Bonfire near body of water

The Origins of Samhuinn

Bonfire near body of water

It’s just a few days until Halloween and this is undoubtedly one of the busiest weeks in the year for our guides. Why? Because with the onset of dark, bitter days comes heightened superstition and fascination with the paranormal. Especially in Scotland. 

After all, it’s at Halloween that the barriers separating the living and the dead are supposed to break down and facilitate communication with the spiritual world…

Ever courteous to our victims (I mean, our visitors…), we deliver only the most horrifying tours of the South Bridge vaults. Book now to celebrate Halloween with us, which has its roots in the Gaelic festival of Samhuinn. 

What is Samhuinn? 

The ancient Celts celebrated Samhuinn between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. It was the most impressive of their four fire festivals staged throughout the year, with a large bonfire being lit by a Druid priest to honour the dead. 

Traditionally, it marked the end of the harvest season and the coming of darker days. The Celts reckoned that with death and decay happening all around them, ancient spirits could break into the mortal world and torment the living. 

Offerings, such as animal sacrifices, were left on doorsteps to distract harmful ghosts from meddling with the community, while “dumb suppers” were held for deceased family members, whereby a meal was plated up for them in their memory. 

The Celts would also dress up as strange creatures to “disguise” themselves from the ghosts, which is where the Scottish tradition of “guising” (more commonlyknown today as “trick or treating”) comes from.

How can I celebrate Samhuinn today? 

For information on how to watch a modern reimagining of the Samhuinn fire festival in Edinburgh this month, check out our Six Spine-Chilling Suggestions of Things To Do in Edinburgh for Halloween.

The Scottish Crannog Centre is also hosting an evening of fire displays, games and fortune telling on Halloween night, which we reckon is bound to create the atmosphere of drama and celebration once experienced by the ancient Celts. 

However, if getting as close to the paranormal world is what you’re truly looking for this festive season, then look no further than Auld Reekie Tours. 

Our Halloween Fright Night will have you dressing up and leaving your leftovers at the door in no time…

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