While it’s hard to believe that Halloween is almost upon us, it’s no surprise that adults and children alike are actively gearing up for one of the most anticipated holidays of the year. From delicious pumpkin cookies to ghoulish Haunted Houses, there’s no shortage of things to look forward to during the long-awaited first month of fall. But, how many of us actually know where its traditional festivities came from? Turns out Halloween has a long and crazy-interesting history rooted in Paganism. So today, we’re going take a closer look at how it came about.
Origins of Halloween
“All my life, I have been a celebrant of Halloween. For me, it is the most important day of the year, the turning point in the old pagan calendar.” – John Burnside
As you know, Halloween is characterized by extravagant costumes, elaborate superstitions, and outrageous celebrations. It’s also accompanied by a very strong sense of transition since the temperatures cool down, leaves begin to fall, and the people start preparing for the end of the year. To some degree, it’s hard not to be reminded of the cycle of life during this time, and Halloween in very much a celebration of this very cycle. Theoretically, the immensely popular holiday actually originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain that marks the end of the harvest year.
Now, the Celts are an eclectic mix of European people that have been around since before 600 BC. Their exact origins are highly disputed since their ethnic, linguistic and cultural histories remain mixed and rather controversial. Still, it is believed that many of the Celts who occupied different parts of Europe moved to Great Britain during the time of the Roman Empire and reside there to this very day; that’s why there are several regions where the residents widely speak Celtic. It is from the Gaelic branch of the Celts that Samhain first originated.
According to LiveScience.com: “Because ancient records are sparse and fragmentary, the exact nature of Samhain is not fully understood, but it was an annual communal meeting at the end of the harvest year, a time to gather resources for the winter months and bring animals back from the pastures. Samhain is also thought to have been a time of communing with the dead, according to folklorist John Santino…Such moments of transition in the year have always been thought to be special and supernatural, he added.”
Samhain began on the evening of October 31st and lasted till the evening of November 1st. It marked the end of harvest season and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year, which may explain why to this day the harvesting of apples, pumpkins, and other foods is a popular fall tradition. Also, around this time winter preparations were underway, which essentially meant that livestock was slaughtered to prepare for the cold months ahead. And so, special ritualistic bonfires were lit to cleanse and purify the atmosphere.
Because the holiday falls on the halfway point between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, it is thought to be a spiritual time of the year when the boundary between our world and the world of the spirits becomes blurred. To appease the spirits that may cross over, people commonly left food and water outside of their houses, as a way of preventing them from going in. Furthermore, in an attempt to thwart the ghosts, costumes were used to trick them into thinking the people were one of them, giving us the most famous of all Halloween traditions.
But, how did Samhain eventually become Halloween? According to History.com:
“On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III (731–741) later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1. By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead.”
All Saints Day was also referred to as All-hallows and All-hallowmas, and so the night before All Saints Day became known as All-hallows Eve eventually becoming Halloween. Regardless of the fact that Halloween is now America’s second largest commercial holiday of the year, it wasn’t really celebrated due to the strict Protestant traditions present throughout the northern parts of America for many years. Halloween actually took on its modern form around the 1850s, when Irish and English immigrants brought their traditions into the new world.
Endurance of Pagan Traditions
It’s quite interesting to think about the evolution of human traditions and celebrations, many of which have pagan origins. The evolvement of Samhain into Halloween is an incredible example of how elements of our collective pagan past can endure through time and space. But these elements are not limited to celebrations; they also involve certain health and wellness traditions, ranging from aromatherapy and the use of affirmations to the practice meditation and mindfulness.
If we take time to meditate on the messages that are given to us and listen to our inner voice that is guided by intuition, we will start to learn more about ourselves and watch our lives start to unfold right before our eyes. When we engage in rituals, we re-connect with ourselves. By consciously choosing to find inner peace, we can allow ourselves to start anew and have a more positive outlook on life.
In the spirit of Halloween, we have created the “Priestess Witch Ritual“, which includes a special oracle message, a guided ritual, and numerous products to assist you on your journey.
We sincerely hope you enjoyed learning about the pagan origins of Halloween and leave you with the following quote:
“It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin – and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.” – Erin Morgenstern