celtic festivals

Okay, hear me out for a moment. Maybe it all makes sense. If we consider that both Anti and Dark are ancient demons, it would be only fitting that Dark would come out to play around Thanksgiving instead of Halloween.
You see, Halloween is believed to be originated from the Celtic harvest festival Samhain. Jack is Irish, and therefore possessed by a Gaelic demon who comes out during the Gaelic feast.
Mark, on the other hand, is American, and therefore possessed by an ancient American demon. Thanksgiving is one of the most traditional feasts in the history of America - the first pilgrim holiday, if you will.
But hey… it’s just a theory.

Or maybe it’s leftover hype from Anti. But I love it either way.


every episode of criminal minds ☰ 6.06 devil’s night

The cool thing about Halloween is that it’s a uniquely American holiday. I mean, despite its obvious origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Christian All Saints’ Day, it really is a melting pot of various immigrants’ traditions and beliefs. It became a little more commercialized in the 1950s with trick-or-treat, and today it rivals only Christmas in terms of popularity. All I asked was what he was doing this weekend.

Celtic Ogham Year Wheel.

Circular Wheel Chart of the Year, upon which are the Zodiac Signs and Calendar Months, showing their relationship with the twenty trees of the Druidic/Ogham Alphabet.

Halloween Facts

Halloween was not really celebrated across all of the United States until the mid-19th century when the influx of Irish immigrants escaping the potato famine brought with them the tradition of Samhain, celebrated the night before Celtic New Year, on November 1st.

Prior to coming to America, the Irish used to carve faces into turnips and leave them outside with candles in them to ward off evil spirits. We carve pumpkins today because they were much more plentiful in America than turnips.

Traditions like bonfires and costumes date back to the ancient Celtic festival that celebrated the end of summer harvest and the coming of winter. They believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth on Samhain, so they built bonfires to sacrifice to the Celtic deities and hear prophecies being told by Druid priests. Costumes were worn to confuse and scare away the spirits.

After the Romanization of Celtic lands, Samhain blended with the Roman festivals of Feralia and Pomona, from which came the traditional of bobbing for apples - the symbol of the Goddess Pomona.

In 1000A.D. the Church tried to replace the popular Pagan festival with a Christian holiday, All Saints’ Day, a day to honor the dead. They kept many of the traditions of Samhain, and began calling the day All- hallowmas, from the Middle English Alholowmesse. But the celebration of Samhain on the night before All-hallows continued, and eventually All-hallows eve was cemented as the real holiday. The name Halloween evolved from All-hallows eve some time later.

Despite its roots in Celtic Paganism and failed adoption by Christianity, Halloween has been celebrated as a secular holiday in America since the turn of the 20th century.

Celebrating the fire within and without.
February the second is the day of the celtic festival named Imbolc. Imbolc represents the lenghtening of days and the return of the sun as the winter starts to give way to the coming spring. This is a celebration of regeneration as the element of fire revered this day by lighting ritualistic fires and candles stands for the overcoming of obstacles and of old stagnant ways, this is an opportunity to purify old karma as we set forth towards new versions of ourselves. The first sprouting of leaves and of the Crocus flowers (symbolic of the sun element) make their appearance, mother earth is ready to give birth to new possibilities as the first lambs begin to lactate as well; Imbolc is also associated with milking so dairy products are consumed this day. This is a celebration of fertility and of the goddess Brighid, goddess of poetry, healing and patron of metaloworkers, we may imagine the baby sun nursing from the fiery goddess’s breast as he becomes more radiant each day. The inspirational goddess provides us with new ideas and the solar plexus chakra is being activated as we enforce ourselves with renewed stamina. The ancient goddess Semele, mother of Dionysus, is another version of Brighid. Semele gave birth to Dionysus surrounded by the ritualistic flames of change that remove any impurities so new ‘pathos’ can emerge.

Brighid painting by John Duncan.

“Imbolc: February 2nd. As winter loses its grip. Signs of spring are starting to show as the Goddess returns to the earth as the Maiden Goddess. The God is a young boy at his point and is growing every day as the sun waxes. This is usually the time of year to be spent indoors due to the cold it is also a time for planting seeds. Life is stirring again. It is a time when baby lambs are born. Imbolc is also sacred to the Goddess Bridget, the Celtic Goddess of fire, healing, blacksmithing, poetry, and the home. Imbolc is a Celtic fire festival and a major Sabbat. It’s traditional colors are red and white.

