Here are some quotes from the Irish Peasantry of 125 years ago regarding Samhain, or modern day Halloween. This 1887 book titled, 'Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland' was originally published during a difficult period for the Irish people. The last witch burning in Ireland is usually said to have taken place in 1895, only eight years after the work was published. The book is often criticized - rightly so - for its depiction of animal sacrifice and torture:
"The dead walk on November Eve."
In Clare, stories are shared by the peasants who gather "round the fire on the awful festival of Samhain, or November Eve, when the dead walk, and the spirits of earth and air have power over mortals, whether for good or evil."
"The great feast of Bel, or the Sun, took place on May Eve and that of Samhain, or the Moon, on November Eve; when libations were poured out to appease the evil spirits, and also the spirits of the dead, who come out of their graves on that night to visit their ancient homes."
"The peasants in Ireland, wishing you good luck, say in Irish, 'The blessing of Bel, and the blessing of Samhain, be with you,' that is, of the sun and of the moon."
"These were the great festivals of the Druids, when all domestic fires were extinguished, in order to be re-lit by the sacred fire taken from the temples, for it was deemed sacrilege to have any fires kindled except from the holy altar flame."
"The ancient Irish divided the year into summer and winter Samrath and Gheimrath; the former beginning in May, the latter in November, called also Sam-fuim (summer end). At this season, when the sun dies, the powers of darkness exercise great and evil influence over all things. The witch-women say they can then ride at night through the air with Diana of the Ephesians, and Herodias, and others leagued with the devil: and change men to beasts; and ride with the dead and cover leagues of ground on swift spirit-horses. Also on November Eve, by certain incantations, the dead can be made to appear and answer questions."
"Divination by fire, by earth, and by water, is also largely practiced; but, as an ancient writer has observed, 'All such divinations are accursed, for they are worked by the power of the fallen angels, who give knowledge only through malice, and to bring evil on the questioner."
According to this text, these days of the dead originally lasted a full month!
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