What are the origins and spiritual meaning of Halloween? The history of this spookiest of holiday dates back to the Celtic tribes of Briton. Halloween has a mix of Christian, Roman and pagan origins. What not many people know is that Christianity inadvertently led to Halloween becoming associated with all things spooky. The trick or treat element, combined with the begging for sweets, originates from Guy Fawkes night which, in the UK, is held on November 5.
Pagan Origins Of Halloween
So let’s explore the origins of this darkest of holidays. We have looked at the Autumn equinox (Mabon) already in my Libra post. It is one of the major pagan holiday’s of the year on the wheel of the year. The astrological point of cross-quarter festivals is always 15º of the sign that the Sun occupies. So Samhain would be 15º Scorpio. (Naturally!)
Halloween then originates with Samhain, celebrated on November 1. The association with death comes from the fact that the nighttime hours in the northern hemisphere begin to become more than the daylight hours at this time of the year.
The Sun gets lower in the sky day by day. The nights are drawing in. There will be a celebration of the harvest that will see us through the long, cold winter months. But if the harvest was bad, then you could starve to death. So this time of the year was very much about life and death.
The Celts & Samhain
The Celts believed that during this transition from light to dark, time and space became permeable. So much so that Spirits of the dead and the past could merge into our reality. At the same time, we could time travel ourselves. They travel into other dimensions could be intentional or, if you had a very tenuous hold on reality, you could wander into the otherworld by mistake.
The root of all Halloween celebrations lies in the stories of people on Samhain nite getting trapped in the underworld. And that of the dead appearing among the living. Of course, this very much mirrors what is happening with nature.
The plants shrivel up and die, leaves dry up and fall to the grown. The autumn colours are intense reds, oranges, rusts, golds and rich yellows.
The glow of the bonfire reflects these warm colours. Of course, the signature orange pumpkins harvested at the end of October eventually became this holiday’s trademark in modern times.
Roman Lemuria & Exorcism Of Ghosts
The link between Christianity and Paganism is a fascinating one. Just as the Greek myths evolved into Roman myths, the same holds true in our story of Halloween. Back in Roman times, there was a spooky festival named Lemuria. (Interesting name given there are other associations with this word I haven’t got time to go into here but look up Lemuria. )
Lemuria was celebrated on the 9th, 11th and 13th of May. The Romans performed rites to exorcise ghosts and malevolent demons from their homes. Folk made offerings of beans to appease them. The custom was for the head of the household to walk barefoot and throw black beans over his shoulder at night.
The rest of the family would clash pots together while shouting, “Ghosts of my fathers and ancestors, be gone!” As a consequence of this banishing of evil spirits, the month of may was considered very unlucky for marriages. “Mense Maio Malae Nebunt” (translated meant “Bad girls wed in May!) The feast day later became ‘All Saints Day’ around 610 to honour the holiest of all the Christians
Halloween, ‘All Saints’ & Christianity
The holiday became such a success that the church leaders decided to move this feast date to the new date of November 1. The motivation behind the move was to take the heat out of the very popular Samhain festival that fell on the same day.
We can see very close connections between Samhain and All Saints in the Mexican Day of the dead, celebrated on the same days as Halloween and dates from the Spanish colonisation of South America.
“The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and to remember friends and family members who have died. It is commonly portrayed as a day of celebration rather than mourning…. The celebration has always been family-oriented, and the idea of having a city-wide parade of people wearing Halloween-like costumes started only in 2016, the year after Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer invented a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City for the James Bond film Spectre. “~ Wikipedia
Halloween can be cathartic as it lets us play out our shadow side, and it is thrilling also. Halloween inspires the naughty child in all of us. At the same time, you can see that Halloween has brought to the surface all humanities fears and shadow side over the centuries. At Halloween, we learn to live and tame our evil twin and accept the ghosts of our past. It is an exercise in transmutation where we face our demons and make fun of them. Laughter kills parasites!