As we head towards Halloween I often start to feel the changes in the atmosphere as the pagan day of the dead drawers near. Being a Wiccan it’s an important day for me and many others, yes there’s the fun and celebration but also a serious side where the veil between the physically living and those who wait to guide us, thins and communication is heightened. For me, Halloween has always been a big thing, growing up with a fascination of all things goth, witchcraft and those of the big beyond. It is a time for celebrating our connection with the spirit world and the fact that one day we may just be there and it’s nothing to be afraid of.
Christianity has of course bastardised this holiday to the point we don’t actually get a holiday for our day of the dead. The mere idea that we celebrate death, to Christians has been misinterpreted as devil worship resulting in the counteracting All Saints Day to follow on the 1st November. But they have it so wrong.
If we take a look at our holidays that are governed by Christianity these days they are all originally Pagan celebration times. Christmas is the answer to our Winter Solstice, when we celebrate the shortest day and the beginning of a new cycle into spring. Easter or should I say Ostara is for celebrating new life on the Spring Equinox, hence we have colourful eggs as a traditional gift. No Jesus is didn’t bring us Easter eggs, the pagans did. The eggs are to symbolise life, you write your intentions on your egg and plant it in the earth, and then on the Autumn Equinox (harvest festival anyone?) you see if you kept your promises to yourself, you reap what you sowed.
Then May Day was originally the coming of spring (we plant a lot of our flowers around then) and Whitsun the celebration of Flora, our goddess of beauty, flowering and beautiful women, in some interpretations the celebration of ancient roman prostitution, it’s a fertility thing, the man plants the seed and we celebrate the flowers. Every holiday has a pagan origin, but in order to stamp out our roots the Christians renamed and took them from us as part of the conquering of Britain by the Roman Empire, the Romans (pagans themselves with similar beliefs) harnessed the fanaticism of Christianity and set them forth upon us to help conquer. And didn’t they do well?
So paganism, Wicca as we now often call it, a peaceful celebration of our earth, okay not scientific but symbolic of the cycles of nature, was taken and squashed by a stronger force of believers offering salvation with even less scientific backing. Offering miracles of life after death, water into wine and walking on water, yet accusing all in its path of witchcraft and putting them to death. Anyone starting to see the irony here?
So for me, I’d like to see us take back our celebrations for what they really mean. I don’t find Christmas offensive, but I do find it sad that kids are never taught the true origins of our symbolic offerings. Nobody ever discusses that the men on May Day represent the sowing of the seed. Nobody tells our children that our Easter eggs are to represent the fertility of our growing world and intentions. The Harvest festival is about celebrating our harvest because we are a farming nation and of course reaping what we sow in life too.
And your Christmas tree, offers protection from the darkness and bad spirits on the darkest days before the Sun God begins to make his return from the underworld to start life afresh after the solstice. So when I say I’m a witch, that I carry out rituals to make myself feel at peace, I’m met with suspicion, but really I’m just following the roots of the many humans before me, celebrating the earth I was born to live in, giving my intentions to the universe just like a prayer to make something good out of what I’ve been given. We are not the only ones who have such celebrations, take a look around the world at the beliefs that predate the monotheistic religions and you’ll see similar patterns of celebration, all reflecting the surroundings, the cycles of life and the belief that death, the beyond is not to be feared. Perhaps if we took on the views of our ancestors we’d spend less time worrying about the inevitable and enjoy the world that we’ve been given. We’d celebrate fertility and beauty instead of making it shameful. I definitely wasn’t put in this earth to be virtuous, I was put here to live and be happy in doing that. So I’m making Halloween a new national holiday, a holiday for the so called strange to celebrate their differences, a holiday to celebrate that we’re all alive and will one day be dead so we’d best enjoy living rather than worrying about judgement. And if I’m wrong, well I guess I’ll see you in hell, it sounds more fun there anyway, and white really isn’t my colour…