We have all come across these famous Halloween symbols year in year out, but have you ever stopped to wonder where they all originated from? From black cats to pumpkins and from spiders to skulls, these are all the things we associate with my favourite holiday. Stemming from an ancient Celtic culture, Halloween and all things associated with it have found their way into our western traditions.
I love all things to do with Halloween and was intrigued to find out more. How many of these fun facts do you know?
Ugh! The thing I hate most! These creatures are suspected to have supernatural powers, mainly because of the webs they create which have been a symbol of time, fate, progress and a representation of the human journey for a very long time. They have 8 legs and the number 8 symbolises circles and cycles. As Halloween falls in October which is a transition from summer to winter, this makes their presence very relevant during Halloween.
As bats are nocturnal creatures, they’re more likely to be seen during this time of year when the nights are darker. During olden days of Halloween, big bonfires were lit to scare off bad energies. The fires attracted moths and mosquitoes, which would attract bats, so they were more commonly seen during earlier Samhain festivals. Some people think bats can communicate with the dead too, so its an obvious symbol. With vampire folklore being popular at Halloween, I’m sure everyone is familiar with vampires being able to turn into blood sucking bats!
Orange and black colours
These colours often used in Halloween pictures, displays, decorations and make up etc, are more likely due to representation of the time of year rather than mythology. Orange represents Autumn, with the leaves changing colour and pumpkins being harvested. Black represents dark days and fewer daylight hours for farmers to tend to crops.
A witches best friend and a superstition to many! Old Celtic beliefs taught that humans were reincarnated as cats and that they could see into the future! It was also thought that witches could turn into cats so this could be where their bad reputation comes from. It was thought that witches kept these demonic animals sent by the devil! It was assumed that cat owners in the 1600’s would be tested for witchcraft! (I’m keeping a very low profile as I have a black cat myself! LOL!)
Originally these were turnips hollowed out with candles inside and beggars would carry them to light the way, when roaming around on ‘All Hallows Eve’ collecting donations for their cause. The Irish replaced the turnips with pumpkins and would carve ghoulish faces into them to scare away bad spirits!
A spooky tale associated with pumpkins is a drunken farmer named Jack who tricked the devil. These tricks meant he was turned away from heaven and hell, and when he died, his soul was left to wander earth. He made a lantern from a turnip to guide his way, in which a lump of burning coal was thrown in from hell from the devil. These evolved into the ‘Jack O Lanterns’ we know today which are placed outside peoples homes to scare away evil spirits on Halloween!
Skeletons and Skulls
Halloween was a time when the line between the living and the dead was blurred, so this is where skeletons would most likely have originated as a spooky Halloween tradition representing the dead. The skull is used in many cultures to represent human mortality and the fear or danger of death but is generally known as a symbol of the end of physical human life.
Halloween costumes/Trick or Treating
It was believed on Halloween night that ghosts would mingle and roam around with the living. Ghosts could disguise themselves as humans and knock on the door begging for food and money. If you gave them nothing and turned them away, you would run the risk of being cursed or haunted by the evil spirit! This would be where the tradition of trick or treating came from but was only introduced in the 1950’s. English and Irish roots of Trick or Treating came from when poor children would go from door to door collecting handouts in return for their prayers for the dead. Another myth of dressing up was that by wearing a ghoulish costume you could fool the spirits into thinking that you were one of them! They then wouldn’t want to try and take your soul.
The image of a witch riding her broomstick is one of the most traditional Halloween symbols we have today. Witches were feared in the old days and it was believed that their powers were strongest on Halloween. It was thought that witches were on the same level as the devil, and that meant burnings at the stake, dunkings and worse were expected for women who were witch suspects! Our typical Halloween witch originates from a pagan goddess known as ‘The Crone’ who was honoured during Halloween. The ‘crone’ was also known as ‘The Old One’ or ‘Earth Mother’. She symbolized wisdom, change, and the alteration of the seasons. In the present day, this kind, all-knowing old crone has morphed into the menacing cackling witch of Halloween!
I wish I could add sound effects for a witches cackle there but youll just have to imagine it lol. I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you know any more fun facts about Halloween please let me know! I love anything associated with Halloween.