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In the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages, Samhain is known as the 'calends of winter'.
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The term is Manx Gaelic in origin, possibly from Shogh ta'n Oie , meaning "this is the night". Traditionally, children carve turnips rather than pumpkins and carry them around the neighborhood singing traditional songs relating to hop-tu-naa. James Frazer suggests that 1 November was chosen because it was the date of the Celtic festival of the dead Samhain —the Celts had influenced their English neighbours, and English missionaries had influenced the Germans.
He suggests that the 1 November date was a Germanic rather than a Celtic idea. It is widely believed that many of the modern secular customs of All Hallows' Eve or Halloween were influenced by the festival of Samhain. Samhain and Samhain-based festivals are held by some Neopagans. As there are many kinds of Neopaganism, their Samhain celebrations can be very different despite the shared name.
Some try to emulate the historic festival as much as possible. Other Neopagans base their celebrations on sundry unrelated sources, Gaelic culture being only one of the sources. Neopagans usually celebrate Samhain on 31 October — 1 November in the Northern Hemisphere and 30 April — 1 May in the Southern Hemisphere, beginning and ending at sundown.
In the Northern Hemisphere, this midpoint is when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun reaches degrees. Like other Reconstructionist traditions, Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans emphasize historical accuracy. They base their celebrations and rituals on traditional lore as well as research into the beliefs of the polytheistic Celts.
Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans or CRs often celebrate Samhain on the date of first frost, or when the last of the harvest is in and the ground is dry enough to have a bonfire. Though CRs make offerings at all times of the year, Samhain is a time when more elaborate offerings are made to specific ancestors.
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Often there will be a meal, where a place for the dead is set at the table and they are invited to join. Traditional tales may be told and traditional songs, poems and dances performed. A western-facing door or window may be opened and a candle left burning on the windowsill to guide the dead home.
Divination for the coming year is often done, whether in all solemnity or as games for the children. The more mystically inclined may also see this as a time for deeply communing with their deities, especially those seen as being particularly linked with this festival. Wiccans celebrate a variation of Samhain as one of the yearly Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year.
It is deemed by most Wiccans to be the most important of the four "greater Sabbats". Samhain is seen by some Wiccans as a time to celebrate the lives of those who have died, and it often involves paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets and other loved ones who have died. In some rituals the spirits of the dead are invited to attend the festivities. It is seen as a festival of darkness, which is balanced at the opposite point of the wheel by the spring festival of Beltane , which Wiccans celebrate as a festival of light and fertility.
Wiccans believe that at Samhain the veil between this world and the afterlife is at its thinnest point of the whole year, making it easier to communicate with those who have left this world. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the Gaelic holiday. For other uses, see Samhain disambiguation. Further information: Celtic calendar. Further information: Halloween. See also: Wheel of the Year.
Oxford English Dictionary second ed. London: Oxford University Press. Oxford University Press, Oxford: Blackwell.
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An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language. The Scotsman , 26 September Am Faclair Beag. IEW , s. New York: Oxford University Press. Forgotten Books, Liffey Press, Inner Traditions, OUP US. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Infobase Publishing, Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Prentice Hall Press, The Religion of the Ancient Celts. The Floating Press, A Guide to Irish Mythology. Irish Academic Press, New York: Henry Holt.
The Celts: History, Life, and Culture. The Archaeology of Violence , edited by Sarah Ralph. SUNY Press , Revue Celtique. Irish King and High Kings. Four Courts Press, Ireland: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. United States: Reaktion Books.
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