On the eve of All Souls’ Day in Ireland, families lit a candle in the window to guide the souls of the Dead back to their old homes. As the veil between the worlds thinned, a sluagh, or host, of spirits walked the land, and encountered the same hospitality the Celts have always shown the living, Doors and windows were left unfastened, and any passage through the house that they once used was kept open. The table was laid with the best white cloth, and special food was left out for them to enjoy.
Until quite recently in the Irish Gaeltacht, families kept a seomra thiar, or ‘room to the West’– sometimes just an alcove or nook –where they placed objects that reminded them of departed ones. At sunset, the family solemnly turned towards the setting sun and spent time in loving remembrance of them. A candle was lit for each soul, then the whole family sat down to a communal feast in their honour.
Excerpt is from ‘Kindling the Celtic Spirit: Ancient Traditions to Illuminate Your Life Throughout the Seasons,’ published by HarperSanFrancisco.