Halloween superstitions stem from about 2000 years old Pagan beliefs. Originally known as ‘Samhain’ (meaning “summer’s end” in Gaelic), Halloween symbolized the Celtic New Year. The holiday has become popular in America only in the early 1900s. Here are its 15 spookiest superstitions.
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Top 15 Halloween Superstitions List
These were originally carved from turnips in Ireland. Legend says that a man Stingy Jack repeatedly captured the Devil letting him go only if Jack won’t ever go to hell. After his death, heaven didn’t take his soul either. So he keeps wandering our Earth as a ghost forever. The Devil gave him a carved-out turnip holding a lump of burning coal for lighting his path. So locals started carving spooky faces in their gourds to frighten away evil spirits.
In the Celtic tradition, the Samhain festival denoted the transition between the time of harvest and winter leading to the new year when spirits walked our Earth. Later, the Christian missionaries introduced the All Souls Day on 2nd November to celebrate the mingling of the living with the dead.
It was a popular ancient belief that during Samhain, the veil became thinnest between the spirit world and the living world so that the ghosts could easily mingle with us. According to the Halloween superstition, the visiting spirits disguise themselves in human forms like beggars. They would come knocking at your door for food or money. Turning them away empty-handed would imply facing their curse, wrath or haunting.
After being initiated by Irish immigrants around the early 1900s, trick-or-treating became a mandatory Halloween custom in America around the late 1950s.
Wearing Spooky Costumes
The Celts thought of getting creative to avoid the terror of evil spirits traversing the Earth during Samhain. So they would wear scary costumes to disguise themselves as fake ghosts and be left alone by the real spirits.
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From the Middle Ages, black cats were associated with the Devil. After centuries when accused witches were caught with cats, mainly black ones, they were considered as a witch’s “familiar” assisting them in black magic. Ever since Halloween superstitions have related the two.
In the Samhain, the Celts lit towering bonfires that attracted insects. They further attracted bats that were soon associated with this festival. Many medieval folklore superstitions consider bats as the harbingers of death.
Spiders are feared as crawly, creepy Halloween staples. Like black cats and bats, spiders are also taken as evil companions of medieval witches. The superstition follows that if a spider gets burnt by falling into a candle-lit lamp, witches are close. Spotting a spider on Halloween signifies that you’re being watched over by the spirit of a deceased lover.
Bobbing for Apples
It originates from a courting custom in a Roman carnival worshipping Pomona, the goddess of agriculture and prosperity. Many variations were there. The gist said that the game would help young couples foresee their future relationships. After the Roman invasion of the British Isles, the time of this festival blended with Samhain’s, a forerunner of Halloween.
These classic Halloween colors of orange and black are also rooted in the Celtic festival Samhain. They have their origins in the Pagan celebration of autumn and its harvest. Orange denotes the color of the turning leaves and the crops in autumn. Black symbolizes the death of summer and marks the changing season. Gradually the color scheme of Halloween decorations has also included purple, yellow and green.
Lighting Bonfires and Candles
Nowadays, we use candles more often than traditional bonfires on Halloween. However, it’s historically believed as a Halloween superstition that open flames could light the path for the souls seeking their afterlife.
A very common Halloween superstition around the world is of the old witch with a bobbing nose and a pointy hat stirring a magic potion in a cauldron. She’s related to a Pagan goddess called “the crone” worshipped during the Samhain. She was also called “the Earth mother” or “the old one”, symbolizing the turning of seasons, change and wisdom. We have transformed the kind wise old crone into the evil cackling witch!
The Pagan belief says that after death, one’s soul goes into the crone’s cauldron portraying the womb of Mother Earth. The stirring allowed reincarnation of old souls and the entrance of new souls. We have replaced the symbol of the cauldron of life with the superstition of bubbling, steaming, ominous brew!
This superstition is also rooted in medieval myths. The poor old introverted women accused of witchcraft, couldn’t afford horses. Hence they traveled the woods by foot using walking sticks that were occasionally substituted by brooms.
According to English folklore, during nightly carnivals, witches applied a magical potion on their bodies, shut their eyes and felt like they were flying. The hallucinogenic ointment resulted in numbness, confusion and fast heartbeat that gave them the illusory feeling of soaring in the sky.
Some troublesome teenagers engage themselves in neighborhood pranks on the “Devil’s Night” or the “Mischief Night” from smashing Jack-O’-lanterns to toilet-papering and egging houses.
The Celts held games, comical pranks, and bonfires in Samhain. These turned rowdier by the 1920s and 30s with increasing acts of vandalism, possibly because of the Great Depression. Adults started giving out candies for curbing this vandalism. This reignited the forgotten trick-or-treating custom in exchange for sweets. This eliminated most mischievous elements from 31st October celebrations. So troublemakers picked up 30th October as the official night for pulling pranks and wreaking havoc.
Halloween Superstitions Mirror
If you break a mirror during Halloween, the superstition says that you’ll have bad luck for seven years. It was derived from the old idea that the reflection on the mirror being your soul, would go astray if the mirror was broken. Then you would have to bury the shattered pieces.