Greetings everyone, and Happy Halloween! Welcome to the final entry for the Month of the Macabre. Today, we’re talking about what is possibly the most important figure for this holiday, Samhain.
Samhain (pronounced sah-win) was originally the Gaelic name for the holiday that we now know as All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween if you prefer the lamer name. It was the one day in the year when the barrier between the physical world and the spirit world was at its weakest, allowing the Aos Si (you remember them from the post about the Leprechaun series, right?) to more easily enter our world. The Gaelic people believed that it was very important to appease the Aos Si on this day, in order to keep their family and animals safe.
Part of the holiday involved a feast where the spirits of the dead were invited to attend. Wearing costumes was a large part of the celebration, in order to either imitate or hide from the Aos Si. Interestingly enough, part of the Samhain tradition even included a version of Trick or Treating, although I doubt that people were handing out candy in those days.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about a holiday when all of the Month of the Macabre articles this month have been about monsters and villains. Well, for reasons that I will never understand, there have been multiple stories over the years where Samhain has been reinterpreted as a spirit or demon. Oddly enough, all the examples that I can find of this phenomenon have been in my life time. I don’t know what that says about the culture of my generation.
The earliest case of this (as far as I know) was in the 80’s animated series The Real Ghostbusters. Here, Samhain was the physical/spiritual embodiment of Halloween. Samhain was depicted as a skinny figure with a Jack-o-Lantern for a head. Despite his somewhat goofy appearance, he was actually depicted as a credible threat on par with Gozer the Gozerian.
He only appeared in two episodes, but they were both pretty memorable. His first appearance had him trying to make Halloween last forever, which almost makes me wish that the Ghostbusters would have let him win. His second and last appearance had him take over the Ghostbusters’ firehouse, turning it into his own personal fortress.
The next appearance of a creature named Samhain was in the 2007 film Trick ‘r Treat. In this film, Samhain appears as a demonic entity that enforces the “rules” of Halloween. He spends most of the film disguised as a child in a Halloween costume. Pretty clever, considering the origins of the tradition of wearing costumes on Halloween. Even though this film is an anthology of stories, Samhain is considered the breakout character of the movie.
Samhain appeared again in a 2008 episode of the long-running show Supernatural. Here, Samhain is described as a demon who is the source of all of the Halloween traditions. People wore costumes to hide from him, gave candy to appease him, and carved his face into pumpkins because the writers of the episode didn’t realize that the original Jack-o-Lanterns were carved out of turnips. Samhain is released from Hell, but he is eventually sent back by the show’s heroes.
Sadly, that’s the last depiction of Samhain as a monster or demon that I could find. The upside is that most movies or shows now depict Samhain the way that it was originally meant to be, as a festival. I’ve only learned a little bit about the original holiday, and I have to say that I would not be opposed to celebrating a traditional Samhain festival at least once.
And so ends our discussion on Samhain. Yes, I know this post is shorted than the others, but there wasn’t as much material about Samhain as a monster as I thought there would be.
Anyway, that wraps up this year’s Month of the Macabre. I am legitimately surprised that I managed to post an article every day for the month. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on doing the same thing next year. I may limit next year’s Month of the Macabre to one post a week of something.
To all the people that have followed my posts this month, I wish to say Thank You, and Have a Happy All Hallow’s Eve! And don’t worry, I’ll start posting fiction on this blog again here soon.