Celtic observation of Samhain
In the Druidic religion of the ancient Celts, the new year began with the winter season of Samhain on November 1. Just
as shorter days signified the start of the new year, sundown also meant the start of a new day; therefore the harvest festival
began every year on the night of October 31. Druids in the British Isles would light fires and offer sacrifices of crops,
animals and sometimes humans, and as they danced around the fires, the season of the sun would pass and the season of darkness
When the morning of November 1 arrived, the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then
take it home to start a new cooking fire. These fires were intended to keep the homes warm and free from evil spirits such
as "Sidhe" (pronounced "shee," most notable of which are the beán sidhe or banshees), because at this
time of year it was believed that the invisible "gates" between this world and the spirit world were opened and
free movement between both worlds was possible.
Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. Villagers cast the bones of the slaughtered cattle upon the flames; the
word "bonfire" is thought to derive from these "bone fires." With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished
all other fires. Each family then solemnly lit their hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village
together. Hundreds of fires are still lit each year in Ireland on Halloween night.
Neopagans still celebrate the sabbat of Samhain on Halloween, as well as also taking part in secular Halloween activities.
Norse Autumn Blót
In the old Norse religion and its modern revival, Ásatrú, the day now known as Halloween was a blót which involved sacrifices
to the gods and the blessing of food.