The Irish Samhain Experience
Samhain: A Journey at the Most Sacred Time of the Year to Ireland
A tour created by local independent tour guides
Samhain is the modern Irish (Gaeilge) name for the beginning of the New Year when the summer ends and the dark months of winter begin. In English, Samhain became known as November Eve or Halloween, which is short for All Hallow’s Day. This time marked the time of the return to darkness when the forces of life are absorbed into the Earth and into the Otherworld. To understand Samhain, one must understand the pre-Roman and pre-Christian pagan religion of Ireland – Druidism. Knowledge of Druidry has survived through the written word and folk practices.
The number three is the most significant number in ancient Ireland. Their religion is based on multiples of three. Druidism was the main religion, and the Irish worldview at the time was the belief that there was an Upperworld, where the Gods lived in the sky; the Middleworld, the material world and life as we know it; and the Otherworld was in the sea where the dead and fairies dwelled, with the majority congregating towards the west where the sun would set.
Exploring the three worlds was possible. This is what the Druids did best to gain information and learn prophecies. Irish stories are full of stories about people visiting the Otherworld and the Otherworld visiting the Middleworld. Such travels were especially possible and common during the 3-day Irish New Year festival of Samhain.
Samhain is the threshold between summer and winter and the end of the old year, and the beginning of the New Year. The harvest was over, and the animals brought from the fields, as preparation for six months of dark and cold were about to commence. Samhain marked the beginning of a time of hardship, cold, and sometimes hunger.
In Ireland, the tradition of lighting sacred fires at the beginning of Samhain is a 3500-year-old tradition. Everywhere in Ireland, the hearth fire was extinguished before sunset on October 31st. That night a new fire was created by the Druids at Tlachtga and brought to the Hill of Tara. They took the new fire to this Hill because it was the location of the residence of the King of the Island. This same flame was used to light fires on hilltops all over Ireland, symbolizing warmth and protection. These bonfires on the hills were meant to urge Baal, the sun god, to protect and bless the crops and herds during the dark time of winter. The next morning, New Year’s Day – November 1, the new fire was given by the priests to the people to re-light the hearth. The blessed fire protected the families for yet another year.
Samhain was then a day sacred as the death of the sun. With this death, the veil between the worlds thinned. Spirit communication was strong, as were omens that predicted the future. At this time of death, attention was turned to the memory of ancestors and spirit communication. Candles were lit in windows to help guide the ancestors to their family home. Also, to guide the spirits home, the door or a window was left ajar.
It all starts with Tlachtga
The legend is that Tlachtga was once a powerful Druidess. Tlachtga and her father traveled the world through a portal, a spinning wheel of fire, to gain knowledge. Tlachtga’s father studied with Simon Magus – Simon the Sorcerer, as did Tlachtga. When she was readying to continue her travels making new discoveries, her father was not. Because Tlachtga continued to travel and gain knowledge, her wisdom surpassed that of Magus and her father. This fact outraged the older men. Magnus’s three sons were sent to her. In some legends, they fell in love, and in others, she was defiled. Either way, she returned to her homeland of Ireland and she gave birth to three sons on the Hill of Ward and then died.
The Hill of Ward is also known as Tlachtga. The Hill became the main center for the Irish Druids and the starting point of Samhain. It is a place of magic, religion, and supernatural interactions between the Upperworld, the Otherworld, and the Middleworld.
On this journey at Samhain
Edel O Regan, owner of Ériu Tours, has a background in outdoor adventure sports and tourism. This led her to start her own small independent tour company. Her dream was to show people the real Ireland, the off-the-beaten-path Ireland that is much more diverse than the tours found in mainstream Irish tourism. She strives to find unique aspects that will suit any group. She will lead the group to the Hill of Ward and then to a private natural spring that has existed for all of time and where spirals form naturally on the tree moss. It is a place of quiet reflection, beauty, and magic.
The Celts worshiped spirits of the forest, streams, brooks, hills, dales, and rocks all were believed to abound with tiny supernatural beings. The Druids were tree worshipers. Their ceremonies were held in oak groves, like the one near the natural spring. Until the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169, Ward was the most important religious location in Ireland. It was where feasts and festivals began, including and most importantly, Samhain.
Other stops on Edel’s hand-crafted journey is to the Sacred Hill of Tara and through 3000 years of history through storytelling. We will visit the Sheela Na Gig, the mound of the hostages, and the Lia Faíl on the way to Trim, where the Puca Festival takes place and where we will spend October 31st.
