When it comes to Druids and Celts and Halloween, there is a connection that dates back eons. Of course the tales surrounding their connection involving Halloween are deeply shrouded in mystery and lore, as the holiday itself is. While there some variations in the tales, the core of the stories remain the same.
The First Halloween or Samhain
The celebrations for this holiday started in ancient, pre-Christian times as a Celtic ceremony for the dead. The holiday fell upon October 31, as it still does. It was called Samhain and marked the eve of the next season and new year. During this time period, November 1 was the beginning of the cold season, which was a time of hardship. In this era the year was divided up based on four holidays, as opposed to seasons but each division was still affiliated with a season. For this situation, the season was winter.
The winter ahead promised to be cold, long and harsh. The people would get ready by relocating their livestock closer and preparing them for the cruel season ahead. The cessation of the crop cycle was at this time, with the harvests being stored for the winter. Because of the severity of this season, and the long, dark, cold spell upon the Celts, it became affiliated with death.
The festival of Samhain became a time that people believed the worlds of the living and the dead could become one again, with the presence of spirits. Spirits could return to earth and be mischievous, like causing crop damage. The Celts also thought the priests, or Druids, could make forecasts with greater ease for the coming year when the un-living were around. Animal sacrifices would be made and fires lit to try to keep the souls at bay but help them see their way from the earth to the beyond.
Costumes were adorned during these early festivities, usually those made from the skins and heads of dead animals. The Celts would try to make predictions for one another, gathered around the large bonfire, then returned home to start their own hearth fire back again. They would use a flame from the Samhain bonfire, believing this would help to protect themselves and their homes.
Eventually, the holiday we know as Halloween became known this way after Christian missionaries set out to tamper with the ways the Celts practiced religion. The holiday really began to change following the Roman’s domination over most of the Celtic territory. Samhain was then combined with two Roman holidays.
Samhain was declared pagan as Christianity spread, and a celebration associated with the devil and all things evil. Since Druids were priests and scholars of the practice deemed pagan, these scholarly men were seen as worshipers of evil and the Devil. Christians categorized the underworld of the Celts as tied in with Hell. Many held on strong to their core beliefs as the changes were made.
First – All Souls Day was started, where the living paid homage to the dead, or souls, who had passed. This took place on November 2 of each year. All Saints Day occurred on November 1, but it was the night before All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows, that the lines between the living world and the spiritual one were blurred. This night was called All Hallows Eve, and eventually Halloween. The Celts maintained many of their beliefs and traditions involving this holiday and time of year. One change that happened was that the spirits, once viewed as simply mischievous, were considered evil. This is how the Druids and Celts and Halloween all went down in history together.
The Druids and Celts and Halloween Connected to Modern Traditions
Though the holiday saw many changes in both name and traditions, much of the modern day celebrations can be said to still be tied to original Samhain practices. For example, the Celts wore the hides and heads of animals as costumes during this event, and the use of costumes is still practiced today.
Trick-or-treating is another example of Celt traditions that live on. Since, originally, people left food and offerings to wandering spirits to appease them, people began to use costumes of spirits to go from door to door to collect these offerings. This is what became the first true type of trick-or-treating.
While customs continue to change and evolve, it is doubtful the holiday will ever transform so much that there will not be some remaining proof of the Druids and Celts and Halloween connection.