Jun 04, 2023 Last Updated 5:41 PM, Feb 19, 2020

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The Origins and Traditions of Halloween


By Jane Lyle

Halloween is a feast of honouring the dead. It’s a time when spirits roam freely and the uncanny realms draw closer. And according to pagan belief, this isn’t just at Halloween, but throughout the haunted, dark winter season.

Halloween is actually a three-day Christian festival honouring the dead, and also the holy saints. It got all tangled up with Samhain (sow-in), which is the rural Celtic fire festival of summer’s end – a time when the harvest was done, and the animals brought down from hillside pastures for the winter.

So we now have:

*A secular Halloween, with all its costumes, candles, and candies

*A religious All Hallows Eve (31st October), All Saints (1st November) and All Souls (2nd November) - all celebrated as the spectacular Day of the Dead in South America


*A pagan Samhain with its echoes of sacrifice, huge bonfires, feasting, and storytelling.

In astrology, the Sun is now in Scorpio, which rules the eighth house of the horoscope. This is the house of sex, death, and money in the form of legacies, insurance payments, tax rebates and so on. Scorpio also has a reputation for psychic powers, deep intuition, and a kind of witchy, intense presence.

One way or another, this is the beginning of the season of going within, rest, and reflection. We’re now more or less half way between the September equinox and the December solstice. It’s a season of transition between autumn and winter. At such times, the boundaries between this world and those unseen, supernatural dimensions, are said to become porous – just as they do at Beltane, in May. We can cross the threshold, and the spooky inhabitants of the Other World can more easily cross over into our world. The Fairy Court is said to ride out across the skies at Halloween, along with all manner of witches, ghosts, and mischievous entities……

Halloween reminds us to celebrate the cycles of the seasons too. Something as simple as a walk in nature, or a beautiful park, is a peaceful way to tune in to the turning year and think about your own “harvest”, or quietly remember someone dear to you who’s passed on.


All our Halloween traditions have evolved over many centuries. Some of the fun – such as dressing up in masks and costumes and going from door-to-door – was part of many other seasonal pagan rituals throughout the year. Dressing up as spirits, witches, ghosts and monsters was believed to stop these creatures from coming too close, or doing harm. Of course, much real-world mischief was done by people in disguise going around their neighbourhoods – if you didn’t offer them food, that is. This seems to be part of the origin of “trick or treat”.

Jack-O’-Lanterns are another universal Halloween symbol. They’re carved, mostly, from big orange pumpkins today. But originally, in Scotland and Ireland (where many of our customs came from) they were carved from tough turnips or mangel wurzels. These flickering, candle-lit faces also represent spirits, ghouls, or scary beings and were believed to help keep the “real” ones away from your home.

Halloween divination, especially about love, was once a much bigger part of Halloween celebrations than it is today. Two hugely popular old rituals involve apples – a fruit ruled by Venus, goddess of love. And Venus hides a secret at the heart of every apple.

If you slice an apple horizontally, you’ll see a magic pentacle or pentagram – the five-pointed star of Venus. The path the planet Venus makes in our skies traces this shape over eight years, until Venus returns to the beginning and starts all over again – this is both science and magic! Apples are also sacred to other goddesses - including the beautiful Norse goddess, Idun, a goddess of immortality often depicted with one of her magical apples.


If you fancy trying a traditional apple fortune-telling game here, just for fun, are two:

You’ll need:

A paring knife, an apple, and a steady hand.

Peel the apple with care, keeping all the peel in one long, narrow strip.

Close your eyes and concentrate. Your question is: “what’s the initial of my future partner?” This can be their first name or their surname.

Toss the peel over your right shoulder. When it lands it will form a letter of the alphabet – this is the first name or surname of your future love.

I do suspect, though, that the letter “S” is probably more likely to appear than, say, “E”…..




The second Halloween night love spell needs strong nerves.
This one was once so well-known that it’s often illustrated on many old Halloween greetings cards from over a hundred years ago.

You’ll need:

One or two candles

A darkened room, preferably your bedroom, with a large mirror

A chair

A hairbrush

An apple

You can’t switch the lights on. You can’t bring your phone. You must be alone.
It’s wise to be sober for this ritual too – don’t be tempted to knock back a drink “for courage”.

The Ritual:

This spell is usually done at the witching hour of midnight on Halloween.

Go into the dark room and light your candle, or two candles if you like, in front of the mirror.

At this point in the proceedings you can say a little charm out loud. Here’s an old one (or make up your own):

“I pray you bright flame
Now show to me
Who my future
Husband may be”

Of course, you can substitute the word “wife” or “partner” for “husband”.

Sit down opposite the mirror, and eat an apple.

Then brush your hair, and carry on gazing at your candlelit reflection in the mirror.

Be patient. Keep your nerve.

If you’re destined to meet someone special in the next twelve months, their image should appear, looking over your shoulder, in the mirror. Do not turn around. Say “thank you” to the powers that be, and the image will fade from sight.

If nothing happens, it may be a while before you meet your partner. Or else the mischievous energies of Halloween are just messing around with you!

You can now switch on the lights, blow out the candles, and have a drink. You might need one.

How ever you choose to celebrate it….. do have a very

Happy Halloween!




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