Tomorrow is Samhair, pronounced Sah’-win and better known in our modern world as Halloween. Samhair is one of the quarter points, the days that mark the middle of our seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. The days halfway between a solstice and an equinox.
Samhair is the quarter point for the Fall season just as Imbolc, we call it Ground Hog’s day, is the Winter quarter point. There is also the Spring quarter point of Beltane, May Day, and the Summer quarter point of Lughnasa which somehow never got a more modern name.
From what historians and anthropologists can tell, people have celebrated the quarter points just as long as the better know first days of the seasons. The same ancient astronomers who watched the movements of the planets against the background of fixed stars, who saw how the place where the Sun rose in the East every day changed during the course of a year gave us not only the four seasons but the four quarter points as well.
In pre-Christian Europe, the ancient Celtic world (by the way it’s Kel-tic, not Sel-tic) Samhair was the new year, the harvest time and a time when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the spirits was lifted. This was true of all the quarter points, for iron age people they were a time of both fear and promise. Because of the mystical, magical nature of the quarter points the Christian church tried for centuries to wipe out the ancient celebrations related to them. It is a historic fact that one of the heresies that Joan of Arc was accused of was dancing around a May Pole.
In the wider Universe of course, Samhair and Beltane as well as the Solstices’ and equinoxes are special times unique to our planet Earth having no significance on Jupiter or Pluto let alone another star system. It’s only because we are so tied to our home planet and it’s orbit around our Sun that the very idea of a certain day of the year having any significance makes sense. On other worlds Christmas, or your birthday or the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo have no meaning of any kind.
Nevertheless, as human beings we like to celebrate, to party and the recognition of certain days being special, being a good reason to party gives us pleasure and a chance to connect both with the living and those who celebrated before us. So get out an enjoy your Halloween, have some candy of roast some marshmallows over an open fire and remember how the rhythms of our world are the rhythms of our lives and have been since the beginnings of life on Earth.