The modern Halloween we are all familiar with is a combination of celebrations for the Gaelic Festival Samhain and the Catholic celebrations of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. Samhain marked the end of the harvest and end of Summer and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year. It was believed that the boundaries between this world and the Otherworld were more easily crossed on this day. This meant the spirits or faeries could travel to our world. It was also believed that spirits of lost relatives would visit, and feasts were had in their remembrance.
Part of the festival involved people going door to door in costumes or disguises reciting versus in exchange for food. The disguises were intended to either appear as spirits or hide from spirits who crossed over to this world. Bonfires, rituals, and games were a big part of the festival as well. Neopagans and Wiccans now celebrate Samhain as a religious holiday. Samhain is part of the annual cycle of seasonal festivals called The Wheel of the Year. It is seen as a festival of darkness which is balanced at the opposite point of the wheel by the festival of Beltane, which is celebrated as a festival of light and fertility on May 1.
Here in Tucson, AZ we have the annual All Soul’s Procession celebrating the family members people have lost. However you celebrate; whether it’s remembering you lost family members, posing as a spirit and collecting offering from others, or enjoying a bonfire with friends, stay safe and have a blessed Samhain.
Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. While some consider this the official beginning of Summer, others call it Midsummer because it’s when the Sun reaches its peak. Celebrations during the solstice are found in every country and believed to have been around since the Stone Age. Stonehenge in the UK aligns with the sunrise on the Summer Solstice and aligns with the sunset during the Winter Solstice. The Summer Solstice sunset falls between two of the pyramids of Giza near Cairo, Egypt. Christians celebrate the Feast of St. John the Baptist around the Summer Solstice.
Pagans, Druids, and Wiccans call the Summer Solstice Litha. And like many of the Midsummer celebrations, there are bonfires, feasts, and offerings. There is a great deal of mythology around Litha. I encourage everyone to read up on it if interested. Some of you may recall I spent last Summer in Fairbanks, AK. Being near the Arctic Circle, they have a celebration called the Midnight Sun Festival. The festival takes place at midnight and the sun is still shining. There is also a baseball game, the Midnight Sun Game. It starts at 10:30 pm and continues through midnight with no artificial lighting.
If you’ve never visited Alaska in the Summer, I recommend it. Until then, stoke up a fire, have a feast with friends, and I hope your Midsummer Night Dreams are pleasant ones. They may or may not involve fairies. If you’ve never seen Shakespeare’sA Midsummer Night’s Dream, I also recommend this. Have a blessed Litha.