Halloween - Origins and Customs

History traces Halloween back to the ancient religion of the Celtics in Ireland who were very conscious of the spiritual world. Their two main feasts were Beltane at the beginning of summer (May 1), and Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween) at the end of summer (Nov. 1). They believed Samhain was a time when the division between the two worlds became very thin, when hostile supernatural forces were active and ghosts and spirits were free to wander as they wished.

The Celtic priests who carried out the rituals in the open air were called Druids, members of pagan orders in Britain, Ireland and Gaul, who generally performed their rituals by offering sacrifices, usually of crops and animals, but sometimes of humans, in order to placate the gods; ensuring that the sun would return after the winter; and frighten away evil spirits.   This practice of burning humans ws stopped around 1600, and an effigy was sometimes burned instead.

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