Regular readers of my blog will know that I love the Halloween season. I also love bonfires. I always strive to find some odd fact every year that expands my knowledge around the often misunderstood traditions of this time of year and the Halloween celebration altogether.
This year I stumbled upon a connection between the witching season and bonfires. Something I should have realized long ago. The bonfire has long been associated with Halloween. It continues to be a common tradition in much of the Halloween celebrating world. The practice of lighting large fires dates back to roots of Halloween in the festival of Samhain which celebrated the summer’s end and the beginning of the fall and winter seasons. Samhain also marked the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.
On the eve of Samhain, young people would go from house to house asking for food offerings and kindling for their Samhain fires. The following day, the traditional day of Samhain, November 1st, people would extinguish their hearth fires and gather together to light large monolithic fires on sacred hill tops in honor of and to make offerings to the gods. Celtic priests called Druids dressed often wore animal masks and skins as they performed sacrifices to placate the gods and “ward off” spirits. Bonfires represented the sun, the power to fight dark forces. The Druids lit huge bonfires and burned animals, crops, and sometimes even humans. Our modern word, bonfire, comes from the words bone and fire meaning “fire of bones” and refers to this practice. Personal and symbolic items were also burned as offerings for relief from sickness or bad fortune.
The sacred fires were believed to have the power to scare away evil spirits and people stayed close by them often wearing costumes of animal heads and skins as disguises to frighten those spirits and ensure their safety.
As the great fires died it was considered good luck to take an ember and carry it home to relight their hearth fire. They often carried these embers home in holders made from turnips or gourds in which they carved faces in the hope that the faces would scare away any evil spirits that may be lurking along their path. Over the years, stories were created to teach the young this practice and provide moral lessons.
On the following day, the ashes from these sacred fires would be spread over the fields as protection against spirits who might cause the next season’s crops to fail.
a bit more reading HERE.
So, as you can see bonfires are very closely connected to the tradition of Halloween and the jack-o-lantern both. Such rich history if you look. Happy Halloween!