What is Halloween?

It is the time of the year when many of us, especially here in the United States, get ready for Trick or Treating’. However, not all of us know why we celebrate Halloween and the origins of this holiday.

How are you planning to celebrate Halloween?

Are you celebrating it with disguising and Trick or Treating, going to a party, or are you going to church, the graveyard, or maybe you are going deeper into meditation and spiritual practices such as divination?

Whatever you choose to do, make sure it raises your vibration, joy, and feeling of long-term happiness. Don’t just settle with quick fixes and follow what everyone else is doing. Do what feels true to you. 

I will take time to think about things that are coming to an end celebrate the memories of those that have left this life. I will also enjoy watching my kids play around with disguising and partying. I think it is fun, but I will also remind them to connect within, be grateful for life, and for living in the duality of dark and light. To learn to be still and know that darkness can bring great gifts of growth.  

Halloween, a money-making machine

Believe it or not, Halloween is second to Christmas in terms of retail sales here in the USA. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF)Americans spent more than $8 billion in costumes and accessories amid the pandemic in 2020. It is strange how some of our most sacred holidays are becoming mass consumption rituals instead of the “spiritual” rituals they were once meant to be. 

 Trick or Treating

The origin of the trick-or-treating custom dates back at least as far as the 15th century in parts of Europe. Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during All Hallowtide, collecting soul cakes in exchange for praying for the dead, especially the souls of the givers’ friends and relatives, an activity called “souling.”

The custom of children dressing up in costumes and soliciting treats from neighbors, became popular in the United States in the early 20th century. Irish and Scottish communities revived the Old World custom of “guising,” a person would dress in costume and recite a poem, tell a joke, or perform some other trick in exchange for a piece of fruit or other treats. By 1950, trick-or-treating for candy had become one of Halloween’s most popular activities. Today, Halloween is one of the biggest holidays for candy sales in the United States, exceeding $2.5 billion annually.

Though the holiday began in Celtic regions of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and France, it quickly spread to other parts of the world. Understandably, people like to get spooky for the adrenaline rush and perhaps feel more at peace in their day-to-day routine. However, it is a shame that we have left the ancient traditions that held more meaning than those today. 

Keep on reading, and I’ll explain. But first, let’s go into details about what Halloween really is.

 Where does the name Halloween come from?

“Halloween” is a derivative of” All Hallow Even,” or the night before All Saints’ Day on November 1 andAll Souls’ Day follows on November 2. People believed that the souls of the dead returned to their homes on that day. The supernatural forces of darkness were on the move, seeping out of the ancient burial mounds of the Countryside.

The veil between the living and the dead was thought to be thinner this time of year. People would build giant bonfires and dress in costumes to invoke the help of gods and goddesses to combat the negative spirits. In this way, popular Halloween tropes such as witches, ghosts, and goblins became associated with the holiday. 

The origin of the festival

Halloween’s origin can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival “Samhain,” meaning “summer’s end,” held November 1. It was an occasion used to prepare for winter when communities organized for the winter months to celebrate their harvest. It was a festival between the autumn equinox (light) and the winter solstice (darkness). 

All Hallows Eve, the Christian tradition 

In 609 AD, Pope Boniface IV created All Saints Day, originally celebrated on May 13. A century later, Pope Gregory III moved the holiday to November 1, likely as a Christian substitute for the Pagan festivalsof Samhain and Alvablot. The day before the saintly celebration became known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween.

The Pope rededicated the Pantheon in Rome, Italy, transforming it from a pagan temple into a Catholic church dedicated to Mary and the martyrs and associated with all saints. By 800 AD, festivals commemorating the saints were celebrated across Europe. As many of our earlier pagan festivals, they were made Christian during the spread of the Christian church. 

The Swedish tradition today

Being a Swede, I am interested in my roots and understanding how this culture evolved since childhood, when we did not celebrate Halloween. Instead, in Sweden, we celebrate All Hallows Eve or “Alla Helgons Afton” and All Saints Day. It is traditionally celebrated by lighting candles in the cemeteries and visiting the graves of our deceased loved ones to pay homage. I remember it as a very sacred, peaceful, and beautiful tradition walking with my parents and seeing so many beautiful lights lighting up the graveyard. When Halloween came to Sweden in the 90s as a commercial push by the candy industry, it didn’t feel right to me at all. I didn’t particularly appreciate having people show up by my door in costumes while I was contemplating death and life’s deeper meaning, even though it was, of course, fun to get in a disguise and have spooky parties.

The Norse traditions  

In Norse pagan traditions that were very similar to the Pagan rituals of the Celts, it was called the Alva blot. Alva is a female name meaning “a mystical creature.” We have Älvor in Sweden, white flowing mysterious creatures that dance in the dusk, aka fog or mist. From “Alv” also came Alva – the name of Hel, the old goddess of death,

Mother Earth down in the Underworld, to whose good and beautiful kingdom everyone had to come to an end. With Christianity, she was demonized and became an evil and frightening creature, which one must walk around and fear and feel anxious for. Nothing would have been more foreign to our ancestors – the Okolner Guild Hall, the cold one, was a warm and inviting place, where Hel gave a break to the truly deserving, and no one needed to freeze or starve. Few know where the word “Alva” or Elf in English comes from and what it means.

