Fall Reflections: Halloween Myths and Symbols

Ever since I was a child, I found this time of year to be filled with excitement and mystery matched by a deep sense of transformation. Mother Nature casts her colorful magic and makes clear the shift of seasons. She tones down the temperature; she digests the fallen leaves, and she opens her heart and her arms to more deeply receive the soft grace of moonlight. The felt sense of winter’s arrival evokes in me a desire to slow down, turn inward, and to deepen my relationship with nature and loved ones.


photo by Franco Folini
flickr: creative commons

This is also a time of celebration. Over the centuries, Halloween has become a way for us to manifest the seasonal shift. Halloween occurs at an auspicious time of year- the marking of the end of the Fall harvest season and the beginning of the long, cold, and dark months of winter. In some traditions, it was viewed as a transitory period in which the veils separating the worlds thin. Through the thinned veils, spirits, fairies and other entities could more easily enter into our world. In ancient times, these spirits were both feared and revered for their powers. People often left offerings of food and drink, and crops to appease these spirits. It was also a sacred time in which our dead ancestors would revisit us. In olden times, families welcomed the ancestors to their dinner tables and set them places and offered food and other specialties by the fire. Religious traditions such as Christianity also honored this special time by intensifying prayer to ascend souls to heaven from the liminal space between.

Yoga, meditation, and writing have become sacred ceremonies for me and provide me a meaningful way to celebrate this ephemeral time. Reflecting on these symbols of Halloween, I believe that this is a fruitful time of year to intensify one’s practice and to hold intention around gracefully harvesting and integrating the gifts of practicing. This harvest can be as simple as taking a moment to simply notice how practicing might have transformed something in your life. You can notice these shifts on several different levels- perhaps psychological or emotional, physical, relational and maybe something has deepened in an existential or spiritual way for you. Maybe you notice that something has changed in all of these areas for you.

The thinning of the veils separating the worlds suggests a powerful metaphor of moving through our own internal veils. These inner-veils may be separating us from a deeper contact and embrace of our truest self. By taking seat and holding intention to move deeper within, we may may notice a clearer window to the heart. By simply casting the light of awareness toward the heart space, we may accomplish a softer deconstruction of unhelpful defense structures hindering our higher self-actualization. Through setting intention and practice, we can clarify our aspirations and allow ourselves to more fully open to our own inner-teacher guiding us along our spiritual path.

Seasonal shifts brought great celebrations among cultures that connected them more fully to the Earth. It is said that in 19th century Ireland, ceremonious prayers were offered, following which there would be a merriment of eating, drinking, and games. Across the Gaelic territories, there was deeper intent to these celebrations, that of divination. The seers had a sacred intention toward bringing good fortune upon rites of passages such as marriage and death. Our ancestors offered nuts and apples, and ignited bonfires to illuminate the night. The brilliant light of the fire symbolized the sun and it’s life-affirming light. The flames, smoke, and ashes channeled spiritual protection and offered cleansing. The hot, crackling flames of the fire evoked the strength of the sun and offered respite from the dark cloak of night. The fire encouraged growth and transformation.

Such rituals were healing and helped to create ease around the inescapable existential uncertainties of life and death. We can learn from this folk wisdom by bringing more ceremony and celebration into our own lives. By coming together in community with family and friends, we can take greater notice of what is abundant in our lives. We can intentionally create ways to honor and celebrate the basic goodness and beauty of Mother Earth and her role as provider and caregiver. Perhaps a really simple way to celebrate this season would be to bring greater compassion and kindness into our everyday relating to self and other. We can gently take pause, breathe, spend more time with loved ones, light a candle and simply hold meaningful conversation. We can open the door of curiosity and get to know our special ones in a deeper way, we can invite them more fully into our hearts by practicing unconditional acceptance.

We can start right now by celebrating this very moment and recognizing that, as Hafiz wrote, “now is the season to know that everything you do is sacred.”