The festival Féile na Marbh is Gaelic by tradition. In Scotland and Ireland, it has become bundled into Samhain.
The phrase “Féile na Marbh” is Irish for Festival of the Dead.
In the past the festival itself could have lasted up to three days; beginning at the end of October. As a result, Féile na Marbh can be described as being both Samhain (Oidhche Shamhna in Scots Gaelic) and All Souls’ Day as well. There alternative historical theories; with some suggesting that Féile na Marbh concluded at the end of October after a three-day festival.
It is widely accepted that bonfires are important for Féile na Marbh. One Irish custom begins with a ritual fire being lit atop of the Hill of Tlachtga. This signalled the lighting of fires across the country. Villagers would throw the bones of slaughtered cattle into the flames. Hence the word “bonfire” from the origin “bone fire”. Villages would then relight their home fires with a flame taken from the main village bonfire; thus bonding the whole village together.
Féile na Marbh is considered a time when the curtain between worlds is weak. A time when the words of the living and the dead are close. The practice of turnip carving comes from a Celtic attempt to frighten spirits off.
The tradition of guising is still strong in Scotland. Children dress up as the dead (once again in the attempt to ward off the dead) and visit neighbours.
In Pure Spirit
Is Féile na Marbh a day or festival that’s important to you? How do you plan to mark it this year?