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If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you are seeing pumpkin adorned front steps and spooky Halloween lawn decorations everywhere.
If you’re a parent or have any inclination to celebrate Halloween, you’re probably scrambling to figure out costumes.
Halloween, COVID-19 aside, is a fun holiday for dressing up, going to parties, playing pranks, indulging our curiosity about scary stories, and, of course, candy.
If you have kids, you go out and watch them collect obscene amounts of sugar. From there, they will gorge it, and you’re left dealing with the aftereffects.
That being said, Halloween is a fun way for people to express themselves creatively with costumes and makeup. It’s also exciting for people to gather and celebrate and for kids to go out at night.
But the origins of Halloween were a lot different than the commercialized holiday we celebrate today.
There weren’t pop-up stores full of cheap, disposable items. And don’t get me wrong, I love a Snickers mini bar as much as the next person, but there weren’t boxes upon boxes of individually plastic-wrapped candy adorning store shelves and waiting to be consumed.
Once, this time of year was a time of letting go of the old: the crops were dying, and the earth was readying itself to rest for the cold, dark winter. Yet, it was also a time for looking ahead. What preparations did one want to make and seeds of intention to plant for the coming season?
For centuries, pagans saw this time as an opportunity to pay respects to their departed loved ones and ancestors in the spirit world known as Samhain (pronounced “saah-win” or “saa-ween”). Although distinct from Halloween, it was a spiritual time of death and transformation.
It was a time when God manifested Himself as the horned hunter or Lord of Death. The Goddess manifested herself as the Crone or the woman in her final stage of life. Black and orange were the sacred colours.
Witches, during that time, were revered women in communities, known for their “wit” and “wisdom” (where the term “witch” derives from) in aspects ranging from childbirth to remedies for the sick. They were experts at calling in spirit to help heal the wounded. This inclusion of the Otherworld was respected during Halloween before humanity began emphasizing reason and logic when it came to healing.
Death was also viewed as an essential part of the life cycle, yet it wasn’t feared as a finite ending or unknown abyss as many see it today.
People in those days considered the veil between the living and the dead to be at its thinnest point. Souls of the dead were said to revisit their homes, seeking comfort. With leaves falling from trees and frost descending, death was literally everywhere in the air.
For those who had lost loved ones that year, it was a time of communication to say goodbye and wish them ease as they made their transition. It was also a time to loosen one’s grip on grief a bit and start anew.
Places were set at dinner tables to welcome and appease the deceased. Fires imitated the sun and were thought to hold back the darkness and decay of winter so that rituals, prayers, and celebrations could be completed. Before pumpkins, faces were originally carved into turnips and emulated spirits that people wanted protection from.
The tradition of dressing up and going door-to-door originally started to impersonate the dead and receive offerings on their behalf. This ritual was thought to protect those in disguise from the spirits. It also guaranteed good fortune to those who answered their door and donated a reward.
And so, as we approach October 31 and another descent into the colder months, my hope is twofold:
>> That we have fun celebrating Halloween in whatever ways lift our spirits
>> That we do so with knowledge about the holiday and why it was so important in the first place.
In today’s day and age, with our modern conveniences, it’s easy to lose touch with the rhythms of nature and the need to buckle down and prepare for a long winter ahead.
Most have long since glossed over that aspect in favour of the holiday’s fun (and/or commercial) aspects. But we are cyclical creatures, deeply connected to Earth, whether we know it or not.
So there is great benefit in honouring this phase of the descent into the darkness of winter.
If you can, take a moment this week to light a candle and send love to someone who has departed this world (even if it was a long time ago). Spend some time in contemplation—in nature, if possible.
Think about your year thus far. What habits or lower vibration ways of being can you surrender and let go of?
Halloween is a powerful time of surrender, acceptance, and intention. So let us all plant the right seeds of promise for tomorrow.