Ah 31 October – my fave and least fave time of year! Favourite because I love Beltane! The celebration of love, life and an awakening world which is happening right now in my southern hemisphere. My least favourite because we are battered in the press, online and in community by misconceptions of the season, the celebration, and a hotch potch mishmash of mixed symbols, and a celebration of northern hemisphere death at a time of life.
No Halloween is NOT a pagan holiday or an Americanisation – it is a Christian bastardisation of Samhain renamed by the church All Hallows Eve (because it came before All Saints Day on 1 November) around the 8th Century or so in an attempt to convert the pagans more easily by aligning another of the pagan traditions with the Christian calendar. It makes sense: if you are trying to bring a new religion to the world the transition is easiest if you make your religious holidays fall roughly on the same date as the old observances. There are many examples of this: Christmas/Yule; Candlemas/Imbolc; Easter/Ostara; All Hallows Eve/Samhain.
Samhain takes place in the northern hemisphere (where Christianity was born) at the midpoint between autumn and winter, falling around 31 October/1 November. For us in the south, we are at the midpoint between spring and summer – hence Beltane…. celebrating new life and the growing warmth. Polar opposite to the death imagery surrounding us today.
These images of death come from Samhain (not Halloween) as Samhain is a “festival of the dead” – a time at mid-WINTER when the veil is thin and honouring and communicating with the ancestors is easiest. This occurs in the south around 30 April/1 May. It is a very spiritual time for pagans (as is Beltane when the veil is also thin) who honour and maintain their connection to ancestors quite strongly.
Trick or treating however IS an Americanisation – not something brought by the Celts to America because trick or treating was never a Celtic tradition. The Celts, like most pagans, don’t believe in something for nothing. Souling was the name of the practice done at this time, where peasants would go around offering prayers for the departed ancestors in exchange for food or drink. A completely different concept to the “give me sweets or I’ll egg your house”. It was picked up by the Christians when Soul Songs were sung on All Souls Day – which falls on 2 November. (Ironically – or not – Samhain traditionally covered three days too!)
My teenage daughter was trying to bring Souling back this year, attempting to get her friends to go with her around to houses and give THEM sweets to thank them for participating in something they have little understanding of. She is however struggling to get her peers to understand her. It’s a shame but she keeps trying.
“But it’s a bit of fun for the kids!” Yes I’m sure it is. And I do now have a cauldron of lollies at my door on my Beltane altar for the tiny ones who dress up as gouls and goblins, witches and zombies with absolutely no understanding of why or what they are doing …. other than getting free lollies from a perfect stranger for nothing in return. Or perhaps they see the lollies as a ‘reward’ for their dress up efforts.
But for us in the south, this is a season of love – and so I’ll share my love in the form of lollies to children who aren’t given the opportunity to learn their history, their ancestry, or the reason for the season … even if it is in fact the ‘wrong’ season.
© Earth Goddess Wisdom – www.earthgoddesswisdom.com