Tag Archives: Samhain

Samhain and Halloween are related… right?

The following post comes from my attempt at an unpublished book which I never completed. I thought I could use my chapters as blog posts instead. This was originally drafted in 2013, and my writing voice was different from what it is now. I’ve edited where I could, but I didn’t fancy re-writing approx 3000 words.

The wheel turns once more bringing with it the darkness stretched shadows and weakened light. Harvest has ended, the fallen leaves turning to mulch now begin to whiten with the first frosts of the oncoming winter. Depends on the year, the October of 2017 is quite a warm one. There are skeletal trees, but there are many that are golden, orange and red.

Both Halloween and Samhain bring to mind skeletal trees standing aloft the icy mists, dusky evenings and streetlights battling against the otherworldly fog…. although today has blue skies, sunlight and children wandering around in costume on this Saturday afternoon. Saying that, as my train goes through the Peak District and there’s the fog!

For many Modern Pagans, Samhain was, and still is, the festival marking the official end of the summer season and the beginning of winter. To the mainstream consciousness, ‘Hallowe’en’ is something celebrated by children at best and a load of “Mumbo-Jumbo” or “Devil Worship” at worst. Samhain and Halloween, two totally different festivals celebrated at the same time and yet one is the evolution, if not the descendant, of the other.

Samhain by the water?

Samhain, pronounced “sow-en” (as in ‘sow’, rhyming with ‘now’), comes from the Old Irish Sam (summer) and fuin (end) and there appears to be a difference between the Samhain of back then and what Samhain means today.
Dr Ann Ross hypothesises that Samhain was a celebratory festival that took place by a local lake by the tribe or even tribes that came together for this occasion.
Great feasts supposedly took place by the local water source (such as a lake, a well, a river or the sea) giving us a possibility that it may have been seen as honouring the local goddesses. It is known the Celtic people saw the local water source as the embodiment of the goddess, the water was considered her realm. This may have been the time for giving offerings to the local deities. Celtic practice did include giving up the spoils of war such as shields, spears, swords, loot, to the river, probably in thanks for the victory they achieved in battle. This practice also included decapitated heads of the losers of battle being offered to the waters. This would have made sense to a people who saw the soul residing in the head, and considering it was one of Bilé’s duties to usher the souls of the dead back to the Mother Goddess figure, Danu, then summer’s end would have been the perfect time to do so.

According to the old stories, such as ‘The Wasting Sickness of Cuchulainn’, Samhain is described as follows:

Every year the men of Ulster were accustomed to hold festival together;
And the time when they held it was for three days before Samhain, and for
Three days after that day, and upon Samhain itself.

It was a festival of trade, feasting, drinking, boasting and games of skill and combat. These activities are found in accounts and stories of Beltane and Lughnasadh; Samhain follows suit in that regards. Where it doesn’t is its name.
Unlike Beltane and Lughnasadh, Samhain wasn’t named after any specific deity such as Bel or Lugh. In that respect, it is similar to Imbolc in that the name of the festival is descriptive (“Summer End” and Imbolc’s “Ewe’s Milk”), however there is no association with any specific deity. Instead, the stories tell us of deities, monsters, shape-shifters and ‘fairy women’ who come from the mists to terrorise or enchant the local populace:

In ‘The Wasting Sickness of Cuchulainn’ during the Samhain festival, Cuchulainn fails to catch one of the birds that come from the sky and everyone finds beautiful. To prove himself to his wife, Emer, he pursues two other beautiful birds that are held together by a red-gold chain as they fly over a lake. Failing in trying to catch them, Cuchulainn dreams of two women who curse him with a sickness for trying to attack them. Only for one of them to fall in love with him, problem being he already has a wife and the ‘fairy woman’ is married to Manannan Mac Lir, one of the Tuatha De Danaan!

The Dream of Angus’, tells of Angus Og, son of the Dagda, falling in love with a girl he dreams about. On his quest to find her, he discovers she is the daughter of another of the Tuatha De Danaan, Ethal Anbuail. He also finds that she turns into a swan for one year, then a girl the next. So, when he learns she will change into a swan that year at Samhain, he goes to the lake Loch Bél Dracon where he sees lots of swans (150 of them!) with silver and gold chains. He calls out the girl’s name, Caer, and when she comes forward in swan form, Angus turns into a swan also, before singing the song of sleeping as they fly away; beginning their elopement.

