History of Halloween
The history of Halloween in Scotland begins with the ancient Celtic religious celebration of Samhain (summer's end). One of the two greatest annual Druidic festivals (Beltane is the other), Samhain marked the end of the light half of the year and the beginning of the dark half.
Samhain is the Celtic new year celebration. Beginning on the evening of October 31 (the Celts counted their days from sunset to sunset, just as the bible does), the festival would last three days (perhaps longer).
As with other holidays of the Celtic year, October 31 marked a mystical time when the usual barriers between our world and the Otherworld thinned and stretched allowing contact between human beings and the fairy folk and/or the spirits of the dead.
Many of the celebratory elements, such as playing pranks, originated in the notion that at this time the world was turned inside out prompting people to act with abandon against the usual social strictures.
Fire is a central element in all the Celtic celebrations. All hearthfires were put out and new fires lit from the great bonfires. In Scotland, men lit torches in the bonfires and circled their homes and lands with them to obtain protection for the coming year.
Later, Christian elements came into play, as All Hallows' Day (all Saints' Day) and All Souls' Day contributed their own unique traditions to the core, such as trick or treating (collecting "soul cakes" on All Souls' Day) and dressing up in frightening costumes as protection against evil spirits.
At no time, either in the Celtic religion nor in the Christian, was Halloween history connected with the devil or devil worship. Modern satanists have appropriated a holiday that is not their own.
Once Halloween (name corrupted from All Hallows' Eve) came to America from Ireland and Scotland, other cultures have added their own elements to the modern American celebration - vampire lore, werewolves, etc.
For more information about the Celtic Year, please visit our Celtic Mythology page.
A Hallowe'en Anthology: Literary and Historical Writers over the Centuries
By Lisa Morton
Includes Celtic Halloween traditions and Irish and Scottish Halloween folklore.
The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: Celebrating the Dark Half of the Year
By Jean Markale
From the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain, Markale traces the history of Halloween.
The Haunted History of Halloween
From the History Channel
Highly entertaining and informative DVD from the History Channel on Halloween history and traditions.
Scottish Ghost Stories
By James Robertson
Spooky collection of some well-known and less known ghost stories from Scotland.