Halloween – Oidhche Shamhna -Oíche Shamhna

The above title is Happy Halloween in English, Scottish Gaelic, and Irish Gaelic.

Modern Edinburgh Halloween reaching back to ancient Halloween

Halloween has always been my favourite celebration of the year. Growing up in Rousay, an Orkney Island we had many traditions surrounding Halloween. Guising was an old tradition which involved dressing up, hence guising. In years gone past the costumes were as frightening as they could be as on that night, being a quarter day, the veil between the worlds was at it’s thinnest and the spirits, evil, good or mischievious would walk amongst us. Below is a an old pic from Shetland.

These are known as skeklers and they went round the houses on Halloween or for other celebrations such as weddings and Up Helly aa, the famous Shetland New Year festival.

It was also a tradition to set a place at the table for ancestors on this night, full of food and drink so if they visited they would be happy. To raise a dram, (shot of alcohol) to the dead was also done.

As a child our primary school held a fantastic Halloween party and we would all dress up, carry our Neepy Lanterns, which were begun weeks before and there would be prizes given out. Below is a photo of Rousay bairns at Halloween. I’m in the middle.

There is so much more to Halloween and our traditions but that is for another post. I will leave you with one of the most important traditions of our family.

Leaving out a bowl of sweet treats for the faeries or good folk. I have carried this with me from Orkney and pass it on to who ever will do the same.

It usually comprises of oats, milk, dried fruit, bread and honey.

Legends has it that the fey change courts on Halloween as it is one of the quarter days and to see them would mean you followed the procession, forever lost to the faery realm.

This last picture is of the Welsh Mari Lwyd, normally a Christmas tradition, she has been seen at Halloween too. I love her and am so happy that this tradition is coming back with a vengence.

Our ancestors knew that traditions handed down were knowledge of how to interact with the world around them and the various beings who shared it with them.

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