This fall holiday of Halloween trick or treat where you dress up in the most current monster costume and ‘threaten’ neighbors until you get enough candy to put even non-diabetics into a sugar coma, marks the beginning of the Christmas season for family get togethers and end of the year celebrations. But for many people not of a Christian belief, such as Wiccan, the Halloween holiday marks the passing of the old year and wishes for the best in the upcoming year.
The original name for this holiday celebrated at this time of year is Samhain, pronounced Sow-wen. One source says that the word comes from the Gaelic words ‘sam’ which means summer and ‘fuin’ which means end. This also marks the end of the year’s harvest. Most people celebrate it to coincide with Halloween on October 31 but the true sabbath is celebrated during the first full moon in Scorpio.
Samhain is a time of endings therefore associated with the Crone aspect of the triple goddess, the elder stages of life revered with images of Hecate. This is probably the origin of the hag-like witches with long wart-crowned noses however Wiccans find this image of a witch as offensive as an African-American might find a black-face comedy routine.
Samhain is also a time of new beginnings and carries many of the same traditions commonly associated with the Julian calendar’s New Year’s Eve. It’s a time to put behind us all the harmful things in our life. It makes a perfect time to quit smoking or other bad habits of mind or body. Part of the celebration for many Wiccans is using a household broom called a besom to ritually sweep the home of the previous year’s bad influences.
Since Samhain is the death of the old year and birth of the new the veil between the worlds of the living and dead is said to be the thinnest on this day. That makes it a good time to remember ancestors with peace and love. Wiccans will decorate their alters with photos of passed loved ones while sharing the favorite foods and drinks of their dead relatives with guests. Many also leave a plate of food outside the home for the souls of the dead.
So this week-end while you are walking like a zombie, waving your fairy princess wand or bobbing for apples, take a few moments to realize that for some this is still a religious holiday and they are spending a more somber period of self-reflection.
- Cunningham, Scott, (1999).Wicca:A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
- Drew, A. J., (1998) Wicca For Men. New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Corp.