With such a long history with witchcraft, witch trials, witches in popular culture, and more, it’s no wonder the black dress, pointed hat combo remains a popular staple in Halloween costume culture. There’s a big reason autumntime is referred to as the “season of the witch” too — because it belongs to them, in many ways.
While many modern-day witches don’t appreciate the tropes that come along with taking on that title, it’s no surprise why wicca, paganism, and other related practices are shadowed by so much mystery and intrigue, all of it only amplified as soon as the pumpkins, ghosts, and ghouls come out starting in October.
While I don’t personally consider myself a Pagan or a Wiccan, I can certainly hold my own when it comes to discussions in what it really means to be a “witch”: it boils down to being sensitive to the earth, the changing seasons, and the energies in the air. While some witches devote themselves to a variety of ancient deities and other celestial beings, others base their beliefs inwardly, and use their magic as such. Many don’t even dabble in spells or potions — it’s all about energy, good or bad, living or past.
Whether or not we’re discussing modern or ancient witches, however, one thing remains the same: Halloween is a big deal every year, and for more reasons than being able to dress up.
In an article for Bustle, Emma Cueto, a practicing Wiccan, explains the significance of October 31 outside of candy and costumes:
October 31st is the midway point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. As such it is considered the end of the harvest time, when everything has stopped growing and the earth goes back to sleep. On the Wiccan calendar, known as the “wheel of the year” it is also the day when the god dies, to be reborn again on the Winter Solstice. Samhain is therefore the day when the veil between the living and the dead is considered thinnest, and is a time to remember people in our lives who have passed away.
Because really, for all the darkness and ghosts and evil talk, [Samhain], like all Wiccan holidays, is most firmly rooted in the natural world, and in natural processes. Death is a natural thing, and this holiday is the time when we acknowledge and honor its place in our lives. For some reason we live in a culture obsessed with youth and bright lights, and that is so incredibly ubiquitous that for me it’s honestly a relief to dwell on the other side of the coin for a while. Far away from sugar rushes and sexy outfits, to me October 31st is peaceful.
Because of the emphasis on the souls of the departed and the supposed thinning of the mortal veil on October 31, it’s no wonder demonic, ghostly, and magical activity ramps up. The Hoodwitch describes it further,
Samhain was and is a time for reflection on the previous year and what you have done with your life. It is a time of great magick and mystery and reverence for the supernatural and the “other side.” It is considered the time when the “veil between the worlds” is at its thinnest and the dead can-and do-walk among us.
There’s a reason why haunted attractions are so popular during the Halloween season, and now we know it’s for more reason than simply jumping on the holiday train. Spirits are more likely to show themselves, speak, and communicate with the living at the end of October, because there is less static between their world and ours.
Naturally, the media is quick to act on this as well, including my all time favorite team of ghost hunting dudes over at Ghost Adventures, who are producing a special this season located in Vicksburg, Mississippi, one particular episode centering around the infamous McRaven Mansion.
In the same sense, it’s no wonder witches become so much more vocal, so much more in the public eye during the season — because of Paganism and Wicca’s centering around spiritual energies and energies of the earth, it’s the best time for a witch to reconnect with those around her, especially concerning family members and other late friends.
If you’re interested in learning more about connecting with spirits of the deceased (which doesn’t necessarily mean “having a conversation with them,” but rather, feeling and appreciating their presence, sensing a familiar soul nearby, etc.), there are a few simple things you can do:
- Collecting antique pieces of clothing, portraits, or rare kitchenware like Jadeite, and so on, can not only bring new energies into your space, but invite those you knew personally who either have a connection with one of the objects, or who might at least be interested in visiting to see what you have for them.
- Cleansing your home of other less inviting spirits allows safe entry for those you actually want to spend time with — not to mention, there’s no downside to ridding yourself of negative, unhappy energies anyway.
- Research the different methods of proper offerings to the dead, as well as the ways to avoid accidentally inviting in something unwanted. Because the veil is so thin, danger lies in inviting something other than what you originally intended — both late family members and evil spirits cross into the mortal realm with the same ease.
- Know how to bid farewell to the visiting spirits, whether family or otherwise. Some might simply float off without much intervention when the time comes, others might need a little more coaxing (or, a lot more coaxing, if you’ve seen as many low-budget ghost shows as I have).
When it comes to Halloween, there’s another side to the costumes, candy, and games — but that other side isn’t necessarily the dark, evil thing that many people believe it is. As Emma explained to Bustle, “Death is a natural thing, and this holiday is the time when we acknowledge and honor its place in our lives.” When is there a better time than when the veil is so thin?