The ‘Agallamh na Senórach’ (Colloquy of the Ancients) contains a tale of the hero, Caoilte. Who, with his friends, goes to the Sidhe in order to heal an ailment. They won’t help him unless he kills three ravens that come from the Northern sea that come every Samhain and take three young boys with them.

The Scottish name for Samhain is ‘Samhuinn’, and is used as the setting for the story of ‘The Kelpie’. In this tale, a young shield-bearer called Donall, recounts the act of the Kelpie (sea dwelling creature that can change into either a horse or a handsome young man, either way its enchantment is powerful) taking all the cheiftain’s sons. Donall is sent to look for the one man who may help them, Dall, a blind man who has great wisdom. Dall tells Donall that at the midnight feast of Samhuinn, he shall go to the waters of the sea and pit his magic against the Kelpie to get the sons back. Meanwhile, the Kelpie has seduced Donall’s best friend, Dianaimh, but the spell is broken when she gazes upon the Kelpie’s true slimy, water-horse form. She says she will only go with the Kelpie if she releases the cheiftain’s sons (one of which was her brother). The Kelpie agrees but secretly makes a plan of his own. At the Samhuinn feast, the Kelpie comes and takes Dianaimh’s beautiful cousin into the sea with him. At the same time as this, Dall the Blind has gone to the sea by the castle and works his spell. The Kelpie frees the chieftain’s sons and keeps the vain, selfish girl as a slave in his under-sea kingdom, allowing the mortals to think that Dall’s “magic” was powerful indeed. Now, that’s ‘Trick or treat’ for you!

From the stories and tales, we can see the idea of Samhain being close to the Otherworld and the supernatural. If the stories actually contain a truth in the act of having the feast by a lake or the sea, then this is probably because water was seen as not only the realm of the goddess, but of the Otherworld. Usually, in Celtic myth, if water or an earth mound wasn’t the gateway to the Otherworld, then fog was. What is fog if not a form of water vapour? And in autumn and winter, the chill in the air does indeed bring fog and mist…

Apart from being an ideal time for telling stories of heroes, creatures and gods, Samhain must have also been the last great festival before the hardship of winter was to come. The harvest was already gathered and livestock that was surplus would have been killed for the good of the people. This might seem harsh, but back then when there was only a fire to keep away the cold, sustenance as well as shelter were vital for survival. Animals were not killed for the sport of it as much could be gained from its death: Meat to be cooked and salted, bones for tool handles, jewellery, drinking horns, the creatures fat used for candles and cooking with, fur and feathers for cloaks, bedding and clothes against the snow and ice, its skin used for leather for belts, clothes, shoes, shield decorations and armour. To our modern point of view this might seem brutal, but to our ancestors, it was a necessity as in winter, the cold could kill human and animal alike. And if you didn’t have enough grain to feed the excess cattle, better to use the spare animals than leave them to die of hunger and cold.

Bonfires at Blodmonath?

Coincidentally, the Anglo-Saxons shared in a celebration around the same time as Samhain, this was called ‘Blodmonath’ (Literally ‘Blood Month’) and consisted of ceremonially sacrificing the cattle for the purpose of provision and sustenance as given above. This took place in November and involved a ritualised version of animal slaughter and meat salting, with the head being given to the gods. As well the burial of these animal heads at the homestead, the Anglo-Saxons also lit bonfires; something that Modern Pagans have always ascribed to Samhain and the Celts.

Fire was (and is) seen as a deterrent for spirits of all kinds, whether they are the sprites and brownies of the woods and the home or the spirits of the dead.
There is a number of folk customs around Samhain to suggest that fire was important at this time of year. Obviously when at the end of summer and the beginning of winter, fire was a very useful thing to have. Though it is interesting to note that none of the Celtic stories above mention anything about fire playing a prime ritualistic or ceremonial feature.
Folk customs around Great Britain and Ireland are varied at the time of Samhain, not all revolve around fire, but the some do:

In Ireland, a cross made of sticks and straw called a ‘parshell’ was hung outside the entrance of people’s homes. This was meant to keep out the fairies and goblins from wreaking havoc in the homestead.

In Scotland, Sir James Frazer in his ‘The Golden Bough’ writes of a Highland custom with fires called ‘Samhnagan’, involving the burning of ferns and long grass stalks with tar.
Another tradition involves the collection of peat to make a fire for burning the burning of witches…. crikey!

