When people think of the term “witch,” what may come to mind are pointy hats, flying broomsticks, large and smoking cauldrons, or other stereotypical images that have been portrayed through the ages. In reality, witches are real and so are their communities, practices, and histories. So what does Halloween mean for those who practice the occult?
Paganism has been on the rise in the U.S. and according to the Pew Research Center, in 2014, pagans and Wiccans made up approximately .4% of the American population; that’s about 1.5 million people. In 2008, the United States Census Bureau reported that about 340,000 Americans identified as pagan so there has been an apparent growth.
For that reason, it’s important to understand what “pagan” and “Wiccan” mean. According to the Oxford Dictionary, paganism is “a religion other than one of the main world religions, specifically a non-Christian or pre-Christian religion.” This makes it a broad, umbrella term. Wicca is defined as a modern branch of paganism.
Generally, these ideologies are centered around the admiration of nature, the power of the self, pre-Christian deities, and personal responsibility. They also have several different branches of beliefs typically centered around the region of origin. For example, there is Nordic paganism, Celtic, etc.
The modern celebration of Halloween stems from a holiday called Samhain which originated from the areas of Ireland and the U.K. over 2,000 years ago, according to History.com. Samhain is still celebrated by pagans and Wiccans, depending on their personal beliefs.
Wicca BluMoon, 38, is the given name to a Wiccan practitioner who is also a minister for the Church of Spiritual Humanism. During the day he works as a freight manager in Missouri but also runs a magick-focused Youtube channel and is a contributing author on PlentifulEarth.com.
“Samhain celebrates life and death,” explained BluMoon, relating it to the holiday Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
People often celebrate Samhain by leaving out bread, alcohol, seasonal goods or juices, or other goods relating to their deities on their altar or places of worship.
BluMoon said that this year his offering consisted of tobacco and whiskey. He also recommended apple cider, berries, nuts, and he sometimes will use twigs from an Oak-tree. “I’ll put [those] up on my altar and I’ll say a thank you prayer to, not only the dead, but the spirits as well.”
“From there what I’ll do is a ceremony, a basic ritual is what it’s called. I’ll do some circle magic which, depending on what you want will have a different format,” he said, explaining what a typical Samhain celebration is like for him.
“I usually keep to myself, I’m a solitary witch,” said BluMoon on how the current pandemic has affected his ability to practice the craft. “Some items that I would normally get I’m not able to.”
This year, the world experienced a full moon on Halloween, something that hasn’t happened since 1944 and isn’t predicted to happen again until 2039. It was also a blue moon, an occurrence where there is a full moon twice in a month. That only happens approximately every 2.5 years.
“Full moons always have an impact on our rituals, it actually increases the power of the rituals. With Samhain or Halloween/Day of the Dead,” BluMoon explained, “that day is when the veil is the thinnest between the physical and the spiritual realms. So that, with the full moon, you just felt more power for any rituals or spells.”
“I felt more energetic, I felt the pull of the moon. It really helped push me to do more for my rites,” he said.
Bunny Martin, a 20-year-old bookshop worker, has been a practicing Celtic Wiccan for 2 years now. Martin highlighted another aspect of Samhain and how it welcomes the season of harvest. “We welcome the darkness in for the rest of the year,” she said.
Martin celebrated Samhain by creating her Pumpkin Spell. “I use black pepper, chamomile, salt, white oak, rosemary by crushing it up into a powder and sprinkling it into a freshly carved pumpkin to protect my household,” she said.
She also explained that she took the opportunity to pray to and spend some time with her deity, the Celtic deity known as the Green Man.
Blumoon began studying Wicca in 1994 and has formally identified as a Wiccan since 2000. He noted that one current goal within the community has been seeking acceptance from the general population. “We want to change the idea that the craft is evil,” said BluMoon.
He explained how the results he gets from his practice always bring a great sense of accomplishment; sometimes the lights will turn off or an item that you ask for may show up on your front door. “I’ve seen things defy gravity.”
But one result that comes to mind for BluMoon was the time he helped a friend with cancer. The doctor had informed the family that the cancer was too far gone to be treated, that there was nothing that could be done.
One day, BluMoon heard his deity encouraging him to volunteer his help, so that is what he did. “I’m not sure how I can help, but if I can help you, I would like to,” he recalls telling his friend.
Because his friend belonged to the Christian faith, BluMoon incorporated Christian symbolism as well as Hindu and Latin symbols into his summoning circle which he would use in a ritual. While conducting the ritual, BluMoon witnessed the flames from his candles rising up and even touching the palms of his hands; he felt no pain, but he did feel a hand rise up and clasp onto his own.
About 3 months after his ritual, the doctors informed them that the cancer had regressed enough that they could begin treatment and surgery which then led to his friend’s recovery.
“I like to believe that I helped. That I kicked it down at least to where [the doctors] were able to help him out medically,” said BluMoon.
He said that magick “Is not for the faint of heart, but it is very exciting.”
BluMoon encouraged those who may be confused or uncertain about paganism to not be afraid to ask questions, do some research, and form their own opinion about the craft. “Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean that you should fear it.”