Luke Eastwood’s new book is an informative and interesting encapsulation of the origins, traditions and mythologies of Samhain, its origins in Ireland and how it became the modern celebration of Halloween in many countries today.

Crammed with fascinating facts, Samhain begins by looking at Irish Cosmology, the revival and new form of Druidry, an overview of the ‘Celtic’ festivals and the three realms of the traditional Irish Otherworld. Then the author looks into the history and background of Samhain, chapter 2 focusing on folk practices and chapter 3 more specifically on Ireland, Tlachtga and Mogh Ruith; Tlachtga being the ancient name for what is now the Hill of Ward, close to the small town of Athboy, in Co. Meath but also a woman and goddess (Mogh Ruith being her father).

Chapter 4 delves deeper into the Sacred Site of Tlachtga including modern archaeological surveys and local traditions and stories. Then in chapter 5 Eastwood discusses how the practices of ‘Halloween’ came to be distributed worldwide, including the historical waves of emigration from Ireland bringing the traditions of Ireland to North America, Australia and New Zealand. This chapter also briefly examines the African and Central/South American Traditions as well as the traditions of Britain that became mixed into the ‘pot’ that is now Halloween. Finally chapter 6 looks into the modern Pagan revival of Samhain and the renewal of interest in ‘all things Celtic’, including the elements of modern celebration common to all paths and secular celebrations such as the bonfire and remembrance of the dead.

An excellent book, the authentic source of the author’s research is obvious (as well as usefully noted in a bibliography) and he has shared this material in a very accessible and interesting way. Samhain has something of interest for everyone whether you know little about its origins, celebrate every year or are purely interested in a historical rather than spiritual context.

Book Details: Luke Eastwood. Samhain: The Roots of Halloween. The History Press (3 Sept. 2021). ISBN: 978-0750998000.

Review Details: Samhain: The Roots of Halloween was reviewed by June Kent, editor of Indie Shaman magazine and this review was published in Issue 50.

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