Truth about Samhain and Halloween

If you’re interested in the Celtic or Gaelic festival of Samhain, please observe it correctly. October is not actually Samhain’s month. The festival begins on the night of the 31st of October but the month of Samhain is November. Its beginning corresponds with secular Halloween and that’s why we think of it as an October thing today. In modern society, Halloween is spreading into all of October because, in my opinion regarding America, November is all about Thanksgiving.

Here’s the basic truth.

Firstly, Samhain is not pronounced sam-hane. Don’t do that. It’s disrespectful to keep mispronouncing words after you’ve been properly taught. Irish-speaking people tend to say sow-an (my source is Trinity College Dublin) and some dialects of Gaelic-speaking people have said it’s like sahv-in, sow-een, shahvin, sowin (with “ow” like in “glow”). The Scots Gaelic spelling is Samhuin or Samhuinn. Since my people were mostly Irish, I stick with the example Trinity College Dublin offered.

Samhain is something that often got misidentified before as a “Celtic Death God”, which is not true. There was no such god and the story was, in fact, invented in the 18th century and propagated largely by Protestants nervous about pagans. Samhain is simply the initiation of the winter, the end of the harvest period, and a time to honor the dead in the pre-Christian Irish calendar. Traditions reflect the beliefs of Irish and some Scottish people in “in between” times when seasonal changes coincide with the unseen world and the death of the earth. The last day of October into the first day of November is an in between time, between life and death.

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Samhain (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) means literally summer’s end, and is a festival holiday that is usually celebrated by pagans. This holiday also has many names such as Calan Gaeaf, Nos Cyn Calan Gaual, Oie Houney, Feast of Mongfind, Feast of the Dead, Third Harvest, The Witches’ New Year, and Celtic New Year. This festival holiday celebrates the Sabbath, and is also a time to pay your respects to your ancestors, and people that have moved on. This holiday is celebrated on the 31st of October to November 1st, but this time can actually be changed, or different depending on your spiritual tradition. This can make Samhain to some, a longer period of time in which will extend over multiple days, and may even go into early November. This is also the third and final Harvest of the year in which is the last time to get everything in before winter. During this time people will celebrate by doing rituals, honoring their ancestors, and throwing parties.

This holiday was also taken up by early Christians, and changed into All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows Eve to show respect for Christian saints, and martyrs during the same time as Samhain was being celebrated. Along with All Souls’ Day which is celebrated to remember the souls of the dead following the days of All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows Eve. These holidays would eventually turn into Halloween. Though Halloween got its roots from Samhain, they’re now quite different, and unique holidays from one another. Where Halloween has become a more family oriented holiday in which is more based on self expression of scary things with certain traditions, and customs depending on where you live such as trick-or-treating, and pumpkin carving. Where Samhain is more of a religious, and spiritual celebration of the dead, your ancestors, and loved ones that have passed on along with the celebration of the Sabbath, and the coming of the colder months.

There are thousands of ways that people can celebrate the holiday Samhain, but it primarily depends on your tradition, and culture. People might even make altars, light bonfires, have large feast, spend time with family, reflect on the past, or even visit burial grounds. It all really depends on you, and your tradition, and how you have come to celebrate the holiday. The Samhain season is also a good time for focusing on reflection, change, growth, endings, new beginnings, and is a time for more dark related things. It is a time of year where the energy is closer to us, and the veil is thinner making it a good time to contact the spirit world. This is also the most popular time of year for new occultist, witches, and practitioners to start practicing their craft. It is also a time where the masculine energy is slowly subsideing from the world before it returns later this spring in the holiday of Beltane. It is a very powerful time of the year for a lot of cultures, and traditions around the world, and is something worth celebrating, and honoring in your life, if you choose too.

Witchy Clothes

When just starting out, a new witch can swiftly get bogged down with all the myriad items that different spell books talk about.  From wands, to herbs, to candles, the list quickly racks up in cost.  Yet, many of these things aren’t actually needed in order to start practicing.  One of these items are witchcraft robes.  A lot of witchcraft books often talk about wearing a robe or going skyclad when performing spells.  But the issue is, if one isn’t comfortable practicing skyclad, actual robes can get quite expensive (trust me, I gave in and bought one at a Celtic festival).  What a lot of these books don’t mention is there’s another alternative, having a special piece of normal clothing that you wear while performing spells.  I’m going to cover all three of these so you guys can see what works for you.

