Today we dress in costumes to confuse and scare away the evil spirits. Beware at crossroads, and jump over fires to keep the demons from following you! Tell your best stories, or sing a song to get treats from appreciative listeners, and make sure you light your turnip (they didn't have pumpkins in the Old World to use), to see your way and scare away the things that go bump in the night.It is Halloween!
Why all this strange behavior? It's All Hallow's Eve, or Samhain (pronounced Sow Wen). This is a traditional holiday of the pagans and Pagans (there is a difference), and it was even outlawed for a time. The holiday was most popular in Great Britain, but was also celebrated in western Europe where it began as a harvest festival. There was even a witch who dropped presents down chimneys! Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Samhain marked the "end of summer" and the beginning of the dark half of the year.
The wall between the two worlds is said to be thinnest on this night. Divination games were played by some, and others did rituals to keep the dark and evil entities from slipping through in to this world. It is said nature spirits, like fairies roamed the earth on this night pulling pranks.
The celebration was forbidden by the church for a while as being Satanistic, and the Puritans outlawed it for many years, but it had a resurgence of popularity in the 1920's. It was more of an adult party holiday at that time, but now has taken on its' old customs with bonfires and some form of trick or treating, all around the world. Costumes that not only scare away the evil spirits, but entertain.
The church tried to draw the people back in with All Saints Day (November 1) but it wasn't the same. It didn't make the people feel secure as their old traditions did, and they never completely died. Today Halloween is the biggest celebration of all, and its' sales of decorations and costumes outsells Christmas! There are "haunted house" attractions, parties, contests, and the day is more "fun" than protective to many, yet the Pagans still celebrate it in the older traditions. We have a bonfire every year, and my husband always leaps through (better him than me!).
Enjoy the day and if you are going out, whether trick or treating or to a party, be careful out there! Prayers to the east coast, may they soon be able to have their Halloween celebrations!
(C)2012 Dr R M Wolf. May not be used, copied or reproduced without prior written permission