Cathy Meadows, M. A., Clinical Psychology
THE HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN
Halloween, from the old english word, Eallra Hālgena, first began thousands of years ago when our western european ancesters marked the changing seasons with awe and gratitude, and can be traced back to the time of Christ and beyond. It was celebrated as the dying season and was a time set aside to honor loved ones, relatives and ancesters who had passed on.
Pagans would celebrate death and the final harvest of the growing season with bonfires, feasts, and celebrations and with prophecy and astral projection. It was believed that during Samhein (Halloween) "the veil is the thinnest." This means that the perceptual abilities of all of us are enhanced during this time, and it's easier to move between dimensions. The down-side of this phenomenon is that the easy, inter-dimensional access would also make it possible for both benevolent and malevolent energies to enter the earthly realm. In order to fool the undead and avoid harm, revelers, themselves, would dress themselves up as malevolent spirits. The Druids seem to have been the high priests of this ancient, european, nature religion, and used this mysterious time of the year for their magical and mystical endeavers, as well.
In Ancient times, Halloween was called Samhein (pronounced sow-wen) meaning "summer's end" from the old irish, or Calen Gaeaf (pronounced Calin Geyf) from the old english, and was celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd. Chaos was allowed to rule over the celebrations in order to relieve the stress of the harvest season, and to help to alleviate the fear associated with the dark, ominous skies and the rising wind, precipatation and cold that was beginning to set in. It was a very sacred celebration that brought some diversion away from the potentiality of hardship that winter could bring.
In the ninth century, Halloween evolved into a Christian Holiday known as, All Hallows Day, and was ushered in by the Roman Church. The Church sent Christian missionaries out into Pagan cultures to unite Pagan beliefs with Christian beliefs. Pagans, at the time, were appalled at the prospect of being forced to change their belief systems, which revolved around nature, into Christian belief systems. The Roman, Christian Hierarchy feared rebellion and uprisings by the Pagans and so it was avoided, to some extent, by incorporating Pagan customs into Christian beliefs.
Not only was Halloween redefined but pretty much everything else about the "old pagan ways" was redefined, as well. Often, these changes came with the use of brutal force against the pagans. It is interesting to note that the first Pagan auto-de-fe (witch burning) happened during the middle ages (12th century) and as time progressed, Pagans could be executed on the flimsiest of evidence. Even helping others, or mixing and administering medicinal herbs could be reason enough to be tortured and burned. However, records also show that those accused of Witchcraft often owned choice pieces of property, which would go to the state after a conviction of Witchcraft.
Common, Pagan women, who were the healers, counselors and midwives of that time, were considered to be the enemy of the Roman Church. The women who were executed for their customs, beliefs and knowledge are thought to number in the millions over the course of at least 1,000 years and are always honored by modern day Pagans during Samhein.