Skyclad-A lot of texts refer to the practice of performing magic skyclad.  For those who don’t know (I had to look it up when I started), skyclad is just a fancy way of saying naked.  A lot of covens perform their initiations skyclad. In fact, Raymond Buckland talks about it in The Complete Book of Witchcraft.  It’s also mentioned often in beauty spells and self love spells, allowing you to focus on your beauty without the coverings we normally put on.

Robes- The classic witch or wizard apparel, robes and cloaks capture the imagination.  They also quickly empty the wallet.  They can be really pretty, the ones I  have are purple with the triquetra on them, but by no means do you need any in order to actually practice.  If you’re crafty enough, you can actually make your own robes, adding a touch of personalization to your practice.

Ordinary Clothes- Probably the best bet for people who are still in the broom closet, this can be any article of clothing.  Personally I have an amazing grey sweater that I tend to wear, along with a necklace with my goddess’s symbol.  Some people have a special skirt, while others have an entire outfit.  In the end, all it needs to be is a something that’s special to you, it doesn’t need to have a meaning to anyone else.  If you want, you can even try coordinating colors to the specific spells you’re trying to do in order to draw more power into it.


Samhain in the Outlander series

For hundreds of years, there has been a Celtic festival, held on 31 October–1 November, to mark the beginning of winter. It was Samhain in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, and Calan Gaeaf in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. The festival is believed to have pre-Christian roots. In the 9th century, the Catholic Church made 1 November All Saints’ Day. Among Celtic-speaking peoples, it was seen as a liminal time, when the spirits or fairies (the Aos Sí), and the souls of the dead, came into our world and were appeased with offerings of food and drink

So our celebration of Halloween has pagan roots intertwined with its Christian overlay. In the United States it has also intersected with the celebration of the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, especially in areas where there is a large Mexican-American population.

In the Outlander series, we know that Samhain was one of the few times during the year when one so gifted, or so cursed, could pass through the stones at Craigh na Dun.  Samhain is mentioned most frequently in Drums of Autumn, and not at all in Voyager.  Happy Samhain, Happy Halloween, Happy All Saints’ Day, and Feliz Dia de los Muertos!


“Jamie glanced over his shoulder at the sun, a flat disc hanging in mid-sky behind a thin screen of cloud.
“It’s almost Samhain now,” he said. “All Hallows’ Eve. Seems suitable, no?” He shivered involuntarily, in spite of the joke. “When you…came through. What did ye do?” (Outlander)

“Similar tables existed for Hogmanay and Midsummer’s Day, and another for Samhain, the Feast of All Hallows. The ancient feasts of fire and sun, and Beltane’s sun would rise tomorrow.”  (Dragonfly in Amber)

“What are you up to, Roger? Ducks?”
“Nothing,” he said, eyes still fixed on the empty entrance. “It’s just an old custom. Samhain—Hallowe’en, you know?—that’s one of the feasts when it was customary to try to divine the future. And one of the ways of divination was to walk to the end of the house, and then step outside with your eyes closed. The first thing you see when you open them is an omen for the near future.”  (Voyager)

“Claire had gone through the stones of Craigh na Dun on the ancient fire feast of Samhain, on the first day of November, nearly two years before.”  (Drums of Autumn)

““Claire had speculated that the whatever-it-was stood widest open on the ancient sun feasts and fire feasts. It seemed to work—she had herself gone through the first time on Beltane, May 1, the second time on Samhain, the first of November. And now Brianna had evidently followed in her mother’s footsteps, going on Beltane.”  (Drums of Autumn)

“Well, he wasn’t going to wait till November—God only knew what could happen to her in five months! Beltane and Samhain were fire feasts, though; there was a sunfeast between.”  (Drums of Autumn)

“After the first bit, there was a section titled “Sun Feasts and Fire Feasts,” with a listing after—Imbolc, Alban Eilir, Beltane, Litha, Lughnassadh, Alban Elfed, Samhain, Alban Arthuan—with a paragraph of notes following each name, and a series of small crosses inscribed alongside. What the hell was that for?
Samhain caught his eye, with six crosses by it.
This is the first of the feasts of the dead. Long before Christ and his Resurrection, on the night of Samhain, the souls of heroes rose from their graves. They are rare, these heroes. Who is born when the stars are right? Not all who are born to it have the courage to take hold of the power that is their right.   (Drums of Autumn)

