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:
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
• From Samhain (start Nov) to Bealtaine
• From Bealtaine to Samhain
a. Uniquely In ancient Ireland?
b. In Ireland and Scotland?
c. All across Europe?
2. Where did Samhain take place? Was it:
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
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?
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
The Samhain celebration would have
lasted for far longer than a single night,
probably between 1-2 weeks,.
b. Ducking Apples and Hanging Apples?
4. How was Samhain initially celebrated?
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
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
a. Colonization by the Normans/English?
5. Which Cultural Impact had the greatest effect
on Samhain in Ireland?
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
Encouraging people to gather at
various residence to say mass
and worship God instead of
partaking in “pagan festivities”.
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
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:
It would be nice to think we could reclaim
that lost cultural event once day.