He also writes of the Welsh Calan Gaef (Calends of winter) custom which happens at the same time as Samhain; this is called ‘Coel Coeth’ and involves the burning of a bonfire until it became ash. At this point each family member of the homestead places a white stone with their name attached, before going to bed. Apparently if any went missing, it meant that the individual whose stone disappeared would die before the next Halloween.

The above practices are mainly Halloween customs of the remaining Celtic lands from the past few hundred years. Though not strictly Samhain rites, there is still the element of the supernatural about them.

“Celtic New Year”

It is in Modern Paganism we find the god has now officially died. The Goddess retreats, carrying the new god within her womb until his birth/rebirth at midwinter. In this version, Samhain is seen as the ‘Celtic New Year’ and a time of ancestor worship as Pagans use this time to say farewells to family members who have died in that year or simply get together to honour their ancestors and gods.
The ancestor part of Samhain actually comes from All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Unlike the traditional Samhain connections with the Otherworld, the focus of these Christian festivals is on the dead. The Catholic emphasis was of ensuring the souls of the dead could move on from purgatory to Heaven, often enacted with the burning of fires or straw to help guide the souls of their departed loved ones.
At some point, every culture has a form of recognising the ancestors. For Samhain, is it a kind of “Chicken and Egg” scenario? who venerated their ancestors first? the Pagan Celts? the Christian Britons? Or did the Christians begin honouring their dead because the old associations with the Otherworld and Unearthly beings became seen as something “evil”, or at least ‘Non-Christian?’

And what of the ‘Celtic New Year?’ According to Ronald Hutton in his ‘Stations of the Sun’:

…the philologist Sir John Rhys, who suggested that it (Samhain) had
been the ‘Celtic’ New Year. He had not documented this from early
records, but inferred it from contemporary folklore in Wales and
Ireland, which he felt to be full of Hallowe’en customs associated
with new beginnings.

Hutton also reveals that Frazer expanded on this idea as the ‘Celtic feast of the dead’.
Indeed, in the classical Samhain, there is no mention of the festival having anything to do with the New Year, Celtic or otherwise.
One argument for this could lie in the fact that the Celts counted their days at night and their months on the New Moon (as in the dark phase of the Moon, not the first crescent it is considered now). If this model has been interpreted correctly then it would make sense for the ‘New Year’ to be placed in the beginning of the dark half of the year. Truth is, we don’t really know.

The modern Samhain accepts the classic idea of the ‘veil being thin’ between our world and, in this case, the world of the dead. For Modern Pagans it is a night of honouring the ancestors, even saying goodbye to those family members and even pets who had died in the year. There are many ways of doing this, some give out litanies of those who they want to acknowledge, others give offerings of food and drink. Some even honour the Cailleach (Hooded One, or Hag), the Celtic Dark Mother who is seen as the personification of Death and winter. She has been compared with the Crone aspect of the Goddess in the Western Magical Traditions, along with Cerridwen and Hecate.
Because of the associations of ‘between the veil’, Samhain is now recognised as a time for performing divination magic. Of course this varies a lot, whether its using Tarot cards, runes, pendulums, tea-leaves, even simply watching the dancing of the flames of a bonfire. There is often a ritual or prayer to deity, an offering of incense before the divinatory rite is held. The stereotype here is that witches call upon demons or the spirits of the dead to do their bidding. The reality is actually of reverence, not enforced servitude; spirits and deities are invited to come forward and give any advice should they wish to do so. Once the rite is over they are politely dismissed, or invited to stay and enjoy the energy of friendship and joy, leaving in their own time before the night is done.

So, aren’t Samhain and Halloween just the same thing?

