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Light in the dark

October 31, 2006|by OLIVIA MONTG0MERY

Modern witches don't fly around on a broom, and they don't celebrate Halloween as the Devil's Holiday.

Actually, modern witches, called Wiccans, are not much like the version of witches seen at Halloween.

Wicca is defined in the dictionary as a form of witchcraft characterized by pagan nature worship. One of the central beliefs of Wicca is, "And it harm none, do what ye will."

Halloween is a major sacred day among Wicca followers. They call it Samhain (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne), meaning "end of summer," according to The Celtic Connection Web site at www.wicca.com. Samhain is the third and final harvest of the year (the others are Lughnasadh and Mabon) and represents rebirth through death.

To celebrate Halloween, American children dress up in costumes and go around getting free candy. To celebrate Samhain, Wiccans gather for a feast. On this night, the end of the Wiccan year, Wiccans believe the veil separating our world from the spirit world thins. This makes it easier to communicate through the veil. So Wiccans try to contact the spirits of dead relatives.

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According to Witches' Voice, at www.witchvox.com, there are some pagans who think that Halloween was a holiday that was taken over by Americans. Many of the Halloween traditions celebrated by modern Americans come from old Celtic and pagan traditions. For example, dressing up in costume and wandering from house to house begging for food comes from the Celtic tradition of leaving food on the doorstep of your home for wandering souls.

Carving a jack-o'-lantern is also a Celtic tradition. On this night, Celts carved a turnip (they didn't have pumpkins 1,500 years ago in the British Isles) and put a lit candle inside. They believed the homemade lanterns would protect from evil spirits people making their way to and from feasts on Samhain night.

I'm not Wiccan, but I like the idea of Halloween having some meaning other than how much free candy you get.

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