Halloween is shrouded in superstition and mystery and is popularly known as the spookiest time of the year. The roots of this ancient holiday date back to the Celts, who observed their new year on November 1. As the days grew shorter and nights became drawn out, the Celts believed that November 1 marked the end of summer, or the harvest season, and the start of the dark cold winter, which was considered an ominous season, mostly associated with human death. The ancient people believed that a night before the new year the boundaries between the natural and supernatural became blurred and they celebrated the return of ghosts to earth on that day, which they called Samhain.
Many superstitions found their way through history on this day and we bring you some of the spookiest. Take a look:
Black cats are often touted as the omen of misfortune. Their notorious reputation dates back to the Dark Ages when witches were burnt at a stake. These ‘witches’ were often old women living alone with their pet cats, which were called as the demonic animal given to them by Satan. Another myth that revolves around black cats is how Satan turns himself into a black cat while hanging out with witches.
Trick or Treat
The Celts believed that during their new year, the lines between the natural and the spiritual world blurred which made the spirits cross over to the earth. It was believed that the ghost could visit your house as a beggar asking for food or money (treat) and if you turned it away, you risked the wrath of the spirit. Another myth said that if you dressed up as a ghost, then the ghosts would be tricked into thinking you were one of them and would not take your spirit. It has now become a tradition in the US to trick or treat on Halloween.
Jack- O -Lanterns
These lanterns which are carved out in the form of scary faces on Halloween have a sinister tale behind them of a stingy man called Jack. Jack repeatedly kept trapping the devil and made a deal with him that he would only let him go on the condition that he would never go to hell. However, on dying he found out that heaven wouldn’t have his soul either and he was condemned to wander the earth for all eternity. The devil is believed to have thrown a burning lump of coal for Jack to help light his way, which Jack carried around in a lantern carved out of a turnip.
Bats are often used as hangings on Halloween as they are a sinister symbol of evil forebodings. It was believed that if a bat circled around your house three times then one person was sure to die in it and if it entered the house on Halloween, then the house was haunted and ghosts had let the bat in.
Spiders are also seen hovering over the head when it comes to Halloween decorations. Just like cats and bats, they are also believed to be a witch’s beloved. A famous fable says that if a spider falls into a flame and is consumed, then witches are nearby and according to another tale if one spots a spider on Halloween then the spirit of a deceased loved one is watching over them.
Witch costumes are a common sight on Halloween with people sporting pointy noses and long hats. The image of a witch stems from the ancient Celtic tradition where a pagan goddess, known as the ‘Crone’, was a symbol of wisdom and change. Now it has been morphed into a menacing and evil image and a popular Halloween costume.
The ancient Celts believed that after death all souls went into the Crone’s cauldron, which they said was the Earth mother’s womb. This started a cycle of rebirth where the new souls took residence in the cauldron and the old ones had to be reincarnated. Now this image of the cauldron has been morphed into a steaming, bubbling and sinister brew with wafting green vapours.
This medieval myth of witches using a broom to travel stems from the fact that the old, solitary women who were often accused of witchcraft could not afford horses to travel, so they walked. They used a walking stick to help them along, or sometimes a broom. English folklore tells that during night-time ceremonies, witches rubbed a “flying” potion on their bodies, closed their eyes and felt as though they were flying. The hallucinogenic ointment, which caused numbness, rapid heartbeat and confusion, gave them the illusion that they were flying.