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Hallowe’en is fast approaching and for many people this spooky celebration marks their favourite time of year. Creepy costumes, free candy, pumpkin-carving, trick-or-treating and apple-bobbing – just to name a few festive activities – are all popular Hallowe’en traditions. But to some, October 31 is much more than frivolous fun; it is also a religious holiday. All Hallows’ Eve, for example, is the eve of a Christian feast day on which the departed saints are remembered, and Samhain is a pagan Celtic festival marking the end of the harvest season.
‘For my family, Hallowe’en has always been like Christmas; it’s that very special time of year where we are not afraid to be ourselves and our somewhat strange traditions fit in with the season,’ says resident Wiccan Jacqueline Auburn. Her family tree dates back to the 1500s, and although Wicca is a modern witchcraft religion developed in the 1950s by Gerald Gardner, her family has always observed the pagan practices from which it derives.
‘I was raised this way; I see it as completely normal, even though many do not. Our family has always been misunderstood, or people are just afraid of us. When they hear “Wiccan” they hear “witch”, and they link that to the old legends of witches as devil worshippers. We are nothing like that. We worship nature, we worship life. We are not sacrificing animals in the backyard or conjuring up deadly spells,’ she says.
The spirits or ghosts of departed souls is another time-honoured Hallowe’en topic that I had to put to the Auburn sisters. The saying, ‘The dead will walk free on Hallowe’en’ always lingers in the back of my mind around this time of year. After all, many of the traditions and belief systems that surround Hallowe’en come from the pagans, who would put on masks to scare away the dead on October 31.
‘I definitely believe that the spirits of the dead have total power on Hallowe’en. The veil between the living and the dead is basically gone for those twenty-four hours,’ Jacqueline explains. ‘This is why we never mess around with Ouija boards, or go to graveyards to cause a ruckus.’
‘Going to graveyards on Hallowe’en is a completely normal tradition. Just be wary and remember to respect those who are buried there,’ Kathryn says. ‘Even if you are not a believer, that does not mean you won’t get hurt.’
Hallowe’en is important to Jacqueline’s family in more ways than one; it is also her birthday. ‘I remember always being so jealous that she was born on Hallowe’en,’ says Jacqueline’s older sister, Kathryn. ‘It’s just such a cool birthday to have, especially for our culture.’ But, as we all know, the annual day of the dead can be great fun for anyone, no matter what you believe or whether you know much about the ancient practices behind it. Have fun and be safe this year – and try not to eat too much candy!