“It must be nearly the end of October now—the feast of Samhain, the Eve of All Hallows, was nearly come, or only recently past.”  (Drums of Autumn)

Samhain,” Brianna said softly, but softly enough that Donner was not distracted from the flow of his story.
Late fall, he said, and the weather was bad. It had been raining for days, and the footing was uncertain, slippery and boggy by turns. The wind was high, and the storm surge pounded the beaches; they could hear it, even in the secluded spot where the portal lay.”  (A Breath of Snow and Ashes)

“Well, he’ll be gone by Samhain,” Roger muttered, approaching the bed. The portal in the stones should be wide open then, and with some sort of gem in hand, the bugger ought to be back to his wife in…”  (An Echo in the Bone)

“He began to hear them long before he reached the crest. It was three days before Samhain, and the stones knew it. The sound that wasn’t a sound at all vibrated through the marrow of his bones, made his skull ring and his teeth ache.”  (An Echo in the Bone)

“They thought the portal was most active on the sun feasts and fire feasts—and Samhain was an important fire feast—but they couldn’t wait the extra day, for fear that Jem would be taken too far from Craigh na Dun after passing through the stones.”  (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood)

“Scots celebrated Samhain with hollowed-out turnips with candles in them, but Brianna had wanted a slightly more festive tradition for her half-American children. ”  (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood)

“And then on the day before Samhain, as the sun was sinking and the great fires being built up for the evening, a woman from nearby had gone up to the lonely croft and run down again, screaming.”  (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood)

(Excerpts From: Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, iBooks.)


Beltany Stone Circle, County Donegal, Ireland

It has been suggested that the name of the site is linked to the Celtic festival of fertility known as ‘Beltane’, the anglicized name for the Gaelic May Day festival, commonly held on May 1st and historically observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Beltany is a neolithic stone circle that dates from around 1400-800 BC and comprises 64 stones around a tumulus situated at the summit of Tops Hill. One stone is decorated with cup marks and many of the stones stand at an angle after being disturbed around a hundred years ago. There may originally have been about 80 stones. A single stone about 6.5 feet high stands to the southeast of the circle. It probably had some function related to the rites or ceremonies in the circle. A stone head was found at Beltany, probably carved between 400 BC and 400 AD. This may indicate that the stone circle was used for many centuries.


Darlingside - Go Back

I heard these guys for the first time when they performed at the 2017 Celtic Connections festival up in Glasgow a few weeks back. I honestly had no idea what to expect, but the noise these guys can conjure is quite something. 

Some top quality Americana.  


Beltane -  On the cusp between spring and summer, Beltane is a fire festival that celebrates the fertility of the coming year.

Beltane is a Celtic word which means ‘fires of Bel’ (Bel was a Celtic deity). It is a fire festival that celebrates of the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year.

Celtic festivals often tied in with the needs of the community. In spring time, at the beginning of the farming calendar, everybody would be hoping for a fruitful year for their families and fields.

Beltane rituals would often include courting: for example, young men and women collecting blossoms in the woods and lighting fires in the evening. These rituals would often lead to matches and marriages, either immediately in the coming summer or autumn.

Other festivities involved fire which was thought to cleanse, purify and increase fertility. Cattle were often passed between two fires and the properties of the flame and the smoke were seen to ensure the fertility of the herd.

Today Pagans believe that at Beltane the God (to whom the Goddess gave birth at the Winter Solstice) achieves the strength and maturity to court and become lover to the Goddess. So although what happens in the fields has lost its significance for most Pagans today, the creation of fertility is still an important issue.

Emma Restall Orr, a modern day Druid, speaks of the 'fertility of our personal creativity’. (Spirits of the Sacred Grove, pub. Thorsons, 1998, pg.110). She is referring to the need for active and creative lives. We need fertile minds for our work, our families and our interests.

Fire is still the most important element of most Beltane celebrations and there are many traditions associated with it. It is seen to have purifying qualities which cleanse and revitalise. People leap over the Beltane fire to bring good fortune, fertility (of mind, body and spirit) and happiness through the coming year.

Although Beltane is the most overtly sexual festival, Pagans rarely use sex in their rituals although rituals often imply sex and fertility. The tradition of dancing round the maypole contains sexual imagary and is still very popular with modern Pagans.

The largest Beltane celebrations in the UK are held in Edinburgh. Fires are lit at night and festivities carry on until dawn. All around the UK fires are lit and private celebrations are held amongst covens and groves (groups of Pagans) to mark the start of the summer.