The ancient Celts believed that on Halloween night, the veil between this world and the other world became thin and the spirits of their dead ancestors were able to walk among the living.
Masks and Costumes
On Halloween night, the ancient Celts would wear masks made from animal heads and pelts in order to trick the spirits of the dead into thinking they were dead too.
Originally, witches were wise old women who knew ancient magic. People would consult them about the future and go to them for potions, charms or cures for sickness. As the years went by and with the coming of Christianity, witches were seen as being in league with the devil and possessing evil powers. Beginning in the 13th Century, the Church began a war against witches and executed anyone suspected of witchcraft.
A broomstick was simply a stick with a bunch of twigs tied around the bottom so it could be used as a brush. Broomsticks were not associated with witches until the Witch Hunts of the 15th Century. There was a notorious Witch-Hunter’s manual called the “Malleus Maleficarum” or “The hammer of witches”. The authors of the manual claimed that witches rode through the air on broomsticks and that’s how the belief began.
The ancient Celts believed that cats were the reincarnated souls of the dead. In the middle ages, people believed that witches had supernatural companions called “familiars” that did their bidding. These familiars were demons in animal form and often took the shape of a black cat. Witches were also believed to be able to transform themselves into black cats so they could travel about undetected on their evil errands.
Witches and vampires were also believed to be able to transform themselves into bats. The bonfires during the festival of Samhain would usually attract moths and mosquitos which in turn would attract bats. In the middle ages, the bat became associated with the devil because he was a fallen angel and was believed to have black, leathery wings like a bat.
A long time ago, toads were considered to be poisonous and it was also believed that they caused warts. Over the years, toads became associated with witches, often as an ingredient in their brews.
Years ago, people in Ireland and Britain would hollow out turnips and place candles inside them, using them as a lantern to light their way. When the custom came to America, pumpkins were much more plentiful so they hollowed out pumpkins instead. They also believed that putting a jack-o-lantern on your doorstep would keep evil spirits away.
As ghoulish as it sounds, the original scarecrow appears to have been a real person who was sacrficied on ancient fields to ensure a good crop. Ancient Celts would construct a wicker man and burn it as a sacrifice.
Samhain was a festival of the dead and the ancient Celts would honor their dead ancestors. Skeletons represent mortality and the fear of death.
The ancient Celts believed that nuts held powerful magic. They gave offerings of hazelnuts to their dead ancestors by throwing them into the Samhain bonfires. Halloween was sometimes called “Nut Crack Night”. Nuts were also used as a method of divining the future.
The ancient Celts also believed apples had magical properties. Apples could cure sickness, make you immortal, protect you from evil or serve as a love charm. The Celts used apples to tell the future.
The spider is a symbol of fate and the spiderweb symbolizes the cycle of life.
In ancient times, the owl was seen as a harbringer of evil. Travelers on lonely country roads were often frightened by their hooting. Superstitious people believed that the screech of an owl meant death or disaster.
Orange and Black
The colors orange and black have come to symbolize Halloween. Orange represents the harvest and autumn while black symbolizes death.