Halloween is not just about dressing up in costumes and asking for candy! It's a holiday steeped in folklore and customs. From carving pumpkins to trick or treating, each ghoulish tradition has its own fascinating tale.
And speaking of history, check out our favorite retro Halloween costumes!
The Celtics believed that placing Jack o' Lanterns outside helped guide lost souls home as they wandered the streets during Samhain. The scary carved faced on each also served to scare evil spirits away. When the potato famine forced many families to flee to America they began using pumpkins as a substitute since they were much easier to come by.
They believed that visiting ghosts would disguise themselves in human form and knock on doors asking for money or food. If they were turned away empty-handed, the homeowner risked angering the spirit and being cursed or haunted.
Another Celtic myth was that dressing up as a ghoul or ghost would fool any evil spirits so that the spirits would not try to take their soul.
During this time, the pagans would extinguish their hearth fires and gather around the sacred fire to burn crops and animals bones as sacrifices to the gods. Personal and symbolic items were also burned as offerings for relief from sickness or bad luck in the coming year. When the celebration was over, the pagans would use the embers of the sacred bonfire to re-light their own hearths as a way to protect them from the coming winter.
Additionally, the sacred bonfires were thought to scare away any evil spirits visiting. People would stay close to the fires wearing costumes of animal heads and skins to disguise themselves.
The Celtics believed that when someone died, his or her soul went to the crone's cauldron, known as the Earth mother's womb, to await reincarnation. The crone stirred the cauldron to allow new spirits in and old spirits to be reborn.
Witches also became known as "evil" by the Christian faith, who believed talented and intelligent women were receiving their knowledge and power from something other than God. Accusing women of witchcraft was used as a way to keep them from threatening male supremacy. Witches in Christian folklore were ugly because evil was ugly, and typical symbols of witchcraft (brooms, cauldrons, and cats) were associated with the home and women's work.
These old women were also usually poor, and therefore could not afford horses for traveling. They walked the woods by foot with the help of a stick or, sometimes, a broom.
As the story goes, too, if a spider falls into a candle-lit lamp and is consumed by the flame, a witch is nearby!