Samhain and Halloween: About as Closely Related as a Toy Poodle and a Wolf

Many people confuse Samhain and Halloween. Michael Tortorello sets them straight in the New York Times:

How will you be celebrating Samhain this year? What’s that? You say you won’t be observing the high Druid holiday of the ancient Celts? With all due respect, you’re probably wrong and you probably will.

“Samhain is Halloween; Halloween is Samhain,” said Ellen Evert Hopman, 61, an author, herbalist and Druid priestess and scholar. Irish monks, by most accounts, co-opted the earthy ritual and recast it with strait-laced saints. But the bones of the holiday wouldn’t stay buried.

The first historical record of Samhain, an engraved bronze calendar found in Coligny, France, dates to the first century B.C. The Druids of the British Isles went to ground a few centuries later, after the Romans rode in on chariots and “trashed the place,” Ms. Hopman said. All the same, she said: “There have been people celebrating Samhain in Europe for thousands of years. It never ended. Now it’s coming back with a vengeance, as more and more people turn back to the old ways to honor the Earth.”

The holiday may share its DNA with Halloween, but the two are about as closely related as a toy poodle and a wolf. Where modern Halloween is mercantile, Samhain is magical; where Halloween is juvenile, Samhain is adult. Or try this: You celebrate Halloween by nibbling on candy; you celebrate Samhain by pouring whiskey over a bonfire.

That’s the bottle service this Friday night, when CedarLight Grove celebrates in its parsonage and prayer garden. This house of worship is a clapboard fourplex on a residential street in northeastern Baltimore. Out in the yard, the Druids will circle around their World Tree, a green ash that connects the underworld, the heavens and the mortal realm. The officiants will make offerings at the “well” (here, an enamel bowl: the last thing the yard needs is a mosquito pond). And they will recite bardic tales around the fire.

The service, which is open to the public, will invoke a pantheon of deities with names like the Morrigan (the corpse-picking queen of the battlefield) and the Dagda (her erstwhile mate, the all-father). For their religious garments, the Druids are shooting for a Southern steampunk look, inspired by the band Delta Rae…

[continues in the New York Times]

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Source: Disinfo