Two Coasts, Two Conceptions, One Samhain

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 11, 2007 — Leave a comment

Two recent stories discuss upcoming Pagan-run events for the Samhain season. The first comes from Starhawk’s most recent entry on The Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog. In the essay Starhawk discusses her views on death and dying, and mentions Reclaiming’s annual Spiral Dance held around Samhain in San Francisco.

“At this time of year, as we move toward Samhain or Halloween, the ancient festival of the ancestors, we say ‘the veil is thin’ that divides the world of the living from the realm of the dead. The ancestors return to visit us – and that is the origin of our Halloween customs of setting candles out in jack-o-lanterns to light their way to our doors, of giving offerings (once harvest offerings, now candy) to children, who are the ancestors returning. In our Samhain rituals, like the large, public Spiral Dance ritual that Reclaiming creates every year right before Halloween, we often take an imaginative journey to the Isle, to meet and talk with our beloved dead, to receive help and guidance, to finish what is unfinished, to offer our love. I have many times had visions and a deep sense of connection with my loved ones who have passed on. The meaning is often very personal, a message of hope or approval or advice.”

Meanwhile The Salem News gives us a “dummies guide” to the variety of Witch-related Halloween happenings in the “Witch City” of Salem. Of particular interest is the competing “official” Salem Witches Balls from two different generations of Witches.

“…two witches balls, both advertised as the “official” Salem witches ball and both at the historic Hawthorne Hotel. The first, on Friday, Oct. 26, is run by local witch Christian Day and features Fiona Horne, an Australian rock star billed as “the world’s most famous witch.” The other, on Halloween night, is being staged by Laurie Cabot, who also is “the world’s most famous witch.” Cabot, of course, is the official witch of Salem, a title bestowed upon her three decades ago by Gov. Michael Dukakis … It could be argued that Day, 37, and Cabot, 74, are the new and old guard of Salem witchcraft. They have loyal followings, are occasionally controversial and unabashedly entrepreneurial.”

You can find information for Day’s ball, here, and Cabot’s, here. These Samhain events, held on different coasts, help illustrate the diversity of attitudes and approach within modern Paganism (specifically religious Witchcraft) while preserving essential elements of the holiday (honoring the ancestors, acknowledging those who have died, celebrating life through feasting and dance, connecting with divinity). To a certain extent, a shared practice (praxis) binds these Witches together far more than any shared theology or ideology. A point that often escapes those looking to pigeonhole “what Witches (or Pagans) believe”.

Jason Pitzl-Waters