The medieval Irish festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-in) marked the end of the third and final harvest of the year. After that date, no more food could be gathered until after the spring planting. It marked the end of the “lighter half” of the year (long days) and the beginning of the “darker half” (long nights). During the Dark Ages, many adults did not live to see their 40th birthday and many children did not live to see the age of 12 – times were hard, and death always walked beside the people. Being pagans and looking to many gods, Samhain (the third harvest) became known as a time when the veil between the realms of the living and the dead was very thin, and on that night (October 31), spirits of the dead roamed the earth. During this time of darkness and superstitions, witches became associated with Samhain. Witches were believed to be people (usually women) in league with the Devil who used supernatural powers to harm people and property. These powers were believed to be at their strongest during the third harvest. Since superstitions were alive and well, this celebrating of Samhain was passed down by word of mouth through the centuries. Most people in the Dark Ages were illiterate – the more literate men were of the church. These men of the church, looking to change the people’s minds from pagan thoughts during the third harvest to Christian thoughts, used assimilation to convince the people that it was alright to worship in the Christian way. Samhain (October 31) was changed to All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween). The Christian’s holiday was All Hallow Day (November 1) – a holiday to remember the ones that have passed on before us. Instead of fearing the roaming spirits and all the superstitions, it became a time to turn the celebrating of darkness into light. It is still a valuable lesson for us today – do not let the heaviness of the darkness drag you down, but, instead, look to the light to lift you up!
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