The Puca Festival
This is an Irish festival at Trim Castle. It’s a celebration of Samhain. Performances, music, storytelling, folklore, tours, local crafts, local food and much more. Many free events, all family friendly.
In the spirit of Spirit communication, our first top on the morning of November 1 will be at what is believed to be the most haunted castle in Ireland, privately owned Leap Castle. Tour organizer Jeanine Plumer will conduct a paranormal investigation. Jeanine founded the small local tour business Austin Ghost Tours in Austin, Texas, over 25 years ago. She wrote and produced Haunted Texas for Public Television and has conducted investigations all over Texas, and is also the author of Haunted Austin.
The goal is to respectfully communicate with the spirits that remain at Leap Castle and to learn why they still linger. Leap Castle has been used as a fortress, home, and tomb. Leap has a complicated history beginning with its name when a man leaped to his death from the walls. Originally, before the castle was even built, it was the location of Druid ceremonies and has been significant to ancient Ireland’s history. Also, on the lighter side, we will visit a Fairy Fort just up the road to discover if they are up for communication.
To truly experience Ireland, singing and music must be part of the journey.
Joining us in Dublin, where the journey begins and ends, is Fiona Dalton. Fiona started her independent tour company by marrying her love of music and history to create “Dalton Musical History Tours.” She will take us to famous pubs around old medieval Dublin for a spooky night of entertainment, regaling notorious historical characters and events from headless horsemen to the Hellfire Club (Stranger Things) while enjoying food, music, and world-renowned Irish hospitality.
The best part of this excursion will be learning the history of medieval Dublin through traditional Irish songs sung by Fiona. Traditional Irish music began as an oral tradition, passed down from generation to generation, and listening and learning by ear and not writing the tunes down. Taught to read and write music by her kindergarten teacher, Fiona’s beautiful soloist singing voice was inherited from her mother, who taught herself to sing and would sing at family gatherings. When at the local pub owned by her cousin, she was always given a microphone. Fiona has sung in folk groups and musical theater, co-founded the Lucan Gospel Singers and many church choirs, and will also perform a one-woman show she wrote and created that tells the story of Tlachgta.
Spiritual symbolism is a vital concept in Ireland and is part of the Samhain journey.
The Triskele, or Triple Spiral, is the oldest symbol of spirituality. The name comes from the Greek words “Tri” and “Skelos,” which, when translated to English, means “three legs.” In the ancient origins of Irish culture, the Triple Spiral is said to be an important spiritual marking. The symbol of spirals is the most common of all motifs decorating Celtic tombs and one that is basic to all Celtic art. The triple spiral is thought to represent Birth, Life, and Death, signifying the unending cycle of life.
Meet Tom King, blacksmith of the Boyne Valley. At his shop he offers immersive and interactive experiences of traditional iron age metal forging dressed as the character An Gobha. Delivered with theater, stories, myths, history and fun. His shop, An Gobha also manufactures and sells handcrafted metal decorative objects and blade works based on ancient Celtic symbols and artifacts.
A local Druid still practicing the ancient ways is important to include to truly experience Samhain
We will spend a day in Killorglin to attend a workshop at Art Nature and Traditions Centre taught by Rachel Scoazec who has a PhD in Irish Studies and is a Druid, Healer, Psychic Soulpasser and Medium. She will offer us a Samhain blessing; Samhain ritual and we will kindle the sacred Samhain fire and we will reach out to our ancestors. All activities will revolve around healing and awakening people about tradition, spirituality and land.
A few of our other stops include: Loughcrew Cairns, the town of Fore, the Barrel & Bean Distillery, Fore Abbey and the 7 wonders of Fore. This ‘off-the-tourist-path” is the location where there is a freestanding four-bay mausoleum and mortuary chapel in Gothic style. Inside this haunting chapel there is a marvelous crypt in the ground. Mysteriously there are human bones still remaining on the altar. Medieval Mile, Kyle and Saint Berri Hearts and so much more.
If you don’t believe in the mystical side of this life, fairies, spirits and unexplainable phenomena, this is not the tour for you. The Island of Ireland has been a land of legend and lore since time immemorial. This excursion explores this magical side of Ireland that only the local guides who wrote the tour can share with you. Download our brochure to find out more.