The answer is both ‘no’ and ‘yes’. Samhain, in its classical version, as we have explored, was seen as a time when Otherworldy beings would become more active and prevalent, as if the transition from late summer to early winter created a sort of ‘doorway’ for spirits, fey people and even the deities to come and interact with the mortal realm. It wasn’t until the advent of Christianity the focus changed from one of a time of mystery to a time of honouring the dead.
Even then there are two festivals: All Hallows Eve, a festival for honouring the saints of the Roman Catholic pantheon, which in time became abridged to the shortened name ‘Halloween’. The second is All Soul’s Day, where fires used to be lit and prayers sung to guide the souls of everyone who wasn’t a saint out of Purgatory and into Heaven.
The bonfires (which may or may not have come from Pagan practice) were then employed to drive away the spirits and devils that were believed to be active at this time. In this regard, Samhain and Halloween are similar as the focus is on the supernatural and protecting people from it.
I still remember when I used to go to church and was horrified to learn they didn’t “Do Halloween”, but they did burn a bonfire for All Hallow’s Eve with the intention of driving away malignant spirits and demons.
Being a Catholic tradition, Halloween would have been taken in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries with the immigrants from Scotland and Ireland to America where it intermingled with another celebration: Dias De Los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead. This is another Catholic practice, although mixed with Native American culture of the Aztecs. They believed the journey to their Underworld was a dangerous one, their gods only letting them pass with bribes. When the Spanish Catholics came, they condensed the two month festival into All Hallows and All Souls. This became Dias De Los Muertos and is celebrated for the spirits of children with candy skulls, toys and gifts. The Adult version honours the deceased with alcohol and tobacco. Both have the motif of skulls and skeletons, possibly stemming from the ‘Danse Macabre’ artwork popular in Europe around the Sixteenth to Eighteenth centuries.
It is quite easy to see how in the America’s, the Latino ‘Day of the Dead’ and the Celtic Halloween became entwined. Both were Christian festivals heavily influenced from native traditions and became festivals in their own right. Within the Twentieth Century, Halloween had become something else: it became a night for costumes and playful horror. By the time it returned to our part of the world, here in Great Britain and Ireland, Halloween became a night for dressing up ourselves as well as our homes. Folk traditions of children dressing up on All Hallows Eve with costumes and masks painted, speaking in silly voices so neighbours had to guess their identity have given way to costumes of ghosts, vampires, witches and now space aliens and pirates!
Even today, Halloween has kept some of the old influences; apple bobbing, for instance, now a game for children was originally a mild form of love divination. Originally, apples were filled with a slip of paper onto which a message would be written such as “Your love will be true” or “He will be handsome yet penniless”. Young ladies would still have to ‘bob’ their heads into the water to retrieve the apple without the use of their hands, however. In fact, a lot of the Halloween superstitions are concerned with young ladies finding out the identities of their future spouses whether gained by peeling an apple skin whole to reveal their true love’s initial, divining what kind of man they will marry by pulling out a cabbage stalk, or even combing one’s hair in front of a mirror at midnight by candle light was said to reveal the face of their future love in the mirror as though standing behind them!

In conclusion…

From (classical) Samhain we gained a time of the supernatural, which then went then became folk traditions of protection and divination. The old stories seem to paint a picture of Samhain being a feast or event taking place by the waters, whereas fire (Christian or not) was also a social hub for people to gather. The Christian element of respecting the dead has now gone full circle, Halloween is about keeping back the monsters. The Modern Samhain draws from a Catholic background with a Celtic flavour, but at the same time has links to traditions that aren’t necessarily Christian. This is why, of all the eight festivals in the Wheel of the Year, I would suggest that if Halloween isn’t the descendant of Samhain, then it is certainly its evolution. Whether Modern Pagans like it or not, Samhain today, with its focus on ancestor worship is not the Samhain of the past; with its physical games, tournaments and slaughter of cattle.



Anne Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain, CARDINAL Edition, Sphere Books, London, 1974.

Peter Berresford Ellis, A Brief History of the Druids, Constable & Robinson Ltd, London, 2002.

Ancient Irish Tales edited by T.P. Cross and C.H. Slover, 1936 used in the book: Celtic Myths, Celtic Legends, R.J. Stewart, BCA, London, 1994.

Peter Berresford Ellis, The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths And Legends, Constable & Robinson Ltd, London, reprinted 2002.

Gale R. Owen, Rites and Religions of the Anglo-Saxons, Barnes & Noble, Inc., New York, Reprinted 1996.

Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford University Press, Oxford, Re-issued 2001.

Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Hertfordshire, 1993 edition.

David Clarke, Strange South Yorkshire: Myth and Magic in the Valley of the Don, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Chesire, 1994.

Jennifer Cole, Ceremonies of the Seasons, Exploring and Celebrating Nature’s Eternal Cycles, Duncan Baird Publishers Ltd, London, 2007.

Anon. The Complete Book of Fortune: The Secrets of the Past, Present & Future Revealed, Blaketon Hall Ltd, Exeter, 1988.


Beware the Goblin Moon

We be there at sundown, Shadows stretchin’ all around. Goldy-peach bleeds the sky, be aware that ye we spy?

Night grows dark and clouds Turn black, Moon faces east, Her belly getting fat.

