Welcome to the witchiest time of year! As many of you know, our current incarnation of Halloween, full of ghosts and goblins and candy and children, is rather different from the original apparition of this Pagan holy day. Nevertheless, you can still find echoes of the ancient in the practices of today.
Remembrance & Mischief
Other holidays that have congregated around this time of year share the common themes of honoring the dead and/or making mischief. The Feast of All Souls, celebrated on November 2, was officially approved by Pope Sylvester II around 1000 CE. This holiday was originally established to offer prayers and alms to assist the souls of the departed who reside in neither Heaven nor Hell, but in Purgatory. Now many modern Christians celebrate it by praying for all of the departed. The joyful Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos), a syncretic merging of the Catholic holidays and the pre-Hispanic traditions, is also observed in early November.
The early American Mischief Night, also called Goblin Night or Devil's Night, was the precursor to our contemporary celebration of Halloween. Most of the mischief was simply for fun and amusement, but sometimes it got out of hand, as in 1939 when one thousand windows were broken in Queens, New York. The chaotic atmosphere of the holiday was taken advantage of by some, and used as a cover for criminal activity. Interestingly enough, the custom of trick-or-treating was introduced by the Boy Scouts to redirect the sometimes deviant behavior of young people during this holiday. The roots of the tradition go back much deeper than early American history, but it took the efforts of the Boy Scouts and local community organizations to make the activity a nationwide custom.
The Tale of the Jack-o'-Lantern
Once upon a time there was a farmer by the name of Jack. He wasn't an unlikable fellow, no he wasn't, but he was the sort of fella that would run from honest work faster than a youngin' can run from bath water. Tall and lanky, Jack had a lopsided smile and a missin' tooth. A nice laugh—one that rumbled deep from the belly and danced about the barn quicker than a fellow with a fiddle in his hand. His hair was limp and his face was creased—yep, that was our Jack all right. Once fine day, the devil…well, he got bored. Temptin' the rich folk got far too easy, so he set out to find hisself a poor boy. That old devil, he spied Jack sleepin' under the big old oak tree out there by the garden. "Jack," he says, "I've come to take your soul."
Charm Bag for Drawing Money
On the new moon before Halloween, mix the pumpkin rind, mint, and cinnamon together and hum: East and West, South and North, Prosperity I bring thee forth. Draw a dollar sign on both sides of each pumpkin seed with the felt pen. Add the pumpkin seeds to the mixture. Pour into orange bag. Hold the coin in your hands until it gets warm, humming the chant again. Put the coin in the bag and tie it up. On the following Thursday, hold the bag in your hands and repeat the chant until the bag becomes warm. Add seven knots to the ribbon around the bag: one for beginnings, two for money, three for abundance, four for stability, five for protection from blocks, six for luck, and seven to seal the spell. Put the bag in a special place until Samhain. On Samhain, hold the bag in your hands and repeat the chant until the bag warms and you feel good inside. Carry the bag with you until your desired outcome manifests. (Hopefully in time for all the winter holiday spending!)
Surely your pumpkins yielded a bit more than the seven seeds needed for the charm bag spell. Why not toast up the rest of them? Silver recommends boiling the seeds (symbolizing wishes) in water (for purification) until they are soft. Drain and dry them, and then mix them with a little salt and dried rosemary (for protection), and olive oil (for healing and peace). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread a single layer of seeds on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil, and toast in the oven for twenty to thirty minutes. When you feast on them later, think of how you are taking in the blessings of the season.