Sunday, October 25, 2009

31 Days of Halloween - Day 24: Who is Samhain?

So, as many of you Halloween enthusiests know, Halloween is based off of an ancient Celtic tradition known as the ‘The Feast of Samhain,’ however, an 18 century writer incorrectly stated that Samhain was named after the Celtic God of Death, and since then people have taken that as truth. But, according to newspapers, television programs, ancient scriptures and documents… no such God ever existed. So, a HUGE mistake was obviously made, but if Samhain wasn’t a God, then who was he?

According to many Celtic languages and dictionaries, there was not mention of any kind of Samhain god… but there is evidence of a little known character named Sawin (Samhain) who was a very minor hero in Celtic mythology. His existence is little known, even to most Celtic historians, but he was in fact a hero rather than a God and was probably named after the end of the summer celebration. It’s even stated in Gaelic languages that ‘Samhuinn’ translates to ‘summer’s end.’

There are many Celtic, Druidic, Irish and Wiccan groups that support the idea that Samhain refers to the festival rather than the God of the Dead. Later, an online essay would say that the error that Samhain was the God of the Dead may have originated in confusion over the name Samana, an ancient Vedic/Hindu God. In the essay it states, “Samhain is the name of the holiday. There is no evidence of any god or demon named ‘Samhain,’ ‘Samain,’ ‘Sam Hane,’ or however you want to vary the spelling.”

The Irish English Dictionary defines Samhain as the All Hallowtide, a feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times. This celebration would signal the end of the harvesting season and the beginning of the winter season, which would last until May. In the Scottish Gaelis Dictionary, it defines Samhain in a similar sense: The Feast of All Soula. Here, Samfuin translates to ‘end of summer.’ However, the closest definition to the actual Samhain festival would be J.C. Cooper’s Dictionary of Festivals, which defines Samhain as: “31 October, Eve of 1 November, was the beginning of the Celtic year, the beginning of the season of cold, dearth and darkness.” During this holiday, neither Celts nor Druids acknowledge the existence of any God of the Dead.

Since then, Samhain was only further to have been believed as the God the Dead in many books on Halloween, Halloween awareness groups and Satanic cults… but this was the result of a huge mistake by an 18th century writer. Though there are no clear answers to who or what Samhain is… I think, for me, it’s safe to assume that there was a festival of Samhain that marked the end of the summer and the beginning of the winter and here the people celebrating it would eat the crops they had grown that year. I think it’s also fair to assume the Samhain was in fact a Celtic hero and not a God… though he was small and not many people know about him, he was still nonetheless a hero.

For more information and the source of this post, please visit this website.


penney1115 said...

wow ty for the heads up you learn somethign new everyday :)

Qurras said...

I am currently researching the Celtic god of the dead. He has the name of Arawen. Yes, I known it's spell alot like the Elven charactor from the Lord of the Rings. So for I haven been able to find o good likeness of this god. I'm not even sure the Celtic of Great Britian and Ireland created one.

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