Halloween as a Holy Day

Over at Patheos, Star Foster has posted about Halloween and the Christian “war” on Halloween.  She emphasizes that Halloween is a “secular holiday”, even for most Pagans:

“Yet only a very small minority of us actually claims to celebrate Halloween as a religious holiday, and generally if they do it’s either to use a common term that’s easily understood or for promotional reasons. The majority of Pagans don’t claim Halloween as a holy day, though we do celebrate on October 31st. Most of us celebrate Samhain, the Celtic New Year and time for the remembrance of the dead.”

I’m not going to disagree with Star.  Contrary to the Christian-hype, Halloween is a secular holiday, not a small-p pagan or a capital-P Pagan one.  And most Wiccante Pagans, celebrate Sahwin (sorry I refuse to spell it in a way that cannot be properly pronounced) as a kind of Day of the Dead, which has little to no connection to the secular celebration of Halloween.

However, Star did observe that “a very small minority of us” actually celebrate Halloween as a religious holiday.  As of this year, that includes me.  I just have a hard time celebrating a different Neopagan holiday at or near the time of the second most observed holiday in America, especially if the Neopagan holiday is meant to be somber (i.e., honoring the dead), while Halloween is so festive.  And more importantly, I don’t see the need to.  I mean, the Christians are right in a way.  Halloween is a holiday that just begs for Neopagan attention.

I feel the same way about Christmas actually.  Honoring the birth of the Sun/Son at the winter solstice is about as pagan as you get.

So what to do this Halloween?  Well, I have my usual secular activities, decorating and trick-or-treating with the kids.  This years, I’m going all out and building a mini-haunted house on my porch.  I’m thinking I need a guillotine.  So where is the religious significance?

I relate Halloween/All Hallows to the release of the Wild Hunt, the daemonic forces that bring on the winter.  It is appropriate that Halloween falls about mid-autumn (about a week before actually).  We’ve been having lots of stormy and cold, rainy weather lately, so it feels like winter is around the corner.   And the storms naturally invoke thoughts of the Wild Hunt.  And I like the name “All Hallows”, which seems to me to say, “It’s all ‘hallow’ or sacred, even the dark and the frightening.”

Åsgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo

Most of the family rituals I have designed for my family center around one or two ritual acts.  So I am wondering what we could do for All Hallows.  It occurs to me that there are things we can do outside on Halloween that would draw unwanted attention on other nights, so I should take advantage of that.  A bonfire after dark is a must.  Perhaps a ritual crowning of the Holly King (played by my son) as the King of the dark half of the year, in contrast to the crowning of the Oak King on May Day.

"Elkhorn" by Brom

And then a wild chase around the house to mimic the Wild Hunt, complete with screaming.  The kids could chase my wife and I.  All Hallows is, for me, about letting the wild side run free for a little bit.  My son will particularly enjoy that.

I like it.  Now I just need to come up with a ritual text and some music.  For a “ritual text”, I’m thinking something about the Wild Hunt, but told like a ghost story., in the spirit of Ichabod Crane.   For music, I want to incorporate Johnny Cash’s “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, but I need something more exciting for the chase.  And I’ve only got two more days to put it together.

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