Halloween. It’s the time of year when it’s actually considered cool to be scared to death – and when children and adults alike dive head first into a world of make believe and fairy tales in the form of scary movies, spooky decorations and monster costumes.
Interestingly, there are a ton of Halloween superstitions and folklore. Few people know that Halloween, which is relatively new to the western culture – is actually a celebration with Pagan roots. In the Gaelic calendar 2,000 years ago, today’s Halloween marked the end of the Celtic year (end of summer) and was a time of celebration and rejoice after the harvesting of crops in the preparation for winter. Many of the activities of the Halloween season today, are actually reminiscent of Pagan times, which is why many religious organizations will not participate in Halloween celebrations but opt for Fall celebrations instead. The following will help you understand some of the superstitions and myths behind Halloween and how they came into being.
- Carving Jack O Lanterns. In Pagan times, people would carve hollowed out turnips rather than pumpkins. The carving of Jack O Lanterns actually comes from an evil fable about farmer named Jack who tried to trick the devil. Doing so, he was refused entry to both Heaven and Hell and was forced to wander around the streets aimlessly for the rest of time. Pagans would carve turnips and place lights inside to help lost souls find their way home during Gaelic celebrations. And the scary faces were used back then (and possibly now) to ward off or scare away any evil spirits that may be wandering around.
- Bats and black cats. Bats are indeed sinister creatures. Ancient myths believed that if a bat flew around ones house three times, it meant someone inside would soon die. And black cats earn their spot in Halloween garb because years ago during ‘witch hunts’ many of the women had cats, that others believed were given to the women by the devil himself. Not only were the women killed, but also the cats were as well as it was believed that the devil could disguise himself as a black cat.
- Spiders! The smallest spider can make the bravest person go running for cover, and they are a common host at Halloween parties. Truth is that there are a lot of folklores revolving spiders. One says that if a spider falls into a flame of a candle, it means that witches are nearby (Good thing that rarely happens, right?). Another says that seeing a spider on Halloween means that the angels of deceased loved ones are watching over you. All in all, the worst thing about spiders is the spider web!
- Witches! Most people think of witches as evil, dark spirits that are there to cause trouble and haunt. However, the root of witches and witchcraft comes from Pagan beliefs that the ‘old one’ also called the crone – has all encompassing wisdom. The matriarchs of the past were seen as a powerful presence in families and during Pagan celebrations. Today, ‘crones’ have morphed into witches.
- Costumes. Do you ever wonder why it has become commonplace to dress up for Halloween? The costumes of the season came from the dated belief that evil spirits could dress up in costumes to trick regular folk, and cause them to have an uncertain death and eternity in hell. It was also believed that people could dress up so that evil spirits wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from the living spirits. Today, dressing up for Halloween is all about the fun of the season.
- The colors orange and black have long been associated with Halloween. In Celtic times, Pagans used orange and black to signify the turning of the leave (orange) and the death of the summer cropping season. These colors have stuck through the ages and now play a big role in Halloween celebrations.
- Trick or Treating comes from a tradition of mischief night. In ancient times, Halloween night was about having a festival where people often played pranks on one another. In the early 1900’s as Halloween was taking shape for the western world, there were many criminal acts taking place on Mischief night. So people started handing out treats to sort of turn around the events of Halloween into a positive fun induced environment.
- Candy corn! Candy corn was invented in the late 1800’s as a way to celebrate the large corn crops that were harvested during the summer months.
- Candles burning out! It was once believed that if a candle burned out by itself with no ‘real’ reason to extinguish, it meant that you had a ghost in your home. This is a good reason NOT to burn candles at all!
There are dozens upon dozens of other Halloween superstitions and myths. The truth is that today, most people are just out looking to have a little fun and indulge their tendency to play make believe and dress up. The celebration today, is also a massive money making ploy for the retail business and helps to spark holiday shopping. But most of all, Halloween is just plain, good old-fashioned fun. Unless of course, you hear 3 knocks on your door and no one is there when you go to answer it. That of course means that your death is imminent.