Halloween and Samhain: Facts, Thoughts, and Ideas

Halloween is an enjoyable event for many people in North America. I enjoy the celebration, too, but it always makes me think about the nature of life, death, and reality. The display shown below was in someone’s front garden this year. The skeleton emerging from the ground is amusing (though it may not be for everyone), but I’m more interested in what may be our real fate after our body is dead.

A Halloween skeleton in my neighbourhood (Photo by me)

History of Halloween

Halloween seems to be derived from the old festival of Samhain that was held once the harvest had been collected. I say “seems to be” because studying history is often an effort to find as many clues to the past as possible. Certainty is sometimes not possible unless strong evidence remains. 

Samhain in Europe was a time to celebrate the crop and the ancestors. Customs may have varied, but the ones that I mention seem to have been common according to sources that should be reasonably reliable. Animals were brought into shelters for the winter, and a harvest celebration was held. The celebration involved a meal. Some animals were sacrificed for this event, which seems to have been a communal one in certain places.

The Otherworld

At least some Samhain celebrants believed that the barrier between this world and the Otherworld (the place we enter after death) was thinnest at Samhain. The partial destruction of the barrier allowed spirits to visit. Many people believed that these spirit visitors were our ancestors. A plate of food was left out for the relatives to eat. I’ve often wondered what the explanation was for why the food wasn’t eaten. Some reports say that the dead visitors were welcomed, but others say that they were potentially harmful. In these cases, the living people wore protective disguises to prevent harm from the intruders.

A pumpkin is often part of a Halloween celebration, though it may not look much like a pumpkin in today’s celebrations. Photo by Toby Orb, CC BY-SA 2.5 License

What Really Happens After Bodily Death?

Some people reading this article may dismiss any thought of an afterlife. In their belief system, once we are dead, existence and our consciousness are ended. Others may be convinced that a soul exists and continues to live. Some may be uncertain of our fate after death. Some people may have had an experience or experiences that either convince them or make them suspect that the end of life is not the end of our existence.

Quantum Science

I don’t believe in the heaven and hell theory. It’s possible that we continue to exist in some form after death, though. Quantum scientists are making some intriguing and very strange discoveries about the nature of reality. They certainly haven’t shown that we exist after death, and people that share this idea are making an unwarranted assumption. I can tell that this idea annoys some scientists and other people. The disparaging term “quantum woo” is sometimes used for the linkage of quantum science and metaphysics.

One thing that the discoveries have done is to indicate that the basis of reality seems to be far stranger than we previously realized. Perhaps there is hope in this strangeness, or perhaps the truth lies in a union between some aspects of religion and science. For me, there is no choice but to live in uncertainty.

Making the Most of Life

I think that focusing on the reality of daily life and focusing on its joys and problems is important. We need to make the most of our life for the sake of us and for the sake of other people. I like to ponder the future and fate for me and my loved ones at times, though. October 31st is one occasion when I do this. The reflection is interesting. Halloween is intriguing in more ways than one.