Goddesses in the Dirt: Why Halloween is Persephone's Favorite Holiday
Unearthing the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time...
|Proserpine (1873-77) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti|
Goddesses in the Dirt - Issue #22: Why Halloween is Persephone's Favorite Holiday
Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays...yet somehow I sensed early on - as I went trick or treating, enjoying the freedom of being outside at night - that there was more to it than costumes and candy. When I was old enough to be interested in history I began to research the roots of this day we have made into such a spooky event. Also, being raised Catholic, I was fascinated that the religious holidays of All Saints and All Souls Days coincided with October 31 and November 1. What could the church have in common with this ghoulish celebration?
The answer lay in Celtic tradition, which celebrates the four cardinal turning points of the seasons: Imbolc, Beltain, Lughnasadh and Samhain, which falls on October 31 and signifies the end of summer and official start of fall in the Celtic calendar. It is thought to be the time of year that the veil between worlds (our world and the afterworld - or Underworld) is thinnest and most easily penetrated. The word "hallow" means to sanctify and was incorporated into the Catholic Church to honor all saints, known or unknown. The thinness of the veil between worlds encouraged peoples' interest in divination and prophecy, also laying the groundwork for fears of possession by spirits of the dead.
During Samhain, the Druids celebrated by lighting an enormous bonfire on a hill. On this night, all Celtic households would douse the hearth fires and instead travel to retrieve the flame from the community bonfire to bring back home, often within a carved out turnip, signifying their unity and common purpose. The tradition was brought to America in the 1840s after the great potato famine. At that time Irish immigrants shifted the tradition to using pumpkins, which were plentiful in this country and easier to carve.
The pagan and Christian traditions became mingled along the way. During this holiday Christians would go door to door asking for Soul Cakes, in return they would pray for the dead. Pagan tradition during this time of year was marked by households leaving offerings of food and drink on their doorsteps to feed the spirits who might be out wandering during the night. People would often wear masks or other forms of costume - a tradition of guising that was thought to scare away unwanted or evil spirits.
Today we have commercialized this holiday to capitalize on society's appetite for the appealing aspects of dressing up, offering the freedom of trying on another persona and being someone else for a night...
...children have a chance to become the scary ghost as opposed to being scared by ghosts...
...and everyone likes free candy.
What many don't realize - consciously or unconsciously - is that the fun tradition of Halloween is deeply rooted in the belief that this is the time of year when the dead can communicate with the living.
As Queen of the Underworld - that's why it's Persephone's favorite holiday.
In the Celtic tradition I light a candle on this night. Wishing you all a very Happy Halloween.
Photos (except pomegranate and candles) courtesy of Tumblr and Google images