Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney
Samhain (pronounced sow-in) is a ancient Celtic holiday, marking the end of autumn, the begining of winter, and the end of the Celtic year. What does "Samhain" mean? To pagans, the holiday Samhain is one of the four Greater Sabbats. Considered the most magical night of the year, Samhain is when the veil between the living and dead is at its most transparent and divination and other magical rights performed are more powerful.
Folk traditions tell of several divination practices associated with Samhain. Among them were divinations dealing with marriage, weather, and the coming fortunes for the year. One such method was to slice an apple through the equator (to reveal the five-pointed star within) and then eat it by candlelight before a mirror. Your future spouse will then appear over your shoulder.
Or peel an apple, making sure the peeling comes off in one long strand, reciting, 'I pare this apple round and round again; / My sweetheart's name to flourish on the plain: / I fling the unbroken paring o'er my head, / My sweetheart's letter on the ground to read.'
Girls were told to place hazel nuts along the front of the firegrate, each one to symbolize one of her suitors. She could then divine her future husband by chanting, 'If you love me, pop and fly; if you hate me, burn and die.'
Dunking for apples was a marriage divination. The first person to bite an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year. Peeling a apple was a divination to see how long your life would be. The longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be.
Now Halloween is celebrated all over the world, a fun night for young and old as we dress up in costumes and trick or treat, bob for apples, and generally embrace the dark and scary night.
The traditions are not for everyone, but next time someone says "Happy Halloween", you will know where the true origins come from.