Or Samhain, or Eve of All Saints Day, the Hungry Ghost Festival, Night of Witches, Día de Los Muertos, Pangangaluluwa, or whatever you celebrate on October 31st. The evolution of the holiday varies from culture to culture and age to age, but the origins and superstitions are similar. It is a time to remember, honor, and ask for help from those who have gone before us: the dead. Many religions (especially the Christian ones) usurped and renamed the indigenous customs into their own to bolster conversions. Regardless of how they present it, whether you call them saints or ancestor spirits, the intentions are the same: carry our prayers to our gods and deliver us from evil.
Today’s western societies have almost entirely commercialized Halloween. Now it’s mostly about who has the best decorations and gives out the best candies. Television commercials begin months before the day and stores overfill their shelves with “everything you need.” We dress up in costumes to scare off the “evil” spirits or summon the friendly ones. We give treats to the kids in the costumes so that we’re not the target of their tricks. And, c’mon admit it, I don’t care how fundamentalist and traditionalist you are, it’s fun.
Seriously though, we don’t need a special day to connect with our ancestors. They are all around us all the time. We can speak to them anytime we want to, and they speak to us whenever we need them. Halloween and similar celebrations are just a way to give us a pause to remind us of our connections.
Glinda asks Dorothy, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Something to really think about this Halloween as you put on your costume and makeup:
“Each year they parade her about, The traditional Halloween witch. Misshapen green face, stringy scraps of hair. A toothless mouth beneath her disfigured nose. Gnarled knobby fingers twisted into a claw protracting form. A bent and twisted torso that lurches about on wobbly legs.
Most think this is abject image to be the creation of a prejudiced mind or merely a Halloween caricature, I disagree. I believe this to be how witches were really seen.
Consider that most witches were women, abducted in the night and smuggled into dungeons or prisons under secrecy of darkness and presented by the light of day as a confessed witch.
Few, if any, saw a frightened normal looking woman being dragged into a secret room filled with instruments of torture, to be questioned until she confessed to anything that was suggested to her, and to give names or say whatever would stop the questions.
Crowds saw the aberration denounced to the world as a self-proclaimed witch, paraded through the town, en route to be burned, hanged, drowned, stoned, or disposed of in various, horrible ways, all created to free and save her soul from her depraved body.
The jeering crowds viewed the result of hours of torture. The face, bruised and broken by countless blows, bore a hue of sickly green. The once warm and loving smile gone, replaced by a grimace of broken teeth and torn gums that leer beneath a battered disfigured nose.
The disheveled hair concealed bleeding gaps of torn scalp from whence cruel hands had torn away the lovely tresses. Broken, twisted hands clutched the wagon for support, fractured fingers locked like cropping claws to steady her broken body.
All semblance of humanity gone. This was truly a demon, a bride of Satan, a witch. I revere this Halloween Witch and hold her sacred. I honor her courage and listen to her warnings of the dark side of humanity.
Each year I shed tears of respect.”