Having all this Scottish blood in me (and being a southern hybrid) means I am required by law to understand my ancestors.
Those would be ancient Celts. Pagans. The original tree-huggers. On October 31st one of their most important holidays arrives: Samhain (pronounced sow-wen, for the non-Celts among you).
Samhain marks the end of harvest season and the light - light being life itself. Afterwards, winter is upon us - the dark season, associated with hunger and death.
On October 31st, the thin veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is lifted, and the Lord of Death (Saman) calls together all of the souls of those who have died during the year and escorts them to the afterlife. In olden days, huge bonfires were lit on hilltops to light the way for the spirits to make their way.
All sorts of odd beliefs have traveled through the years from these ancient practitioners, some of which have been absorbed by newer religions.
The Welsh pagans believed if a person sneezed on Samhain,the soul left the body - a little death of sorts -this would be the origin of saying "god bless you", although I doubt the early pagans said god. More likely "gods".
Slice an apple horizontally and watch the seeds form a pentagram. Now regarded as a symbol for witchcraft, the pentagram in ancient times was a symbol for fertility, a promise of renewal for a pagan people going into the dark season. Bobbing for apples, either in a bucket of water, or catching the apple hanging on a string, has been a game for the young for thousands of years. The young man or woman who caught the first apple was assured of being married and prosperous before the next spring.
Samhain is the one mystical day of the year, when life and death, time itself, and even the past, present and future bend and shimmer.
Samhain is that one particular night when anything is possible.
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