Halloween - The Season of the Witch

By Suzanne Hines

Celebrated on October 31, Halloween is probably the oldest holiday traditions. The word, Halloween, is a contrived mispronunciation of "All Hallows Eve," a holy day of the Catholic Church. The celebration has its origins in the Celtic, Druid, and Roman pagan rites which honored the end of summer and the harvest. 


It was believed at this juncture, the souls of the dead could again roam the earth. The early Celts would carry an ember in a hollowed turnip and light their way home to keep their home fires going as the winter months brought increased darkness and cold. The traditional 'Jack-o-lantern' made from a pumpkin replaced the turnip as Irish immigrants settled the Eastern United States, since the pumpkin was larger and could carry a better torch. The legend of the 'Jack-o-lantern' stems from Stingy Jack the drunkard trickster who duped the devil from taking his soul, but could not enter heaven because of his errant ways. He was doomed to roam through dark eternity carrying his only light in a carved turnip. Hence the tradition.

TheQuestforHalloween2Women who used herbs to heal or knew medical lore were often branded as witches. Wicca, from the Saxon word for 'wise one', used potions and herbs that would often be hallucinogenic, and give the illusion of light headed flying. Thomas Nast, the Victorian illustrator, popularized the witch riding a broomstick which has become the icon Halloween.

As Halloween became more popular as a social celebration and party opportunity, decorations and collectibles were mass produced for the public. Victorian paper decorations, vintage plastic pumpkins, goblins, witches, noisemakers and masks all have become extremely sought after by collectors and antique seekers. Today, the Halloween celebration has morphed into a 7 billion dollar enterprise, surpassing Christmas in annual sales. (Sources available upon request)