This is your guide to understanding Samhain in Ireland, with Lora O’Brien. Today we’re turning our focus to the rich traditions and nuanced discussions surrounding Samhain in Ireland, so we can learn, experience and integrate, as per the 3 Pillars of Irish Paganism.
(Downloadable Free Samhain Cheat Sheet is Below!)
What is Samhain?
Samhain, pronounced as Sow-in (sow as in cow), is one of the ancient fire festivals in Ireland. It marks a major turning point in the year and is traditionally observed on the 31st of October and 1st of November. You may also associate it with the festival of Halloween.
However, there’s some debate about when exactly we should be celebrating Samhain.
What is the True Date of Samhain?
The question of when to celebrate Samhain is a point of contention. Some argue for the astronomical cross-quarter day, which shifts every year. For instance, in 2022, it falls on November 7th.
Others find it more convenient to stick with the calendar date of October 31st. And others still are trying to say that there’s no ‘ancient tradition of Samhain’ in Ireland… which is definitely not the case.
Why just today I saw a Facebook post by the inimitable Morgan Daimler, who very kindly put together a list of the ancient tales and texts which mention Samhain, including: the Wooing of Emer, Lebor Gabala Erenn, the Battle of Mag Mucrama, the Battle of Crimna, the Birth of Aedh Slaine, and Echtra Nera.
Look, just stop being weird will yiz? Let people have nice things.
I also made a whole video on What Date is Samhain… When is Samhain – the 31st October? The 7th of November on the astronomical Cross Quarter Day? There’s a lot of confusion about when, exactly, is the right time to celebrate Samhain, the Irish ‘Celtic’ Fire Festival. Lora O’Brien of the Irish Pagan School answers the question – what date is Samhain (and… how do we pronounce Samhain)?!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it wrong to celebrate on October 31st?
No, it’s not wrong. The key is to make an informed choice based on authentic cultural sources and your personal circumstances.
What is the connection between Samhain and the Pleiades?The Pleiades: Online Class exploring the Significance of the Stars in Ireland, and Globally
The Pleiades star system has a significant connection to Samhain, especially concerning fairy faith. For more, you can check out our class taught by Morgan Daimler at the Irish Pagan School.
Simple Divination Experience: The Apple and the Mirror
One of the traditional Irish methods of divination involves the use of an apple and a mirror. This exercise is best performed alone, in a quiet space, and preferably at midnight on Samhain.
- A fresh apple
- A hand-held mirror
- A candle
- A small knife
Preparation: Light the candle and place it on a table. Sit comfortably in front of it, ensuring the room is otherwise dark.
Cleansing: Take a few deep breaths to centre yourself. Hold the apple and mirror in your hands momentarily, focusing on clearing your mind and opening it to the insights that may come.
Peeling the Apple: Use the knife to peel the apple, trying to make the peel come off in one long strip. As you do this, think about the questions or issues you’d like guidance on.
The Mirror: Hold the mirror up to catch the candle’s light and gaze into it. This is a moment for introspection. Ask your question aloud or keep it in your mind.
The Apple Peel: Drop the apple peel over your left shoulder and then turn to look at the shape it has formed on the ground. The shape may offer insights or initials related to your question.
Closing: Thank the elements and any guiding spirits or ancestors for their insights. Extinguish the candle.
Reflection & Integration: Spend some time jotting down what you saw in the mirror and the shape of the apple peel. These are your divinatory symbols, and they may take some time to fully understand.
Samhain Cheat Sheet
For a more comprehensive understanding of Samhain, don’t forget to download our free ‘Samhain Cheat Sheet’. This resource is based on my online class Samhain in Ireland, and will help you ground your practice in authentic Irish customs and traditions.
This exercise is a way to connect with the Irish folk tradition of divination, particularly relevant during the liminal time of Samhain, when the worlds’ energies are shifting and changing. It’s an opportunity to seek wisdom from beyond our world.
Whether you choose to celebrate on October 31st, November 7th, or any other date, the most important thing is to make an informed decision. Your personal practice should be a blend of authentic information and personal experimentation.
For more resources and up-to-date information, join our community mailing list at Irish Pagan School.
Slán go fóill, and have a blessed Samhain season.