Purple is the haze, green is the ring, Beware the goblin moon. It’s our time to sing!

That be us there- a chatter in the leaves, A tinkle in the stars, a giggle in the breeze. Eyes red as mars!

If Ye leave an off’ring, we’ll play, A real treat, If Ye give some milk, Ye’ll Find us real sweet.

Slippety- slap – snickety- snack!

Should ye leave us nothing, Act the mardy grump, Should ye shout and swear, Or threaten a thump,

If ye ignore our pranks, Or anger at our cause, We’ll scare ye o’ the dark, And lock all yer doors.

Trickety- track – Clickety- clack!

We’ll take all yer keys, And we’ll scare yer cat, We’ll scratch all t’walls, Grease your shoes in fat!

We’ll pull yer dogs ears, Stuff jam in yer x-box, We’ll crack all your plates, And wee in your veg-box.

Purple is the haze, green is the ring, Beware the goblin moon. It’s our time to sing!

Parley- John- Parley- Jack!

We’ll be nice to ye, if ye be nice to us, If ye treat us kindly We’ll give no fuss.

We don’t want trouble, We’ll leave ye well alone. But ev’ry now ‘n’ then Leave us free to roam!

Photo by locksley2010

Samhain road trip: Stonehenge and Glastonbury!

Being reeeeeeaaaaly busy over the past few weeks, I managed to finally finish my notes on the birthday/Samhain road trip that took place on 29th-31st October 2014

My friends Lumi and Jax were sitting in the car as I was loading some stuff into the back.  “Do you fancy coming to Glastonbury in October?” They asked, it was July at this point.  So that’s how I found myself joining Lumi’s birthday road trip.

So, fast forward to October 29th and this was the day the grey skies came back (my last post? Yeah, well the day after, we had gorgeous golden autumn again!) Drizzle and all.  We even got stuck in traffic for nearly two hours! Sign posts for miles saying ‘Roadworks’ (the bane of British drivers) until we got to the source: fuck all! By this point we’d been entertaining ourselves with listening to T-Rex and eating Cherry Bakewells.  As soon as the roads cleared we cruised to the that all time hit: ‘20th Century Boy’!

As part of our plan we went to Stonehenge.  It was my third time and the weather was wetter than the first.


The new tourist centre is open, so you have to take a specially provided bus service to the site, although there is the option for you to get off and walk the rest of the way.  I made eye contact with a Mum of three who returned my friendly smile with a po-faced glare.  So I turned to Lumi, and pulled my snootiest face.  Did the mum see? I hope so, there is no excuse for rudeness.  The Asian family to our right were much friendlier.


Jax and Lumi

The Henge is fenced off, but at least you can get a bit closer than you could 17 years ago (shudder).  Stonehenge is majestic, it has presence and is a testament to the people, our ancestors, who built it.  Again, I experienced no palpable feeling of spiritual power emanating from it, some people say there is, but I think its more out of a desire to ‘feel’ something.  If anything I’d say it feels…. dead.  Unlike the lone standing Heel Stone we came across, it just sang a long sorrowful song, as though it didn’t want to be apart from its brethren.

It was gift shop time, where I picked up mead and a book on folklore stories (some of which I hadn’t read for years!).  We got back into the car and headed our way to Glastonbury racing into the countryside that was devoured by hungry fog and the inevitable night…. dragon’s breath indeed.

And here we were! The Pagan and New Age Mecca of Great Britain.  It was a 10 minute walk into town and I was surprised by three things:

Cleanliness: It was totally clean! No rubbish piling up on the streets or anything.  Didn’t even notice any street cleaning going on, but there must’ve been, right?

Quietness: No blaring music or police sirens, being out of Summer season the tourist trade must have trickled off.  Although there were still plenty during the day.

Chain shops: There aren’t any! No BK, no KFC, no GAP, no McDonald’s (thank fuck) the only KFC and Subway we saw were the ones back at our hotel.  Main Street has pubs, butchers, pastry shops and an organic market…. what England high streets SHOULD be.

