The Aran Islands: Halloween Mystery

Inis Mór, however, has always held on to the idea of what Halloween really is, a night of scares and spirits.

There has always been a major emphasis on anonymity , because the island’s population is under eight hundred, it is the perfect opportunity to dress as scarily as possible and in as much of a disguise as possible.

Staying in disguise is taken more seriously than attending Sunday mass, the locals will take drastic and dramatic measures to keep up the facade.

Islanders will order drinks they would never usually order, to ensure no hints are given away as to who they are, those who never consumed alcohol before will order vodka or whiskey to keep others guessing.

The pucaí will point at a drink or write it down to avoid someone recognising their voices, straws will be used so no masks are lifted and no face makeup is ruined and even gloves are worn in case your neighbour recognises your hands, this all means that the night is spent trying to figure out who the zombie fisherman with the pint of Guinness is or who the sean-chailleach dancing on the table is.

Because so many of the islands younger adult population goes on to third-level education, while the traditions remain, the crowd has been lacking in recent years.

That is why a group of locals decided to bring it back in full force, with this year’s Féile na bPúcaí.

Peadar Gill who is helping to organise the event explains why he wanted to get involved in the upcoming festival.

“Growing up on the Aran Islands, Halloween was a huge part of my childhood, planning costumes months in advance to ensure my identity was unknown on ‘pucaí night’ was so important.

“As I grew up I felt that the rich Halloween customs began to fade. That is why I jumped at the chance to help revive the wonderful tradition that gave me so many happy memories.

“We hope to bring Halloween back to its island roots and keep tradition alive for generations,” said Peadar.

This will be a weekend long celebration, kicking off on Friday evening at 8.30, where expert in Irish Folklore and Mythology, Padraigin Clancy will host a talk exploring the custom and belief surrounding Halloween.

This is followed by music and fancy dress in the local pubs.

On Saturday there is something for everyone starting with the a children’s Halloween party in the local hall at 1pm, guided walking tours from 4.30 and at 7pm the island will become infested with the dead during a haunted walk with local Sepíns ( or ‘anonymous figures’).

Then it will be onto the local pubs where one can witness the effort that goes into local dress up during Halloween and the dedication that goes into keeping true identities hidden.

The anonymous ghosts and goblins then make their way to the local hall for a céilí and prizes for the best dressed, this is often the time to reveal yourself, a long night of keeping quiet is rewarded by taking off the mask and joining in on the siege of Ennis or the stack of barley.

The festival continues on Sunday with a well deserved wind down session with local musicians.

“It is so important to remember how Halloween really began but also important to just have fun, this festival promises to be a perfect combination of both.” Says Gill.