The celebration of Halloween began as the ancient festival of Samhain practiced 2,000 years ago by the Celts in the area that is now Great Britain and northern France. The festival marked the harvest and beginning of winter. The Celts believed that on the eve of the new year, which was November 1st for them, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead thinned, ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
The presence of the otherworldly spirits, they believed, made it easier for the Druids to make predictions about the future. Their prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the cold, dark winter. The Druids built huge bonfires. People came dressed in costumes made of skins and animal heads to offer sacrifices to Celtic gods. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires from the sacred fire to help protect them during the long winter.
As the Roman Empire conquered Celtic territory, two Roman festivals were combined with Samhain. Feralia was a day in late October when the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead. The second festival honored Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees.
Once the Catholic church subjugated the Roman Empire, the pagan celebrations were replaced by All Martyrs Day. In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to honor of all Christian martyrs. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include saints as well. The date was moved from May 13 to November 1.
By the 800s, Christianity had spread across Europe. The church made November 2nd All Souls’ Day, to honor the dead. All Souls Day was celebrated with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. It was called All-hallows or All-hallowmas. The night before was called All-Hallows Eve. That eventually became Halloween.
Those who follow the ancient traditions believe as the Celts, that Halloween is a time when the veil thins between the world of the living and the dead. This contrasts with the beliefs of Spiritualism. Even though Spiritualists believe in the existence of the two worlds, we do not believe that the connection between the worlds is affected by the position of the Earth in its journey around the sun.
Spiritualist believe in the “communion of spirits and the ministry of angels” as well as “the continuous existence of the human soul.” We believe that when the physical body dies, the spirit continues in the spiritual world. The spiritual world can interface with the material world, but that does not require a special day, time or place to happen.
As one who had a childhood near-death experience (NDE) and trained as a medium, I believe the connection between worlds is affected by both personal experience and education. I am fortunate that my NDE makes it easier for me to contact the spirit world. But even with that experience, I had to receive instruction to become a medium.
Halloween is a celebration that harkens back to ancient days when humans first questioned their existence in the world. It can bring us closer together and maybe bring us closer to the spirit world, but it doesn’t take an ancient festival to reach the other side. It is always here with us.