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Breaking the Narrative Episode 20: Go Gaelic! The History of Samhain!

Blessed Samhain to all the happy readers of this website! Oh what did I say? Samhain (pronounced Sah-win) is the traditional holiday name of what most call Halloweeen or All Hallows Eve. I approach this since like I said in the previous article I am a Gaelic Pagan. No, not a Wiccan. Wicca is a religion crafted by a political group with connections to one Gerald Gardiner. Hence its other name of Gardenarian Wicca. Why is mentioning this important? Well, I figure its fair to break another well spread narrative – that October 31st is the ‘devil’s day.’ This is put out there by people who are drastically uneducated about what the holiday is truly about, honoring one’s ancestors and respecting the world around you.

I know what a lot of you are thinking now, “But Alex a lot of us are atheists. Why are you trying to convert us to your religion?” Let me kill that thought now. The key tenet of my beliefs are to “Do as ye will but harm ye none all of those under Moon and Sun!” One of the things this means is I don’t believe in converting people because to force someone to be something they aren’t on the inside is harming them. I am of firm belief that we are all born with our comprehension of faith inside of us. If you have no faith inside of yourself then there is nothing I can do to make you have it even if I wanted to. All I’m intending with this article is to tell the history of the holiday, show how anyone of any belief structure can enjoy it as the festival it is, and encourage the idea of using such a festival to help break down vitriol and encourage people to have some fucking fun! Plus I’m sure a lot of you would like to give cultural appropriation people a big fuck you. As such, let me help.

Most of the information we are going to approach here can be found in Doreen Valiente’s An ABC of Witchcraft:Past and Present. However if for whatever reason you wish to give more directly to the author’s estate there is an official website for her here. Full disclosure: I’m in no way affiliated with Valiente’s estate or any of the publishers linked. I’m simply letting you know which of my own books I’m pulling from.

To start, lets get a definition of what Samhain is. Samhain is one of the 8 Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, sabbats being what most refer to as ‘holidays,’ four greater and four lesser. ‘Halloween’ is one of the Greater Sabbats and as such denotes a grand feast that is in this form to be the shift between the years in the traditional Gaelic calendar. Specifically, it’s the feast of the dead in which one sets spots at  the table for the deceased. In many ways Samhain is considered the greatest of the four feasts. As for the other Sabbats I may explain those at a later date. Now on to the focus of our article.

The biggest complaint given in the “Current Year” is that of cultural appropriation. Lets counter that here and now by mentioning this as a whole. Anyone who calls themselves ‘wiccan’ can be considered perpetrators of cultural appropriation due to the fact that wiccans adopt whichever pantheon they prefer and sometimes even mix and match. However, that is something for another article down the road. The really interesting thing is the reason ancient cultures such as those of Witchcraft based religions, Hinduism, and Shinto even still exist in this day and age is due to their fluidity and willingness to adopt and adapt. In this fashion cultural appropriation should actually be called cultural development. This is because culture is by its very nature a conglomeration of ideas, a penultimate meritocracy and diversity of thought if you will. By taking this route you doom your culture to stagnation and eventually death, but that seems to be what social justice warriors want; a death to successful Western culture so they can rebuild from corruption and disdain. This regression may be a result of going against survival of the fittest as hard as our culture has.  We did bring this upon ourselves but there is always hope. There is always a way to persevere. From this point forward, I’m going to suggest a practice of this blessed Sabbat in a way to not only bolster male bonding, but to perhaps find a way to fix the damage feminism has done to women.

So to deal with this fact now that we have gotten that pesky regressive accusation out of the way, how shall we work with male bonding with children in a healthy manner? This is typically done through the ceremonial disguises in the Old Ways, Fathers typically worked on the crafting of family masks and takes the place of the Old King, a representation of the old year phasing out for the new one. In full covens this role is typically taken by the high priest but here we are going by individual families since we are going into the accurate practice. In small families some people can take multiple roles if needed, the consolidation of such practices being thought out due to the persecution various paganfolk got at the hands of not just ancient Christians but particularly Islam. The horrors they have performed on Zoroastreans is another interesting thing to look into. Again I digress.

