Celebrating the Spiritual Meanings of Halloween


Celebrating the Spiritual Meanings of Halloween


More than just candy and costumes: Halloween is a holiday that can, with a little thought, become deeply spiritual.

Halloween is a very special time. In a normal year, young people get drunk at parties wearing silly costumes, baby drag queens step out for the first time, and, just for one day, children are allowed to take candy from strangers. Not so much in 2020.

Halloween has always been a favorite holiday of mine. I loved playing dress-up, exploring how it felt to be a princess when I was a child, or dressing as David Bowie’s character Gareth from the movie Labyrinth in university. As I’ve gotten older, my love for Halloween has shifted away from costumes and parties and taken on a more spiritual meaning. This time of year is highly potent, from an energetic perspective, and it feels even more important this year to honor that as we are asked to turn inwards and spend time alone or with smaller groups.

This day was called Samhain in pagan tradition, and represents the last harvest celebration of the year. It welcomes what I have come to think of as Death season—the wintertime. November 1 is known in Catholicism as All Saint’s Day, a day to remember the saints of that Catholic tradition. In Mexico, November 2 is also honored as the Dia de los Muertos, or All Soul’s Day, the Day of the Dead. Energetically, these are said to be the days when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, so it’s a powerful time for communicating with the dead, healing our own souls, setting intentions, and even casting spells, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Death season might sound scary, but it’s a beautiful and important time. In the darkness, we are invited to slow down, to rest, to reflect and remember. It’s time to integrate the lessons of the last year and contemplate what new births we are hoping for in the eventual spring. It’s a time to be close to our living loved ones and remember our dead. It’s a time when the cool moon shines brightly over our lives while the sun rests before returning in full force in the spring.

So as we approach a Halloween season in a strange year, we can celebrate this day a little bit differently. Here are some ideas:

Have a Halloween ritual. This could include reading tarot cards, prayer, sitting with photos of lost loved ones and talking to them, burning a candle or some herbs, or taking a mindful bath to cleanse the residue of the previous season and honor the shift into the next stage of the year. (Read “A Ritual for the Deeper Meaning of Halloween”)

Carve pumpkins. This tradition comes from a European folkloric story about Stingy Jack, who once upon a time tricked the Devil and made him promise not to take his soul into hell. When he died, God wouldn’t take him either, so he was fated to wander the world with nothing but a coal in a hollowed-out turnip to light his way—hence earning the name Jack of the Lantern. The scary faces we carve into pumpkins are meant to scare Stingy Jack away, along with any other evil spirits that might be hanging around.

Dress up. Halloween can be a time to explore other identities or aspects of yourself you don’t normally get to express. Instead of taking your costume to a party, have an at-home fashion shoot and share your photos on social media or with friends doing the same from home.

Celebrate the harvest. Have a special meal with local, in-season foods (pumpkin pie, anyone?) with your bubble and say a prayer to your ancestors before you dig in.


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