Glastonbury was a very friendly place (except for when I entered a Hemp shop ran by a woman in what I took to be her Goddess of Avalon dress, her look of disdain gave me the impression that Men weren’t welcome in her shop.  You ladies might be able to feel when a man is checking you out, but we can certainly feel when we’re not welcome- amendment: a source has confirmed that her particular shop has nothing to do with the Goddess movement) and everyone we came across was friendly in an almost Yorkshire way.  My Northern British readers will know what I mean.  There were even hippies hanging around the war memorial and outside the George and Pilgrim.  There are more esoteric shops than you can shake a wand at! Some have an aura of incense before you go in (I love it), some are really expensive, some are what my friend, Dumbledore, calls: Seaside shops for witches.  There is literally something for everyone.  That’s one thing you need to prepare for…. make sure you go with a healthy wallet!

One of the coolest things was the first night there and after exploring the pubs and drinking mead (mine included flies!), we headed back and chilled out.  I got out my Druid Animal Oracle and asked a random question, not even relating to Glastonbury.  I got the Fire Dragon card and couldn’t help notice the Tor in the background.  The morning after, me and Jax got breakfast in Subway and on our way back to the hotel we saw Glastonbury Tor on the hill outside our room!

Note the Tor and Tower on the right hand side
Note the Tor and Tower on the right hand side


View of Tor and Tower.

The very last day of our visit was October 31st and it was a glorious, windy, golden autumn day! It was hot too!  We decided to visit the Chalice Well.  The gardens had a beautiful serenity that was immediately full of calm.  I even walked around barefoot.  Everyone was chilled out and it was, for me, the most potent spiritual place in Glastonbury.




Gardens, fountain and Jax in the sun.

We had missed the special Samhain ceremony but got to look and sit by the well once the people had moved.  The well itself didn’t feel that special (has to be said) as I felt more drawn to the waterway that fed the pool we put our feet into.  One question remains, though:  why oh why didn’t I tell the selfish person who was talking very loudly whilst people were trying to meditate by the well to shut the hell up?  Answer: I didn’t want any bother…. really wish I did though!
Eventually, it was time to go and try the Tor.  Word of warning, parking for the Well and Tor is almost impossible, there is nowhere really close, unless you don’t mind a brief walk (I rather enjoyed it).  Well, there is one car park sort of close, but you have to get there early….


To get to the Tor, you have to go up a steep hill and then make your way up the winding Tor itself until you reach the Tower, which was already decorated with Halloween themed items.  The higher we climbed, the windier it got, I had to take my hat off so it wouldn’t get blown away! And the sky became bluer and bluer, then when at the top, you could see the gorgeous panorama!  I’d sat down on the grass and closed my eyes for a few moments and remembered the Fire Dragon card, so I asked ‘Alright, Fire Dragon: what did you want to show me?’. Jax asked ‘What’s that?’ I opened my eyes and turned to where she was pointing.  There was a bird of prey hovering in the wind eddies, a hawk or kestrel.  It dive bombed so I went to have a closer look and saw a whole bunch of them playing in the wind currents,circling and bombing each other.






Pics of Tor, tower and us three.

Our drive back took us through Bristol and nearly to London, but we were witness to a gorgeous sunset and beautiful sky.  An alternative Samhain and one I’ll never forget.

Bringing in the Dark…

St. Peters Church, Radford, Nottingham.
St. Peters Church, Radford, Nottingham.

“Its that wonderful time of the year….”

No, I ain’t talking Christmas.  I’m talking that point of Autumn where the crispy leaves and golden sunlight have gone “Bye, bye!” and now all we have in the UK at this part of October is grey skies, damp mulch and that kind of rain that soaks everything.  Well, not everyday… but often.  I know at least one reader who probably really hates the cold wet that’s arrived… that’s ok, he works outdoors and I’m writing this from the warm safety of my desk.  If I was in his position, I probably would be writing a very different post.

And in a strange kind of way, I love it.  At least, what I mean is I love the atmosphere and even a sense of what this time of year felt like when I was a kid.

Walking down the hill from school, you could see the grey clouds being oppressive, where even the hills and the motorway in the horizon were kind of grey too, like the mist was coming out of the ground and air and began eating everything in sight.  The street lights would start coming on with the dim glow of a freshly burned-out match.  You go into the shop to get the bread or milk your Mum asked for and your nostrils take in that sweet aroma of the pick’n’mix stands mixed in with the sharpness of stale cardboard.  Then you’d rush back because ITV (Not YTV as it is now) had all the best themed kids shows on.

Yeah, Its nostalgia time!

