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The History of Halloween

Posted on 31 October 2018

Halloween is truly a diverse holiday and is celebrated in many different ways in different cultures and countries. However, they all seem to have the same root in the spirit world.

In Australia Halloween is not heavily imbedded in our culture and hasn't been as commercialised as it has in some Western countries. Not many people know that Halloween goes back much further than the pumpkin-carving days of the early America's. In fact, Halloween is a significant part of European history that has hundreds of years of tradition.

Originating in Ireland and called ‘the Festival of Samhain’ locals believed that midnight on the 31st of October was when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was at its thinnest. This is the time when relatives could cross-over and convene with the living again.

Halloween is also about celebrating the cycle of death and rebirth. In the northern hemisphere, where the celebration originated, the leaves are dying and nature is preparing for the still of winter. Just the same, in the southern hemisphere, the dormant buds are preparing to rebirth themselves and open to the start of summer.

Halloween is a time to honor the 'deaths' or changes that we have all experienced throughout the year. It is a time to make peace with all the things we need to let go of and to celebrate the cycle of 'new'. In Pagan times, Samhain was celebrated as soon as the clock ticked over to November 1st as it was believed on 1/11 spiritual activity was at its highest.

One of the reasons that spiritual activity is so high on this night is due to the vibrations of the date 111.

If you look at each number 1 as a pillar, you can see that the middle pillar represents the veil and “being stuck” between the two worlds.

“As part of their autumnal celebration, they wanted to light the way to their homes for the good spirits, so they carved faces into vegetables such as turnips and squash.”

The veil between the living and the dead is also said to be thinnest due to the Sun’s position in the deep and intuitive sign of Scorpio.

Even though a portal is unlocked at this time of year, Halloween is really a celebration of Mother Nature and the ever evolving energies that live around us and through us.

Carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns is a popular Halloween tradition in modern times but it originated hundreds of years ago in Ireland. As part of their autumnal celebration, they wanted to light the way to their homes for the good spirits, so they carved faces into vegetables. Back then, however, jack-o'-lanterns were made out of turnips or potatoes; it wasn't until Irish immigrants arrived in America and discovered the pumpkin that this well-known symbol of today's Halloween celebrations was used.

Scary faces are also carved into jack-o'-lanterns and put in the window of houses to ward off evil spirits.

“The 31st of October is when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is believed to be the thinnest.”

The origin of dressing up on Halloween begun as a way of ‘tricking’ the spirits. It was believed at this very time of year, people would dress up, blacking out their faces and wearing white robes to try and appear as one of the spirits.

The ‘trick’ part of trick-or-treating began when children, who were dressed in disguise, saw an opportunity to extort money and treats through fear of reprise. But, as one newspaper reported in 1927, the acts were nothing more than ‘strenuous fun’ with just a few missing wagon wheels and barrels which were later recovered in the streets outside.

From the Celts, the holiday passed to the Christians, bearing the name of All Hallows’ Eve, which was the day celebrated before the 1st of November, before All Saints’ Day.

Even though the ancient Celtic holiday got governed by a different religion, the power of spirits still existed in people’s minds and they were both respected and feared. In order to protect themselves and their livestock and gain benevolence from the spirits, people used to offer them food, drink, and even portions of their crops. It was believed that the spirits of people that passed away returned to their homes, in search of hospitality so extra places were set at the table and by the fire, making the spirits feel welcome once they returned.

“It was believed that the spirits of people that passed away returned to their homes, in search of hospitality so extra places were set at the table and by the fire, making the spirits feel welcome once they returned.”

But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today’s trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. 

In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. 

In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.) 

“Halloween is a time to honour the “deaths” that we have all experienced throughout the year. It is a time to make peace with all the things we have needed to let go of and to celebrate the cycle of the new.”

Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces. 

Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.

Of course, whether we’re asking for romantic advice or trying to avoid seven years of bad luck, each one of these Halloween superstitions relies on the goodwill of the very same “spirits” whose presence the early Celts felt so keenly. 

Today, Halloween is celebrated in many places around the world. Children still dress as ghosts and spirits but Halloween costumes can now be anything from super heroes to fairies – it’s more about the dressing up and less about spirits crossing over. Many traditions have remained however, including the carving of the Halloween pumpkin, decorating and trick-or-treating for sweets, however most of the superstitious traditions have been forgotten.

 

HAPPY SAMHAIN, ALL HALLOWS EVE & HALLOWEEN!

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