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Halloween 2020: Re-Assimilating the lost symbolism and customs of Halloween

Blog by Himani.

Halloween today is nothing how it could have been hundreds of years ago. Nor we see those primeval rituals and customs maintained as they were when Halloween was originally celebrated.

31st October, originated from a Celtic festival Samhain(sow-in), translating to summer’s end, Halloween today is celebrated by lighting bonfires, wearing costumes, going for trick or treating and house parties, partaking in house/yard decorations etc.

Even before the first fall of the leaves, even before the autumn starts, you’d see Halloween stores set up and decorations are already on sale. No one can deny we all love spooky, ghostly, eerie, cold, skittish kick of Halloween time. And don’t we wait just for this time of the year? To live the cold of the air once more, to feel the fear in the air, and once again, to have a smack of Halloween’s capricious excitement.

Though, this is not what excites me, being a lover of history that I am, I couldn’t help but wander my ways through learning about Halloween’s history and its lost symbolism and customs over the decades. So, if this interest you. I say and you shall. Read on.

Pumpkin Twins by David Menidrey (photo courtesy Unsplash.com)

Halloween History   

Halloween was celebrated by celts 2,000 years ago. The day was marked as the end of the summer and the beginning of cold, dark winters. The Halloween date today, 31’st of October, became so much more than just a marking of ending and beginning of a season as the time went on.

Samhain/Halloween/Hollow’s eve became the day before the new year, the day of bringing the new fire, the day the king would gain his powers, also for some reason it became the day, where the boundary between the both worlds (the dead and the living) is thinnest. Though there are absolutely no evidences, what and why was this decided or recorded and followed through. But it surely stuck throughout the centuries.

Halloween Symbolism

Some symbols of Halloween- the witches, jack o lanterns, bats, ghosts and skeletons, spiders and webs, bonfire, broomsticks and candles, black cats and pumpkin are all key symbols of Halloween. Nothing that it stands for today. In earlier days, Halloween was all about, the harvest, all saint’s day, all soul’s day, soul night, Soule-cake. And of course, as there were witches there was fortune telling customs. Which… there are… many. Halloween is too much to some up in something so little.

Here, I am leaving you with some old stories and customs you could try this Halloween. From making the deal with the devil, to looking into the future.  Do you want to know the name of your future lover? Or the number of years in you’d be married? All you must do is keep reading.

Devil- A deal with the devil– A farmer makes a deal with the devil. The farmer agrees to pay up when he would harvest his first crop. The farmer goes out and plants acorns.  

Candles-  one of the Halloween’s custom suggests, if you want to know the number of years before you’ll marry. You should. Take a candle, place it in the sink on a Halloween and hold a thread over the flame while counting slowly. The number of years before the thread burns, twice that and that would be the years before you will marry.

Holding Candle in October by Rebecca Peterson- Hall ( Photo Courtesy- Unsplash.com)

Ghosts-  It is said, on Halloween there are more souls in each house than there are grains on shores of the sea. Halloween always been a time where ghosts have believed to be walking amongst the living.  They return on the realm of the living for one day and one night.

Photo by Artem Kovalev. (Photo Courtesy- Unsplash.com)

As of one of the old customs- windows were left opened and beds were uncovered just so ghosts can return to the mortal land and can enjoy mortal comforts.

Apple Parsing-  Apples feature form apple bobbing, candied apples, caramel apples, decos and fortune telling.

According to another fortune telling customs- An apple is pared and the peels are waved over heard three times, before being thrown over the left shoulder and then read. And that’s a Fasttrack Halloweeney way of revealing initials of your beloved or to know your fate. But only if you sing-

Pairing, pairing long and green,

Tell my fate for Halloween.

Afternoon Sun by Bao Nguyen ( Photo courtesy- Unsplash.com)

Witches- greatly feared on Halloween, as per saying –

Hallowe’en will come, will come,

Witchcraft will be set going,

Avoid the road children, children.

Witches were seen as someone capable of transforming themselves in number of animal forms, their league with the devil, practicing their malicious art with the cauldron and chants. They were largely feared for abducting children.

I See You by Raquel Pedrotti (Photo Courtesy- Unsplash.com)

Bonfire-  the custom involves- tossing of nuts (chestnuts or any other nuts) onto a bonfire to predict the future. If the flames dance around when the nuts are thrown in, the coming year will be full of fun and excitement. And if the flames don’t change, the coming year will be dull.

Photo by Minh Trung Tran Cao (photo courtesy- Unsplash.com)

Wood-  Another of the fortune telling custom was to keep a small sliver of wood in a glass of water on your bedside on the Halloween’s night.

And chant the chant below, prior sleeping.

Consort of mine, that is to be,

Come this night, and rescue me.

And as you fall asleep, this will invoke the Halloween’s magic dream of falling off a bridge only to be saved by your future intended.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao (Photo Courtesy- Unsplash.com)

There are many, many more customs and rituals that involves, stepping/walking backwards to look into the mirror, wishing, and encircling the willows for finding your future intended, the beloved and true love. I cannot enlist them all. But they all are very rich and playfully interesting.

By now you know, what you are missing out on “modern” Halloween’s day. I hope this Halloween you try something new. Maybe one of the fortunes telling customs to find out how your next year will be, or maybe to find initials of your future intended. And if you really want to take it there, then maybe making a deal with the devil.

Photo by Melpoole (Photo Courtesy- Unsplash.com)


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