Halloween is here again. Pumpkins deck our porches and Witches in pointy hats swoop across the walls of classrooms and offices. Children accost one another, asking “What are you going to be for Halloween?” and grownups stock up on candy.
But for real Witches, Halloween has a deeper, spiritual meaning. Who are the real Witches? Those of us who practice the pre-Christian, nature and Goddess-centered spiritual traditions indigenous to Europe and the Middle East. For us, Halloween, or Samhain (pronounced Sau-in) to use the old Celtic term, is our New Year — the end of harvest in agricultural communities and therefore the beginning of the new cycle. At this time, we say that ‘the veil is thin’ that separates the seen from the unseen, the world of the living from the world of the dead. So this is the season when we honor the ancestors, mourn those who have died this year, and celebrate life.
Here in San Francisco, our Reclaiming tradition of Wicca (another term for the religion of the Witches) creates a big, public ritual, with art, music, poetry and dance weaving together to create sacred space. We name those who have died this year, and offer a chance for mourners to grieve with the support of our community. For us, death is a natural part of life. We acknowledge the sadness of our losses, but death itself is not something to fear. It’s simply one stage in the great cycles of birth, growth, death and rebirth that to us are sacred.
The heart of our ritual is the spiral dance, when over a thousand people dance together in a double spiral that symbolizes rebirth and regeneration. Moving together, passing one face after another, we enter together into a state of deep connection and ecstasy.
This year marks the 30th Anniversary of our Spiral Dance ritual — and of the publication of my book, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. In those years, our community has grown from a handful of us celebrating in our living rooms to an international network. Thirty years ago, information about Wicca and the Goddess was difficult to find and most Witches practiced in secrecy. Today, books, music, videos and networks abound — in part thanks to the internet. Wicca and our related Pagan traditions have begun to take the place they deserve among the spiritual traditions of the world.
So this Halloween, we urge you to take a break from the ghouls and the ghosts and learn something about real Witches. Below are links to my website, where you can find my books, including my latest, “The Last Wild Witch,” a picture book for young children published by Mother Tongue Ink, as well as many other resources. Enjoy, and may this season bring you comfort in grief, hope in sorrow, a strong vision for the future and the strength, support, and resources you need to act in service of what you love.
On my blog for October 28 you will find many links to videos about Halloween and our Spiral Dance ritual.
Our website for our international network. Find classes, rituals and community contacts near you.
Information, history, pictures and videos from the Spiral Dance.
Witches’ Voice–a great resource for general information on Wicca and Paganism.