Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain—the October 31 holiday goes by many names and means different things to different people. For some, it’s about partying with booze or dressing up and getting candy, and for others, it’s about family and providing a good time for the little ones.
But Halloween isn’t a casual holiday for everybody. For those aholiday with special meaning, a meaning rooted deeply in love and acceptance.
“It’s kinda hard to not ‘celebrate’ Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, in some way, shape or fashion.” said Rabbit, a Denver local. “Samhain to me, well, it’s definitely a time to pause and to remember those in our lives that are no longer physically with us. It’s a time to honor those that have made the transition from this physical world to… whatever is out there. I honor and I celebrate the turning of the wheel. Halloween is often referred to as the Witches’ New Year.”
In addition to celebrating the sacred Wiccan holiday, Rabbit tries to immerse himself in the faith year-round. He feels accepted by his community and loves how it celebrates gender, sexuality, and identity.
“Actually, as a gay man, there are times where being Wiccan-identified fits in perfectly—because of the duality of honoring, respecting, and acknowledging both masculine and feminine energies. Both worlds embrace concepts of empowerment, individuality, and the respect for and honoring of others.”
Unlike some religions, which try to lay out prescribed social rules for sex and love, Pagan religions strive to embrace love in all its forms.
“I have found the Pagan religions I am most familiar with to be very accepting of differences,” explained Catherine, who identifies as Wiccan. “As Doreen Valiente, author of The Charge of the Goddess famously wrote, ‘All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.’”
Catherine found Wicca shortly after finishing college in the late ‘80s, while doing research for a role in theatre.
“I was a cast member at the Renaissance Festival, playing the village wise woman,” she explained. “To research the role, I found some books on herbalism, including a book by Scott Cunningham called Magickal Herbalism. The spirituality described by Cunningham resonated with me, so I found another book by him: The Truth About Witchcraft Today. From there, I continued to read until I met other local people interested in the same things. I studied with a friend until he moved out of state and then continued on my own until I joined a coven. Also during this time, I started attending Hearthstone Community Church, eventually becoming a member of the Board.”
Much like Rabbit, Catherine doesn’t see any issue with non-Pagan or -Wiccan people celebrating Halloween in the sense that most know it.
“Why on earth would I?” she asked. “All Hallow’s Eve is a Christian holiday; Samhain is a Pagan holiday, and Halloween is a secular holiday. There is no reason that people can’t celebrate Halloween or the religious holiday of their choice.
“I celebrate Samhain, which is one of the eight Sabbats of the year,” she added. “The Sabbats are essentially six weeks apart and mark the parts of the year as it goes around. Samhain is the final harvest of the year: the time when the last bits of grain, the last fruits, anything that might be needed for the winter are gathered and stored. It’s also a time when the veils between the worlds are thinnest. We remember those who have passed before: our ancestors, loves, and anyone else we may have lost. We celebrate their lives and what they added to our lives, which adds light to the darkest time of the year.”
Although All Hallow’s Eve and Samhain may not be celebrated by all of us, not even all of us who consider ourselves “witchy” or embrace the ritual of Halloween, there is an unspoken power in a holiday that appears on the surface to be about nothing but fun and hedonism. Much like the queer community, beneath the parties, kink, and fierce self-expression, there is love, acceptance, and the honoring of those who came before us.