The original practices were meant to bring the family together. Of course those we find ourselves poised against hate family units with a passion, but everyone has their role, the mother in particular has the role of the Crone while an older male plays the role of the Green Man who transitions into the Frost King. Over all the rituals were meant as a song and dance to promote unity. I can understand many not wanting to participate in these practices but describing this origin sets the mood.

So what does this mean for a contemporary age family? It helps us come up with roles for each person. One parent should help with Jack-O-Lanterns for one, many families I have known gave the dad this role. Costumes typically covered by the mother. However I think this would be more of a fun project if we inverted those roles. The mother taking over the carving of Jacks with children and then showing them how to boil down the rest, roast the seeds and make natural tasty treats with them. Then fathers can help make solid home made costumes and masks. This is what I plan to do and would make it easy to save in the long run.

I realize this can be time consuming but I have a fun alternative for people to try. Instead of cardboard or wood use something newer I found out about called Plastimake. This is a substance that works similarly to how mouthguards work. You boil it in water for about 3 minutes then you work on molding it. Then you put it in ice water to set. You can get a decent amount for about $50 US and it lasts forever. You can even get dye kits to make it any color you need. This works well for custom hard plastic masks and cheap prop customization. This is another thing that I must say is not any sort of merchandising deal and I’m suggesting it because I actually use it. I am getting no money or free crap from them.

Now what about the candy thing? People complain a lot about this. Well originally this Sabbat was about a feast where radishes, roots and various other vegetables were the base, so cheesy potato bakes and casseroles are common. Also included are the aforementioned pumpkin recipes, and also apple cider. Also you can’t go wrong with meat pies topped with bacon. That’s another thing Islam hates about Samhain. We pagans love our bacon! Also having such a meal before you go out for trick or treating will deter your kids from diving straight into their candy and will give you time for proper inspection for safety. Now I bet you are all wondering about the whole ‘trick or treat’ thing. This isn’t as dark as it was depicted. In fact this is for all intents and purposes natural childhood playing of pranks. Pranks here would be sneaking up and spooking unsuspecting adults or teasing others, nothing worse than an April Fool’s day prank. This was a practice ultimately to disincentivize greed.  It is at its very base a promotion of charitable acts at the end of the year. Many like to pin just horrific acts to Western culture via colonialism but in comparison to many other cultures Western ones are typically the most charitable cultures on the face of the planet.

Finally we will go into the honoring of the dead. Ancestral rites. Feminists and social justice types tend to hate history because it proves them wrong. So honoring ancestors proper would probably irk them too because they see past peoples as thought criminals for not being as ‘advanced’ as they are. In Samhain this is done during the feast by setting a spot for the dead, typically the most recently deceased in a family, in honor and remembrance for their deeds. If you are alone and feel like honoring the dead as an MRA, set a spot of honor for those who have died to fix our broken system such as Earl Silverman. This in itself isn’t so much a religious act as much as it is a symbolic act of solidarity for the sake of righting wrongs in society for both men and women.

There is a lot to potentially pack in here and if people want much more knowledge on this vaunted practice of Samhain I highly suggest reading High Priestess Valiente’s works. However I will also do something unusal and give some names to avoid at all costs when in reference to the old religions of the world. Steer clear form Silver Ravenwolf and those who write for Llelewyn press that concentrate on the feminine as the prime source of religious belief. These are typically informed by feminist thinkers. For #GamerGate people out there writer Katherine Cross and her partner have influenced a few of these people so keep an eye out and check the book’s references before you look at it. This was a tough one for even myself to get done but next time we have a doozy. I’m getting electoral and going after the High Priestess Golden LOLcow of feminism herself: Hillary Rodham Clinton! Until next time Game Freely.

Alex Tinsley
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.
Alex Tinsley
Follow me at
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.