Cover image for The pagan mysteries of Halloween : celebrating the dark half of the year
The pagan mysteries of Halloween : celebrating the dark half of the year
Markale, Jean.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Halloween, histoire et traditions. English
Publication Information:
Rochester, Vermont : Inner Traditions, [2001]

Physical Description:
154 pages ; 23 cm
Subject Term:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GT4965 .M256 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Holiday

On Order



A comprehensive examination of the rituals and philosophies of the Celtic holiday of Samhain, the inspiration for Halloween.

* Presents the true meaning of this ancient holiday and shows how contemporary observances still faithfully reflect the rituals of pagan ancestors.

* Explains why this holiday, largely confined to the English-speaking world since the advent of Christianity, has spread throughout the rest of Europe over the last two decades.

One of humanity's most enduring myths is that the dead, on certain nights of the year, can leave the Other World and move freely about the land of the living. Every year on October 31, when the children of the world parade through the streets dressed as monsters, skeletons, and witches, they reenact a sacred ceremony whose roots extend to the dawn of time. By receiving gifts of sweets from strangers, the children establish, on a symbolic plane that exceeds their understanding, a fraternal exchange between the visible world and the invisible world. Author Jean Markale meticulously examines the rituals and ceremonies of ancient festivities on this holiday and shows how they still shape the customs of today's celebration. During the night of Samhain , the Celtic precursor of today's holiday, the borders between life and death were no longer regarded as insurmountable barriers. Two-way traffic was temporarily permitted between this world and the Other World, and the wealth and wisdom of the sidhe , or fairy folk, were available to the intrepid individuals who dared to enter their realm. Markale enriches our understanding of how the transition from the light to the dark half of the year was a moment in which time stopped and allowed the participants in the week-long festival to attain a level of consciousness not possible in everyday life, an experience we honor in our modern celebrations of Halloween.

Author Notes

Jean Markale -- poet, philosopher, historian, and storyteller -- has spent a lifetime researching pre-Christian and medieval culture and spirituality. He is the author of more than forty books, He is a specialist in Celtic studies at the Sorbonne and lives in the Brittany region of France

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Markale, a French specialist in Celtic traditions, traces the history of Halloween from its origins as a Samhain festival, discussing its juxtaposition with the Christian All Saints Day and its modern renaissance as a mischievous children's holiday. Although the text is generally quite evenhanded, some oversimplifications creep in, as when Markale calls November 2, the Day of the Dead, "a kind of `ancestor worship' that dares not say its name," or when he claims that "we know" that the dead walk about on Halloween night "because some people have witnessed it." Markale is best when he sticks to history, claiming, for example, that after centuries of suppression in Europe, Halloween found new life among 19th-century Irish immigrants to America. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1 The Celtic Festival of Samhainp. 9
The Festival of Samhain in the Celtic Calendarp. 10
The Rituals of Samhainp. 19
Death and Rebirth of the Kingp. 31
2 The Fantastic Nightp. 53
The Liturgical Games of Samhainp. 53
The Interconnection with the Other Worldp. 63
The Abolition of Timep. 72
The Profound Meaning of Samhainp. 75
3 The Festival of All the Saintsp. 85
The Dating of All Saints' Dayp. 85
The Festival of the Deadp. 90
Purgatoryp. 94
The Protectress of the Anaonsp. 97
4 The Shadows of Halloweenp. 103
The Permanence of Halloweenp. 103
The Diffusion of Halloweenp. 109
Beliefs, Rituals, and Spellsp. 113
Conclusion: Exorcising Deathp. 121
Notesp. 133
Bibliographyp. 141