Halloween: Ancient Celtic Cross-Quarter Day Oct 28, 2013 22:17:31 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Oct 28, 2013 22:17:31 GMT -5
Halloween Derived from Ancient Celtic Cross-Quarter Day
Yes, Halloween is an astronomical holiday.
Halloween – short for All Hallows’ Eve – is an astronomical holiday. Sure, it’s the modern-day descendant of Samhain, a sacred festival of the ancient Celts and Druids in the British Isles, but it’s also a cross-quarter day, which is probably the reason Samhain was held on what is now October 31. Early people were keen observers of the sky and a cross-quarter day is a day more or less midway between an equinox (when the sun sets due west) and a solstice (when the sun sets at its most northern or southern point on the horizon). For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Halloween – October 31 – is approximately at the midway point between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice. In other words, in traditional astronomy, there are eight major seasonal subdivisions of the year. They include the March and September equinoxes, the June and December solstices, and the intervening four cross-quarter days. In modern times, the four cross-quarter days are February 2 (Groundhog Day), May 1 (May Day), August 1 (Lammas) and October 31 (Halloween).
Halloween is the spookiest of the cross-quarter days, possibly because it comes at a time of year when the days are growing shorter. On Halloween, it’s said the spirits of the dead wander from sunset until midnight. After midnight – on November 1, which we now call All Saints’ Day – the ghosts are said to return to their rest. The October 31 date for Halloween has been fixed by tradition. The true cross-quarter day falls on November 7, representing a discrepancy of about one week. According to the ancient Celts, a cross-quarter day marks the beginning – not the middle – of a season.
The Pleiades connection. It is believed the early forbearer of Halloween – Samhain – took place on the night the Pleiades star cluster culminated at midnight. In other words, the Pleiades climbed to its highest point in the sky at midnight on or near the same date as this cross-quarter day. In modern times, Halloween is fixed on October 31, though the midnight culmination of the Pleiades cluster now occurs on November 21. Assuming the supposed connection between Samhain and the midnight culmination of the Pleiades, the two events took place on or near the same date in the 11th century (1001-1100) and 12th century (1101-1200). This was several centuries before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar. At that time, when the Julian calendar was in use, the cross-quarter day and the midnight culmination of the Pleiades fell – amazingly enough – on or near October 31. Of course, the Julian calendar was approximately one week out of step with the seasons. Had the Gregorian calendar been in use back then, the date of the cross-quarter day celebration would have been November 7. Halloween is now fixed on October 31, the true cross-quarter day now falls on or about November 7 and the midnight culmination of the Pleiades cluster occurs on or near November 21.
Source: Bruce McClure, EarthSky, October 28, 2013.