The Swedish ELF

Some insist that Elves exist and are real fairies and elemental beings. I have never seen them but I can sometimes pick up on their energy and presence. Others Believe these creatures were invented and are primarily found in bad fantasy novels—fitting into the recurrent black and white Christian division of good and evil. 

There is a natural explanation to the word “Alv” or “Elf”. It is a type of soil, more specifically, the white layer of mineral soil, and has the same origin as “albis” or “white” in Latin, i.e., something bright, whitish that is found in the ground. However, you were not allowed to mix the best you had, and even today, farmers and those who value cultivation know that you must not mix “Alv” and Topsoil. If mixed, the crop withers and dies in the end and everything becomes just a big, distasteful clay porridge. This is viewed as an analogy to stay away from evil spirits and stay pure on your path.

In Norse mythology, the God of Honor Frey, who ruled over the crop, lived in Alvheim. Alvhiem, the homes of the elves shouldn’t be mixed up with The Norse Gods. The Elves, “the little ones underground”, were considered to be the spirits of the ancestors who lived in the ground, next to the villagers’ homes. However, it was appreciated to have their dead right next door. It was not something scary at all – on the contrary, it was something very natural since the bodies belonged to the land they lived off.  

Blot and Blood Sacrifice

Interestingly, the English word blood is similar to the Norse word blot. Blot, however, is the word for religious celebration. According to Wikipedia, Blot is a blood sacrifice, but it’s not all true. Many different kinds of sacrifices were being made to please the gods. Even though blood sacrifices of humans and animals might have taken place; it wasn’t always necessary to abide by the gods and goddesses.

The blot was the most common way the Æsar (the gods and goddesses of the principal pantheon of the Norse “religion”) believers contacted the gods; it was is done through various ceremonies often involving some kind of sacrifice. However, the very word “blota” has nothing to do with blood, despite the popularized image of animal sacrifices that Æsir belief opponents sometimes convey. The word is related to the Gothic blôtan, which means “to worship” and to the Old German bluozan, in the sense of sacrifice and strength. The sacrifice was usually an object that meant something to the donor, food or drink. 

However, there are blood sacrifices taking place in modern times. Secret sects and cults, like satanic cults, use this day to harvest their victims. Many children are disappearing and are being kidnapped weeks before and around Halloween for this purpose. I won’t go into that, but you can read more about it online. Many sexual assault victims have come forth to share their stories of satanic sexual abuse. It is horrifying and also one of the reasons I don’t like to celebrate Halloween.

The Alva Blot: a sacred feast for mother earth 

Like many other global and ancient traditions of this time of year based on nature being our clock, the Alvablot was a feast held for the Earth and the dead during late fall. Everything in nature was dying slowly. In Sweden, it was celebrated at the last full moon of the fall in October in the old Swedish almanac. It would also be called the month of slaughter since many animals would be slaughtered for the winter season. It was somewhat a harvest feast of gratitude and blessing for the hard times that would come with winter. 

How can we incorporate more harmony in our lives by learning from our past?

Perhaps instead of chasing the next adrenaline kick by looking at Netflix and horror movies, we can ask ourselves how loving and nurturing it is to feed our fears? Will it create a better life for us? Perhaps it is time to really start making healthy changes in your lives. Stop feeding ourselves by watching unhealthy TV shows and movies. Instead, pick up a book to nourish our souls. Stop feeding kids unhealthy candy and scary monsters, instead start creating more harmony in life by hiking in nature, teaching them about life and death, connecting to our mother earth, and lighting candles for our past loved ones.

How can we live more healthy lives? Do we need to change our diet, exercise more, or start to meditate?

Have fun!

However, If we really love Halloween and enjoy the thrill and playfulness, there is nothing wrong with it; anything we can do to laugh is good for life and like medicine. It is important to have fun despite the heaviness the darkness can bring. Being aware and conscious doesn’t have to be boring. We can have fun by doing things with awareness, caring for our Earth’s resources instead of buying new stuff all the time; we can buy used things, create our own costumes, be creative, reinvent and recycle. 

Another way of creating a healthy lifestyle is to make healthy handmade organic natural candy or bake something that you can offer instead of the traditional candy full of toxic chemicals. Instead of watching tv shows or playing video games, read a mysterious story out loud or play games. Invite people to your home for a celebration and start sharing more deeply. Talk about your fears and talk about death. We are certainly in a time where we need to connect more authentically.

Take time to reflect

Many people are struggling with health, work, and relationships during this time, and they need support. Some of us have lost loved ones during this past year, and we need to hold space for those who need it and also be open to receiving help from others.  Please take the opportunity to be still and use the peace and silence of the season we are entering this time of year. It can assist us in going within to discover our inner riches, becoming more of ourselves, and feeling that we are part of a bigger mystery and a bigger story. Be brave enough to face your fears this season, and remember that peace always has to start within. 

Be Brave, Be You, Be Stellar,

Ebba

 

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