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Image: Jan ShepherdSamhain/Hallowe'en

As the veils are thin, it was important to dress up in disguise, or to cross-dress, so as to confuse any spirits or ghosts that might be about. Also, with its emphasis on death and darkness, this is a really good time of year to remember those who have passed over in the past year. This gives rise to another staple of commercial Halloween – the pumpkin. Originally it would've been a turnip or gourd lantern. Opinion is divided but it was either to welcome home the spirits of those recently departed or to ward off evil – maybe both.

This is also seen as the third and final of the harvest festivals. The feasting at this time would have involved the culling of the herds. This is where divination comes in as well. In a primitive farming community, there were now important decisions to be made. Every animal over-wintered will need valuable fodder to survive. On the one hand, if you cull too many now, there may not be a breeding stock left in Spring. On the other, not culling enough could mean the herd runs out of fodder and isn't healthy enough to breed from. Aside from the feast, any meat left over would be smoked, salted and preserved.

This should be a prevailing attitude over this time, especially if you are working with an intent. Similar to spring cleaning, it should be a time of deciding which attitudes and ideas to keep and nuture over the winter and which have had their time.

For this reason, we tend to celebrate with good quality steak at this time of year, with something apple based for dessert. Colours are generally blacks, and indigo. If we use ribbons or altar cloths, then we use see-through indigo if we can find it, to represent the veils. Of the existing Halloween symbols, we choose witches (honouring the Crone), skulls, and skeletons. We try not to let it become too overly tacky or gory, but instead try to keep it recognising the dark side, respecting the Crone and acknowledging death. And of course, we carve pumpkins and take the children trick or treating.

Remember that without the darkness, there would be no light, without death, no life. This, rather than schlock horror motifs, is the true message of Halloween.   [More...]

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