Halloween v. Samhain

It might be a radical thought but while Halloween certainly has its roots in the Celtic festival neo-Pagans call Samhain, they are not necessarily the same holiday.  According to Starhawk in Circle Round, Samhain represents both the festival of the dead and the beginning of the new year.  It is a serious holiday full of remembrance and reverence.  The veil between the spirt world and our own is said to be the thinnest, so people take measures to protect themselves from evil spirits and to divine wisdom from ancestors.  In the twentieth-first century context, Halloween is a fall festival of mischief.  At least in my household growing up, it marked the beginning of the holiday season (we have a lot of November and December birthdays in the family, my own included!).  It involved elaborate costumes and pounds of candy.

From my perspective these two wonderful holidays are Janus-faced qualities and represent a greater duality.  While I tend to separate them in my own practice, they are a good example of the idea that there are many different sides to the same thing.

© Ariadne Woods


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