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Halloween's Samhain roots

As the number of modified persons rises, a return to the roots of piercing and tattoo practices is all but an inevitability, and along with primitivism comes a cultural reawakening.  In recent years, revisiting our ancient pagan ancestry has led to a rebirth of modern paganism in many forms.  So how do pagans celebrate Halloween?  Many of them observe a holiday called Samhuinn in its stead.

Samhuinn, sometimes alternately spelled Samhain, is a Gaelic holiday that dates back several centuries, and was originally celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and other parts of the UK.  The majority of celebrants hold festivals for Samhuinn beginning at sunset on October 31st and ending at sunset on the following day.  Since many ancient societies in this part of Europe relied on livestock for their living, November first is of a particular importance, as it also marks the day when the herds are driven back to lower lands after a Summer of grazing in the hills.

There are many reports of both human and animal sacrifice occurring around this time of year amongst the ancient pagans, which may explain why some neopagans (modern pagans or Wiccans) perform body piercings during this time.  In many cultures the piercing, particularly of the tongue, equates to a blood sacrifice made to a chosen deity.  Alternatively participants may undergo tattooing of particular Celtic symbols or Gaelic verse.

Common festivities surrounding Samhuinn include setting a place at the table for deceased friends or relatives, holding communal bonfires that are sometimes danced around, practicing divination or scrying, creating celebratory altars, and much more.  Fall fruits are often eaten, including apples and pomegranates, and the seeds are sometimes strewn upon a placard painted with an eight-spoked wheel which represents the eight Wiccan Sabbats.   According to Irish pagan folklore, the plane of souls and fairies, known as the otherworld, is able to interact with the world of the living during the festival, and questions about the future may be asked of the dearly departed.

 making altars for Samhuinn

It’s believed that many of the traditions of Samhuinn melded with the Christian observation of All Saints Day and All Souls Day to create the basis of the Halloween holiday that we’ve come to know and love.  Although many versions of Halloween are celebrated worldwide, Samhuinn is one of the oldest, and perhaps most beloved in western countries today.

pagan pentacle jewelry

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