Way back in time, people lived in dread of devils, cackling witches, goblins, and demons.
More than two thousand years ago, the Celtic people in France and the British Isles feared October 31 more than any other day. It was the eve of the Festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead, and evil spirits were everywhere. The Celtic priests known as Druids cast spells and made charms and predictions. October 31 was the Day of the Dead, but also a joyous time because of the harvest festival, and it was the death of the old year and the beginning of the new year. It was a day to pay honor to the sun god Baal.
A century before Christ, the Romans conquered Britain and Gaul ( the original name of France.). They had a festival in late October for the dead, and in November, they honored Pomona, the goddess of orchards. After a while, the festivals merged with the Druid Samhain. Soon, there were Druid converts in Rome. This frightened the emperors of Rome, and they banned the Druid religion in all areas they had control. Many Druids were killed, but some went into hiding. The Celtics continued in the Druid belief. The Celtic Druids built bonfires to welcome the spirits.
In the fourth century after Christ, Emperor Constantine said the Christian religion was lawful. The Christian priests tried to stamp out anything pagan. The Druids would not give up their faith, so the Christian Church gave the celebrations new meanings and names.
The fires built on October 31 for the Lord of the Dead now would protect the people from the Devil.
In the seventh century, the church started All Saints Day as a celebration in May, but by 900, the date was changed to November 1. The festival for the Lord of the Dead became a festival of Christian dead.
The Scotch, Irish, and English Celtics continued to expect ghosts on October 31. The name of All Saints' Day soon became All Hallows Day, and October 31 was All Hallows' Even, which was shortened to Halloween.
November 2 was All Souls' Day to honor all the dead in the tenth century.
But as the days were close, they merged.
All Souls' Day is a religious day for some people in France, southern Europe, and Latin America.
Some Christians in the United States observe All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day, or both. They are religious days.
Halloween came to America in the nineteenth century by the Scotch and Irish. So, the witches, cats, devils, demons, goblins, and ghouls arrived.
The Halloween Witch
Witch is a Saxon word wica, meaning wise one. Witchcraft began with magic. It was to understand the forces of nature and control it.
To control, a spell would be cast. If the witch painted a picture of something happening, it would happen. So, if the witch or sorcerer painted rain, it would rain.
If the witch wanted to kill an enemy, she or he would steal a hank of hair or a bit of fingernail. When the person found out, he would be sick with fear and could die, therefore scared to death. When I served in New Guinea, this was a real possibility. Many people believed in evil spirits inhabiting everything around them, such as trees, rocks, etc. Sometimes, the witch would burn or stick pins into a tiny model of the person. One man would not eat because he believed an evil spirit had been cast on him. He died. King Saul of the Bible consulted the Witch of Endor. The witch said he would die in the coming battle, and he did. The power of the mind and one's belief.
To keep the magic hidden from others, it became occult.
In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII said witches were the Devil's agents.
In the nineteenth century, most people no longer believed in witches. But there were still some believers. The Scottish farmers carried blazing torches from west to east across their fields. Farmers of the Pennsylvania Dutch painted hex signs on their barns to ward off witches. (I'm noticing very lovely designs on buildings today in small towns and fields.)When cracking a boiled egg, believers would crack it at the bottom, or a witch could use the shell as a boat. ( I guess the witches were tiny.).
Next blog, I will carry on with the Halloween theme. What about the cat, bat, and owls as witch familiars?