Trick or Treat
Happy Halloween! I mean Happy New Year. I mean Blessed Samhain…oh, whatever.
by Ashlyn Chase
This Halloween, or Samhain as Wiccans call it, you might consider a different way to celebrate. To us Wiccans it’s not a day to dress up in crazy costumes, eat candy to the point of nausea, or go buck wild on someone’s house because they turned the lights off. Let me invite you to celebrate this witch’s way.
It’s our most sacred holiday. I can understand how things got so mixed up though. This is the night when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. In other words, the dead and the living are better able to commune with each other than at any other time of year, and this scares the bejeesus out of some people. The origin of Halloween lies in the traditions of the Celtic people.
The Celts coalesced as a society circa 800 BCE. They were located in what is now the United Kingdom, much of Western Europe and an isolated enclave in what is now Turkey. They held a major celebration near the end of our month of October, which they called “Samhain,” a festival to recognize the end of summer—i.e. the end of one year and beginning of another. There are several different ideas about how to pronounce “Samhain.” Sam-hane, Sow-in, sow-en, sow-an, soow-an, sow-ween, etc. The story that “Samhain” was a Celtic God of the Dead is a myth. However, it has been repeated so often that it has taken on a life of its own.
The Celts believed that the veil between this world and the next was thinnest at this time of year. Friends and relatives who had died would often return, with their souls inhabiting an animal – often a black cat. Black cats have remained a symbol of Halloween to the present time.
In celebration of the recently completed harvest, Celts would give offerings of food to the Gods. They often went from door to door to collect food to donate to their deities. Also, young Celts would ask the townspeople for kindling and wood, and take it to the top of a hill for the Samhain bonfire. These are two of the possible origins of present day “trick or treating.”
Samhain was a fire festival. Sacred bonfires were lit on the tops of hills in honor of the Gods. The townspeople would take an ember from the bonfire to their home and re-light the fire in their family hearth. The ember would usually be carried in a holder – often a turnip or gourd. They felt nervous about walking home in the dark since they were afraid of evil spirits. So they dressed up in costumes and carved scary faces in their ember holders. They hoped that the spirits would be frightened and not bother them. Children continue to dress up today in various costumes. Pumpkins are now the objects of choice into which to carve faces.
Modern day Wiccans and some other Neopagans base their religious faith on the religion of the Celts. They continue to celebrate Samhain today, but in a quiet and reverent way. Wiccans use this time to honor ancestors. If they are listening, do you really want them to see and hear you behaving like an idiot? Isn’t it a better idea to dedicate a candle and show them they’re not forgotten by burning it in a place of honor all evening? If you decide to adopt this simple tradition, don’t forget to put it out when you go to bed. Modern traditions don’t include being jarred out of a sound sleep by a smoke detector.
Thanks for visiting today, Ashlyn.
And now for the next treat. Since Ash is still digging out from the massive snowstorm that hit New England, she’s one of the the unfortunate folks without power. So, I’ll be providing the giveaway today. One lucky commenter will receive my newest e-novella My Lady Below Stairs. Here’s a question to get you started: What’s your favorite Halloween costume of all time?
It can be one you wore or one of your kids. Mine was a lion suit I made for my daughter out of an old fuzzy housecoat. A little face paint gave her some cute jowls and whiskers and since the suit was a bit too big, we stuffed a pillow into give her a fat little tummy. She looked like a very well-fed lion.