Wiccans meet unicorns: the strange evolution of Halloween traditions

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By Phoebe Rose, Second Year English

It’s that time of year again: the changing of the seasons and the preparation for winter. Oh, and the time for witches, vampires, and ghosts to reign again.

Halloween can be a pretty big celebration for some, but for others, the bats and broomsticks aren’t welcomed with such open, bloody arms. The traditions, in particular, are often scoffed at and thought worthless in their modern day attempts to empty our pockets in return for some cheap, orange plastic or fake cobwebs. In spite of this, they are cheerfully honoured by many, even if the initial intentions have perhaps evolved.

Epigram / Livi Player

Halloween, or Samhain as it was originally known to the Celts, traditionally marks the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. With the anticipation of this darker period in sight, the Celts thought it only right to honour this liminal period during which the veil between our world and the other world is at its thinnest, and therefore, renders us vulnerable to the potential visiting of wandering spirits. The traditions of the festival were vast, including rituals, games, and plays, many of which are still carried out today. My personal favourite, however, has to be dressing up (ever the child). Whilst we deck ourselves out in full witch attire and head off to every house in the vicinity, armed with some sort of pumpkin shaped bucket, the Celts were far more cunning in their ghostly creations, dressing up so as to confuse any evil spirits of their true form, and thus, protecting themselves from harm. They even left offerings of food and drink outside their houses to placate them. A far cry from our greedy sweet teeth it would seem…

Epigram / Livi Player 

Many years later, influenced by a tradition of reciting verses or short plays in exchange for food, and behold: trick-or-treating is born! An interesting tradition in its complete lack of task for the receiving party; but a much loved one nevertheless, no doubt due to the free chocolate from slightly terrified, usually obliging, absolute strangers. I have also yet to see a ‘trick’ as a consequence of refusing a ‘treat,’ and somehow doubt that I ever will.

Our traditions will, of course, differ from person to person, but the general consensus seems to be that dressing up as a terrifying creature to roam the streets collecting sweets is the best way to celebrate Halloween. However, it would appear that over the years, the likes of witches and demons have almost been ousted by popular characters such as Spider-Man, Elle Woods, or even unicorns! This, I’m afraid, I do not understand - since when did the recognition of all things evil become cute?! Fascinating. Still, I’m sure that had earlier cultures been in possession of pink, glittery unicorn costumes, they too would have indulged. They must have been out of stock.

Featured image: Livi Player


Do you celebrate Halloween? What are your Halloween traditions?

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