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Samhain: scottish traditions

Hi witches. Samhain is finally here. Are you ready to celebrate? I would like to wish you an happy Samhain with some curiosities on how Samhain was celebrated in Scotland before everything was lost in time. Happy reading :D

🍂Jack-o-Lanterns was a turnip, not a pumpkin

In the original folklore, there was a man called Jack O'Lantern which was a ghostly figure who wandered the lands with a burning lump of coal inside a hollowed out turnip. People during Samhain would create their personal lantern using turnips. By the 1800s when Scottish and Irish communities immigrated to US, they started using pumpkins instead of turnip for their lanterns.

🍂Halloween existed to drive evil spirits away

Now halloween is just for fun and dress up, but for Scottish ancestors was a very serious festivity, the veil between their world and the world of evil spirits was very thin which threatened them and their land. Samhain was all about protection from the spirits.

🍂Costumes were much creepier

Pretty much they were dressed up with skins and heads of animals. More terrifying you looked the better.

🍂"Guising" not "trick-or-treating"

Only recently 'trick or treat' started to be used in Scotland, 'guising' was used before that. This refers to the custom to dress up.

🍂Ancient Druids would light bonfires

Nowdays candles are used instead, but our ancestors would light massive bonfires on Halloween. The massive light from them would entice people from all over the land to gather around before dancing and feasting together.

🍂Black cats being witches is an idea rooted in Celtic mythology

Black cats are a symbol of halloween, but this concept is rooted in Celtic mythology. These black cats that also often were adorned with a white patch on their chest were said to be the animal forms of witches that could be malevolent to humans as they would feed on the souls of the dead.

🍂Apples were used in ancient fortune-telling methods

Bobbing for apples was a fun game for kids. In the past, however, apples were considered important in mysticism and fortune telling. For example, young women would peel an apple in one paring then throw it over their shoulders on Samhain Eve, the peeling would then take shape in the first initial of the man they were destined to marry.

🍂Bats symbol of halloween

Bats' association to Halloween is due to the large bonfires that were lit during Samhain, these massive flames would attract bugs and Bats - being insectivores - would flock to the area to take advantage of this and devour the insects. This would occur every year which is why Bats became associated with the celebration.

🍂Cabbage stalks to purify homes and predict the future

Cabbage stalks were used in fortune-telling traditions. If you uprooted a cabbage plant you could then 'read it' to find out information about your future spouse, however if the stalk was too short or withered it spelt misfortune for your future in this area. It is also said that cabbage stalks would be hollowed out and filled with kindling and young men would go door-to-door using the smoke emitted from the plant to 'purify' houses.

🍂People would leave gifts for the dead

These is more tradition to receive gifts rather tha give them away, but during Samhain it is reported that Celts would leave offerings of food and drink outside to appease the wicked spirits.

🍂Samhain was celebrated for longer than one day

Samhain wasn't celebrate only for one day, on October 31th, but Celts would celebrate for three days that marked the end of the Celtic Calendar. Early texts present this idea that Samhain was a mandatory celebration that lasted for three days and three nights.

Hope ypu enjoyed this article and I wish you again an happy Samhain wherever you are in the world :D

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