of the word is the end of the summer season (‘sam’ means summer, and fuin means the ‘end’). And before the harsh winter arrives the celts would bring cattle from the summer pastures and would slaughter them for the winter.
It is believed that during this period crucial Irish events took place. One good example is the legendary Irish mythical hero Fionn MacCumhail who succeeded in killing the fire-breathing creature-Aillen who was causing much trouble to the men of Tara. Historians have also found Neolithic passage tombs at the Hill of Tara in Ireland. They were built in a systematic way in order to align with the sunrise during the Samhain period.
Who were the Celts?
Celts were a group of tribes that originated from central Europe predominantly in south-west Germany, Rhineland, and later migrated to Britain, Ireland, France, and Spain. As per professor Dáithí Ó hÓgáin, there are six Celtic languages consisting of the Gaelic group (Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Manx) and the Brittonic group (Welsh, Breton, and Cornish).
The ancient celts practiced Celtic paganism (between 500 BCE and 500 CE) which consisted of polytheistic religion influenced by the Indo-European region.
Today Halloween has become one of the most-anticipated festivals where everyone gets the chance to decked out in some scary and dramatic costumes along with face paintings. It’s a time of celebration where children indulge in several fun activities such as carving jack-o-lanterns and playing trick-or-treat in their neighborhood. Artists dedicate their time to create their best masterpieces. And for this Halloween get into your creative side and feel inspired by the impressive Samhain Art below: