For the last 24 hours, our dogs have been unusually worked up. Barking, fighting, and generally squirrely. (OK, I guess I should add “squirrelier than normal.) Last night I made a joke that maybe, on the day before Halloween, the veil between the dead and the undead had lifted a bit early.
A joke, but I do believe that animals are sensitive to spirits. And since this is a very important time in pagan religions, when it’s believed that the veil between the dead and the undead is at its thinnest and the dead walk among the living, I wondered if our pets could really be affected by Halloween.
I know that some of my Christian friends are freaking out right about now, because I’m talking in a very real sense about ghosts and spirits. But even though I consider myself a devout Jesus follower, I also realize that there is much about the spiritual world that I don’t know or understand. I mean, Christians believe in angels and demons and the Bible is filled with dream interpretation; is it that far of a stretch to believe that animals can see what the human eye can’t?
But I’m completely ignorant about paganism, so I turned to Star Foster, Pagan Portal manager and blogger for Patheos.com, and Thorn Coyle, columnist at Patheos, to get a little insight into how animals might be affected by Halloween spirits.
First, what makes this time of year so active, spiritually speaking. Star explained, “As a Wiccan, I can’t speak for all Pagans on this, I believe that on Beltane (May 1) and on Samhain (Oct 31) the veil between the material and spiritual world thins. Life rushes in with Beltane and out with Samhain. When it rushes in we celebrate life. When it rushes out we honor the dead.”
She told me that animals do sense spirits and ghosts. “In fact a friend of mine has a ‘spirit critter’ that lives in her house and she says her animals notice it’s presence before she does. They’re not fond of her ‘spook’ but that may be because they are rather territorial.”
I had a dog once who occasionally used to get on my bed and bark at the wall for hours on end. Just sitting there, nose to the wall, barking and barking. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I always wondered if she was barking at a mouse in the wall or something more sinister. Either way, I felt safer with her on guard.
Thorn Coyle, columnist for Patheos.com explains what might have been happening:
“As humans, our own animal souls are the parts of us that respond to the unseen, to ghosts, to spirits, to the ancestors. When the hair on our arms stands up, or the back of our neck prickles, that is our animal soul activated through our etheric energy body, telling us ‘Something is here!’ Since this is true of us, as humans, think of how much more attentive to such happenings animals must be. Their sensitivity to what may be coming is accute, as is evidence by animal behavior before earthquakes, for example. Their senses perceive things many things.”
Star explains further that how the animal responds may have something to do with the spirits they see. “A departed relative whom the animal was fond of likely wouldn’t scare the animal but the ghost of someone they don’t know may unnerve them.”
So if the spirit of Aunt Tilly, who loved your kitty and spoiled her with tuna, appears tonight, your cat may react in a loving way; while Fluffy and Aunt Tilly reconnect, you may not even notice anything different. Or maybe you’ll notice your cat following something around the house that you can’t see, or seeming to act as if she’s responding with purrs to someone who doesn’t seem to be there.
But if your pet encounters the spirit of someone they’ve never met or someone who wasn’t kind to them or is threatening, Fluffy may react with hissing and arched back, and Fido may, indeed, bark at the wall.
Star also shared a bit of history about black cats – who, in case you didn’t know, are about half as likely as cats of other colors to be adopted:
“Cats were considered a bit devilish and believed to be responsible for the Black Plague (it was actually the rats the cats were hunting that spread the Plague). Given the ‘dark’ associations of the color black, the already maligned cat was considered even more sinister if it had dark fur. On the upside, the fear of cats diabolically spreading disease led to their disuse as a culinary item. Very old cookbooks are full of recipes for cat.”
Whether your pet senses more spirit activity on Halloween or is just worked up because the door bell is ringing non-stop, Star suggests, “You might find it useful to ward them in some way, saying a blessing over them or perhaps blessing their collar according to your faith tradition.” I also recommend the use of a calming tea or supplement (we often use Happy Traveler from Ark Naturals or Calming Tea from The Honest Kitchen, both with great success).
From everyone here at the Funny Farm – Bandit, Bailey, Scout, Murphy and the chickens – have a safe and spooky Halloween. (And keep the pets away from the Halloween candy!)
And if you’re interested in learning more about black cats, visit Black Cat Rescue, a no-kill cat rescue organization in Boston, MA specializing in finding homes for black cats.