orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

October 31, 2013

When things go bump in the night

Dawn Burleigh
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — As the calendar turns to the end of October, nights grow longer and the air is cool. The leaves change from green to golden brown. Soon the rat-a-tat-tapping will come to the door followed by a chorus of children saying, “Trick or Treat!”

It is almost time for the ghosts and goblins to return to the streets in search of sweet treats.

Traditions and superstitions of Halloween have evolved over the years into what is part of the celebration as one knows it today.

One such example is the scary witch with the green haggard wart-covered face and pointy hat. The witch stems from a pagan goddess known as the “the crone” who was honored during Samhain. The crone was also referred to as the ‘old one’ or ‘Earth mother’ which symbolized wisdom, change, and the turning of the seasons.

Samhain, (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) means ‘End of Summer’, and is the third and final Harvest, according to wicca.com. It is generally celebrated on Oct. 31 and Nov.1.

The pagan Celts believed that after death all souls went into the crone's cauldron, which symbolized the Earth mother's womb. There, the souls awaited reincarnation as the goddess' stirring allowed for new souls to enter the cauldron and old souls to be reborn. That image of the cauldron of life has now been replaced by the steaming, bubbling, ominous brew.

Witches broomsticks as a mode of transportation has an interesting tale. English folklore tells that during night-time ceremonies, witches rubbed a ‘flying’ potion on their bodies, closed their eyes and felt as though they were flying. The hallucinogenic ointment, which caused numbness, rapid heartbeat and confusion, gave them the illusion that they were soaring through the sky.

Ever wonder why people jump at the sight of a spider? One superstitious belief is that if a spider falls into a candle-lit lamp and is consumed by the flame, witches are nearby.

Another superstition is if one spots a spider on Halloween, it means that one is being watched over by the spirit of a deceased loved one, which inspires the many spider decorations today.

With witches comes spells.

Bobbing for apples is one of the traditional games used for fortune-telling on Halloween night. It was believed that the first person to pluck an apple from the water-filled bucket without using their hands would be the first to marry.

If the bobber lucked out and caught an apple on the first try, it meant that they would experience true love, while those who got an apple after many tries would be fickle in their romantic undertakings. Another myth was if a young lady put her bobbed apple under her pillow on Halloween night, she would dream about her future husband.

Myth and traditions aside, children will look forward to dressing in costume in search of the perfect treat this Halloween.