Come celebrate a witches’ New Year’s Eve
By Katie Czenczek, Staff Writer
For most, October 31 signifies candy and costumes and possibly some awful horror movies. It is a seemingly meaningless holiday that acts as a buffer between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you’ve grown tired of the same old Halloween tradition, it may be worthwhile to participate in some events around Vancouver that connect you to what some call “the real meaning of Halloween.” Though many know about Dia de los Muertos in Latino cultures, many also forget its Celtic sibling, Samhain.
Pronounced “sow-in,” Samhain is a tradition that goes back 2000 years. It signifies the end of the harvest in the Northern Hemisphere, and therefore the end of the year. People gather together to celebrate the harvest with food, which is shared with both the living and their ancestors.
It’s believed that “the veil is thin that divides the worlds, the seen from the unseen, the day to day from the mysteries,” taken from Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco by Jone Salmonsen. In other words, it is a time to celebrate loved ones who have already passed on and relatives to come. It is one of the most important holidays celebrated in Pagan culture. There is also a huge emphasis on death not being something to fear; nor is it believed to be the end of one’s connection to their loved ones—because they get to reconnect annually on October 31.
Self-proclaimed witches are not at all like how one would imagine. They lack the green faces and do not place hexes on people. They are also nothing like what you’ve seen in Carrie or in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Although they do have broomsticks, they are used symbolically rather than to fly around the city. Besides, who would want to fly around in Vancouver’s awful weather anyway?
It is often difficult for witches to be open about their spiritual beliefs because Paganism predated Christianity; as a result, witches were forced into the shadows for fear of persecution and ridicule and their practices are often seen as barbaric. Even today there continues to be many negative connotations with the word “witch.” Despite all of the hardships they have faced, practicing Wiccans and Druids are alive and well today. The tradition of Samhain, though forgotten by many, is still practised in Vancouver.
On Sunday, October 29 from 5:45 p.m. to 10 p.m., Vancouver Reclaiming Samhain will be hosting an all-ages event held at the Maritime Labour Centre. The first 45 minutes will help prepare any newcomers and the official ceremony begins at 7 p.m. It is recommended to bring your own food to share as it is a communal event and also a blanket and pillows for sitting. The ritual will start off by honouring those who have passed on and will end with a spiral dance. Tickets range from $15 to $25 and one is only expected to pay what they can afford.
If you’re simply looking to change things up or are intrigued by the spiritual aspect, be sure to check out Vancouver’s very own Samhain celebration. Be prepared with an open mind and a kind heart.