Halloween: The Pagan Festival of Samhain

Paganism, and Druidry especially, recognise eight feasts durring the yearly cycle or the Eight Fold Year. These celebrations are based upon a deep and mysterious connection between our individual lives and the source of this planet’s life. Like any other religious ocassion, these Pagan holidays are marked by special observances.

The most popular festival, in ancient times as well as modern Pagan society, is Samhain or Samhuinn, (pronounced Sou’in) the Celtic new year.

Halloween Myths

1) The pumpkin God, Samhain ( pronounced Sam’hane) DOES NOT exist.

2) Pagans DO NOT sacrifice babies or animals on Halloween. The Wiccan Rede states "Do what thou wilst, but harm none."

3) Pagans DO NOT worship the Devil or Satan on Halloween.


These myths have been perpetuated by people who have seen too many horror movies and the Christian idea of horrific and mythical forms of Satanism.

Origins of Samhain or Halloween

According to Monroe, the Celts were a nation of people united by a common culture. "The term Celtic refers to a culture, and not a specific country or nationality" (Monroe 5). The Celts were a feirce warrior people whose domination once stretched from Ireland to Greece at their height around the third century BC (Severy 588).

The ancient Celtic society was highly structured in that everyone knew their place. To break the strain, Samhain was celebrated by the Celts from October 31 to November 2 as days of no time when chaos ruled. "People did crazy things, men dressed as women, and women as men. Farmers’ gates were unhinged and left in ditches, peoples’ horses were moved to different fields, and children would knock on neighbors’ doors for food and treats in a way that we still find today . . . in the custom of trick-or-treating on Halloween" (O.B.O.D.).

The Druids however celebrated differently. "Behind this apparent lunacy, lay a deeper meaning. The Druids knew that these three days" were the time when "the veil between this world and the World of the Ancestors was drawn aside ... and journeys could be made to the ‘other side’. The Druid rites, therefore, were concerned with making contact with the spirits of the departed, who were seen as sources of guidance and inspiration." The Ovates officiated at these rites, because they were skilled in divination and spiritual travel.

Ovate was the second step to becoming a Druid. Ovates "were responsible for understanding the mysteries of death and rebirth . . . for divinaning the future" and for "conversing with the ancestors" (O.B.O.D.). The Druids believed that time was cyclical and not linear. Therefore, the Ovate was also trained in spiritual time travel. They viewed the realm of the ancestors not as a realm of the dead, but as the repository of tribal wisdom where the ancestor awaited reincarnation. The O.B.O.D. quotes Ceasar from the de Bello Gallico, "The cardinal doctrine which they seek to teach is that souls do not die, but after death pass from one to another..." [Reincarnation] This view of death is a less fearful image then simply not existing anymore. And by observing natures cycles of birth, death, and rebirth the modern ovate can apply natural law towards the healing of the human body and psyche.

Samhain Today

Today Pagans see Samhain as a time to honor the dead, not as the dead, but as the living spirits of loved ones and as guardians who hold the wisdom of mankind. It is a celebration of the afterlife where we do not die but rest and continue to learn and prepare for our next incarnation.


Miller, Tara "Druidry: Knowledge of the Oak".

Monroe, Douglas. The 21 Lessons of Merlyn: A Study in Druid Magic and Lore. Llewellyn Publications: St. Paul, MN, 1992.

Official Web Site of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. http://www.obod.co.uk/obod

Severy, Merle. "The Celts". National Geographic. May. 1977, 582-632.

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