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How To Celebrate The Original Witches' Halloween & Party As Hard As You Mourn
You've probably guessed that we want you to have the best Halloween ever, but why stick to modern-day, store-bought costumes and candy? This year, consider looking back in time to the traditions of Samhain(sow-en), the Wiccan and Pagan holiday from which Halloween gets its spooky roots.
As Brian Cane, psychic and Warlock of Festival of the Dead in Salem, MA, describes it: “Samhain, Halloween, is the time that death
takes the throne.” (Whoa.) Witches believe in a balance between life
and death, and Samhain is a celebration of that — “something had to die,
so you could live,” he says. There's no better time to stop and
consider death than when the seasons change, harvests come to a close,
and the nights start earlier.
Here's how modern-day witches mourn their loved ones, contact the dead, and party like it’s 1699 — all in one night.
The night begins with a "dumb supper" — a dinner eaten in total silence. If you're new to Wiccan practices, this might be the toughest Samhain tradition to get comfortable with. But it's only when you stop talking that the dead can start communicating; remaining silent will heighten your sense of the energy around you and allow any spirits close to you a chance to make contact.
"We live in a world where we disassociate ourselves [from] death," Cain
tells us. This can be a difficult barrier to cross, he says, but "the
power that we tap into when we reconnect with our ancestors...helps us
go through that grieving process and eventually reach a stage of
acceptance." Just like with more modern Halloween traditions, scaring
yourself a little can have a major payoff. Although the dumb supper
isn't intended to raise actual dead people and bring them to the table,
some covens leave place settings open as offerings to spirits.
It's not all silence and solemnity, though: Happiness and mourning coexist on Samhain, says Betty Turner, psychic, healer, founder of Black Hat Society of Southeast Wisconsin, and owner of Wonderfully Wiccan.
"The evening will host times of joy and sorrow, just as it should," she
says. The transition from sorrow to joy, she explains, begins with
donning a costume for the subsequent witches' ball, part two of the
evening's festivities: "Costumes...allow the living to blend in with the
dead," she adds.
As far as parties go, a witches' ball is the best of both worlds — equal
parts feast and dance party, it can go into the wee hours, and those
costumes are a must. Tradition holds that the night must end with a divination ritual,
to take full advantage of the thin veil between the worlds of the
living and dead on Samhain. This brings the evening back around to where
it began: with an attempt to reach loved ones who have passed on.
How could you party at a time when you're supposed to be mourning the
dead? Turns out, people have been doing this kind of thing for
centuries, Cain says. Even back in ancient Celtic communities, Samhain
"really was a party for the old gods and the ancestors," he adds.
"People would drink, and they would dance, and they would light fires...
It could be a very somber affair, but it depends on your experience."
So if you're looking to take your Halloween way, way old-school this
year, it can be as simple as having a quiet dinner with friends before
hitting the town. Just knowing that this time of year is particularly
tied to the past and the "other side" can be enough to make your
celebrations feel more significant. Cain adds that "it’s an important
time of year to open up that window, but I think it’s something you can
bring into your everyday life."
As you prepare for Saturday's festivities, keep an eye out for signs of
the supernatural or reminders of late loved ones. As Cain puts it, with
any luck, you'll find "a little magic in your life — and realize that
everyone you’ve ever loved is with you." We'll drink to that.