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Halloween History of Witches
One of the more enduring symbols of Halloween, horror and folklore is that of the Witch. Ugly and evil, they are shown flying on their broomsticks, or stirring their cauldrons.
Witches were not always thought of as evil or ugly. In ancient times, witches could be healers or wise women of the community. But as Christianity spread, they were often condemned because their power supposedly came from somewhere other than God.
Later, accusations of witchcraft often were used as a way to keep talented, intelligent women from threatening the male supremacy of the day. They also could be used to make people toe the line with regard to community standards. Anyone who was thought of as different or rebellious could be accused. Thus men were often accused as much as women.
The focus of witchcraft on medieval women can be seen in what have becomes the symbols of witchcraft: the broom, the cauldron (pot) and the cat. All of these are associated with the household and women’s work. Not surprisingly, these have also become strong symbols in modern Halloween and horror literature.
ACTUALLY SOME OF THESE SPELLS COULD WORK IN TODAYS WORLD!!
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692
ANCIENT ORIGINS OF HALLOWEEN
Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
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It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living. On that day all manner of beings were abroad: ghosts, fairies, and demons--all part of the dark and dread.
In terms of spreading Christianity, this was a brilliant concept and it became a basic approach used in Catholic missionary work. Church holy days were purposely set to coincide with native holy days. Christmas, for instance, was assigned the arbitrary date of December 25th because it corresponded with the mid-winter celebration of many peoples. Likewise, St. John's Day was set on the summer solstice.
Samhain, with its emphasis on the supernatural, was decidedly pagan. While missionaries identified their holy days with those observed by the Celts, they branded the earlier religion's supernatural deities as evil, and associated them with the devil. As representatives of the rival religion, Druids were considered evil worshippers of devilish or demonic gods and spirits. The Celtic underworld inevitably became identified with the Christian Hell.