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!

Travels around southern Arizona finds include an abandoned freemason temple in Cooldige

Yesterday our magickal trio headed out adventuring around some of the off the beaten path areas of Southern Arizona.  Travels provided us with sights including an abandoned freemason temple in Cooldige, a strange graveyard just outside of Florence, and a very bumpy road out into the Box Canyon.

I would guess that not many people go to Coolidge, AZ.  Those that do are likely to be there to visit the Casa Grande Ruins which are the remains of an ancient mysterious structure built by inhabitants of this area thousands of years ago.  We will be visiting and writing about the site in the near future.  That site is on the outer edge of town which results in most outsiders remaining outside of Coolidge.  Its a strange place apparently half empty and forgotten since who knows when but full of interesting treasures.  My personal favorite was the abandoned Masonic Temple.

Abandoned Freemason Temple in Coolidge AZFreemason Logde Sign Coolidge AZMasonic Temple sign on abandoned Freemason TempleAbandoned Freemason Lodge

The front door has the Compass and Square painted on.  The elements are working their magic on this place now.

Freemason compass and square painted on temple door

It turns out that Coolidge has some haunted buildings as well…

Sppoky ghost in Cooldige AZ window

Heading out of Coolidge to Florence, we took a back road and happened upon an old graveyard.  When we stopped to check it out, we discovered the tombstones of Freemasons (surprise, surprise!).  Most of he headstones were from the early 1900’s.

Headstone of Freemason outside of Florence AZ

Freemason grave yard headstone

No southwestern photo exploration is complete without some buzzard reminding us of the harsh environment surrounding us waiting to consume our flesh…

Desert buzzard near Florence AZ

We ended our day with a drive down a very bumpy dirt road towards the Box Canyon which lies about 30 minutes east of Florence.  This is not a road for low clearance vehicles but our mighty steed (a 1997 Nissan pickup) handled the road like a champ.

Road to the box canyon

The Saguaro cactus is unique to the Sonoran Desert.  This one resembles a mother cradling two babies in her lower arm.  Did you know it takes 75 years before a saguaro grows its first arm?

Mother saguaro cactus holding babies

There are a lot of farms along the way to the Box Canyon…

Along the road to the box canyon

Thank you for accompanying me on this brief exploration.  If there is any place in Arizona you may be curious about, let me know and we will see if we can check it out 🙂