Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween and Samhain

I posted a blog entry about my typical childhood Scottish Halloween on The Writers Vineyard the other day and it brought back so many lovely memories of dressing up to go out on 'goloshans' as we called it.

But the traditions go even further back in time to the old eve of the Celtic New Year, Samhain. One of the creepiest aspects of this festival is that the souls of the dead can make a bid for freedom to return to the living on this one night of the year. I was so inspired by this that I wrote a suitably dark short story around the idea.

In Scotland, bonfires were lit on hillsides, sometimes to aid the journey of the returning spirits, sometimes to protect homes from such an occurrence. And of course, it was a night when all kinds of mischievous spirits and witches roamed the land before All Saints' Day on November 1st. So keep a look out tonight - you never know who or what might be tapping on your door!



Janice Horton said...

Ooooh spooky!

I'm just glad we live deep in the Scottish countryside and so don't get any trick or treaters knocking on our door. When my boys were little they would attend the village Halloween party and dress up. There would be fantastic games to play - like bob-apple and the one with the black treacle soaked scones hanging from a rope that you had to eat with your hands tried behind your back. Oh happy days!

Anne Gallagher said...

When we were little we celebrated Samhain. My mother kept the tradition of candles in the windows. She liked the thought of ghosts coming to our house. Scared me enough, I hate Halloween now.

Have to take my daughter to the party tonight. Not looking forward to it. I hate being scared.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I can imagine you won't get the little visitors, Janice! We always had dookin' for apples rather than the messy black treacle game.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Gosh, Anne - you must have been scared at the thought of ghostly visitors! My children are both grown up now with homes of their own so we don't bother with it at all. Although we occasionally get one or two of the village children coming to the door all dressed up.

Patsy said...

I'm OK as I have a rowan tree in the front garden to protect me.

Jude Johnson said...

I love any excuse to dress up, so today I went in my medieval dress. We don't get many kids at our door as we're a bit isolated in our desert neighborhood--but the two who showed up this evening were very excited to see a little bull snake warming himself on our walk. We like those, they eat rattlesnakes.

Here we do EL Dia De Los Muertos, a tradition from Mexico to honor the dead. Though closely related to All Souls' Day, tradition extends the celebration to a full week, starting with tonight. Grave sites are cleaned and decorated, and special cakes, breads, and sweets are left to nourish any wandering spirits.


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Patsy - I have a big one in the back garden!

Thanks for that interesting post, Jude - love the idea of medieval costume as I love that period!