Jack-O'-Lantern : The tradition of carving a lantern started in the UK and was traditionally carved from a Swede or a turnip. They were carved on All Hallows' Eve and left on the door step to ward off evil spirits.Trick or Treating : The tradition of trick or treating can be traced back to the ancient Celts, who not only left an offering of food for the dead, but also as part of holiday revelry went begging from house to house. Both children and adults would knock on doors and give some sort of performance and would be given money, food, or drink as payment.
Bonfires were originally built to burn the bones after feasting on the animals slaughtered for winter.
Because cats are for the most part nocturnal and can sneak about relatively unseen at night, they have long been associated with mystery, witchcraft and the occult. It was believed that witches could turn themselves into cats at will. Once Christianity took hold in Europe, witchcraft was declared evil along with all symbolism since they attributed cats to witches, cats were deemed evil by proxy.
The pitchfork in modern times is associated with the devil, but before Christianity the trident was a male fertility symbol and the "key to the Holy Door".
ScarecrowsThe scarecrow contrary to popular opinion, is not really for scaring birds away from crops. A scarecrow is a magickal symbol used to guard the crops from failing.
SkeletonsDuring the paleolithic era and early Europe, skeletons and or skulls of loved ones were preserved, painted, and dressed, then displayed prominently during clan gatherings. Bodiless heads were consulted and used as oracles, with offerings being given for their advise. Mexican culture celebrates "The Day of the Dead" on October 31 which is a conglomeration of Celtic, Catholic and Aztec mythos. On Oct. 31 the souls of the dead return to Mexico with the return of the monarch butterflies. They celebrate with parades, feasts, and dress up as skeletons, mummies, ghosts and ghouls and even have special edible treats shaped like skeletons and skulls.
GhostsSamhain is associated with the dead, and it is believed that on October 31 loved ones who have passed on may re-enter the world of the living and visit with their ancestors. Offerings are left for the spirits, special suppers are laid out for them and the spirit world is given honour.
WitchesThe witch is a central symbol of Halloween. The name comes from the Saxon wica, meaning wise one. At Samhain the Goddess is depicted as an older woman or crone. Hecate and the Cailleach are both examples of crone Goddesses who were worshiped at Samhain Rituals. In order to stop Crone Goddess worship the Christian Church began to denigrate elderly women to remove their authority and knowledge from society. The Crone Goddess became the horrible, mean old hag (witch) that frighten children, cast curses, and poisoned crops and livestock. Many elderly women were tortured and killed simply because they were old.
BatsWhen the Samhain bonfire was lit, it would attract lots of insects to the light, which in turn would attract bats to the bonfire who would commence a feeding frenzy. During the dark period of Europe when witches were being burned at the stake, the same principle would apply, the fire attracted bugs which attracted bats. This phenomena caused the belief that witches could turn into bats and fly away.
WerewolvesMany Celtic myths insist that by wearing a wolf skin one can transform themselves into a spirit beast. The term werewolf actually means spirit-wolf and the name was taken up by those who were opposed to Christianity.
BesomsWhen setting out for a Sabbath, witches rubbed a sacred ointment onto their skin. This gave them a feeling of flying, and if they had been fasting they felt even giddier. Some witches rode on horseback, but poor witches went on foot and carried a broom or a pole to aid in vaulting over streams. In England when new witches were initiated they were often blindfolded, smeared with flying ointment and placed on a broomstick. The ointment would confuse the mind, speed up the pulse and numb the feet. When they were told "You are flying over land and sea," the witch took their word for it.
Bobbing for ApplesWhen the Celts were absorbed by the Roman Empire, many rituals of Roman origin began. Among them was the worship of Pomona, goddess of the harvest, often portrayed sitting on a basket of fruits and flowers. Apples were the sacred fruit of the Goddess, and many games of divination involving them entered the Samhain customs.
Witches HatThe big circle brim symbolizes the magick Circle, the tall pointy part represents the cone of power. The witches hat is traditionally black symbolic of the Crone Goddess, the dark half of the year, and the occult mysteries.