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You are probably very familiar with a holiday we call 

"Halloween," but did you know it came from a very sacred ancient Celtic holiday? This festival was called "Samhain"-pronounced, "Sow-un."

Samhain is known as the "Celtic New Year." The name of this holiday comes from the Irish Gaelic, “Samhradh – Fhuineadh” or "Summer's End." It is the end of the warm or light half of the year, and the beginning of the dark half.  But, as the Celts regarded sunset, rather than sunrise, as the beginning of the day, Samhain has been set at the beginning of the year.


Household hearth fires were put out and re-lit from a central, sacred fire, lit by the Druids in ancient times. Druids also settled disputes and passed judgments at this time. Another meaning of the word "Samhain" that I have seen is "an Sàmhtheine," or "the fire of peace" in Scottish Gaelic.


In our own tradition, as Neo-Druids, we still celebrate Samhain in modern times. It is a special time, when the borders of this world and the Otherworld are more open, and the veil between the worlds is at its 

thinnest.  It is a time to remember Ancestors who have died, and to pay respect to the Fair Folk or other spirits. People leave offerings of food and drink outside their homes for these beings. Also, rituals for divining the future are practiced at Samhain, using foods such as hazelnuts and apples (foods associated with the Otherworld).


On Samhain, we specially honor two of the Shining Ones: the Dagda and the Morrígan. The Dagda, whose name means "the Good God," is known for his Cauldron of Plenty, his mighty Club, and his magic Harp. The Morrígan, sometimes called the "Phantom Queen," is a Goddess of battle and yet also a 

Goddess of the renewal of life. At Samhain, the Dagda joins with the Morrígan to work their magic to bring the rebirth of the new year.


Samhain makes it easier for us to face our fears, and to prepare for Winter. It also gives us a chance to get together with friends and family to celebrate the Fall season, and to have fun!


Some Samhain folk customs:

 "Guising"-Wearing costumes and going from house to house seeking treats!


Fortune telling customs--

Dropping hot liquid wax into cold water to see shapes and make divinations.

Dropping apple peels in water to find the initials of your future spouse.

Looking through a holey stone or "hag stone" to see the future.

Throwing hazelnuts into a fire-the popping of the nut means a "yes" answer to your question.

Carving turnip lanterns-like Jack O ‘Lanterns.


  Special foods --

"Fuarag" -whipped cream, honey and toasted oats. 

A ring is hidden inside, and the person who finds it in his or her portion is supposed to be the first to marry. (Be careful not to swallow the ring!)

Hot apple cider—simmered with cinnamon and cloves


Further Reading

The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands by Anne Ross, Barnes & Noble, Inc., 


Kindling the Celtic Spirit by Mara Freeman, HarperCollins publishers, Inc., 

New York, 2000.

Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends by Marie Heaney, Faber and Faber, 

Limited, London, 1994.

See also: Once Around the Sun – Stories, Crafts and Recipes to Celebrate the Sacred Earth Year, by Ellen Evert Hopman, Destiny Books, 2022

By Eva Gordon (FoDLA Religious Education Coordinator)

©2006 Eve Gordon


Halloween in the Highlands

 By Dave: "" October 28, 2008


Man oh man I was looking at the cutesy wee baskets the kids use today to

put their sweeties in when they go door to door. Not that many are allowed to do

that anymore. All the costumes are bought now a days. That must take a lot 

of the fun out of it for the kids. We used pillow cases, greedy little baskets that we were.

And we made our own costumes. I had a WW I German helmet with a spike and stuff, I dragged

It out every year and every year the adults made the same stupid jokes.... Jesus 

Christ it’s the Kyser at the door, I always laughed at their fine humor.

 I wanted sweeties. I would have kissed their great tartan arses. 

We did not say trick or treat, we were what are called geysers and we  

entered the home. All the adults stood or sat round and we each had to sing

a song, do a dance or recite a poem, and the adults clapped or sang along if the  

singer needed a wee bit help. When the wee ones forgot the words, it held us

all back from the next house. My three cousins, all lassies, did a song and we had

it to an art form as we got older. They sang and I swung the sword to “Scots Wha

Hae”. Then we dunked for apples, got our sweeties and not a lot of them as 

sugar was still rationed for a few more years, and off we went to the next


Remember, a lot of this was done while we were wet from the rain and frozen

from the wind. The expression “Hey you dunna drip all over ma new rugs” was 

often heard. This was good because they gave us our sweeties and sent us 

packing. Sort of like the express line at the grocers.




Halloween in Ireland - Games and Recipes

By Carmel Diviney

Just a few ideas but of the Halloween kind rather than Samhain so they are modern. Show your little monsters how to celebrate Halloween the traditional way with some old fashioned, but fun games.


