My life as a museum novice – Spooky Samhain!

More from Ellen as she experiences her first Celtic Samhain at the Crannog!


On October 31st, the Crannog held an event to celebrate the spookiest night of the year – Halloween! But this wasn’t any old Halloween celebration; this was the celebration of Samhain (pronounced “Sow-ain”), the ancestor of our modern traditions.

Samhain dates back to ancient times when people would gather to feast and leave offerings of food and drink outside for their ancestors to join them.  It was the festival that celebrated the transition from summer to winter when cattle would be brought down from their grazing pastures and bonfires would be lit to cleanse and protect the community in the coming year.  Samhain also signalled the night where the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead would be its thinnest allowing spirits to pass between the two.  People would practice ‘guising’ using masks and costumes to hide from any evil spirits that passed through the veil.  These ancient traditions have been practised for thousands of years and have evolved over time to become the new tradition of Halloween that we all celebrate today.

Our event on Samhain included a feast of soup and rolls (plus sweeties for the little ones of course), games of apple dooking, fire and incense. lotions and potions, storytelling by the fire and shadow puppets.  The evening culminated with an address to Samhain and the burning of a wicker ram.  The ram was filled with paper on which our guests had written down all the bad things they wanted to get rid of in the new year.  After the ram burn, our musical friend’s Mad Ferret played songs which our visitors danced the cold away.

Celebrating an ancient tradition like Samhain connects us to our Crannog ancestors, not only through our own interpretations of their lives and festivals but perhaps even through the veil between our world and the otherworld – where their spirits can visit us once a year and set foot in a Crannog once more …