Ancient Ways Do This

Ancient Meaning of Bonfire

The word “bonfire” has long been assumed to derive from the French word for good, “bon.” That assumption is wrong. Even Noah Webster of Webster Dictionary fame got it wrong, until 1890.

The original meaning of “bon” relative to the area from which the word bonfire came, is “bones.”

Yes. The ancient meaning of bonfire was “bone fire.” A fire of bones.

…the spelling in the word’s earliest attestation is in the form banefyre, and bane is a spelling of bone which long continued common in Scotland.

While this original meaning doesn’t exactly give me the warm and fuzzies, a good old-fashioned (as in days of my childhood) bonfire does.

Today is Halloween. What better way to end the day than roasting some marshmallows over a down-sized bonfire, perhaps over a fire-pit, but none-the-less a nice way to spend the evening.

Halloween is also a time of reverence for passed loved ones; a time when they say the “veil” is at its thinnest, allowing the visitation of familial spirits.

Make sure you leave an empty seat or two around the fire, or wherever you spend the evening, so your transitioned loved ones can join you. It wouldn’t hurt to set out a couple of their favorite food items, drinks, or something similar, to ensure that they feel welcomed. You could even play their favorite music while enjoying the festivities. Verbally invite them to join you, and continue to speak to them as if you could see them sitting beside you. You might be pleasantly surprised by some unexpected sign that they are with you.

It is also the beginning of a new year known as Samhain. The ancient Celts traditionally celebrated the new year with a fire festival.

SAMHAIN (October 31) (Cross-quarter, Fire Festival)
Samhain (SOW-in) represents the final harvest before the long winter.  It’s a time to honor our ancestors and embrace the darker half of the year.  This also marks the beginning of the New Year in many Pagan traditions.


bonfire aka bone fire


Samhain (Irish pronunciation: [sˠəuɪnʲ]) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Neopagans usually celebrate Samhain on 31 October – 1 November in the Northern Hemisphere and 30 April – 1 May in the Southern Hemisphere, beginning and ending at sundown.


Wishing you all a Blessed Samhain!


Read more on the etymology of, and the ancient meaning of bonfire at

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