Although the phrase All Hallows' is found in Old English (ealra hālgena mæssedæg, mass-day of all saints), All Hallows' Eve is itself not seen until 1556. The word Halloween or Hallowe'en dates to about 1745, and is derived from the Scottish term for All Hallows' Eve (the evening before All Hallows' Day). In Scots, the word eve is even, and this is contracted to e'en or een, which in time evolved into the word Halloween. However, the actual celebration was based on the Celtic Samhain celebration, which was the traditional Celtic New Year, and at the same time a festival dedicated to the ancestors, or the “dead,” as the West likes to say.
According to some scholars, All Hallows' Eve is a Christianized feast that has two roots: western European harvest festivals, and the Celtic Samhain. Other historians have attempted to give the celebration a Roman pedigree, claiming its origins lie in the Roman feast of Pomona, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia. These argument are less tenable. But while the argument for a harvest festival connection is plausible, the connection between Halloween and the Celtic festival of Samhain," is undeniable. In the early centuries of the first millennium A.D., before Christian missionaries such as St. Patrick and St. Columcille converted the Celts to Christianity, they practiced an elaborate religion through their priestly caste, the Druids.
Most religious scholars agree that the word Samhain (pronounced "sow-en") comes from the Gaelic “Samhuin” for "summer's end," marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Samhain was the first and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic calendar and was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. It was held on or about October 31 – November 1 and kindred festivals were held at the same time of year by the various Celtic groups in Britannia. It was seen as a liminal period when spirits could more easily enter into the “human” realm. The souls of thankful kin could return to bestow blessings just as easily as that of a murdered person could return to wreak revenge. As a result of this reality, the festival had a certain ambivalence; while the spirits of the dead were welcomed (even setting a plate for them at the Dumb Supper), the unwelcome spirits were feared and propitiated to ward them off.
The Druidism or the religion of the ancient Celts believed that on their New Year's Eve, all of the people who died in the past year would rise up and search for the passageway to the netherworld. On this night the passageway or "veil" between both worlds was it's thinnest. Lord Samhain would roam the earth in search of these souls to capture them and take them to his world of darkness. The priest circled the traditional Samhain bonfire with the skulls of their ancestors in order to protect the people from malevolent souls that night, while the people put lights in their windows to help the dead find their way into the netherworld.
In 609, the Roman Church introduced All Saints (Hallows) day as a day dedicated to remembering the faithful departed believers (dead), which included saints (hallows) and Christian martyrs. The mass on All Saints’ Day was called Allhallowmas – the mass of all those who are hallowed or venerated. The new holiday became a celebration to honor any saint who did not already have a specific day already dedicated to them—hence all (other) saints were collectively recognized on this day. It was originally observed on May 13 until in 835, at the behest of Pope Gregory IV, it was deliberately switched to November 1, the same day as Samhain. This was a common practice of the church to celebrate one of their holidays on the same day as an established pagan holiday, superimposing Catholic symbolism and rites onto the existing celebration, in an effort to replace it. (In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the peoples he sought to convert. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshiped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship. Halloween is just another example of this, just as Easter and Christmas had been earlier examples of.)
The contemporary celebration of Halloween is filled with the symbolism of the Samhain's ancestor worship. For example, the jack-o-lantern, the wearing of costumes, "trick or treating" or "trunk or treating," and the association of the night with “evil” are all elements of the Samhain.
An Afrikan presence existed among the Celts, and we know this because the Roman historian Tacitus informs us that many of the Celts were as “dark as Ethiopians.” Moreover, we also see it in their obvious ancestral veneration, as reflected in Samhain. One of our problems is in trying to get a true and impartial understanding of the Samhain and Druidism in general. We get a distorted picture of the pre-Christian Celts since Christian writers customarily demonized any and every thing considered paganism. While missionaries identified their All Saints Day with Samhain, they branded the earlier religion's spiritual beings as evil, associating them with the Christian Devil and his minions. The Druids were considered evil worshipers of devilish or demonic gods and spirits and the Celtic netherworld inevitably became identified with the Christian Hell. Much of what we read about the Celts and Druidism may be typical Christian propaganda.
On the other hand, we may also be witnessing Britannia as a zone of confluence. According to Diop, this was an area of the world where the two cradles met producing a hybrid culture, with the southern cradle culture usually giving way to the more violence-prone northern cradle culture. If Druidism, as I have argued in an earlier blog was a vestige of Afrikan traditional spiritually, then we can assume it was besieged by the Roman Church and the Celts of Aryan descent. Perhaps the predilection in Druidism for the demonic was a perjoration of traditional Afrikan ancestor veneration. Unlike in traditional Afrikan ancestor veneration, the Celts seemed to be preoccupied with spirits that they were unable to identify. A ghost is nothing more than an ancestor that cannot be identified and is consequently feared. (In the Akan system if a person becomes “possessed” (goes into trance) and the forces (deity or ancestor) is not recognized or identified, it is quickly asked “what is its mission," and if a satisfactory answer in not given then the force is asked to leave and efforts are made to bring the person out of trance.) Also, the Celts were overly concerned with “witches,” which again might suggest a shift from a southern cradle to a northern cradle orientation. Oftentimes an attack on “witches” is a veiled attack on female spiritual power. Was this symptomatic of a rising misogyny among the Celts due to either Christianity or the northern cradle influence?
The Samhain was a celebration of the ancestors, and was a time when they returned to the realm of the living offering advise and counsel. This is the most fundamental aspect of Afrikan spiritually; I would say ancestor veneration is a universal feature in Afrikan devotional systems. Since at one time the entire planet was populated only by Afrikans, this must be the source of ancestor veneration wherever on the planet it is found. As other races developed from the Afrikan, they slowly rejected and rebelled against the Afrikan worldview, with ancestor veneration often being the first casualty. (Pardon the pun.) The early Celts (or at least the Black ones) and Druidism were part of that legacy and therefore Samhain was as well.