Halloween spirits walk among us

Halloween spirits walk among us

Orange pumpkins, black cats, skeletons, witches and ghosts, these are all symbols of Halloween. It has become one of our most popular holidays, spooky fun for all ages. Halloween  is also one of the oldest holidays. It’s a long story, out of the mists of time. This is the story,with some help from  History.com.

Halloween’s origins date back over 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celtic new year began on November 1, which  is  half way between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice.  It  marked the end of  the warm and sunny growing season (last harvest and summer’s end) and the beginning of  winter, a time of  cold and dark.

The Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. It was a scary and powerful time. The Celts believed that on this night, the spirits of the dead returned to earth.

Those spirits who walked the earth were out for mayhem. Offerings were left on doorsteps for them, to keep them from getting inside the houses. People dressed in costumes to walk among the spirits.

The Celtic priests–the Druids–built huge sacred bonfires. There were sacrifices  of crops and animals to appease the spirits and divine the future.

When the Romans conquered the Celts, some Roman and Celtic traditions were combined (of course). The Romans observed Feralia, a day in late October when they commemorated the passing of the dead. They also  had a day to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees. Her symbol  is the apple–so plentiful this time of year.

By 1000 A.D., the Roman church incorporated Saints and Martyrs Day into All Souls Day,or all Hallows Day,  and it was celebrated on November 1.  This may have been an attempt by the church to incorporate  pagan celebrations into a more church-sanctioned holiday. October 31st became  All Hallows E’en (evening), or Halloween.

The midpoints between the solstices and equinoxes were more important than they are, today.  The Farmers’ Almanac explains the cross-quarter days–Ground Hog Day, May Day,  August 1 (Lammas), and  November 1.

We don’t have to follow the Old Calendar to appreciate the power of this time of year. Leaves are falling from the trees. The wind is growing colder. It’s dark so early, now. Footsteps behind you, what’s that sound?  A plastic bag flutters like a ghost. Cats disappear in the darkness.

The energy turns to hearth and home, warm soup and lighted windows. Diversions to pass the  longer nights. Thoughts of the living, and the dead.

It’s the dark time of the year, the season of nocturnal things.

We, too, can become more sensitive to the turning of the year–from light to darkness, and darkness back to light, again.


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Filed under: seasons, weather

Tags: cross-quarter days, Samhain


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  • The main Halloween spirit is Hard Cider.

    The discourse in the Farmer's Almanac about cross quarter days was interesting. For instance, a common weather question was why it was said that summer starts in June if August is the hottest, with the explanation being heat momentum or something like that. This breakdown recognizes that, as well as the explanation for Ground Hog Day and something around Halloween.

    There is also the Mexican Day of the Dead, which Internet sources indicate that the Spanish moved from the Aztec observance in August to November.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks for reading, Jack! Much enjoy your comments, too. Sorry I forgot the cider, and the candy...

    I always wondered why May 1 was called Midsummer, when it wasn't even close to summer---but it was mid-planting season. As a follower of the cross-quarter days, I too am intrigued how the meanings have become obscured, as we have become less connected to the natural world.

  • I think the reason summer starts in June is that's when the summer solstice occurs---the day (usually the 21st) when the Sun reaches its farthest point in the Northern Hemisphere, appears to "stand still" and then slowly goes south---at least from our point of view.

  • You're right, AW! I am so sorry about the confusion. I meant to say summer, not midsummer. My mistake!

    The May Day festival---Beltane---was celebrated as the beginning of summer--midway between the vernal equinox and summer solstice. The Solstice in June does mark the beginning of our summer here, but was celebrated as a midsummer festival!

    Thank you for reading,and giving me the opportunity to clarify.

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