all hallows eve, am reading, druids, Halloween, madeleine l'engle, middle grade, mythology, paranormal, samhain
A few years ago, I read a book by a tragically underrated literary genius, Madeleine L’Engle. An Acceptable Time is a comfortable resident on my highly selective Shelf of Awesome and one of only five books I have read more than once for pleasure (the other four being the previous books in this series). It deals with themes of mercy, tolerance, love, and forgiveness, a classic that I believe is still completely relevant today.
It takes place leading up to and following the Gaelic holiday of Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ SAH-win or /ˈsaʊ.ɪn/ SOW-in), also known as Halloween. Samhain was a festival to mark the end of the harvest season and the start of winter and was observed in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man while similar festivals were held in Brittany, Wales, and Cornwall at the same time of the year. It is still traditionally celebrated by Wiccans and Celtic Reconstructionists.
Mumming (acting) and guising (disguising oneself) and going door to door in exchange for food were a part of the Samhain celebrations. The costuming may have been a way of hiding from the Aos Sí, a race of fairies from Scottish and Irish mythology closely associated with Samhain.
Samhain is known to have pre-Christian roots, but in 835, Louis the Pious switched the Roman Catholic holiday of All Saints Day or All Hallows from May 13th to November 1st. This made the last day of October into All Hallows Eve and the two holidays were eventually consolidated into the secular holiday of Halloween.
Guising appears to have reemerged in Scotland in the late 19th century, but would not be recorded in North America until 1911 in Ontario. By the twenties, guising had spread to Chicago and by the late thirties, dressing up and demanding sweets from one’s neighbors became common practice as well as the term “trick or treat,” leading to the Halloween of this century!
So there you have it, a brief history of today’s holiday. Whether you call it Halloween or are like me and it makes you feel smart to say “Samhain,” have fun tonight and don’t get carried off by anything malevolent!
(If I got any of my facts wrong, please correct me. I love learning!)
Eli HinzeE said:
Awesome! Reminds me of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdHOm0UoTzo
Kinda funny; you should check it out. 🙂
“…shed some sacrificial light”–CLASSIC!
cindy knoke said:
she was a favorite of mine since the 4th grade and the mesmerizing “Wrinkle in Time!”
That’s the first book in the series and I love them all to bits!
Here in the Scottish Highlands it’s still called ‘guising’. When I was a lad – and the world was a much younger place – we would all go around the neighbour’s houses guising for nuts and apples. We sang a song or told a joke – by the end of the night we would have a Halloween bag full of harvest goodies. It was all wonderfully pagan.
It’s still called “guising”? I don’t know why, but I think that is incredibly awesome to hear this from someone who lives it!
sherry fundin said:
Very interesting and a new author for me. Thanks for sharing Elisabeth.
Cheryl Rose said:
I am dismayed to see you have used my copyrighted artwork without permission or credit ! “Encounter in Wistman’s Wood” © Cheryl Yambrach Rose
I apologize and admit that at the time this post was made, I was unfamiliar with the precise rules of content sharing. I have been attempting to remedy the issue, however, it has been a long process as I have made so many posts these past few years. I shall remove all uncredited images this weekend or, if you prefer, credit your specific piece with your name and website link. Please let me know which you would like and, once again, I am sorry for the breach of courtesy.