When is Samhain?
Samhain is the day when the constellation Scorpio reaches 15 degrees. It changes every year. In 2019 it is on November 7th at 11:24 am Central Standard Time. It is, like most other pagan holidays, a moveable feast, based on seasonal constellation alignment, not on a calendar date.
Is Samhain Halloween?
Samhain is not Halloween. It is a movable feast that occurs when Scorpio is at 15°, but the festivities begin the day before the 15° alignment at sundown. So the 2019 Samhain party starts on November 6th at sundown. Check the timer in the sidebar to countdown with us! As a holiday, Samhain predates All Soul’s Day which was created in 609 by the Catholic church and Halloween which really took off after the industrial revolution in the USA (Saunders, Santino).
Although Halloween is chiefly associated with the Celts, it is important to note that Celtic culture stretched from the northern shores of Scotland to the Southern shores of France. Samhain was a western agrarian holiday celebrated in a similar manner on the islands and the continent. Each year when the plow was set down and the earth rested, the agricultural communities in all of Celtic Europe took stock of their harvests and their stores. Samhain was the name for the entire month of November in old Gaelic (note the association between Galiec and Gaul), but also, Samh- meant stale air, trickster, and god while -ain meant light or fire (McBain). Samhain, therefore, was a month of still air and property cleansing bonfires to keep the tricksters at bay. A great deal of feasting and celebrating took place because the hard work of harvest was over. This celebration was the close of the agricultural year and a prolonged New Year’s Eve. Mountains of food gathered during each summer and fall harvest seemed like more than enough to last through the first season of the year. During the winter and into the spring people hid from the cold and thought much about the past and future, when warm weather serious physical farming labor returned.
The European tribes lacked our modern conveniences and the month of Samhain ushered in the darkness. In that darkness,
witches healers battled invisible forces germs with their magic medicine. There was also time for other aspects of the wise-women crafts outside the realm of medicine. These women (and occasionally men) comforted their tribe with messages from loved ones passed, promises of futures bright, and assurances found in ceremonies that turned the wheel of the year, thus summoning spring. Halloween is not Samhain. Join us on Samhain and celebrate your accomplishments, remember your dearly departed, glimpse the future with plans you set into motion on that night. Turn the wheel and let darkness settle, knowing spring is just around the corner.
McBain, A. (1896). MacBain’s Dictionary – Section 32. [online] Ceantar.org. Available at: http://www.ceantar.org/Dicts/MB2/mb32.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2019].
Saunders, W. (2004). Library: Halloween and All Saints Day. [online] Catholicculture.org. Available at: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6210 [Accessed 30 Oct. 2019].
Santino, Jack. “Halloween in America: Contemporary Customs and Performances.” Western Folklore, vol. 42, no. 1, 1983, pp. 1–20. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1499461.