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Image: Jan ShepherdSamhain/Hallowe'en

Over the Wheel of the Year, the Maiden is associated with Imbolc through to Beltane. After Beltane She becomes the Mother. And between Autumnal and Halloween, the Crone takes precedence, ruling through to the next Imbolc. This is why modern Halloween uses the symbol of the witch as an old woman with a cauldron, broomstick and cat. She is really the Crone, the village Wise Woman, skilled at herbalism and magic.

Halloween is a dark time of year. But that is not the same as evil. Nature could not continue with endless growth and ripening. There has to be a period of rest, of drawing inward, of husbanding and rebuilding strength before the next growth. That is what Halloween marks, the beginning of winter, a cold withdrawal from the world. This is a time when energy will be stored up in seed kernels and animals will hibernate.

Another key feature of Halloween is that it is a time when the veils are thin. This means that our world and the world of faery, or spirits, are closer together at this time of year than at any other (except maybe Beltane). There are many myths about people being lured underground and tricked into visiting the faery realm at this time. On a (slightly) more practical note, this means it is a good time to practice divination. We tend to do a Tarot reading for the year ahead around this time.

Apples were really important at this time of year and a lot of the traditional games had a secondary purpose in divining the future. For example, it is said that if a young girl (Maiden) takes the peel off an apple in one piece and throws the peel over her shoulder, it will land in the shape of the initial of her future husband.

The whole practice of trick or treating probably comes from a much earlier practice. In Scotland, the adults would cross-dress and go around their friends' houses asking for a tot of whiskey. As I’ve noted when discussing other festivals, there appears to be a tradition of checking all the homes in a community at the festivals. This makes good practical sense, and also serves to bind people together. Trick-or-treating probably started with a group of people making a round of all the outlying farm-steads in a community. If they were given a treat, then the farm would be blessed. If not, it would be cursed for the following year.  [More...]

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