Sunday, October 31, 2010


Halloween is today.

What most people don't realize is that Halloween has its roots in ancient astronomy.  Halloween is a memory of pagan celebrations of a cross-quarter day - the approximate half-way point between the Autumnal Equinox on September 22 and the winter solstice on December 21 (the actual half-way point is November 7).  It's part of the "Wheel of the Year" of two solstices, two equinoxes, and four cross-quarter days leading to 8 traditional pre-Christian holidays based on tilt of the Earth and its revolutions around the Sun.

As with many pagan holidays Halloween - traditionally called Samhain (pronounced "sow-en") - was overprinted with Christian holidays as Christianity moved into formerly pagan areas (e.g. Yule became Christmas and Ostara became Easter).

If you're Catholic, you may be familiar with All Saint's Day on November 1.  Being once known as All Hallows Day refering to its sacred nature (like "hallowed be thy name" in the King James English version of the Lord's Prayer).  Halloween is simply a contraction of All Hallows Eve.

Samhain was originally the last of the three autumn harvest festivals (the cross-quarter day Lughnasadh or Lammas in August being the first and autumnal equinox or Mabon being the second).  It was a time to remember and honor the dead as we move into the dark half of the year (winter) - it was also thought that the veil between this world and the next was thinnest at this time of year (hence the modern association of Halloween with spirits and ghosts).  Samhain (which means "summer's end" in Old Irish) was traditionally the start of the New Year.

Being too old to trick or treat, I celebrated by attending a bonfire last night.

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