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Samhain: A Ninety-Second Quiz

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Some background context on Samhain, the ancient Irish festival that oddly ended up as a precursor to Halloween

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Samhain: A Ninety-Second Quiz

  1. 1. IRISH IMBAS Samhain – A 90 Second Quiz
  2. 2. a. An ancient Tribal Festival? b. An ancient Festival of the Dead? c. An ancient festival marking a change in Agricultural Cycle 1. What exactly was Samhain? Was it:
  3. 3. Answer: C Samhain was a prehistoric festival that marked the end of one agricultural cycle and the start of another. There were two key agricultural seasons in prehistoric Ireland: • From Samhain (start Nov) to Bealtaine (start May) • From Bealtaine to Samhain
  4. 4. a. Uniquely In ancient Ireland? b. In Ireland and Scotland? c. All across Europe? 2. Where did Samhain take place? Was it:
  5. 5. Answer: C Samhain (or an equivalent festival) would almost certainly have taken place in all European (and other) agricultural-based societies that marked the end of one season and the start of another. Samhain – the Gaelic name for the festival held in Ireland, Scotland – is the most well known in English speaking countries as folk memory of the celebration continued far longer than in many other European countries.
  6. 6. a. On the 30th of October? b. On the 31st May? c. On the 1st of November? d. A different time? 3. When did Samhain take place?
  7. 7. Answer: D In prehistoric Ireland, people didn’t frame the passage of time as we do today. There was no Roman Calendar and people judged the passing of seasons through the change in weather, the behavior of animals and, of course, clues in the night sky. The timing of Samhain was not an exact science and there would also have been practical reasons for having it later or earlier. The Samhain celebration would have lasted for far longer than a single night, probably between 1-2 weeks,.
  8. 8. a. Bonfires? b. Ducking Apples and Hanging Apples? c. Barmbrack? 4. How was Samhain initially celebrated?
  9. 9. Answer: A The original celebrations would most likely have involved symbolic ‘transition’ rituals with ‘kindling’ or ‘cleansing’ elements. Bonfires would have been common (and that tradition seems to have passed down from pre- historic times) but water rituals would also have been used. Bobbing applies and hanging apples actually originated as courting games from England during medieval times. These fell out of fashion in later years and were only continued in areas of Ireland and Scotland.
  10. 10. a. Colonization by the Normans/English? b. Christianity? c. Commercialisation? 5. Which Cultural Impact had the greatest effect on Samhain in Ireland?
  11. 11. Thou Shalt Not… Answer: B The introduction of Christianity had the greatest impact on the celebration of Samhain. The Christian Church very much saw native belief systems as a threat to their own spiritual beliefs and did their best to eradicate them by.  incorporating the festival rituals as their own  renaming it St Martin’s Mass (Martinmas)  Encouraging people to gather at various residence to say mass and worship God instead of partaking in “pagan festivities”.
  12. 12. a. Féile na Marbh? (Festival of the Dead) b. Oíche Shamhna? (Samhain Night) c. Oíche na Púcaí (Púca Night) 6. What is Samhain called in Ireland today?
  13. 13. Answer: B In Ireland, the celebration became known as Oíche Shamhna but – a one night celebration – it now has little in common with the prehistoric festival. Ireland never had a Festival for the Dead. Most people in Ireland now celebrate the much more commercial derivative: Halloween. It would be nice to think we could reclaim that lost cultural event once day.
  14. 14. Go raibh maith agaibh (Thank you)
  15. 15. Come visit us at: irishimbasbooks.com

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