More and more people around the world are unleashing their inner ‘monster’ and are celebrating the scarefest that is Halloween every year. Whilst some countries such as the United States and Mexico have this annual ‘Day of the Dead’ celebrations well and truly established in their annual calendar, other countries are only now getting into the swing of firey pumpkins and trick or treating.
I live in Australia, where Halloween is growing more popular every year, something I am personally delighted about. As a pagan and witch, this ancient festival is something that I think offers much to the community. In my street at Halloween time, the skeletons are now out on a verandah (out of the closet it seems!) and I get asked by the kids next door what I’ll be giving away this year. This is the one time of the year that any fears (always unfounded) about witches seem to be laughed away and in my area anyway, the kids and adults are excited to have a real witch in the neighbourhood.
Although I certainly believe it’s increasing popularity has something to do with the sugar hit of all those yummy candy, what has often been seen as an vastly American holiday, has ancient pagan origins that most people know little about.
Halloween (or All-Hallows Eve) is traditionally a Celtic winter Festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-en) which was part of the Celtic “Wheel of the Year”, a series of eight earth based celebrations to mark the change between light and dark, cold and hot, death and life. Samhain marked the colder seasonal time and the process when the earth begins to retreat and ‘die’. If we imagine a fallow field, this is the time of Halloween. Death then becomes the theme of this ‘holiday’ but death in its most positive terms- as the quiet beginning of new life.
Death is in some ways the last taboo in our western society. We do not experience death as we used to. We have hospitals where people pass, we don’t ‘prepare’ and honour dead bodies within the families as we used to, and most people do not pass at home naturally. There exists a profound medicalisation of death and in some ways this has separated us from it. What we do not know about or get exposed to, we fear more.
Halloween is a time when we can raise the issue of death, we can laugh at it, we can even speak more freely of those who have passed and we can examine our fears of the darker things. This is a positive attitude and one that reduces fear.
Death is simply a part of life and the step before renewal again. Having a celebration about death, treating it lightly and with laughter helps us see that there is little to be afraid of. By carving pumpkins, we scare away the ‘nasty’ spirits whilst acknowledging the darkness too. By delving into midnight- we see the dawn more clearly. By tricking or treating, we mimic the mischievous spirits that may be around and bring light to the situation.
Other nations such as Mexico celebrate their beautiful ‘Day of the Dead,’ which now has woven itself through many Halloween celebrations in particular through its spectacular art, candy skulls and even the graveside picnics honoring the ancestors. We too honor those who have passed and our ancestors by having a Halloween Dinner, setting a place at the table for those not there, and serving them just as we would any honored guest.
We speak of these beloved dead, tell stories about them and remember them this way, lovingly. We celebrate their lives with laughter and food and merriment. It certainly isn’t a time for sadness but a time to celebrate life wholeheartedly.
This ‘thinness’ is also why many people from all over the world on this night choose to use a variety of divination tools and methods to get a glimpse of their future or to tap into some wise messages from the other side. Many people might use a pendulum or consult a crystal ball or oracle cards.
No matter when you choose to celebrate this daring deathly night, enjoy yourself and know that some of the rituals and symbols of this scariest of all nights, are very old indeed. Thousands of people before you for thousands of years have carried the torches at night under the moon, got a fright in the local burial grounds, have played tricks on their friends and have asked the spirits for a glimpse of their future.
Stacey Demarco is an internationally respected spiritual practitioner, Metaphysicist and Witch whose passion is to make practical magic accessible to everyone. Her down-to-earth yet scholastic spiritual style and her skill at weaving ancient techniques to solve modern problems, make her popular amongst clients and a regular contributor upon all things metaphysical across television, radio and other media. She is also the author of the stunning annual Lunar & Seasonal Diary for both the northern and southern hemispheres, a sellout in stores each year. https://www.themodernwitch.com
Her latest oracle deck, “Queen of the Moon”, a homage to the energies of the moon and seasons, is being released in October 2018, by RockPool Publishers, https://www.rockpoolpublishing.com.au
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