If you live in the Northern part of the world, then your Summer will have come to an end. Winter time is fast approaching. October 31st is the celebrating point of this change in time.
The reason WHY you celebrate is what we will talk about here today.
Hallowe’en has its origins in the British Isles. While the modern tradition of trick or treat developed in the USA it too is based on folk customs brought to this country with Irish immigrants after 1840.
Since ancient times in Ireland, Scotland, and England, October 31st has been celebrated as a feast for the dead, and also the day that marks the new year. Mexico observes a Day of the Dead on this day, as do other world cultures.
In Scotland, the Gaelic word “Samhain” (pronounced “SAW-win” or “SAW-vane”) means literally “summer’s end.”
This holiday is also known as All Hallows Eve (“hallow” means “sanctify”) ; Hallowtide; Hallowmass; Hallows; The Day of the Dead; All Soul’s Night; All Saints’ Day (both on November 1st) .
For early Europeans, this time of the year marked the beginning of the cold, lean months to come; the flocks were brought in from the fields to live in sheds until spring. Some animals were slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for winter. The last gathering of crops was known as “Harvest Home, ” celebrated with fairs and festivals.
In addition to its agriculture significance, the ancient Celts also saw Samhain as a very spiritual time. Because October 31 lies exactly between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, it is theorized that ancient peoples, with their reliance on astrology, thought it was a very potent time for magic and communion with spirits. The “veil between the worlds” of the living and the dead was said to be at its thinnest on this day; so the dead were invited to return to feast with their loved ones; welcomed in from the cold, much as the animals were brought inside. Ancient customs range from placing food out for dead ancestors, to performing rituals for communicating with those who had passed over.
Communion with the dead was thought to be the work of witches and sorcerers, although the common folk thought nothing of it. Because the rise of the Church led to growing suspicion of the pagan ways of country dwellers, Samhain also became associated with witches, black cats (“familiars” or animal friends) , bats (night creatures) , ghosts and other “spooky” things…the stereotype of the old hag riding the broomstick is simply a caricature; fairy tales have exploited this image for centuries.
Divination of the future was also commonly practiced at this magically-potent time; since it was also the Celtic New Year, people focused on their desires for the coming year. Certain traditions, such as bobbing for apples, roasting nuts in the fire, and baking cakes which contained tokens of luck, are actually ancient methods of telling fortunes.
What Do Witches Do on Halloween?
It is an important holiday for us. Witches are diverse, and practice a variety of traditions. Many of us use this time to practice forms of divination (such as tarot or runes) . Many Witches also perform rituals to honor the dead; and may invite their deceased loved ones to visit for a time, if they choose. This is not a “seance” in the usual sense of the word; Witches extend an invitation, rather than summoning the dead, and we believe the world of the dead is very close to this one. So on Samhain, and again on Beltane (May 1st) , when the veil between the worlds is thin, we attempt to travel between those worlds. This is done through meditation, visualization, and astral projection. Because Witches acknowledge human existence as part of a cycle of life, death and rebirth, Samhain is a time to reflect on our mortality, and to confront our fears of dying.
Some Witches look on Samhain as a time to prepare for the long, dark months of winter, a time of introspection and drawing inward. They may bid goodbye to the summer with one last celebratory rite. They may have harvest feasts, with vegetables and fruits they have grown, or home-brewed cider or mead. They may give thanks for what they have, projecting for abundance through the winter. Still others may celebrate with costume parties, enjoying treats and good times with friends. There are as many ways of observing Samhain as there are Witches in the world!
I wait for small children to ring on my door bell…only joking….maybe 😉
When I was a younger adult I would be very anti the modern Halloween celebrations, opting for traditional Samhain rituals. These days I am open to whatever is happening around me, choosing to celebrate “with people” in the way in which they feel most comfortable. Of course I am an established witch in both faith and practice, so I do not see the world as a personal challenge to my belief system.
Still, as the veil is thin, I will most probably do spells and rituals to honour my dead, and ask for a few favours as well. After all…..it is Halloween 😉