STUDENT LOGIN

The Spiritual Origins of All Hallow’s Eve

History of All Hallow's Eve

Skeletons and creepy spiders dangle in doorways. Jack-o’-lanterns grimace from front porches. Witches, scary monsters (from werewolves to politicians, grim reapers, ghosts, devils, and the walking dead proliferate on All Hallow’s Eve. Telling ghost stories, wearing costumes, and trick-or-treating are all ways to enter into the spirit that lurks in the darkness in a non-threatening way.

Despite its mass consumerism (between the candy, costumes, and decorations, Americans spend around 6 billion dollars a year on Halloween, second only to Christmas as a commercial holiday), All Hallow’s Eve actually has its roots in spiritual traditions. Hallows’ Eve or Hallowe’en literally means “holy evening”—the night preceding Hallows’ Day, or All Saints’ Day.

Trick-or-treating began in England when poor folks would beg door-to-door for food and would receive “soul cakes” after they promised to pray for the dead relatives of that family. It was called “going a-souling” and replaced the old practice of leaving out food for the spirits who roamed about on that night.

Many hundreds of years before the Christian era, the Celts, who lived in Ireland, the UK, and the northern part of France, had their New Year’s celebration, called Samhain (pronounced sow-win), on November 1st. It marked the end of summer and the start of winter (the Celts recognized only two seasons). Winter was a frightening time of food shortages and deadly cold weather, so the Celts honored the Sun god for their harvest and made sacrifices in large bonfires to appease Lord Samhain, whose name means “summer’s end,” as he came into his power and reigned over the long, cold, and dark months of winter. As they say in Games of Thrones, “winter’s coming.”

On the night before Samhain, October 31st, the Celts believed that those who had died during the last circle of the sun would rise up, searching for the passageway that would lead them to the netherworld. On this night, between summer and winter, between one year and the next, the veil over the passageway is at its thinnest. When the veil between the worlds is more transparent, the dead can return to earth and cause trouble. The souls of the dead become the ghosts, witches, elves, and goblins that are out to seek revenge on those who had harmed them when they were alive. On the night of October 31st, Lord Samhain roams the four corners of the earth to capture the souls who had “escaped” through the thin veil, so he can take them back to his dark world. 

And because the barrier between the dead and the living can be crossed during Samhain, offerings were left out in the fields or around villages for all the unseen beings, from ghosts to fairies. The Celts would costume themselves as animals and monsters so the fairies or other spirits wouldn’t kidnap them. 

The belief in ghosts—the spirits of the dead that were said to roam about and cause problems—is found as far back as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. And it’s still here. A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll revealed that 45 percent of Americans believe in ghosts, although few in the scientific community are on board with non-material beings—their argument is: if they can’t see them or measure them in some way, what’s the chance they exist? 

The scientific community has investigated “ghost-busters” who use a meter to measure the electromagnetic field to detect ghosts. There are also experiments with infrasound (sounds that are below the range of hearing for humans), since a “low frequency standing wave” can create a sensory phenomena that seems like a ghost. Scientists also explain away ghosts as being the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, sleep paralysis, toxic mold, schizophrenia, dementia, or just plain old imagination.

Nevertheless, those of us who understand the validity of different planes of consciousness know that those who have died are still available for communication. If you’ve seen or interacted in some way with a non-material being, you haven’t gone off the Halloween deep end. You’re just more open to other planes of awareness than the average guy, and understand that science is limited, as it is grounded in only what can be validated through the physical plane.

But you still have to be careful about a non-material being you may meet on the inner planes or be aware of one that is occupying the space around you. Everyone is on their own level of consciousness during their lifetime, but dying doesn’t necessarily lift them any higher. They may understand more than they did while living on earth, but they can also still have a desire for revenge for the pain they experienced while alive. So please remember to surround yourself in some form of protective light before beginning an inner journey.

After all, it could be a dark and stormy night . . .and winter’s coming!

Deborah King