It is my favorite time of year to be outside, Autumn! Let the leaves fall, and the winds blow until Samhain. Ah, Samhain; The holiday that started it all, the traditions changed, but the past activities are not so forgotten today. Now celebrated as Halloween, it is the holiday that has turned into every candy-loving children's favorite holiday.
Samhain started in Celtic Ireland, and the pagan festival was held in an open field between hills, Tlatchga and Tara, with a massive fire in its center. The people sacrificed cows, and people took torches from the bonfire back to their homes to relight the hearth. It's believed to be when the realm walls of the living and dead become the thinnest, and thus spirits may pass through; ancestors would take the opportunity to visit during this time. As ancestors and harmful spirits alike can cross to the living realm during this time, people would wear disguises to deceive the dangerous souls and avoid harm. Bonfires and food were a significant part of this festival, as everyone cast the bones of the sacrificed livestock into the fire, and families prepared food for the ancestral spirits. Some spirits could not eat said food; therefore, the families gave it to the less fortunate on their behalf.
In Christian beliefs, it is said to be a time when the Devil will present himself in mirrors of young girls who look in mirrors to view the man they'll one day marry and to any wanderers in graveyards after their third lap. It is also a time for Psychics and Witches as they can come to foresee things more straightforwardly during this time; some even say they see those who will die within the following year. Old age is welcomed as it shows wisdom from the years lived, and death is regarded as a part of life and not feared by those who face it in these times.
From the military aspect of Samhain in Ireland, special thrones were then prepared for soldiers' commanders. Anyone who committed a crime or chose violence during Samhain was charged with a death sentence. Samhain was a mandatory celebration, consisting of three days and three nights, where everyone was required to present themselves to local kings or chieftains. If you did not show, it resulted in punishment from the gods, usually sickness or death itself.
We have only a fraction of what is left of these traditions still in play today. Dressing as creatures or other things during this time has been a longtime custom that has become fun to all; no tricks are played at this point, but the treats always remain. Some folks still hold bonfires during this time, and some enjoy a quiet night at home waiting for the little children to pass by for treats. Halloween has significantly become celebrated in place of Samhain today. Let us not forget where it started. :)