I used to REALLY, really love Halloween as a kid, I even remember one childhood friend’s reaction at the Halloween costume party in the local Connie Club down the road.  I was dressed as a vampire and I was playing that the party was a grand ball and the function room was a gothic court.  I greeted my friend with something like; “I’m so glad you could come to the feast…” My enthusiasm was met with a blank look.  This was before the time “Can you just work with me here?” was a phrase.  Even the Bonfire on All Hallows Eve at St. Thomas’s church (They didn’t do Halloween: “Really? Then what do you call this big fire here!?) had a certain build up and energy to it.  I recall taking a crucifix, a pocket bible and a huge metal nail in case there were vampires… there weren’t.  At least none who wanted to show what they were.

But I digress.  I loved the grey, the skeletal trees, the cold wind, the earthy smell of mud because it all had atmosphere.  And it was late October when all the cool cartoons and shows came on.  I was usually a BBC watcher, but ITV (and YTV) had the best stuff for after Summer.  It appeared that when the dark seasons were arriving so did the monsters.  So what got me excited? What got my imagination going?

A lot of my British readers will probably have heard of these shows, maybe even remember them.  Any of my readers from other countries? You might have heard of at least one of these, but don’t worry there will be links.  One thing I haven’t done is seek them out of YouTube to recapture my childhood… because things are always better when they stay in the past, right?  But I have provided the links to the opening credits because that’s as much as I dare look back.

You knew Halloween was coming when you had:

The Real Ghostbusters:

I LOVED this series! I wanted to be Peter Venkman, because he was the funniest.  I remember being really shit scared when I saw the first Ghostbuster’s movie, but, hey, I love it even now.  And who didn’t want a proton pack? I even got the comic books, action figures and ghost popper toy (Which my Dad and my uncles insisted on borrowing when me and my brother didn’t play with them).

Count Duckula:

It was funny! Igor cocks up the formula to make the new Count Duckula and produces a vegetarian wimpy ‘vampire’ lord.  They lived in a castle that could travel ANYWHERE in the world, although its clock did contain two bat-like things that told really bad puns.  I hated that part.  Duckula was in fact a spin off character from another TV series by the same makers, Cosgrove Hall Films: Dangermouse!  Both leads were even voiced by the same actor, David Jason.

On Saturday mornings, Motormouth was replaced by ‘Ghost Train‘ Which was a Saturday morning entertainment show for children.  It had cartoons, music by the latest pop stars and interviews with celebs of the day.  Me and my brother even kept the “Ooh Arrrrr” signature that everyone on the show did, because it was all set on… can you guess? a Ghost Train.  I didn’t seek out the intro to it.

But! (Ignoring all grammatical errors here) But: I have saved the best until last.  This was the real reason I came running home.  This is what really got me going when I was younger.  It was a show of awesome.  It was…


Yeah, proper introduction, not the pansy one from the 1990s!  Knightmare was great! It was an adventure-puzzle show in the style of a fantasy world where a team of children were transported and one of them had to be blindfolded (with the Helm of Justice) and guided by his/her friends through a series of room each with its own puzzles, dangers and riddles.  If they were lucky and survived (and there weren’t many winners) they got a scroll, the prizes became more elaborate as time went on.  Even now I still say “Spellcasting: D-I-S-M-I-S-S”.  I actually re-watched the very first episode when someone won the game when I found it on Youtube.  Surprisingly, it didn’t ruin it for me at all and I was quite pleased that even the late 1980s effects weren’t that bad.

Yes there were other children’s shows that were a bit spooky or had a fantasy theme (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Dungeons and Dragons), but they were on at different times of the year.

The point to this post was that, somewhere in the back of our minds we recognise the coming dark with its long shadows, grey skies and misty distances, as having something behind it.  Samhain wasn’t a celebration of the dead or honouring the ancestors (That came with the Christian concept of respecting the souls of the saints and of those who were in purgatory and those in limbo).  Samhain was the festival of preparing for Winter, of culling any excess stock you couldn’t sell and didn’t have enough meal to feed over the cold times, so our ancestors had to kill the surplus, but hey, they got meat, fur, hide even wax and glue out of it.  It was also a time of having a feast by the local water source and telling stories of THINGS coming from the water and the fog, because both were seen as gateways to the Otherworld.  And what better way to make sure the children didn’t run off into the woods and get lost after dark when the night came earlier than to tell tales of fey queens, cursed birds and magic that made you crazy.  So maybe I was right when I was a child, gathering his vampire hunting kit when going to the bonfire at his local church…. there were things in the fog.

“Spellcasting: D-I-S-M-I-S-S.”