Bobbing for Apples

Probably the most well-known and favourite Halloween game of all. Float apples in a large basin filled with water. The object of this game is to grab one of the apples and remove it from the water using

only your mouth. Hands must be kept behind player's backs. Be prepared with towels as the players generally get quite wet.


Pass the apple

This relay Halloween game can also be played with oranges. Line up the children in two rows, the same number of children in each line. They have to pass the apple to the person behind them only using their chin, without using hands or dropping the apple. If the apple drops a team must start from the beginning again.


Snap Apple

Tie strings around apples and suspend them from the ceiling, a tree branch, or even use the washing line. You may need to adjust the length once your players arrive so they are at mouth height or lower.

Each player must attempt to eat the entire apple without touching it with their hands. Another prize can be given to the person who gets the first bite out of their apple. It is quite tricky, and you may want to change apples for donuts for younger children.


Apple Paring

Each child gets an apple, fruit knife and a plate with all being as close as possible in size and quality. The children each have to peel their apple, with the winner being the one who produces the longest and narrowest peeling. In times past the person then threw the apple peel over their left shoulder and the

letter which the peel resembled was the first initial of the person's future husband or wife.


Ghost Stories

Setting the scene for a scary story is what is needed for maximum effect. Your story could be a real life haunting, a classic ghost story, or an urban legend. Candles, strange noises and even a hidden prankster (to jump out at the right moment, or squeak some floorboards) will all provide suitable 'fright'.


Post Mortem/Autopsy

This Halloween game is well known and can be made much creepier by blindfolding the guests and passing around the contents of the 'corpse' (something gooey) while all of your guests cringe at the

feel of their gooey hands!


Ghost in the graveyard

One player, the ghost, hides. Meanwhile, the other players stay together at a spot designated "base" or "safety" (such as a lighted porch), and count loudly in unison, "One o'clock, two o'clock, three

o'clock," and so on, all the way up to "midnight," at which point they all head off in search of the hiding ghost. When a seeker spots the ghost, he yells, "Ghost in the graveyard!" and, along with

everyone else, runs back toward base. The ghost lets loose a ghostly scream and chases after the seekers, trying to tag as many as he can before they all reach base. Who gets to play the part of the ghost next depends on which version of the game your group prefers, but usually, it's the first player tagged.


Bairín Breac

Various things are baked into the loaf, including of course a ring.

It is seen as a form of divination for the year ahead.

This is a traditional game and the hidden objects signify different things:

Ring - marriage

Coin – wealth

Rag – poverty

Thimble - old maid


Pumpkin Pie

(Note: American cooks will need to covert these measurements which could be an interesting math project for the kids! – Ellen)

If you've been carving pumpkins, you'll have a lot of flesh left over. Put it to good use in this pumpkin pie.


225 grams pumpkin puree (fresh pumpkin stewed)

175 grams sugar

1 teaspoon plain flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

250ml evaporated milk

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon of ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons water

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

Pastry shell


1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices and flour in a medium sized mixing bowl.

2. Add in the eggs and mix well.

3. Add the evaporated milk, water and vanilla, and mix well.

4. Pour into pastry-lined pan.

5. Bake at 200°C for 15 minutes

6. Reduce to 180°C and bake for another 35mins.


Marshmallow Spiders

These sweet treats are minimum fuss, and maximum fun.


20 pink and white marshmallows

2 bars milk chocolate

15 firm liquorice sticks, such as Bassetti

40 chocolate drops


1. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.

2. Individually dip the marshmallows into the chocolate ensuring all are evenly coated. Put onto greaseproof paper.

3. Cut the liquorice into 5cm legs, slice lengthways into two or four, depending on thickness, so that you end up with 160 thin legs.

Gently push 8 legs into the body of the marshmallow spider, add two chocolate drops for the eyes, then leave to set.


Toffee Apples

Apples are a traditional Hallowe'en favourite - add a toffee coating to entice your little monsters.


For the toffee coating

225g demerara sugar

25g Butter

2 tbsp golden syrup

110ml water

0.5 tsp vinegar

For the apples

6 dessert apples

6 wooden skewers, for holding the apples - lollypop sticks will do


1. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a moderate heat. When it has dissolved, stir in the vinegar, syrup and butter.  Bring to a boil and cook without stirring until it reaches hard-crack stage (138C) or

hardens into a ball when dropped in a jug of cold water. This should take around 10 minutes boiling time.

2. While the syrup is cooking, pierce each apple with a wooden stick. Once the toffee is ready, dip each apple into the hot toffee, turning it around in the syrup so that each one is fully coated.

3. Leave to harden on a lightly oiled tray before serving. If you're planning to keep them for a day or two, wrap the apples in cellophane.

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