Colum Kill

Colum Kill— Another name for St. Columba, an Irish priest who in the sixth century had been ordered to convert the Picts in Ireland. St. Columba successfully converted pagans throughout both Ireland and Scotland before he founded a monastery on Iona island off the coast of Scotland. His name was invoked in an Irish GUISING custom in the seventeenth century, when Irish peasants went begging house-to-house asking for money to buy luxuries for a feast and demanding in the name of Colum (or Columb) Kill, or St. Columba, that fatted calves and black sheep be prepared for the feasting.

Although St. Columba’s feast day is now officially given as June 9, there is some confusion as to the date in the past; not only was there another St. Columba (the patroness of two parishes in Cornwall, England, where she was put to death by heathens) whose feast day was November 13, but the feast day has also been given as October 24. The proximity of these dates may account for finding St. Columba’s name connected to the Halloween ritual; there’s also the possibility that the large Halloween celebrations in Derry, Ireland, may be connected to that city’s veneration of St. Columba (several Derry parks are named after Columba).

In Statistical Account of Iona, St. Columba is also said to have been the first on record to possess the gift of SECOND SIGHT (he supposedly predicted the victory of Aidan over the Picts and Saxons).

In his paper “Trick or Treat: Pre-texts and Contexts,” Tad Tuleja suggests that Halloween begging in the name of St. Columba may be one of the three traditions which led to the American TRICK OR TREAT (the other two are SOULING and GUY FAWKES DAY begging).


The Halloween Encyclopedia Second Edition written by Lisa Morton © 2011 Lisa Morton. All rights reserved