Historic traditions and origins of Halloween

Everywhere seems to be bursting with pumpkins, pumpkin spice lattes, skeletons, witches, and ghosts.  Halloween is approaching.  It’s easy to get caught up in the fun and commotion of a holiday.  After all, that is what a holiday is all about right?  I like to look a little deeper to find out about where the traditions come from and what is at the core that our ancestors created the traditions to remind us of.  Let’s take a look at the historic traditions and origins of Halloween.

halloween on year wheelSamhain origins of Halloween

Halloween is a modern version of a day of the dead celebration with is roots in the Samhain tradition from the old world.  Samahain is opposite on the year wheel from Belatne (May 1).  The two days mark the “hinge” points of the year.  This is most easily understood if we imagine the year to be a single day where Beltane is the dawn and Samhain is sunset.

During these times of the year, the ancient Northern Europeans believed that the veil between the material plane and the beyond becomes thin allowing the energies to flow from one side to the other.  This is why both holidays are thought to be important for spiritual work and rituals.

While Beltane is primarily focussed on new growth and the bounty of spring, Samhain leads the world (in the Northern Hemisphere) into the darkness of winter.  Because of this, it is a day for the dead.  This does not mean that the ancients were morbid.  Rather, the ancients understood the cyclical nature of all things which includes death as a part of living.

Origins of Halloween costumesCostumes

One of the main beliefs which sets the stage for all of the modern Halloween practices is that the dead are released from the underworld to wander amongst the living.  It was believed that those ghosts could seek revenge on anyone who had wronged them during life.  This is the reason for costumes and masks which were intended to hide the living from such repercussions.

Trick or Treat

The tradition of trick or treat seems to go back a long way.  It’s roots are most likely to be found in the ancient world.  Offering were often placed outside of villages in order to placate angry or malevolent spirits unleashed during Samhain.  Over time, it is theorized, people began to dress up like the evil spirits to claim such offerings for themselves.  Depending on your point of view, this may not have been such a great idea but that is the theory none the less.

Traditions have obviously evolved over time and children set out in costumes going door to door.  Perhaps to this day, we continue to anger the underworld by stealing their treats and gobbling them up ourselves…

Moving forward

Although we live in a modern world, it is good to remember where our traditions originate.  Rather than simply dressing up our kids just to claim free treats, it may benefit us all to remember the natural cycles that the holidays represent.  This time of year is significant in marking the decent into darkness that make life possible.

Have fun and enjoy your Halloween!

Walpurgisnacht and Beltane – the thin veil for harnessing spiritual growth.

Walpurgisnacht festivalWalpurgisnacht is known as witch’s night.  It is the time of year when the veil between this world and the spirit world is thinnest – opposite of the year wheel from the Samhain holiday.  Traditional celebrations typically involve a bon fire, a may pole, and various other things celebrating fertility and abundance.  The Walpurgisnacht celebration is held on April 30th preceding Beltane or May Day.  Thusly, the preceding moth that follows is considered to be a time in which more spiritual energy is accessible than other times of the year until November when the door opens again.New_York_RenFaire_2004_maypole
There is a lot of disinformation about Walpurgisnacht and Beltane.  I have seen people refer to it as a Satanic holiday.  To clear things up, the veil is thin between the worlds.  That’s just that way it is.  It is not evil or demonic any more so than the dawn or twilight.  There are indeed evil people who take advantage of the accessibility to the available spiritual energy.  The truth is that anyone can.  It is the intention of those very evil people to make everyone else believe that these times are evil so that they can own a monopoly on that sort of power.  After all, they would not want too much positive energy mixed into the ether to dilute their ambitions.

year-wheel
Click image for the Year Wheel t shirt on my Etsy shop!

Taking part in the seasonal cycle is a beautiful ancient practice.  It is like understanding how the seasons work with the harvest.  By understanding the ebb and flow of unseen energies, we can take the reigns of our lives and direct ourselves to meet our true potential.  Don’t we grow food better when we have an understanding of the way that the seasons effect the growth and fruiting patterns in plants.  Imagine where we would be without that knowledge.  Understanding how spiritual energies work can provide the same sort of growth in our spiritual lives.

While participation is a festival is a fantastic way to celebrate, a simpler and more personal approach can also be employed.  Participation can be as simple as taking the time to actually give thanks for the good things in your life.  A  \”ritual” is simply an action with meaning.  Any sort of action will create a result if the meaning is focussed on clearly while it is enacted.  Whether the belief in external spiritual beings are real or imagined, by giving offerings the act embeds into our subconscious minds the attitude of gratitude.  Being thankful always brings about more positive results in our lives.  When we are thankful, we are happy which undeniably brings about better results than when we harbor negativity and unhappiness.  This time of year is the perfect time to plant those seeds and begin generating the positivity that can collectively turn our cultural journey towards a bright future.
May all of you enjoy the blessings of the season of growth and abundance!  Much love from our family to yours.

seedling in good hands