Halloween, A Brief but Ancient History
The fun, sugar filled holiday that we celebrate today has ancient origins. It began with the Celts, a people who lived in what is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Northern France 2,000 years ago. The Celts celebrated their New Year on November 1st. This new year marked the end of summer and harvest and the start of cold, dark winter, a time often associated with death. During this time it was believed that the boundaries separating the world of the living and the world of the dead became blurred allowing spirits and ghosts to return to earth. On October 31st, their New Years Eve, the Celts celebrated Samhain (pronounced sow-in), a fire festival. To ward off evil spirits that may do them harm, they lit massive bonfires, made sacrifices to their deities in the form of crops and animals, and donned costumes in hopes of fooling said spirits. Druids and priests sought to channel these forces to make predictions and seek guidance from their gods to help get them through the winter. When the festival was over they re-lit their hearths with this sacred fire for protection throughout the winter.
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Spooky Match Making
Many forgotten Halloween traditions focused more on the futures of the living. Considered a time of year where the boundaries between our world and the spirit world was thinnest, this made it a good time for fortune telling and seeking out premonitions. Amongst the answers sought were the marital futures of young women. Some methods of which included:
Trick or Treating
The act of going about in costume and begging for treats has been around in some form or another since medieval times. Once known by a variety of names, including “guising” or “souling”, it was primarily done by poor children and adults who went from door to door, often in costume, offering songs or prayers in exchange for food and money. A form of this tradition was brought to America by the Irish. However, trick or treating died out during WWII when sugar was rationed. Trick or Treating as we know it today was actually made popular by cartoons and comic strips including “Peanuts” when the sugar ration ended.
In Conclusion, Happy Halloween!
The thousands of years of myths and magic that Halloween encompasses is vast and can not possibly be contained in one short article. For many active Wiccans, Pagans, and Celtic Reconstructionists Halloween is still considered a sacred holiday. This time of year is recognized by many religions across the world as a time for reflection, as well as a celebration of life and death as we leave the warm summer months and brace ourselves for the coming winter. May the whim of the spirits be always in your favor.
Researched and Written by Victoria Buckwash