The spooks are set to come out tonight for Halloween, some will trick, some will treat, but in general a good time is had by all. That is our modern day version, but Halloween’s roots lie deep, deep into Celtic lore and actual festivals. Samhain is one of the four great Celtic festivals with pagan origins. The Celtic year would begin on November 1st during the festival of Samhain, which means summer but here marks the end of summer, that time of year when herders bought their animals down from pasture for the winter.
It began at the very beginning of October 31st and ended in the night of November 1st and was referred to in the Irish text as the Three Nights of Samhain. It isn’t evident where the three nights come in but the number three was paramount to the Celtic mystical world view. The middle night of October 31st, was a time of transition when the frontiers between the natural world and that of the supernatural and the spirits became somewhat misty, porous even which led to the belief that you needed to stay indoors to avoid any mischievous behavior by the spooks, tricks it would seem. The Christians converted not only the people but their festivals as well. Samhain became All Hallows or All Saints on November 1st, preceded by All Hallow’s Eve or Halloween on October 31st.
October 31st also marked one of the two principle fire festivals of the Celts, the other falling on May Day known as Beltane with the two festivals dividing the year into two halves, important not only to the Celts but the herdsmen of Europe for the May Day festival marked the beginning of the transhumance and November 1st the end. In Ancient Ireland a new fire would be kindled on the eve of the 31st to mark the beginning of the New Year and this fire would in turn become the sacred fire rekindling all of the fires in Ireland.
And it was this fire, too, that attracted the cold ghosts and spirits back into the homes of their families for warmth and good cheer. The fairies, hobgoblins and witches are all let loose as well, taking to the sky on broomsticks on steeds of coal black. Samhain was a time of transition just as the pumpkin is a transitional crop, which is harvested at the beginning of the ancient Celt’s New Year down until today. And it was a season of omens and augurs and divinations as to the goings on of the upcoming year.
Fun and festive Halloween celebrations and events are held throughout the world these days, even in France where November 1st is traditionally marked as a day for visiting graves (taking care of those souls) with a pot of chrysanthemums.
The Grande Halle de la Villette on the eastern edge of town played host to four haunted mansions and five scream rooms at the Manoir Halloween Festival orchestrated by the Manoir de Paris Haunted House attraction. And the Vampire Ball was back (cancelled last year because of the health situation) at the Pachamama bar and restaurant, one of the more intriguing venues in the French capital spread out over four floors which were all decorated in dignified Halloween style replete with costumed guests. And of course Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween in France without a Halloween cookbook replete with recipes for ghost meringues and scary spaghetti. The book was conceived by Marmiton and published by the house of Michel Lafon. Entitled La Cuisine des sorcières (Witch Cooking), it is filled with 60 recipes and is currently only available in French.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette