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October 23, 2023 1 Comment
Halloween is just around the corner! The leaves are glowing amber, gold and red. Pumpkins are appearing on porches. Ghosts find their way into trees and spooky decorations are being placed on lawns. For those who really love Halloween, let’s enhance this festive week with a bit of history and some aromatherapy blends particularly suited to the season of Halloween.
Halloween, as we know it today, is part of a 3 day event known as Allhallowtide, with a fascinating history and roots that extend deep into ancient traditions. It is a time to remember and honour the dead. It originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter in what is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France. It is the halfway point between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice.
During Samhain, people believed that the boundary between the living and the dead was thin. Spirits would be able to cross the veil into our world. It was thought that if a person were to dress up disguised in a costume to resemble the spirits, the spirits would believe that person was one of them, and therefore pass by them without harm, or without bringing them into the otherworld. As traditions evolved over the years and as the Christian church gained followers, All Saints' Day was moved from May 13th by Pope Gregory lV circa 837 AD to November 1st. November 2 is All Souls Day, also known as Day of the Dead.
In medieval Europe, celebrations incorporated elements of Samhain, including the lighting of "soul fires" and the practice of "souling" and "guising," where people dressed up in costumes and went door to door, receiving food in exchange for prayers for the deceased.
Jack-o'-lanterns are an integral part of Halloween traditions, with their origins tracing back to Irish folklore. The practice began with a character named Stingy Jack, who was known for his cunning and deceitful ways. After having a drink with the devil, Jack refused to pay for it. He tricked the devil into turning himself into a coin, which Jack kept. According to legend, Jack tricked the devil on multiple occasions, resulting in his exclusion from both heaven, who didn’t want to admit the trickster into their realm, and hell upon his death. Jack was condemned to roam the earth with only a burning coal inside a hollowed-out turnip to light his way. The Irish began carving menacing faces into turnips and other root vegetables to ward off Jack and other malevolent spirits on All Hallows' Eve, which eventually transitioned to pumpkins when Irish immigrants brought this tradition to North America. Today, the cheerful and spooky faces adorning carved pumpkins symbolize the protection of homes from wandering spirits and have become an iconic part of Halloween celebrations.
On the other hand, jack-o-lanterns may have their origins in people carrying home flames from the communal bonfire to relight their hearth at home.
The lighting of bonfires on Halloween was tradition during the festival of Samhain. This tradition was a pivotal part of the festivities, a time when people celebrated the end of the harvest season and the onset of winter. Believing that on October 31st, the veil between the world of the living and the realm of the departed grew thin, the Celts kindled large bonfires as a means of both protection and reverence. These roaring fires provided warmth and light as the days grew darker, and their flames were thought to possess the power to ward off malevolent spirits. Included in this tradition was the practice of extinguishing hearth fires in individual homes before kindling the bonfire. After the celebration, hearth fires in the home would be relit from the main bonfire, symbolizing the renewal of protection and good luck for the coming year.
Halloween was not widely celebrated in North America until the mid 19th century. Pilgrims banned Halloween celebrations due to its Pagan history. But with an influx in immigration from Ireland in particular due to the potato famine in 1845 the tradition was reignited.
In the 19th century, as new people settled in the United States and Canada, they brought with them customs rooted in ancient Celtic celebrations like Samhain. Over time, the practice of dressing in costumes, going door to door for treats, and carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns became defining features of this new holiday. Halloween grew to encompass not only elements of ancient folklore but over the years, it has become a beloved holiday that combines elements of ancient Celtic traditions, Christian observances, and modern-day festivities.
This Halloween, swap chemical-laden scented candles for more natural, autumn inspired scents using essential oils. Opt for essential oil diffusers with blends like cinnamon, clove, and cedarwood. These aromas evoke the spirit of the season without compromising your commitment to clean living. I have some suggestions for you below.
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