The Lore of Samhain

(Samhain is pronounced sow-in, sahv-in, or shahvin)

Samhain, Samhain, Summer's End, Summer's End.
Samhain, Samhain, Veil is Thin, Veil is Thin.
Samhain, Samhain, Spirit Friends, Spirit Friends.
  All Hallow’s Eve marks the turning point of the calendar, bringing us into the dark half of the year and a time where movement and communication beyond the veil is less complicated and more powerful. Ancestral spirits are said to be released from the Otherworld to seek the warm hearths and brightly flickering candle-flames in the windowsills of their loved ones. It was once also believed that mortals were dragged away at this time by the mischevious Phooka, an Irish goblin and shapeshifter, to the land of the Fae. All that remained of the harvest was considered Phooka’s share, and therefore inedible. All those previously taken away by Phooka were said to return once again on All Hallow’s Eve, accompanied by a fae procession. 
  Horror movies in the USA helped to warp guising into the trick-or-treat we know and love today. Guising did not take the form of grotesque costumes and candy, but rather of dressing as the opposite gender to trick the fae and other spirits, and knocking on doors to receive money, fruit, and nuts. Fortunetelling was a beloved pasttime in celebration of Samhain. To do this, many would use three saucers all bearing a unique item: one with a ring, one with clay, and one with water. Using a blindfold, a person would then choose a saucer. If a saucer with a ring was chosen, it meant marriage in the future. If a saucer with clay was chosen, it meant a person would die in the near future, and if a saucer with water was chosen, it meant travel (usually to a foreign land). Young girls would place ivy leaves under their pillows to dream of their future husbands, and the dead were honored at the great Fleadh nan Mairbh (Feast of the Dead). 
  When Christianity sought to destroy Celtic traditions and Sabbats, All Hallows Eve became a mockery. Wise women became warty and evil witches. Creatures from the Otherworld became evil and aberrant. In truth, Halloween is not Samhain. Christian leaders coincided the dates of their celebration of All Saints Day to the Pagan Great Sabbat of Samhain in order to deter others from adopting this tradition. Samhain is a deeply spiritual celebration, whereas Halloween is more centered on fun, pranks, and tricksters. Also, Samhain lasts until November and only begins at sundown on Oct.31st, with a large bonfire to offer livestock and crops to the gods and ritual dance. Jack-o’-lanterns were orginally faces carved into turnips or potatoes, meant to ward off evil spirits. Today, as we know, pumpkins are traditionally used. 
  Samhain continues to be an exhilirating celebration of darkness and new beginnings for witches and pagans all over the world. What will you be letting go of this season? What will you be offering to the gods? How will YOU choose to celebrate this great Sabbat?

To-night the witches will ride, will ride, 
Each on her broomstick astride, astride, 
Silent and swift in their mystic flight
Upward they’ll go in the cold, black night. 
And the wind will sob, and shriek, and moan, 
The great trees shudder, and shake, and groan. 
The moon will hide in the murky sky, 
In the forest dark the bats will fly. 
And owls will hoot, and wolves will howl
And green-eyed cats in the shadows prowl. 
To-night the witches will ride, will ride, 
Each on her broomstick, astride, astride. 

Essentials of English (1921)