28 October 2017

31st October is Halloween. Er, Not Exactly

This year, Halloween in its purest form probably falls on 4th November so as to align with the full moon, but then we should, perhaps, call it Samhain. But don’t let that distract you from your ‘trick or treating’.

Though if you are in the UK you really should be bobbing for apples, and if you are in Mexico perhaps you should be honouring recently deceased family members in Día de Muertos, probably because the government tells you to. It certainly wasn’t a country-wide observance back in the 19th century. Only the indigenous peoples of southern Mexico had a similar festival, except that was held at the start of summer.

This is the problem with Halloween – the vigil of All Hallows Eve – marked for the Feast of All Saints the day after, and the day after that, the Feast of All Souls. It has always been a movable feast. Back in the day, when Christianity was intent on becoming the dominant religious force, the Church moved or invented festivals to coincide with deeply-ingrained pagan observances, most of which were Nature-aligned. Think Christmas and Easter.

For Celtic peoples, Samhain celebrated the agricultural year’s end during which divinations were undertaken to glimpse the impending fortune of the people. How many of those divinations were water-based no one truly knows – but it seems a very high percentage going by the number of extant medieval stone churches named All Saints, or All Saints & All Souls, doubtless built on the foundations of previous Saxon churches often built of wood but carrying the same dedication.

If you are living in the UK you’ll have one within a reasonable distance. A bit of detection should locate the water source close by. Yes, that quaint hand-pump wasn’t always attached to a spring source. Or how about that picturesque brook which never runs dry even during the driest of summers? 
Like all PR, repeat the message often enough, ridicule, or in this case demonise, past beliefs, and at first the ‘folklore’ is questioned; eventually it is forgotten. When it is resurrected – a sort of neo-Samhain – 'trick or treating' is what you get. Especially when there’s a good helping of PR behind it to make cash registers ring.

Ever thrown coins into a “wishing well”? Who are you expecting to respond?

For a time-spanning fictional insight, check out the Torc of Moonlight trilogy. Book 1 is currently on offer. (Think PR.)


  1. I've never been a big fan of Halloween but I found this blog post fascinating. Thanks for sharing. I wish you and Dave happy trick or treating! Or bobbing. Or whatever you do to celebrate the occasion.

    1. Thanks for stopping by to say so, Linda. I'm pleased you enjoyed it. As I say, history is mere inches beneath our feet.