With this being a Harvest there are many symbols surrounding food connected with this holiday. There’s also a strong affiliation with death, ancestors, end of the transition, and Darkness. This is also the night when it is believed the witches can fly on their besoms and ride into Witches New Year.
Apple’s hold an important role during this time as they are the food for the dead. They are also used in much of the divination that is popular at this time. Apples represent an energy of trust and also abundance. They are one of the few fruits that keep through the winter and are found in plenty during this time of year. Games such as bobbing for apples are popular and the fun way to get everybody involved in the holiday.
Before traditions came to America, it was turnips, not pumpkins that were carved.
Ancient Celts would carve turnips or potatoes with scary faces and place an ember within them. They would then be placed in windows and doorways to ward off evil spirits and mischievous fairies. These carved roots were a representation of the will-o’-the-wisps. There is a natural phenomenon of floating flickering lights above the bog. These lights would trick weary travelers to leave the safety of the path searching for the lantern.
Originally termed will-o’-the-wisps or hobby lanterns these ghost lights are seen around the world and most cultures associate them with mischievous spirits. This is the energy called on when decorating with our carvings. The trickery of the will-o’-the-wisps is called into the home to trick the tricksters, and keep mischievous energies from visiting.
Science says it is likely due to hot humid days cooling quickly and the hot and cold air reflecting light in such a way to appear as a flickering lantern. However, you can’t catch this natural phenomenon so who is to say for sure.
In more modern times the pumpkin has become a central element in the celebration of this holiday. The well-known jack-o’-lantern is carved and decorates the streets. The origins of the Jack-o-lantern actually start in a turnip, not a pumpkin, and tell the story of Stingy Jack. According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years. Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”
Pumpkins are also used in magick. They carry the attributes love, prosperity, fertility, and when carved protection. Wishes can be placed in them as though it were a wishing well. They can also be used to connect with your ancestors. Some people will carve pictures specifically for a deceased loved one to invite them for a visit. You can also put notes in a pumpkin to reach your ancestors as they make their travels.
As with the worship of one’s ancestors, this time symbolizes rebirth through the darkness. The Darkness is that of the womb and the Mother Goddess. It is at this time we enter into our own darkness and grow. It is a time to find renewal and to be rejuvenated by the darkness. We use this time to honor and nurture ourselves through introspection and reflection.
The Besom is also a focal point at this time; after all, this is the night the witches fly. Besoms are traditional brooms made from sticks and twigs. They are used to cleanse and bless a space, clearing away old and unwanted energy. This is a great time of year to make one with twigs you find. The energy of the besom is both masculine and feminine; with the handle representing the man and the bristle representing the softer side of the women. Often they are made from birch and ash; however, there is no right or wrong wood. They can be decorated with stones, herbs, shells, and totems creating a very powerful cleansing tool to be used for the year to come. It is not necessary to make a new one every year however, this is a great time to cleanse your besom if you already have one to start the year fresh.
This time of year is commonly referred to as the Witches New Year and this time of year is heavily associated with witches. It is a time when we can come out as we are and enjoy the beauty of the world around us. We give thanks for all that we have received and the bounty provided to us from the Divine. We say our farewells to summer and welcome the fairy-folk into our homes for the colder months of the year. We honor the end of cycles by marking this as the end of the year. For some this marks the New Year, for others there is a period of Darkness between the end and the New Year on the Winter Solstice. Either way, this is the end. We celebrate and prepare to begin again!
Have a Great Last Harvest
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