🎃It’s one of the most fun celebrations of the whole year and the USA goes mad for it. But while you’re having fun dressing up, eating delicious food and watching scary movies, do you ever give thought to the meanings behind the traditions of Halloween? 🎃
Halloween is a ‘holiday’ that straddles the line between fall and winter, a perfect atmosphere for the living and the dead to combine. It is thought to have originated in an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, when people would build large bonfires and wear elaborate costumes in an attempt to ward off hordes of roaming spirits that they believed were close to the world of the living.
It is thought that back in the Middle Ages, people associated stray black cats with the devil and therefore deemed them responsible for things like the spread of the Black Death. Later on, the black cat became linked to ‘witches’, with people believing that they used them as companions and also as familiars that they could shape shift into.
This is a tradition that was started for purely artistic reasons. Ghost plays were very popular in the 19th and 20th centuries, and actors started to wear white sheets to let the audiences know which characters were living and which were dead. Thankfully for millions of kids around the world, the idea stuck and an easy Halloween costume was born!
The kind of witch that we are familiar with comes from old pagan tradition, in which an old, ugly crone type of woman was known as the Earth Mother or the ‘the old one’. Whereas we now see them as evil, they were originally revered for their wisdom and were thought to be able to change the seasons.
Witches have historically been synonymous with making different types of brews and potions for healing or harming purposes, and it is thought that the image of a broomstick may have started as a tool for them to stir their pots and cauldrons. The thought of them flying on their broomsticks is something that arose from the witch-hunt fear and hysteria of later years.
Bats are always linked with Halloween, perhaps because of their links to vampirism. The truth is that the large bonfires we have already spoken about used to attract lots of flying insects, which would in turn attract nearby bats for a tasty feast! Because of this, the animals were always linked to that time of year.
The Count Dracula archetype that we all know is down to the Bram Stoker and his iconic gothic novel, but going back even further, the depiction of vampires has historically been that they are much less human and more demonic spirits that preyed on the innocent.
According to traditional witch lore, magic is supposed to be at its strongest when there is a full moon in the sky, which the reason that so many scary stories occur when there is a perfectly round circular moon on view.
It’s not hard to see why people might find cemeteries scary, but some of the old traditions are interesting! One popular one in the olden days was that you were supposed to hold your breath as you were passing by a graveyard or you would run the risk of inhaling the spirits and taking them to a place they don’t want to be!
Modern kids dress up in order to try to impress neighbors and get as much candy as possible, and the tradition stems from Celtic times where it was believed that if a spirit turned up dressed as a beggar and was turned away, you would be cursed for the rest of your life!
This date was scary way before the horror movies! For some reason the number 13 has always been associated with bad luck and evil things, dating as far back as Babylonian times when the 13th law of their code of law was willfully overlooked or the fact that the ancient Egyptians associated the number with the afterlife.
Why are these cute little fluff balls associated with Halloween? Because Roman and Greek superstitions both centered around the fact that witches could turn into owls and then fly to suck the blood of newborn babies. And others believed that the sound of an owl hooting meant that a witch was nearby.
A spider’s ability to spin webs led to it having an association as being a fortune-teller or something that could weave magic and ‘trap’ you. Spiders have also long been named as being key ingredients of witch’s recipes, as well being something that witches liked to eat themselves!
This tradition is once again traced back to Celtic times, when a drunken farmer named Jack tricked the devil and wasn’t allowed into heaven or hell. He was forced to wander in purgatory for eternity with nothing but a turnip that he turned in to a lantern. Of course, today we prefer pumpkins!
Why are these colors ‘the’ colors of Halloween? It is said that the orange signifies the time of year with a link to crops, and that the black is a creepy symbol of death, so the two together perfectly sum up the time of year and the atmosphere of the day.
The good old Celts believe that when you died, your soul when into the cauldron of a crone that symbolized returning to the womb of Mother Nature. In the cauldron you were stirred and awaited reincarnation. This more positive image had been replaced in modern times with the bubbling cauldrons that are brewing deadly potions.
Halloween is a time for candy but also a time that some people like to go out and cause mischief, and this has been going on for centuries starting with the Celts who liked to play pranks on each other around the ominous bonfires.
What is your favorite Halloween tradition?🎃
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