I love Halloween but not for the usual reasons. I do not like gore, horror, or the common, Halloween themed scary/horror movies. I love the spiritual side of Halloween, the ancient meaning of this blessed, pagan Celtic holiday. Halloween, also called All Hallows Eve or All Saint’s Day (a Christian holiday), or Samhain (Celtic meaning Summer’s End) was originally held on October 31, which was their culture’s New Year celebration. They gave thanks for the harvest and acknowledged the “dark half of the year” that they were about to embark upon. People gave thanks for having enough harvest to get them through the cold, dark, dreary part of the year.
Past rituals include bonfires, “souling”, bobbing for apples, carving pumpkins into “Jack O’Lanterns”, and divination games such as fortune telling or communicating with the dead. Many of these rituals and traditions remain to this day often with a different meaning now. “Souling” was the practice of people going door to door offering prayers for souls in exchange for apples, ale, or “soul cakes” made of allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and raisins or currants. The practice of souling has become “trick or treating” in modern day.
Bobbing for apples originates from a combination of Samhain and a Roman festival celebrating their goddess of fruits, trees, and gardens-Pomona. The fruit that is associated with Pomona is the apple. It is believed that this festival also took place at the end of October/beginning of November.
The Jack O’Lantern also has an interesting story behind this myth. This myth originates from Irish myth called Stingy Jack. Irish immigrants brought this myth to America with a few adaptations. Jack was supposedly a man who thwarted the devil many times while alive and thus upon his death, the Devil would not allow him into Hell. God did not want Jack either and did not welcome him into Heaven. It is believed that Jack was given a burning coal in which to find his way. Jack put this piece of coal into a carved-out turnip so he could find his way in the dark. In America, the Irish changed the turnip to a pumpkin because pumpkins were more accessible than turnips in their new land.
Costumes were popular in ancient, pagan times because it was believed that the veil between Heaven and Earth was thin. People were encouraged to wear costumes and masks as a way of hiding from their deceased loved ones. People did not want to pulled through the veil by a ghost. If they were wearing a costume it was believed that they would not be recognized by their departed loved ones. Nowadays, children and adults enjoy wearing costumes as they go trick or treating to gather candy and other yummy treats.
Witches are also often associated with Halloween and in a negative context. The word “witch” is actually derived from the word “Wicca” meaning “Wise One”. Witches were women skilled in healing with herbs, other plant-based, and homeopathic remedies. It is also referred to as natural medicine. Becoming ill, experiencing childbirth, or being in severe pain in ancient days was much more dangerous than it is in current day. Witches were highly skilled and sought after to take care of the ill in their community. Witches per se was not originally a part of Samhain but in current day the practice has been included and associated with Samhain- too often in my opinion in a negative way.
May you enjoy Halloween this year. I find that this time of year is sacred to me, reminding me of the rituals, myths, legends, and opportunities to turn within to reflect, contemplate, and celebrate the Divine within me. It’s a time where it is beginning to get chilly outside and the invitation to go inside beckons me. Blessed Be